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Tuesday
Jun212011

Control Room

If you’re like me, every day your mind boggles at how Bush & Co. gets away with it.   That they are able to do so is thanks in no small part to the U.S. media’s willingness to report the Administration’s lies/staged events as though they were reality.   This documentary by Jehane Noujaim focuses on Al Jazeera (the independent satellite news channel that reaches much of the Arab world) during the run-up to and during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.    

Famously characterized by the likes of the intolerable Rumsfeld as a mouthpiece for Bin Laden, Al Jazeera comes across as sort of the anti-Fox, reporting on the war from the point of view of those on the receiving end of the bombs.   Literally, in fact: during the invasion, the U.S. bombed Al Jazeera, killing three of its journalists.   However, the Al Jazeera representatives aren’t interested in broadcasting simplistic anti-American propaganda.   Indeed, some of them express great admiration for many aspects of the U.S.   Amusingly, Samir Khader, an Al Jazeera producer, contends that he’d eagerly accept a job at Fox if offered.  

Much of the action takes place at CentCom, the U.S. military headquarters/press center in Quatar where Al Jazeera correspondents work side by side with western journalists.   There are debates between Hassan Ibrahim (an Al Jazeera journalist) and Cpt. Josh Rushing (a U.S. military press officer).   Rushing comes across as thoughtful and open-minded, a decent man who, though he parrots the official line, actually listens to the opposing viewpoint.   Indeed, it’s been reported that since ‘Control Room’ came out Rushing has left the Marines due to their ordering him to not discuss this film.   I read a recent comment from him where he regrets coming off as so pro-invasion in the movie.

When an Iraqi contends to Ibrahim that there needs to be a new power in the world that can stand up to the U.S., because, he asks “Who else will stop America?”, Ibrahim cites his faith in the U.S. constitution and answers that the American people will stop America.  

I can’t recommend Noujaim’s work enough.   Her film is a showcase for the rewards to be found in good documentary, in that it reflects a complex world and counters stereotypes.

- Jun 22, 2004

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