Cross-Cultural Understanding Through the News

Powers and el-Nawawy write in “Al Jazeera English and Global News Networks: Clash of Civilizations or Cross-Cultural Dialogue” that global news networks have two effects. 1) they can reaffirm the us versus them mentality because people seek out programs that already display their views and 2) long-term viewership of channels such as AJE help lessen the clash of civilizations phenomenon. This means that the bias AJE has because of the culture it derives from ultimately affects viewers even if they are not of that same culture.

This theory is especially interesting now, because more people outside of the MENA region became aware of AJE this year and now watch it or check the website for news about the Arab Spring. (I am making an assumption here, as I have nothing but what I’ve noticed to back up this claim.) In any case, this possible increase in Western viewership of AJE could have an effect of how accepting U.S. citizens are of Arab culture. It could help dissolve some of the issues with the “clash of civilizations” between the Middle East and the U.S.

AJE has this effect over time because it is successful in depicting universal themes, which all people identify with, specifically now with stories of the uprisings. One case of this that I think does well to show the effects is the AJE documentary about the protest movement in Bahrain, called “Shouting in the Dark.”  It takes an in depth look at the movement and clashes between protestors and government. It shows gruesome scenes of the violence protestors experienced in February and has interviews with lots of different people. Basically, viewers cannot help but empathize with the people of Bahrain, which lends to Powers and el-Nawawy’s theory.

Check out the documentary here.

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