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Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations

Al-Jazeera and Qatar’s Soft Power

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Tal Samuel-Azran

Intercultural Communication as a Clash of Civilizations argues that Al-Jazeera is not an agent of globalization, as is widely argued, but a tool used by the Qatari government to advance its political as well as Islamist goals. This book also maps the Western tendency to reject the network outright despite Al-Jazeera’s billion-dollar investments designed to gain entrance into Western markets; it shows empirically that this rejection is similarly rooted in religious, cultural and national motives. This book asserts that the main outcome of Al-Jazeera’s activities is the promotion of religious and cultural conflicts. The network persistently portrays global events through the prism of conflicting religious and cultural values – propelling a clash of civilizations as per Samuel P. Huntington’s well-known thesis.
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Chapter 1. Qatar Invents the Most Effective Contemporary State-Sponsored Broadcasting Network

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QATAR INVENTS THE MOST EFFECTIVE CONTEMPORARY STATE-SPONSORED BROADCASTING NETWORK

Al-Jazeera is a success story. Al-Jazeera’s 40 million loyal viewers in the Arab world and the millions who follow Al-Jazeera English broadcasts in the West testify to the channels’ great popularity and reputation. This chapter aims to uncover the modus operandi of Al-Jazeera, and in doing so, to explain what makes Al-Jazeera, a network that has gained success and credibility despite its sponsorship by an autocratic ruler, such an outlier. Al-Jazeera, of course, is not at all an outlier in its ulterior motive to advance its ruler-sponsor’s interests, as all state-operated international news networks try to operate their networks to the benefit of their sponsoring countries. The difference is that accordingly, Al-Jazeera’s counterparts gain little credibility in the eyes of international viewers, whereas Al-Jazeera often evades this line of criticism and thus remains a credible source in the eyes of many. The goal of this chapter, then, is to uncover why Al-Jazeera counterparts—regional and international state-sponsored channels such as Russia Today, Iran’s Press TV and France 24—are widely considered to be Russian, Iranian and French propaganda machines, respectively, whereas Al-Jazeera retains credibility.

The argument of the chapter is that Al-Jazeera is an outlier simply because it is much better than other state-sponsored stations at hiding its true purpose. The chapter will argue that this happens because Al-Jazeera “plays the ← 3 | 4 → journalistic credibility game” better than all the...

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