The New Regressive Leftist Media
This book is the first comprehensive research conducted on the pan-Arab TV station al-Mayadeen – an important representative of the post-2011 generation of Arab satellite news media. Likewise, it is an investigation of a growing political trend and ideological discourse in the Arab world, which the book identifies as The New Regressive Left. The book sheds light on overlooked parts of the Arab population, which neither identified with the vision of the young activists initiating the uprisings, nor with the ambition of the growing Islamist tendency that followed. Rather it voices a grouping of Shia Muslims, religious minorities, parts of the Arab Left, secular cultural producers, and supports of the resistance movements brought together by their shared fear of the future.
Drawing on a wide variety of programmes from the station’s first four years and on interviews with staff members, the book captures how a TV station can play a role in the production of ideology through e.g. its composition of programmes, collaborations, events, iconization of cultural figures, choice of aesthetics, as well as through its recycling of cultural heritage and already existing ideological concepts. Overall, four ideological core concepts emerges, namely: the support of the resistance, the rejection of Sunni Islamism, the acceptance of authoritarianism, and the challenging of neoliberalism. Taking seriously a media outlet such as al-Mayadeen and the worldview driving an ideological discourse such as The New Regressive Left seems more acute than ever if we want to grasp the developments in a post-2011 Arab world.
6. Walking a Tightrope: The Role of Religion
Lush trees, a waterfall pouring out of a mountainside covered in green, sunlight playing in the leaves – impressive images of idyllic Lebanese nature, accompanied by soft classical music. The camera zooms out, and a man dressed in traditional Gulf clothing appears out of nowhere and greets the viewers with an extended version of the traditional Islamic opening phrase. The scene is set for the first episode of al-Mayadeen’s Ramadan programme, Harrir Aqlak [Free your Mind]. That was in the summer of 2015. A couple of months later, I am sitting in the outdoor cafeteria at al-Mayadeen together with a central staff member working on Harrir Aqlak, who has agreed to meet for a talk about the programme.
We talk about the background and purpose of the programme, and about why al-Mayadeen decided to launch a daily Ramadan programme with the Islamic researcher and thinker Abdel Aziz al-Qattan. What had originally caught my attention when I first saw the programme – the staging of a traditionally dressed man from the Gulf in magnificent Levant nature – turns out to be a central element of the programme. My interviewee considers al-Qattan’s outfit an important factor in the branding of him and the programme. The fact that al-Qattan is a Kuwaiti, thus an insider of Gulf society, is a point that we return to several times during our meeting. I am explained that it gives him a natural credibility when he points out the weaknesses of that part of the region, and legitimises...
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