It seems more than a little ridiculous that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would have to defend why the State Department needs funding given the recent events in Egypt, Libya and throughout North Africa. But that is exactly what Clinton was in Washington for earlier this week.
Earlier this week, sitting before the U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities committee, the Secretary of State explained that a major part of why her department needs money is because of the battle for the hearts and minds. Speaking to the members of the committee, Clinton stated quite frankly:
“…we are in an information war and we are losing that war.”
Clinton went on to call out American media stating that:
“Our private media cannot fill that gap. Our private media, particularly cultural programming often works at counter purposes to what we truly are as Americans…Al Jazeera is winning.”
While Clinton’s remarks will probably not sit well with executives from the country’s major news outlets, she does raise a valid point. Just last week, the New York Times ran an article basically lauding Al Jazeera’s powerful coverage of the revolution in Egypt. Because Al Jazeera has been chronicling the suffrage of in the Arab world consistently and thoroughly, their insights into the motivations behind the thousands of protesters in Cairo provided more depth than just the standard aerial shots of Tahir Square.
This is not the first time Clinton has made this case. Late last year when an Australian interviewer alluded to the Kardashian sisters, the Secretary said:
“The Kardashians, exactly. If you look at American TV as much of the rest of the world does, you would think we all went around wrestling and wearing bikinis.”
Like any other country, American media has its guilty pleasures, the problem Clinton contends it’s that when it is exported it shapes foreign narratives that may not necessarily be accurate or further our foreign policy interests.
We don’t know how much media coverage will change as a result of Clintons remarks, but the conversation is worth having.
Also: Thank you, Madame Secretary for your candor- It’s good to know someone else is over those sisters as well.