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Adam Hanft

Adam Hanft

Posted: July 24, 2006 02:35 PM

I Want My Al-Manar


There's a difference between being scared of terrorists, and being scared of terrorist propaganda.

I wasn't aware of it till I heard it mentioned on the public radio show "On the Media," but Al-Manar, Hezbollah's satellite channel, is blocked in the U.S.

Its censorship came as part of the post 9/11 legislative knee-jerk, specifically in Executive Order 13224. If it was an understandable over-reach in that climate, it's an inexcusable, and dangerous one, now.

Wouldn't you think that the best way to defeat an enemy is with more understanding of them, not less? With the insight that comes from paying obsessive attention to what they say, and how they say it? And -- importantly -- allowing everyone to hear the vile ideas they're spreading?

With Al-Manar, Karl Rove has a gift that he has crapped on. The fact that the administration hasn't encouraged Americans to Tivo as much of Hezbollah's channel as they can, is a measure of how paranoid and info-controlling the Bush administration.

Sunlight is, of course, the best disinfectant. But this administration prefers the tenebrous world, whether that strategy manifests itself in secret tapings or keeping us in the dark by regulating what we can watch.

In a potentially more violent expression of the same impulse, Bush fantasized about attacking Al-Jazeera's headquarters last year.(Why blame the messenger when you can bomb it?).

To me, this is a product of the same misguided spirit that bans the Nazi party in Germany and elsewhere, and that makes Holocaust denial a crime.

I want to know how many Nazis are out there, particularly in Germany and Austria and Poland, don't you? So please, please take them out of the shadows and let them get their jackboots and uniforms -- in new, state-of-art, breathable fabrics -- on the Internet.

Similarly, let the Holocaust deniers blog to their heart's content. We need to know how they're doing in the marketplace of ideas.

If during World War II there was such a thing as Hitler TV or if Tojo was blogging, don't you think Roosevet and Churchill would have turned them into public relations triumphs? What better way to whip up popular opinion than by letting tyrants self-destruct on the pyre of their own wickedness.

There's no risk to national security that comes from access to Al-Manar. But there are real risks that come from keeping it from us.

As the all-purpose quotemeister Sun Tzu put it, "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster."

Our crisis: we know neither the enemy nor ourselves.