01/09/2013 04:07 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2013

Al Jazeera English: Too Uncomfortable For U.S. Audiences


Are we uncomfortable with news that has not been sanitized by our own American-based networks? Is that the reason there is so much pushback to Al Jazeera English on U.S. network TV?

I think so.

It seems we don't want to see anything that doesn't show the U.S. in the best light. We don't want to see what really happens in the field. We don't want the visions of war in our faces.

We only want to hear of casualties, not see them. We only want to hear how the good guys (us) win and the bad guys (them) are being defeated.

American media sanitizes war. None of the violence or carnage is ever seen on American television. This selectivity blinds us to real world events. We sit safe in our homes only to hear about numbers of people killed, but never seeing the death and destruction.

We find excuses for our behavior and ridicule anyone who doesn't agree with our point of view.

When prisoners were interrogated at Abu Ghraib, we called it "enhanced interrogation" instead of what it really was: torture.

For a broader world perspective, we turn to the British Broadcasting Network (BBC) heard through our own U.S. National Public Radio (NPR).

If we are going to understand what we are dealing with in the Mideast, it seems to me we can learn a lot from a truly different perspective. The jury is still out that their English version will not be biased in favor of the Arab world. It will, however, offer an alternative view from our own of the Arab world.

A former CBS and NBC reporter, David Marash, went to work for Al Jazeera English as their Washington correspondent in 2006. He quit in 2008 over editorial differences. However he still believes the network is very important to the U.S. audience.

"The logic of it is just too obvious," Marash said. "The product is too good, too significant, to not have a market in the U.S., given the complete abdication of American networks and cable channels from actually covering international news."

He says the current situation is "tragic," in his view. "It plays into the ignorance of American viewers, most of whom are clueless as to what the world thinks and why. It's very harmful to America's effectiveness and stature in the world."

A culprit of hypocrisy is the American movie industry. In an obvious turn of box office gain, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will approve posters of graphic slasher movies such as Hostel which advertised the blood, gore and decapitation of teens or the film Hard Candy about Internet predators, which showed a small child framed by a bear trap.

Yet, it would not show a photo of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay hanging by his handcuffed wrists, with a burlap sack over his head and a blindfold tied around the hood.

The picture was an advertisement for a documentary film, The Road to Guantanamo, with some reenacted scenes.

Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions that distributed the film in North America, said, "This is a film with a serious purpose, and this is the subject of the film itself, and the marketing materials were appropriate to the subject."

During the Lebanon War, diplomatic editor Julian Borger of the Guardian, a British-based newspaper, wrote in a 2006 article: "It's like watching two different wars: The U.S. and British media's wildly divergent takes on the Middle East's latest crisis serve to further deepen entrenched points of view."

Our opinions are shaped by what we don't see. It isn't comfortable to see the results of gruesome, heartrending imagery.

Maybe seeing the reality of war would make us less ready to send troops into harm's way.

By hiding from the truth, we don't truly understand major events around the world. Moreover, probably, we don't want to know. It makes us uncomfortable to see the United States not always as the good guys.

Geri Spieler is author of Taking Aim At The President: The Remarkable Story Of The Woman Who Shot At Gerald Ford.