Disclaimer: this is republished from an answer I gave on Quora here, the question being “Why is Al Jazeera important for Westerners?” Parts of the text have been edited to better fit this blog. Enjoy!
What I’ve learned from watching AJE: they have a strong focus on what some would say would be “pure”/”true” journalism and a strong disregard for punditry, something America (and perhaps the West as a whole) might need.
During the summer before eighth grade, I took a math course at a local middle school. I remember my teacher pretty well — a burly man in his early 40s, formerly of the USAF, who had ambitions to be a part of a shuttle mission before he died. In the middle of his lectures, he had a penchant for giving us a “brain break” and telling us of his time serving in Afghanistan and (for a short time) in Qatar (at Al Udeid Air Base, I assume — I never asked). He used to tell us of his dealings with the local people, his “adventures in the desert”, etc. We were usually overcome with awe as we’ve never really been acquainted with the region besides occasionally reading haphazardly written Time for Kids pieces on the Middle East. One day, he told us about the apparent anti-Americanism plaguing the local media and mentioned this evil Qatari TV channel taking the people by storm. “This channel they all watch down there, Al Jazeera, reeks of evil, guys! All they spew out is anti-American jargon!” For the next ~3 years, I went around blindly thinking Qatar was a breeding ground for anti-American sentiments and the media there is nothing less than extremist and evil thanks to Mr. [redacted].
My takeaway from this after all these years: I think this was the case for most people — those serving in the armed forces perceived Al Jazeera to be a Fox News-esque media arm in the Middle East that espoused Islamic extremism and they did their best to “warn” others of the channel’s apparent evil. That being the case for the Arabic Al Jazeera channel, I don’t know. What I do know is that this bias heavily carried over to the American people, giving AJ a sort of lasting, maligned image.
As I became more acquainted with the internet (again, I was considerably young), I started looking into matters like this more independently. Stumbling across a feed of AJE on Livestream one day, my immediate reaction was “Well, shit, this is different.” The first piece of news I saw from AJE was a piece on the aftermath of the Second Intifada a few years after it occurred. Relying on preconceived notions, I was expecting a heavily skewed report on the “struggle and despair of the Palestinian people”, but I was surprised to see nothing of that sort. Zero rhetoric, little if any bias. There was a ground reporter in Gaza, talking to locals, showing the damage and rubble but also talking about the myths about the supposed treachery of the Israeli army during the incident. They later moved to a reporter in Tel Aviv, asking for any comments on the Intifada or Palestine in general from passersby. They talked to Jews, Druze, Christians (among others). When watching it, I didn’t feel as if I was being pressurized to think in a specific groove as I usually do when watching traditional news outlets in the states — I just felt as if AJE was giving me, as the viewer, what they felt was informative and nothing more or less. It was just pure news, a simple concept in retrospect but baffling at the time. I was used to seeing stories influenced by rhetoric and molded for a certain audience or to evoke a certain response from the viewer. I think that’s what makes AJE so important. American media has been plagued with the agenda of large corporations or the dumbing down of coverage for profit that the concept of what’s “newsworthy” has been heavily skewed. People sometimes rely on the words of a pundit to get informed, and we all know how toxic that can be. News is about digging deep into important matters and presenting the pure truth, no matter what it might be — no nonsense, no strings-attached coverage of “ground-breaking” issues. It seems as if American media has lost sight of that, at the cost of the viewer. As Van Kilmer puts it:
“If you look up the definition of news in the dictionary, it isn’t what you watch on TV.”
To me, AJE has proved itself to be an able provider of news in the truest sense after watching it for the past few years — coverage of important events that have a possible direct or indirect effect on me, without the influence of ardent corporatism or nationalism.
As a young kid who knew no better, I was introduced to AJ as an evil menace out to disparage America; existing domestic news outlets reinforced that notion to me. As I grasped to the ability to investigate things for myself, I discovered that things were not only not that bad, but much better than I expected. Based on the state of America’s news outlets, a new incoming news organization that preaches the philosophies of “If it’s newsworthy, it gets on air, whether it’s Bush or Bin Laden” and “Every angle, every side” bodes well with me.
In a new series called “Free Ideas”, I post random ideas I came up with in my free time for your entertainment. This idea was thought of during my flight back from SF to Chicago.
Private parcel service competing with USPS, DHL, UPS (etc) in the realm of parcel delivery. Possibly named Lapos (Haitian creole for “mail”) or a stylized version of “correo”, the word for mail in Gaelic and a few other languages. Uses cost efficient logistics (mainly diesel fleet, ground-wise). Specific vehicle ideas: Ford Transit Diesel, Nissan NV200, Touareg/Tiguan TDI, European imports of various transit vehicles (Peugot, Renault, Mercedes-Benz). Electric vehicles plausible if availability and cost is improved. Hydrogen vehicles preferred if infrastructure is properly established at the time of incorporation.
Main ideas (a lot is based on cost subsidization via sold ad space):
Vehicles plastered with various ads, larger ad = more money (akin to traditional billboard/”brick & mortar” rules)
If popularity extends into air delivery, plane livery ad-space would happen.
Price subsidization via ads on boxes. Postage labels and boxes acquired via website (brick and mortar stores if plausible in future) containing ads. Boxes could possibly be given away for free due to subsidization. Store distribution partner for boxes, postage kiosks for quick labeling and delivery. Possible partners: Best Buy, Target, malls (Westfield) and airports.
Run “postage trucks,” traveling kiosks that can take in items for packaging and delivery. Similar to food trucks. Main/only method of payment would be Square card readers. All employees on the road will be equipped with Square. Aimed at big cities. Tester locations (chronologically): SF, NYC, CHI.
To save further cost, employees on the field either have no uniform except for a name tag or uniforms with ads.
Taking in racing team style sponsorships for delivery vehicles also possibility: tires provided by Michelin, cheaper gas from Mobil in exchange for logo on car, etc.
In case of individuals not being available at residence for parcel pickup, online system to direct package to safety deposit boxes at various 7-11 or Mobil gas stations (corporate partnership). Unique package identifier given if option selected, punch in or verbally say code (either if individual safety deposit boxes are deployed, or holding cell for all packages) when at your specific gas station to retrieve package. Packages held for no more than 5 days. If individual safety deposit boxes are employed, ad space WILL be covering them (similar to Ryanair plastering ads inside planes or PETA putting ad space on school lockers).
Delivery to international locations viable if partnership established with large cargo airliner is established, otherwise the brunt of package delivery will remain domestic.
If popularity of service is proven after certain time, deployment of Uber-like service is a possibility. Through iPhone app, individuals can request people to come by and take in package for delivery at their leisure. Could be established initially as a “premium” program for power-users.
On-demand inter-city delivery (targeted at businesses) to addresses in under an hour by bike via iPhone app (Postmates style). Flat rate, no requirements on box weight, size, no questions asked as long as package is being delivered in same municipality. Tester cities will be CHI, SF and NY.
Entry into international market mostly viable in large hubs (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Stockholm), ONLY through on-demand inter-city delivery via mobile.
This is the basic result of me having to write about philosophical conundrums and their validity for class, while half-asleep and having not showered (might be a catalyst for higher-level thinking. I’ll keep field-testing it and get back to you). I used “ergo” a few times, a friend ridiculed me for that. Basic pseudo-intellectual incoherency. To get what I’m talking about (if that’s even possible), I’d recommend reading up on James Rachels’ Smith/Jones analogy to abortion and Thomson’s violinist thought experiment. Enjoy the ramblings.
A - 2
In James Rachels’ “Smith v. Jones” analogy to passive and active euthanasia, Rachels argues that the moral differences between active and passive euthanasia are negligible. To assert this, he uses the nonexistent characters of Smith and Jones to characterize active and passive euthanasia. The most blatant objection with Rachels’ comparison of active euthanasia to passive euthanasia is that it’s unjust for Rachels to compare the actions of Smith and Jones, two individuals who are villain-esque and have a shared intent to kill, to the actions of a doctor who’s deciding what’s best for his or her patients. Smith and Jones are dealing with a perfectly able-bodied child who doesn’t seem to have any glaring health problems, and they both intend to kill the child for monetary gain. In a realistic scenario concerning doctors and patients, a decision on euthanasia has no villain-like intent. If driven to euthanasia, a doctor is almost always deciding on it for humanistic reasons rather than having malicious intent, similar to that of Smith and Jones. A possible retort from Rachels to this objection would be that focusing on that aspect of the argument is short-sighted. Defining and outlining the actions that took place convey Rachels’ argument in a much clearer sense. In the Smith and Jones example, Rachels tries to show that Jones’ non-intervention caused the boy’s death in the same way that Smith’s active killing of the boy did. In Rachels’ argument, Jones’ actions would be similar to a doctor refusing to treat a man injured by a dagger wound, letting the man bleed to death, then saying that it was solely the dagger that killed the man, not him. The doctor’s reasoning wouldn’t simply excuse him from the death of this man, but rather he would be held accountable for malpractice and manslaughter in a realistic setting. Some may argue that Smith is morally guiltier than Jones, since he actively killed the child while Jones didn’t intervene whatsoever. However, Smith and Jones were striving for the same outcome, making their effort almost equal in terms of immorality. As for the effectiveness of Rachels’ argument, he does a reasonable job of asserting that there are negligible differences between the two forms of euthanasia through to villain-esque characters who strive for the same outcome, succeed in said outcome but go about it two different ways. Rachels’ accentuates that since the intent is the same, the examples of Smith and Jones are one in the same. Through this, he shows how a doctor committing active euthanasia and a one committing passive euthanasia should be held in the same light because their intent and outcomes are the same. The counterargument that because one example has malicious intent and one doesn’t is baseless because in both scenarios, two people are striving for the same thing, malicious intent or not. What they want is the same and what they end up with is the same, ergo they committed the same act. Rachels effectively shows that since Smith and Jones’ acts were equal in morality but carried out slightly differently, active and passive euthanasia are equal since intent and outcome are the exact same. Through this, Rachels also succeeds in asserting his main point that active euthanasia shouldn’t be barred by the AMA because of the insignificant differences between it and the AMA - “approved” passive euthanasia.
B - 2
In Thomson’s “Famous Violinist Problem”, multiple objections arise in response to her logic. The most glaring objection is that the difference between a human fetus and the famous violinist is that if you were found to be hooked to said “famous violinist”, you would have no complicity in the case of the violinist. You have no sense of responsibility for the man since you were just picked off of the street for coincidentally having the same blood type as said violinist. In most cases of pregnancy, there was consensual sex involved, with both parties realizing the consequences that could arise from intercouse (including the choice to use or not use contraception), so a woman would bear some responsibility for the fetus’ existence that she would not have had for the violinist whatsoever. The violinist scenario presented to us by Thomson shares more similarities with rape than the average pregnancy, which makes it an unfair analogy for the abortion debate. For the sake of argument, Thomson attempts to show that a fetus’ claim to life has precedence over the interests of its mother, but in the case of the violinist, the fact that a person was carted in as a form of life-support for the violinist leaves no sense of responsibility on the person, meaning that the violinist’s right to life is no greater than the woman’s and that the person isn’t obliged to keep supporting the violinist. Thomson personally would not disagree with these objections since the sole reason of her argument was to show the flaws in a typically conservative argument against abortion. To her, one could permissibly unplug himself or herself from the violinist because the “right to life”, an argument widely used by conservatives when debating abortion, does not entail the use of someone’s body. By unplugging, you do not violate the violinist’s right to life, a right which he most certainly has, but are just depriving of the use of your body, something he doesn’t have a right over. For that same reason, Thomson justifies abortion because one would not be violating a fetus’ right to life if they underwent an abortion, but would rather just be depriving the fetus’ use of one’s body. Thomson herself says that you are required to be “minimally decent” but not a good samaritan, and going through the 9 month haul of being hooked up to the violinist would, in her eyes, be an example of being a good samaritan. Though the purpose of Thomson’s argument was to outline the holes in the conservative argument on abortion and it does outline what the “right to life” truly is, the flawed analogy makes an overall robust argument flawed to an extent. Analogies are a weak way to argue in philosophy, let alone ethics. An analogy strips down a debacle to what the arguer considers its bare essentials and unless those stripped away aspects of the debacle are proven to be useless, the argument can be unreliable to a degree. With that, Thomson still does a fair job of asserting that a “right to life” does not give a fetus figurative “martial law” over a pregnant woman’s body, and that a fetus does not have a “right” to rely on a vessel like a pregnant woman’s body, ergo “unplugging” yourself from the baby would be considered permissible. All in all, Thomson doesn’t succeed in creating a sound analogy but still manages to effectively distinguish between a fetus’ right to life and it’s nonexistent right to accommodation.
At the moment, I’m looking at summer programs for when I’ll be a rising senior. I thought I’d share the programs I’m interested in to direct any other rising juniors/seniors or anyone else just interested in planning for that time in their “high school career.” I’ve had a few inquiries on the matter, so I thought it’d be nice to condense it all here.
*A “backdoor” to get into to SIMR would be to apply to the Arthritis Foundation SSIP along with SIMR. Half of those accepted are sent to UCSF and the other half are actually sent to the SIMR program. Applying to both and having a competent app on both ends would ensure for a good chance at the program.
NOTE: Some of these programs provide no housing, so you’ll have to look into your own personal lodging. On the positive side, most of these programs are also free or provide a stipend, so don’t-cha fret.
Other lists compiled by the Lawrenceville School and Plainfield South High School, respectively, if you’re interested:
Note: This was an op-ed I was nicely asked to write about a month and a half ago. I thought it deserved to be online. Cheers!
Typically considered taboo, the subject of wealth inequality and financial irresponsibility has recently been brought to the attention of millions of Americans (and a considerable amount people overseas) by Occupy Wall Street (OWS). OWS is a movement that began on September 17th, 2011 in NYC, but later expanded to over 1000 cities across the globe. The movement’s purpose, according to its ridiculous array of online presences, is to end the irresponsibility in the American financial industry that resulted in one of the most corrosive financial recessions in recent memory. Though admittedly, they may not have their aims/objectives in order, they’ve garnered considerable support over the issue.
The issues OWS has brought up aren’t exactly unheard of: During the early 1900’s, Henry Ford paid 3 times the average factory salary to his workers because he believed “Workers have a right to afford what they make.” The New York Times published an article by Robert Frank, an Economics Professor from Cornell, arguing the notion of a “growing income rift in America” over a year before the Occupy movement was even thought of. Through this comes the question of the purpose of the movement, its legitimacy. If it’s been argued before, and since some solutions have been applied, what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t they just bring up their concerns to their locally elected officials? Two things: The country wouldn’t be dealing with a recession if that were the case. Secondly, anyone who’s worked in a government office, particularly Beatrice Walton of the Harvard Political Review, can say that “the people protesting today have tried incessantly over the years to do just that and have largely been ignored.” OWS, in essence, is a backlash to that lack of representation. In banding together, the protesters are saying that, because they’re tired of being ignored, they will be heard. Enough is enough, etc. Aptly enough, this protesting boom comes months after the American Census Bureau reporting that 46.2 Americans are living below the poverty line, and 1 out 7 are dependent of Food Stamps, making people wonder why such an outburst as OWS’ didn’t come earlier.
In the end, ignoring such issues as socioeconomic inequality is relatively easy. Similarly enough is easily dismissing the Occupiers as smelly, fervent, bongo-banging beatniks who are asking for handouts. Such an outlook might make Americans feel less iffy about the topic, allowing us to keep our societal and economic norms untouched. Such a view lets us avoid the question of class division among other things. But, ignoring the class question and dismissing movements such as OWS won’t address the problems of income inequality. Pushing the issue aside does nothing to the problems of income disparity plaguing the nation. If England’s summer rioting has taught us anything, it’s that not confronting a problem just delays the solution. For making this issue explicit to the public eye, OWS has done us a favor.