My apartment in Baghdad has satellite television, and so I have gotten to see a bit of Arabic television. I get the standard Arabic news channels, like Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera. I tune in on occasion to see the images, but the language barrier makes it difficult to follow the commentary. As for English speaking channels, I get BBC World, which is really quite poor. There is also an Arabic entertainment channel which features a number of American TV shows and movies run with Arabic subtitles. The channel is very popular among locals, who seem to enjoy the American programming, and undoubtedly tune in to hone their English skills. Among the American television shows featured is Oprah. In fact, the channel spent a good deal of time recently promoting Oprah’s interview with President Clinton. The channel also features Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as Friends and Frazier. The movies featured are generally recent, popular films. Interestingly, the channel does not appear to edit for language, airing profanity in films that would not be permitted in the U.S. on network television. It does on occasion run some slightly older films. For example, when Brando died, they ran the original Godfather. The movie featured last night was The Long Kiss Goodnight. I had not seen the film in some time, and I had forgotten a key premise: The “good guys” in the film learn that the CIA had some role in the first World Trade Center bombing, and that a group within the CIA is planning a major attack aimed at killing 4,000 Americans in order to justify an increase the agency’s budget. And, as they put it in the film, “of course” their plan is to frame Muslims for the attack. The movie was made long before September 11th, but I have to think that this is a really bad movie to be showing in the Muslim world, where conspiracy theories about, for instance, Zionist plots behind 9/11 are already too widely accepted.
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