America’s First Export to Iraq: Cable News!
That’s right! Now if the reaction of the Iraqi people to the tidal wave of media information doesn’t tell you something about both American information culture and the oppression under Saddam’s regime, I don’t know what will.
Two ethnic Turkmens – whose language is an offshoot of Turkish – are checking out new satellite dishes on the steps of Salih’s store. They say they’ve already bought one and are enjoying watching television stations from Turkey. “If we turned on the television in the past, the only news was what Saddam did today,” says Sabah Nur eh-Din. “We had only two channels. It would have been better to turn the television off and just paste up a picture of Saddam on the screen.”
His friend, Abbas Ali, concurs. “We used to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Now we stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. because we can’t get enough.” Still desperate for war news, they tune to CNN, BBC, and what appears to be a local favorite, Fox. They like it, people here say, because it has been the most supportive of the war.
For many here, the only foreign channels they can understand are in Arabic, and they are deeply resentful of the most prominent one, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.
Abu Bakr Mohammed Amin, an elderly man in a red-checkered headdress visiting Salih’s television shop, gives them a dismissive flick of the wrist: “They only knew how to support Saddam,” he says.