By | Rachel Brooks
November 25, 2020
The internal weaponization of anti-propaganda law leaves the western media in peril. Western academia and western research think tanks have found intricate loopholes in the system of democratic monitoring for domestic and foreign propaganda. This can be through a concerted effort, or it can be from a communal, panel influence against what the western media and academic bias now perceive as antiquated newsgathering and press law.
The FARA, and modern U.S. academics
The University of Pennsylvania, the United States university with the sixth-largest endowment from the U.S. government, has actively sought to “modernize” the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, that has been in place since the time of Nazi propaganda circulation in World War 2.
FARA requires foreign outlets that are controlled by their respective states to register and identify themselves to the United States government so that the U.S. may decide whether the dissemination of these outlets’ materials is in the best interest of U.S. national security.
FARA in its modern application continues to keep close surveillance on foreign actors of the Islamic bloc. For example, FARA exposed the royal family of Qatar’s ownership and identity over the Al Jazeera News network. Al Jazeera’s’ ownership by the Emir of Qatar and his family has prevented the outlet from objectively reporting on the issues of local Qatar.
From the stage of the American Enterprise Institute, the University of Pennsylvania launched a panel in mid-April 2019 to discuss the “language and enforcement” of FARA. The panel initiated a conversation about statutory language that needed to be “supplemented, removed, or amended to provide clarity to law enforcement and those working on behalf of foreign governments.”
While it sounds promising, the hosts of the panel concerning FARA are themselves biased to the inner-workings of the United States state-funded and politically active universities. Professor Claire Finkelstein was on this board. Finkelstein is a co-founder and faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at UPenn. The center defines itself as a nonpartisan institute.
“CERL is a non-partisan interdisciplinary institute dedicated to preserving and promoting the rule of law in twenty-first-century national security, warfare, and democratic governance. CERL draws from the study of law, philosophy, and ethics to answer the difficult questions that arise in times of war and contemporary transnational conflicts,” states the CERL.
However, Finkelstein has expressed some biases toward the Democratic Party that would reflect upon the CERL. Finkelstein has had a long career as both student and faculty of the American University system and its ties to the Democratic Party as well. This is evidenced by her frequent campaigning for political issues that are in contradiction to the Republican interests, despite her organization’s identification as a nonpartisan outlet. Finkelstein filed an ethics complaint against Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, in response to his phone call with the key election official of Georgia during the ongoing legal challenges of the U.S Presidential Election 2020.
The U.S. Presidential Election of 2020 has yet to be determined, and will not be officially certified until all legal battles are settled in the courts, and all vote audits are tallied. Graham made calls to a series of other state officials in states where election results have been disputed.
The Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse stated that Senator Graham is entitled to seek information in those states he has contacted if that is all he is attempting to do. Whitehouse maintained that, without knowing what Graham said to the Georgia Secretary of State, he cannot be certain if there truly was an ethics violation. The story, which features Finkelstein’s ethics complaint, appeared in USA Today. Finkelstein has taken to her Twitter account to comment on the issues with Graham as well. She accused him of abusing his office as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Finkelstein has also made public statements regarding the U.S. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and whether or not she violated the Hatch Act, which Finkelstein expressed skepticism about. Likewise, Finkelstein has expressed opinions of the Donald Trump election litigation in the French press that highlight her potential preferences toward the Democratic party.
— Middle East Forum (@meforum) November 25, 2020
The internal workings of the United States academics to challenge U.S. press laws will have a disruptive effect on the future of U.S. press litigation. The United States has been engaged in a bitter rivalry over the definition and contingencies of the First Amendment. Somewhere on the backburner of this struggle, is the FARA and its consistent eye on foreign propaganda outlets.
FARA, in the meantime, has outlined how Al Jazeera is used by the Qatari government.
“Qatar claims to be a trustworthy ally to the United States, while simultaneously strengthening its relationship with Iran. Qatar opposed the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).118 Qatar’s Foreign Minister made this clear in 2018 when he stated,
“Sanctions are not the way forward to solve a problem… We encourage the U.S. to come back to the negotiation and to have a diplomatic solution.”119 In July 2017, Iran’s state-owned media outlet, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), announced that “Qatar’s Al Jazeera” and the IRNA seek to “enhance ties” and “develop cooperation” between the two media outlets.120 This announcement was a prelude to Qatar’s ongoing development of stronger ties with Iran.
In March 2018, the IRNA cited a spokesperson for the sanctioned IRGC as saying, “[The] [g]round is ready for development of cooperation with Qatar and we are doing our best to have stronger relations with Doha.” On August 26, 2018, the IRNA said that Qatar “is willing to develop all-out ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” according to the Qatari Emir.
In turn, Al Jazeera’s coverage of Iran and the U.S.-Iran relations continue to align with and advance Qatar’s foreign policy towards Iran. Al Jazeera has published several articles that cast the IRGC and its former commander, Qassem Suleimani, in a positive light.
In July 2019, Al Jazeera published an article describing the “strong capabilities” of the IRGC, which does not hesitate “to shoot down American drones and detain British tankers.”
In January 2020, Al Jazeera published an article characterizing Suleimani as a “revered military figure” who according to Al Jazeera was “beloved in Iran, in stark contrast with the perception that was construed of him by Western media, which often portrayed him as a shadowy figure,” states FARA’s 2020 report on the activities of Al Jazeera.
FARA found that Qatar has likewise promoted Hamas through Al Jazeera publications.
In addition to reviewing its political influence, FARA also recorded the executive and corporate transactional activity of the Al Jazeera entity outside of Qatar. Incorporation statements are included for the State of Delaware, U.S., as well as for London, England.
Background of the inquiry into Al Jazeera
FARA’s inquiry into Al Jazeera has also been counter-reviewed by western nonpartisan academics. Criticism of the foreign state ownership of Al Jazeera appeared in The Herald Report in June 2019, contributing to the investigation that FARA would release in 2020. It was written by Irina Tsukerman. The Herald Report article states that Al Jazeera is not an independent news medium, but is rather owned and backed by the Qatari government. Al Jazeera was here identified as a lobbying branch for Doha, rather than an independent media channel. Tsukerman called for the U.S. Department of Justice to force Al Jazeera to register with the FARA in the same way that it had forced Russia’s RT News and China’s Xinhua News to do so. As of the report in 2019, no action had been taken against Qatar or Al Jazeera for launching what was considered a media espionage campaign against United States citizens. The Herald Report noted that FARA is a disclosure statute. A disclosure statute does not violate the United States First Amendment rights. See DOJ’s official statement on FARA.
Further investigation into Al Jazeera’s political interests also found that, since the company’s inception in 1996, the network revolutionized pan-Arab broadcast, and becoming a household name in the post 9/11 world dialogue. Al Jazeera gained worldwide attention through broadcasting an exclusive interview with the Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden, as was reported by Memri.
Al Jazeera English launched 10 years after its predecessor, in 2006. It also previously launched Al Jazeera America which lasted from 2013 to 2016. Memri noted that, even for its leanings, the English networks have a markedly different subject matter than Al Jazeera broadcasting in Arabic. Al Jazeera Arabic has been under near-constant scrutiny for its “polarizing editorial policy” which focuses on Qatari-rivals and running media campaigns that defame these rivals.
Likewise, Al Jazeera Arabic fails to recognize the political infractions of its regional allies, thereby polarizing the narrative in Arabic news coverage. Al Jazeera’s executives have consistently denied any wrongdoing. The network has, however, acknowledged state funding. Al Jazeera argued, however, that it was similar to France24 or the BBC in this regard. However, the difference between these news agencies is that they have editorial freedom, and are not controlled by the governments where they broadcast, whereas Al Jazeera’s editorial reports to its government, evidenced by its regressive narratives. Mermi then noted how Al Jazeera has become a mouthpiece of political Islam, a platform for global jihad, citing the airing of interviews that called for “millions of Osama bin-Ladins” as well as shows where the hosts praised leaders of jihad as unifiers in the Muslim world. Memri argued that Al Jazeera’s frequent featuring of Islamic leaders and “misleading” guests without any counter argument reflects a deeply pro-Islamic policy at the network.
Al Jazeera escaped some of the more heated criticism for its previous guest featuring political Islamic leaders by running disclaimers against ISIS, saying that this was “not real Islam.” This, Memri notes, was because Al Jazeera has historically been a pro-Al Qaeda outlet. However, in more recent history, Al Jazeera has been known to feature guests with a pro-ISIS message on the Arabic network. Over time, the critics of ISIS and the United States were counterbalanced with equal airtime for the pro-ISIS narrative pushers.
Memri news commentators stated that they learned the internal workings of how pro-jihad narrators are interviewed. In 2015, Al Jazeera secured an exclusive interview with Abu Muhammad Al-Joulani, who was the then-head of the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.
The Memri news commentator cited the 2015-era news director for Al Jazeera Arabic, Yasir Abu Hilal, as the source for this statement. Memri noted that Al Jazeera took advantage of the newsworthy qualities of the Nusra Front at that date to push the narrative of the full manifesto of jihadists. The interview with Al-Joulani was described as more of a lengthy infomercial for Al Joulani and the Nusra Front than it was a news item.
Memri then went on to note the anti-Western and anti-US rhetoric that has frequently been televised over the network. Al Jazeera aired broadcasts of pro-Al-Qaeda guests who called the events of 9/11 and American and Israeli conspiracy. This continued even a decade after the attacks on 9/11 were confirmed by the U.S. authorities, as well as Al Qaeda’s having taken responsibility for them.
Al Jazeera also notably pushed on-air hosts such as Al-Qaradawi, who became the familiar network faces of the Arabic channel, and who called for intolerance messages. Intolerant messages also included a broadcast by Al Jazeera in May 2020 that featured Dr. Ahmad Al-Farjabi, a Qatari official, explaining why women must be subdued with beatings and stating a survey that women almost “unanimously agree” that receiving beatings is better than being allowed to “ruin the families.” Al-Farjabi also argued that “Western psychologists” agreed that wife-beating was an inevitable response to a woman that might become rebellious, using an alleged citation of the Western rhetoric to confirm and push a misogynistic ideology. The channel also airs frequent apologist-styled interviews that promote antisemitism.
Beyond Al Jazeera
Pro political Islamic propaganda does not stop with Al Jazeera or the Qatari-emirate-backed media machine. Benjamin Baird, Islamism in Politics Director at Middle East Forum, notes that several other outlets rival as the lead of media influence over Islamic thought and inciting Islamic response in the west.
“Qatar isn’t the only country pushing Islamist propaganda in America. For instance, Turkey promotes its goals through Andalou Agency and Daily Sabah, to media outlets under the editorial control of the Justice and Development Party,” said Baird.
The political rivalry in print may give a reason for the western media’s bias toward Turkey and Turkic countries. Western media often denigrates Turkish-US relations in the press. Rival Islamic factions have a hand in influencing the western press.
Baird likewise noted that Islamic factions abroad, with Qatari influence in the lead, consistently seek to influence U.S. politics through their narratives and presence.
“There is no question that Islamists are trying to influence policy among American lawmakers, and this goes beyond mere rhetoric,” said Baird.
“According to the Congressional Directory, there were 175 Al Jazeera staffers credentialed by the House and Senate in 2016. This was more than 60 congressional reporters than the NY Times and Washington Post employed that year combined.”
Western media biases toward Qatari propaganda
Under the changing sentiments of western media coverage, influenced by a move of liberal politics in the western press, media professionals of the Qatari regime have been immortalized as martyrs. In an early Republic Underground review entitled Strict Scrutiny for Journalists? Irina Tuskerman explored such instances in which the western and global media signaled an outcry for Qatari media professionals who were killed in action while failing to acknowledge the subversive government treatment of journalists in unpopular theaters.
Tsukerman drew direct comparisons between the current mainstream propaganda arm and the propaganda published by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Tsukerman noted how the financial crisis in the western media, coupled with the bent of biases in the west, is contributing to the rise of “the citizen blogger” or the unvetted attempt at internet media rebuttal to the mainstream agenda. This lack of credibility and lack of objectivity spawned by the nature of a readership-driven blog-styled media has given some leeway to the massive propaganda arms, who can use this lack of resourceful reporting against the citizen journalist.
Tsukerman then went on to note how the western media, through its schools of thought and its journalism apologist narratives, hailed such as pro-Muslim Brotherhood Qatari propagandist Khashoggi, formerly a Saudi intelligence officer and government spokesman, as a martyred journalist. Khashoggi had been found to copy and paste Arabic-language articles from Qatari media think tanks and disseminated them through the English language press, thereby spreading propaganda in the same manner that Al Jazeera has done.
Tsukerman adds:” Washington Post, which had allowed Khashoggi to copy and paste articles provided for him by Qatar Foundation International, with editing assistance from his Qatar-educated opinion editor Karen Attiah, had never been investigated for potential FARA violations. There are ways for the media to benefit financially from foreign governments and entities making contributions without money ever exchanging hands directly.
For instance, there are international organizations, such as the World Media Organization, where a state can disburse a contribution, and from which a publication or channel can then draw funding without ever being suspected of being a foreign agency. In reality, this is just a somewhat legal form of money laundering, which allows the press to bypass legal scrutiny while reaping all the boons. Questions should be raised as to why the Washington Post misled its readership for a year by publishing Khashoggi’s columns, when they were, in fact, written by an entity of a foreign government. This lack of transparency is a form of disinformation that causes polarization and deceives the public and influences public opinion. This is exactly the form of manipulation by foreign governments that FARA is meant to combat.”
Qatar uses media hacking to further agendas
Further investigations were prompted by Republic Underground News that found how Qatar has weaponized the journalist and the media. Academic research by Republic Underground News discovered Qatari media hacking used instrumentally in character assassination of voices that dissent or publish press releases refuting the long-established state narrative.
Academic notes on character assassination highlight disinformation tactics
The paper defines character assassination as “malicious and unjustified harming of a person’s good reputation.” It sometimes falls under the legal definition of “defamation of character.” Character assassination is often employed in informational warfare campaigns.
Elements include the weaponization of information gathering, and the manipulation of information to get a competitive advantage over another party. Information warfare relies on all forms of information transfer, including “cyberspace, advanced computing, mobile networks, unmanned systems, and social media.” Character assassination is pursued through a variety of disinformation tactics, generally considered a form of psyops. Information warfare plays off of “The Art of Warfare” in which Sun Tzu detailed the tactics of warfare 2,000 years ago. The Art of Warfare attributes all warfare to a game of deception. The Art of Warfare states that one should tactically feign incapacity when capable of attacking, or feign inactivity when moving troops. Information warfare has become advanced and creative in methods to feign innocence as well as promote state-backed tactical games of deception.
Acts of character assassination are commonly employed in both the Qatari media and the Western media. Gaining the biases and the vocal influence of western dissenting voices is of great advantage to the Qatari-think tank that backs Al Jazeera as an entity of Al-Qaeda publicity and not as a news agency.
Disinformation and the Gulf Crisis
Republic Underground News likewise researched the impact of media biases through Islamic-backed outlets such as Al Jazeera on the Gulf Crisis. The Gulf Crisis refers to the regional tensions that result from the blockade of Qatar from the Anti-Terrorism Quartet. The Anti-Terrorism Quartet consists of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain.
In the case of the blockade, Al Jazeera and the western press have been vocal. After the fashion of typically biased news gathering, Al Jazeera has, along with western outlets such as the BBC, called on Qatari academia to support claims and anti-fake news agendas, that are, in fact, in service to the disinformation campaigns in question. Such can be observed in the research of Dr. Marc Owen Jones, a researcher with Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar. The Hamad bin Khalifa University is a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development.
Dr. Jones has researched the weaponization of social media and has looked into the Twitter bot deployment of the Gulf Crisis in 2017. His report begins with biased language, stating that Qatar was “isolated” by the Anti-Terrorism Quartet. He also stated that this isolation was accompanied by a “huge social media propaganda campaign.” His research sought to discredit the tensions that “alleged comments” that were made by the Qatari Emir that surfaced on social media in 2017, which confirmed Qatar’s relationship with Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas.
“The statements stood in contrast to the conventional foreign relations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which holds such organizations and countries in relative contempt—at least publicly. Al Thani also allegedly alluded to Iran’s importance as a regional power—an apparent dig at attempts by King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and President Trump of the United States to isolate Iran during the summit held in Riyadh on May 20–21, 2017,” Dr. Jones report stated. The biases of this research did not highlight the history Qatar has had of promoting violent extremism or its narratives, through Al Jazeera, for decades before the blockade was pursued at the sanction level.
Dr. Jones’ report again makes the biased statement that the Anti-Terrorism Quartet used the statements as an excuse to sanction Qatar. The report then cites a “ferocious” media campaign called by Jones “the ferocity of the media onslaught” and the “history of tensions” between Qatar and the region as a “convenient pretext” on which to hang the tensions of the blockade. Jones also alleged that Israel and the UAE have been weaponizing spyware and social media against Qatar. Jones has never addressed the issue of Qatar’s use of bots and other forms of manipulation of social media and public opinion, nor has he criticized Al Jazeera for deceitful editing of soundbites, the spread of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic and bigoted content, and inappropriate meddling in the affairs of many countries. He is a frequent commentator on Al Jazeera.
Dr. Jones’s profiles across academia tote him as a go-to contact for the mainstream press on matters of fake news and agendas. The mainstream media has feigned innocence of fake news by promoting active combat of fake news.
Academic research from Republic Underground News teams finds inconsistencies with the Qatari and mainstream narrative of events in the Gulf Crisis. In the official review of the Gulf Crisis, it was noted that the blockade development occurred shortly after the ascension to the throne of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There was then a series of “mutual recriminations” between Doha, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Qatar and regional rivals accused one another of hacking and disinformation, as is exemplified by Jones’ academic paper, and this led to the brink of combat. During that time, there were some questions if Qatar may have backed a Russian hacker group that leaked the confidential emails of Emirati Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba to the United States. Questions surmised around the fact that the information warfare that nearly led to open-war and the ambassador’s hack happened at roughly the same time. The narrative of the potential hack appeared in Fair Observer, written by James M. Dorsey on July 18, 2018.
FARA Inquiry finds Al Jazeera’s interests in U.S. elections
The FARA inquiry of the later date places Al Jazeera’s U.S. entities in the State of Delaware. The FARA report also made note of Al Jazeera’s role in Qatari foreign interest in the United States elections. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has stated that foreign interference did not directly occur in the United States elections of 2020. All U.S. elections are under the current influence of domestic voter fraud. FARA found that Al Jazeera, in the form of AJ+, a U.S. entity of the corporation, had an interest in United States elections as long ago as 2014.
“The 2016 U.S. presidential election ushered in an unprecedented amount of foreign influence on social media platforms. Al Jazeera’s digital division, AJ+, actively engaged U.S. voters across various social media platforms (including Facebook and YouTube, for example) on specific candidates and policy issues throughout the 2016 election cycle.193 Even further, AJ+ created and deployed a chatbot, called “Mila,” on Election Day in 2016 that directly communicated with voters.194 As explained by one designer, “We created a chatbot that gave followers real-time updates sent to their Facebook messenger. … It was an emotional day, and using the chatbot really created a community between AJ+ and the audience.”195 Another design manager explained that users could ask Mila about candidates running, specific elections issues, or for live updates on current race results.196 One Product Manager at AJ+ explained how AJ+ staff were actually the ones responsible for fielding questions posed to “Mila” via Facebook Messenger, providing “context [and]empathy in real-time.”197 AJ+ routinely produces the U.S. voter engagement videos, often taking a critical position on voting rights issues and voter turnout trends.
During the 2014 midterms, AJ+ released a video, “4 Reasons YOU Should Vote In The U.S. Midterm Elections.”198 Ahead of Election Day in 2016, AJ+ published videos explaining the “antiquated” electoral college system with captions like “3 Ways To Steal An Election.”199 The caption included with the video says, “The democratic process in the U.S. is looking less and less democratic, and that’s thanks to measures like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the rise of ‘dark money.’ So with a system so broken, how is anyone going to fix it?”200 Then on Election Day, AJ+ released a video, “Why your vote didn’t count.”201 Other videos include, “Why is it still so hard to vote in the US?” and “Why Voting Rights Are Under Attack In America.”202 In October 2018, AJ+ aired, “Why Next Month’s Midterms F*cking Matter.”203 In November 2018, they reported on “Why Aren’t Millennial Voting?” state the FARA inquiry into Al Jazeera.
Benjamin Baird noted that Qatari media has an activist role in influencing rhetoric about the contested U.S. elections. Likely, Qatari media’s biased reportage regarding the 2020 election cycle in the United States has to do with promises made by the Biden campaign.
“Qatar’s coverage doesn’t simply inform the public; it galvanizes Islamists to action, hampering ongoing peace efforts between Israel and its Arab neighbors, promoting the most hardline voices among America’s Islamist establishment. Given Biden’s promise to staff his administration with Muslim Americans, and his outreach to Islamist nonprofits such as Emgage and the Islamic Society of North America, Qatar’s influence in Washington stands to grow exponentially,” stated Baird.
Al Jazeera has a unique advantage over Islamic-backed media in that it appeals to the ideals of westernized Islamic thought above even the purist Islamic thought. It has achieved this by franchising its unique media brand in the western world.
Clifford Smith, the Washington Project Director of the Middle East Forum, made note of Al Jazeera’s distinctive westernization.
“ I’d say that Qatari-backed media such as Al-Jazeera and Middle East Eye consistently promote lines that promote Qatar’s agenda and the strategic interests of Western Islamists. That’s distinct from the pure Islamist line, insofar as Western Islamist organizations sometimes promote things like LGBTQ rights or abortion rights that hardcore Islamists don’t promote. But the western Islamists’ frequent partnership with the left often requires this kind of tactical support,” said Smith.
Foreign media advantages over current U.S. elections
Drawing from this recent historical pattern, Al Jazeera now has the opportunity to take advantage of the skewed and heated coverage of the U.S. election voter fraud allegations process. The western press is strongly biased against the incumbent presidential administration. Media campaigns in the west publish information that suggests the Presidential Democratic nominee Joe Biden is the current president-elect, however, the U.S. State Legislatures and the United States Congress are currently reviewing allegations of media-assisted voter fraud campaigns. Al Jazeera has joined the western biases hand-in-glove by running narratives in its English-language editorial that show political commentators calling Trump a “national embarrassment” as well as toting Trump’s legal battles as defeats when they factually are passing through the processes laid out in the U.S. Constitution.
Al Jazeera, and Qatari-backed propaganda, in their support of Iran, are interested politically in an end to the Trump administration due to the stiff policies the Trump administration has taken against Iran. This is a motive for Al Jazeera to likewise drive narratives of character assassination against members of the Trump legal defense, or against political analysts who have confirmed that the legal actions taken against the Biden campaign are being constitutionally pursued.
In privately-owned news media of the United States, the U.S. election results are being reviewed in court. They were likewise reviewed in recounts at the legislative level, and some of the contested states have not yet completed their review.
The Epoch Times reported on November 23 that the Michigan Legislature has agreed to hold election legal hearings, and likewise the Pennsylvania judge has removed some ballots from the process of the election as voter irregularities are being detected. This continues as a battle over certifying the results played out in the legislature, and the legislature voted to certify the results regardless of contest. For this reason, Michigan results will likely be contested further in court. An appeals court in Pennsylvania has expedited a review of the Trump campaign’s lawsuits, as the legal contest of the election continues. Likewise, recounts of Wisconsin votes are expected to continue past Thanksgiving Day, which is Thursday. Officials have a deadline of December 1 to complete vote recounts.
Due to the many contingencies, legal appeals, and so forth, the U.S. election will likely be resolved in the State Supreme Courts and then transferred to the Supreme Court of the United States if unresolved at the state level. Despite the facts of appeals of court decisions, Al Jazeera has reported the events in Michigan and Georgia as a “double blow” of defeat for Donald Trump’s legal defense. The Al Jazeera article, released on November 21, is not seen to be updated when new information was released from the Michigan Legislature on November 23.
Despite this, media agendas continue to press forward regarding Biden as the ascertained legitimate winner, toting historical victory for his vice president, and publishing a list of his selected officials for a cabinet transition. This extended, heated disinformation in the western press has opened the door wide for foreign actors, who are already notorious for side-stepping U.S. legal action against propaganda spread by foreign states.
Likewise, western media anti-election inquiry campaigns have engaged in the character assassination and outright threats of U.S. elected and public officials. This included the head of the General Services Administration Emily Murphy, who has not signed the certification of the election results due to the legal processes of the contest in court. Media campaigns against Emily Murphy have repeatedly launched on social media, with Emily Murphy trending in over 92K tweets on November 23. Murphy later reached the decision, under the advice of Donald Trump, to authorize the transition process for the sake of protocol. The western media reported this as a concession, even though Trump expressly stated he continued to legally contest the election.
The dissemination of false facts across domestic media outlets exposes the United States to damning propaganda from foreign outlets who are present in the United States. The repackage of the domestic entanglement over the U.S. election contest is of high interest to foreign states with anti-western agendas. The western media makes promises for the Biden campaign that the campaign may not have the legal power to fulfill if the investigation discovers Biden’s projected victory was illegitimate. This is damaging for the United States’ image in foreign diplomatic relationships, as it is essentially the act of bearing gifts in foreign state relations, and then snatching them away if foreign anti-western states are informed of a different outcome than the current one projected.
Al-Jazeera’s previous bypass registration as a foreign entity
Al Jazeera has found intricate loopholes in the system of western press law to be able to sidestep foreign registration in the past. In January 2020, The Washington Examiner followed up on The Herald Report, and noted the Qatari Emir’s controlling stake in Al Jazeera, referred to in this report as a “Qatari publicity agent.” The Washington Examiner had noted that Al Jazeera was “a useful tool for Qatari political masters” as far back as 2009, citing confidential U.S. diplomatic cables. Also contemporary with January 2020, the media watchdog NewsGuard had found consistent unflattering coverage by AJE concerning Qatar’s rivals.
Al Jazeera came under increased scrutiny when RT was compelled to register as a foreign entity under FARA after the events of the 2016 Presidential Election scandal, which revealed the Kremlin’s interests in influencing the presidential election results of 2016. As of 2020, the FARA was referred to as a “rarely enforced disclosure statute” that been originally established to counter Nazi propaganda. In late 2019, Congress included an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act which required foreign-owned media that were not covered by FARA laws to register with the Federal Communications Commission. The act was put in motion in August 2018, to be established in Fiscal Year 2019.
The Washington Examiner reported that Al Jazeera, to avoid being forced to register with the Federal Communications Commission, sought to muddy the water about its royal-family controlled media status. The Washington Examiner traced the financial activity of Al Jazeera through UK financial filings. The Qatari Emir liquidated his controlling stake in Al Jazeera International Limited and transferred the balance of 50,000 shares to a dormant shell company. This was in March 2018, in early anticipation of western investigations into Qatari publicity and state-controlled biases. By the time that amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act were already in motion in August, the Emir’s shares were safely stored away in the shell company, which was identified as a SIC dormant company, see filings by UK Companies House.
Shifting his shares around as he did, the emir handed over “significant control” of the company to AJE to its parent media company Al Jazeera Media Network. This bypassed the U.S. regulations that the network would have fallen under. The Washington Examiner also found that, even though the Qatari royal family had shifted its funding of the organization around, it kept firm control over the editorial of Al Jazeera by placing Qatari ruling family members on the board of directors for Al Jazeera Media Network and the Qatar Media Corporation.
Clumsy ploys such as that of the Qatari royal family to “flout” U.S. media laws have been tolerated, or at least flown under the radar, because of the lack of enforcement of the FARA and similar Federal Communications Commission laws. The lack of enforcement may now be compounded by the effort in the U.S. academic and domestic political interest to redefine the language of the FARA.
Irina Tsukerman adds: “FARA designation is not a punishment. It is a tool to enforce transparency that indicates to the consumers of media that the material they are getting is a tool of foreign political agenda, rather than a legitimate news source.
It is endowed on entities that are used as information warfare and political tools of foreign governments, to meddle in US policy and the policy of other countries, to misinform and to manipulate public opinion. Qatar’s Al Jazeera is not being singled out but follows the designation of Russia’s, China’s, and Turkey’s state-controlled conglomerates.”
Furthermore, Al Jazeera has been particularly vicious in inciting hatred and spreading conspiracy theories by playing a double game. It caters to leftist political agendas in English and in Arabic spreads extreme anti-Semitic sentiments, divisive political conspiracy theories, anti-US sentiments, and incitement against leaders of other US allies in the Middle East, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Israel. American audiences deserve to know the truth about this outlet and to have the tools to understand how information campaigns spread other countries’ agenda in the mainstream media through state-backed conglomerate with a long reach. Part of the reason for polarization and poor information, especially on foreign policy, is thanks to these hidden influences.”