Al Jazeera (from here, simply "AJ") News, particularly AJ English, has been making a stir recently as a fairly unbiased, old-school, hard journalism news source.

Once on the fringe of Western awareness, it has a solid and still developing reputation for the kind of journalism that in modern times has been basically the sole domain of the BBC. I can say that this is mostly the case, but sometimes not for the reason one might expect - AJ English very often simply uses the BBC as a sort of unauthorized AP Newswire. This explains a good deal of the similar perspectives, sources, and corrections.

There is, however, something very important to note about AJ and AJ English. They cater to two very, very different audiences. I'm about to bring to light something that is not exactly politically correct, and will doubtless bend a lot of feelings and generate a lot of rhetoric in my inbox, but here it is:

Most people across the Mid-East are blatantly, unabashedly, racist and anti-Semite. It's simply part of the culture. The idea that these attitudes might be "wrong" simply never occurs, and even the idea that it might be "impolite" has, frankly, a snowball's chance in Hell.

AJ caters to this audience to an extreme degree. They write what sells. This is not immediately apparent when reading an AJ English article.

For those of you who are familiar with the BBC's international services, you may realize that very often their articles on a given topic, in different languages, are simply professional translations of each other, right down to the headlines and photo captions. This meets with varying degrees of success, depending on the language, but speaking from experience with a few of the lesser-known languages and dialects that the BBC offers, they are generally good translations with a few oddities in word choice here and there. (These are known in many places as "BBC-isms").

For AJ vs. AJ English this is very much not the case.

An AJ English article might cover the most recent tit for tat on the Gaza strip. It would say that HAMAS-affiliated rebels in the strip launched two rockets into an Israeli kibbutz, demolishing a greenhouse and wounding two, and that the Israeli Army followed up with a helicopter gunship attack on a fleeing pickup truck. The remainder of the article will discuss the several most recent skirmishes along the border, with perhaps a blurb about the Israeli PM's latest statement on settlements.

The AJ article would also cover the most recent tit for tat on the Gaza strip. It would say that supporters of the glorious Islamic resistance group HAMAS have forged another stunning blow against the oppressive Jew overlords who trample the necks of Palestine, and that two of their rockets were guided by Allah's will to destroy the sustenance of the oppressors and strike two of the Jew overlords where they stood, for refusing to submit to His will. The remainder of the article will discuss the history of evil Jew conspiracy with the Americans, which is designed to break the back of Islamic peoples and subjugate them under the rule of the Infidel.

Please, please, please, don't think that I'm descending into furious hyperbole. I'm not. It happens on a pretty regular basis. The editors at AJ and AJ English are very careful about sanitizing the English version, not because there is a grand conspiracy to deceive the West, but because they know what sells. The English speaking world does not typically sympathize with the sentiments expressed in AJ. So, you boil out the sentiments, and you're left with bare facts and minimal commentary - once the hallmark of responsible, unbiased journalism, and now only the leftovers when you take out the political slant.

So, be careful when you're talking about AJ being a great news source. Please, specify AJ English, unless of course you do read AJ and find it to be enlightening.