How Fake News Led to the Qatar Gulf Crisis
Can Qatar Resolve Its Diplomatic Woes?
Earlier this year, we learned that the Middle East is facing another diplomatic crisis. The gulf state known as Qatar has been virtually blacklisted from some of the most powerful nations in the Arab region including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates or the UAE. Many diplomats in Qatar have been recalled, effectively isolating the country from some of its most prominent trading partners. Overall, ten countries have stated that they are cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar, so why are so many countries turning against their neighbor?
Many of these countries believe that Qatar is sponsoring terrorism within the region in the form of disinformation or what’s more commonly known as fake news. Qatar’s state-sponsored media channel Al Jazeera has been highly critical of Saudi Arabia and its leaders for years, leading to the spread of extremism throughout the Arab peninsula. These ten countries want Qatar to stop its support for Islamic extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood before any diplomatic relations can continue. But will Qatar comply with these demands? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Fake News and the End of Information
Across the globe, dozens of countries are struggling with the threat of fake news, or media that spreads incorrect and even misleading information. The rise of digital media and the Internet are changing the ways in which information spreads across borders and civilizations. In decades passed, only a select few had the means to record newscasts and share them with the public on TV. But now, new groups and organizations are taking matters into their own hands. Instead of broadcasting on a traditional network, new media companies can blast their message directly to their target audience using social media and the Internet. You might think that these new forms of communication are beneficial to society, but it can give a voice to those with malicious intent.
Power to the People
When everyone has access to the same forms of communication, anyone is free to say what they think and make an argument. But if that message is extremely one-sided or filled with violent rhetoric, this new flood of information might be doing more damage than good. In the world of mass communication, there’s often no one to correct false reports or to offer an opposing argument. In the case of Al Jazeera, the news outlet has been circulating hateful language and conspiracy theories throughout the Arab Peninsula, creating all kinds of tension between Qatar and most of the rest of the Arab World. While many of Qatar’s former allies have biased state-run media channels of their own, these competing agendas are spilling out into the mainstream, inciting outrage across the region.
Resolving Conflict without Consensus
Forcing Qatar to shut down Al Jazeera isn’t exactly realistic. Every country should have the freedom to create and share media as they please. Even if Qatar is guilty of spreading disinformation, these other countries can’t control everything that’s being said and shared online. In lieu of a diplomatic solution, it’s up to the general public to decide what’s real and what’s fake news.