Over the years I have debated the most virulent Zionists, the most ardent US foreign policy defenders and the most downright racists and bigots. I may never have agreed with any of them but at least it was always clear from the outset where we both stood when it came to discussing politics.
Last week however I appeared on RT’s flagship debate show Cross Talk and found myself in a rather bizarre position.
While it was clear one of my co-panellists was a fierce critic of US foreign policy, the other Sam Husseini, was perhaps more inclined to discuss grammar and the fine nuances of the English language, than American meddling in Arab affaires.
In response to recent events in Syria, where Russian involvement has achieved more in two weeks in weakening the terror network ISIS than the US presence had in over a year, the host Peter Lavelle, asked guests whether the US’ policy in the Middle East was ‘rational’ given the endless blunders that inevitably result from its presence in the region.
Now of course what the mainstream media does is simply take at face value what the US and Western capitals state and broadcast it as fact with no dissenting voices capable of questioning US policy motives.
In the alternative media, that has flourished over the years and provided countless journalists with the platforms to voice opinions they simply could not in the mainstream, the aim is to dissect the information and present its obvious flaws.
As such when the US claims ISIS poses the greatest threat to humanity yet fails to defeat it despite its vastly superior military capabilities, it’s clear the US is either unable or unwilling to destroy this terror network.
During this episode, we the panellists were given a platform from which to clearly articulate our opinions with as many facts and examples as we could.
Sam Husseini, however decided to drag the debate into an opaque exchange on semantics and we ended up spending the best part of the programme bogged down in an argument over the actual meaning of the word ‘rational’ versus ‘irrational’.
At this point I’d like to add that when doing the show you are simply faced with a camera and have no idea what your fellow guests -who are in other countries-look like. The viewers may be privy to the facial expressions and body language that reveal some of our thoughts and impressions, but when you’re sat in that chair you only have an ear piece from which to decipher the nature of the debate. From where I was standing Sam Husseini’s recurrent contribution was insisting that the word ‘rational’ was not the correct one to use. When I pressed him to state what he thought the US’ goal for the region was, we were treated with another round of bumbling platitudes about why the word ‘rational’ was not…well the best one to use.
It was only at the very end that Husseini gathered some courage to finally state that the US’ policy was specifically designed to fuel conflict and encourage failed states.
If only Husseini had displayed some backbone and came out straight and said it from the start in plain standard English, I for one could have agreed, instead I found myself having to argue ad nauseam the definition of ‘rationality.’
In the end it was sad to note that a fellow panellist, invited to talk freely on a programme known to welcome dissenting voices, was simply not brave enough to openly state what he wanted to say dragging the debate into a pointless exchange over vocabulary.
Perhaps more disappointing still is that, unable to articulate clearly his opinion, Husseini, then penned an article in Counterpunch, to complain of the nature of the media in which he appeared and quality of his opponents.
Lacking the courage to clearly present his point on TV, his written response -in which his opinion on the matter is still vague- Sam Husseini ended up looking like a school kid left out of football who runs off to headmaster to complain.
As a now seasoned debater I have always known that when defending your opinion you play the ball not the player, but sadly for Husseini it wasn’t his ability to articulate a point that proved his downfall but apparently the channel’s propensity for ‘shallowness’ and ‘prize hacks.’
He ended his written lament by supporting the idea of a ‘global, real network dedicated to real facts and meaningful dialogue between various viewpoints,’ while again not sure if he means a TV station, a newspaper, a global think tank-you never know with Sam Husseini- I personally know that none of these would be suitable forums for him.
Because real facts and meaningful dialogue have to be presented and had by brave journalists who are courageous enough to clearly articulate their point and defiantly challenge the dominant doxa, something Husseini was tragically unable to do.