NEW YORK (AP) — A video posted on an Al Jazeera YouTube channel over the Fourth of July weekend mocks Americans for dubious “achievements” in obesity, pornography production and gun ownership.
The satirical item, under two minutes long, was produced out of San Francisco by a digital arm of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network. It has not been seen on television, including on the beleaguered Al Jazeera America channel.
Debuting on the weekend set aside for celebrating the birth of the U.S., the video is entitled “Americans Show Why USA is the #1 Country in the World.” It begins with a man who explains that most people probably know that Americans lead the world in Olympic medals won, Nobel laureates and billionaires.
Then it goes on to list other benchmarks, including the large number of people imprisoned and the amount of guns owned. The U.S. also has a leading percentage of obese people, one man said.
“A third of us can’t even see our own toes,” he said.
A man holding red, white and blue balloons claims that Americans make 89 percent of the world’s pornography. “That makes porn as American as church on Sunday,” the man said.
At its end, a man in a stars-and-stripes hat said that “if anybody ever tells you that American is not that great, just say, ‘God bless the country with the most deaths by lawnmowers.'” A guitar plays “America the Beautiful” in the background.
The Al Jazeera Plus network began in 2013, and is described on its website as a “global news community for the connected generation.” The outfit says that its goal is to “highlight human struggles and achievements, empower impassioned voices and challenge the status quo.”
A spokeswoman for Al Jazeera America said that the channel is editorially distinct from the television network.
“One of the things that defines America is free speech,” said Jocelyn Austin, network spokeswoman. “The Americans in San Francisco who made this July Fourth video are entitled to speak about their country. Similar videos have been done in this style about issues in other countries, and the network airs all opinions without necessarily endorsing them.”
By mid-afternoon on Monday, the video had been seen more than 157,000 times, according to the Al Jazeera Plus web site. Of 30 videos displayed on the web site, only two others had as many as 10,000 views.
The Al Jazeera America television network has had trouble getting a foothold in this country, and was targeted in lawsuits filed by former employees this spring that alleged the network and its management were biased against non-Arabs both on the air and in how it treated employees. The network has called the allegations unfounded.