I have Al Jazeera on satellite, and have watched it occasionally. Mr. Kaplan's take on it is fairly accurate, in my opinion, and it is useful to watch to get alternative opinions, but would be disastrous to use as your only source of information.
But Kaplan's point isn't merely that the ideological bent of Al Jazeera - as he puts it, "pro-Palestinian and anti-Bush ... breezy, pacifist-trending internationalism."
It's much more than this is increasingly what the developing classes outside of the west actually believe.
This ... ideology, for lack of a better word, is, at best, a mish-mash of wishful thinking, resentment and a natural human tendency to feel that horrible things shouldn't be happening around the world. It is, of course, at best naive and at worst deliberately manipulated, reflecting not reality, but rather presenting a fertile field for deliberate staging of atrocities for propaganda purposes. It is, fundamentally for the West, dangerous: not dangerous in the sense that it speaks uncomfortable truth to power (if it were to do that, it would not be able to function, as it is dependent on the largess of dictators for financing and fails completely to understand that there are vastly more grounds to castigate traditional societies in the developing world than there is to castigate the developed world for failing to make the world perfect for the developing world.
Human rights are not a zero-sum game: you cannot "excuse" the repression of society in Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia (heck, the whole Arab world) by claiming that they are the result of past Western repressions (especially since the countries that laid the current borders of the Arab world were the French and British, not the Americans). There is a passage in the Bible that applies here (Matthew 7: 1-5, here the King James version:
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
This is the demand for objectivity, for taking care of your own problems before looking at those of others.
But that's not the only point that Kaplan makes:
Unfortunately, the BBC and CNN don't have so much a different viewpoint from Al Jazeera's, as a similar philosophical outlook that is more weakly and dully presented. Then there is Fox, with its jingoistic, meatloaf provincialism straight out of an earlier, black-and-white era. Could Fox cover the world as Al Jazeera does, but from a different, American-nationalist perspective? No, because what makes Fox so provincial is its utter lack of interest in the outside world in the first place, except where that world directly and obviously affects American power. What use does Fox have for Niger River rebels or dispossessed Indian farmers? Thus, we are left with the insidious despotism of Al Jazeera: and it is despotism, because we have really no other serious news channel to turn to.
George Orwell intimated in 1984 that purity can be a form of coercion, and in that respect, I find Al Jazeera's moral rectitude disturbing. Because its cause is that of the weak and the oppressed, it sees itself as always in the right, regardless of the complexity of the issues, and therein lies its power of oppression. But I will continue watching Al Jazeera wherever I can, because I find it so riveting compared with other news channels. And if my politics crawl to the left as a result, that will be yet more evidence of just how insidious Al Jazeera's influence is.
Insidious despotism indeed. Al Jazeera's lack of objectivity - and this lack of objectivity means, at the end of the day, that Al Jazeera will always remain a propaganda tool and not an objective news reporter - and the resulting moral rectitude, its moral superiority, is dangerous. Believing that one is always in the right means that there is no alternative, it is intolerance and a morally justified denial of objectivity. This is righteousness perverted and prostituted into an insidious political tool, seductive in its failed morality (failed because it fails to rightfully ask questions, demanding instead obedience to the meme of Palestinian martyrdom and a vague transnational progressivism that hides the true nature of the beast).
Down that path lies madness.
And it is the path of the Left in the west: the intolerant and oppressive Left that hypocritically castigates Western society as being the cause of all problems. That way lies madness: it leads to the replacement of civil society with the perpetual class warfare that Orwell prophesied.