Everybody knows that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal killing and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (everybody, that is, except the Trumps, who coincidentally do a lot of business with the House of Saud) and the lurid brutality of that murder has prompted calls for western businesses to reconsider their increasingly cozy relationship with Mohammed bin Salman.
MBS's charm offensive over the past year has been the subject of much uncritical reporting from the alleged guardians of the public trust, including the New York Times, who treated "Prince Charming" as a liberalizing reformer, even as he led slaughter in Yemen, mass arrests of journalists and political opposition figures in Saudi Arabia, and other crimes against humanity and human rights abuses.
This whitewashing — which included public Starbucks visits with Michael Bloomberg, cozy walks with Sergey Brin, and praise in Vanity Fair — helped open the doors to US business for the brutal regime, promoted by Trump co-conspirator David Pecker, publisher of the National Inquirer, cover-upper of the Stormy Daniels affair, and, eventually, publisher of a glossy magazine lauding the financial upsides of doing business with the Saudis. This helped pave the way for "Davos in the Desert," AKA the "Future Investment Initiative," which is hemorrhaging sponsors and attendees for whom the dismemberment of a journalist is a bridge too far.
But hacking a journalists to pieces with a bone-saw in an embassy is absolutely on-brand for the real Prince MSB, and anyone who paid even cursory attention during his western rehabilitation would have known that: October 2 wasn't an exceptionally murderous day by Saudi standards, and the hacking up of dissidents shouldn't be a surprise to the Bloomberg and his Starbucks date, or Brin and his perambulations, or any of the investors and media companies who signed up to attend "Davos in the Desert."
If anything is to be salvaged from this moment, let it be an end to US complicity in the slaughter in Yemen, which is careering towards a famine whose death-toll will rise to 12-13 million. Bernie Sanders has reintroduced his legislation to take the US out of this Saudi proxy-war. Any lawmaker who condemns the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but won't support the Sanders bill is a mere political point-scorer who doesn't really care about Saudi atrocities.
A.M.I. said it printed The New Kingdom to capitalize on interest in the crown prince's visit. A more plausible reason emerged when my colleagues and I reported that the publication coincided with A.M.I.'s efforts to strike business deals in Saudi Arabia, which included a meeting there between the company's chairman, David Pecker, and M.B.S. himself.
None of this is meant to suggest there wasn't something newsworthy in the crown prince's moves to reopen theaters and allow women to drive under a more moderate form of Saudi Islam. "I never dreamed I would see that — these are huge deals,'' said The Times columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote a column praising Crown Prince Mohammad last year, but has also warned that his autocratic side would undercut his efforts if left unchecked.
It's just that there's a streak in American journalism to allow glittering narratives about budding authoritarians to obscure less appealing facts.
Reality Breaks Up a Saudi Prince Charming's Media Narrative [Jim Rutenberg/New York Times]
(via Naked Capitalism)