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Saudi-Loving Corporate Media Pundits Run for Cover in the Wake of Jamal Khashoggi Outrage

October 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

As Tom Friedman of the New York Times (and others) furiously backtrack on the Saudi prince, an ugly truth emerges

No one thinks Thomas L. Friedman, the lead foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, has an easy job. I wouldn’t want it. Like his closely allied counterpart at the Washington Post, David Ignatius, Friedman stands astride the interlocked pinnacles of two powerful American institutions: the mainstream media and the national security establishment. He has unparalleled access to the innermost thoughts of the latter, and serves as the moralizing voice of the former. All of that comes at a price, perhaps best exemplified in Friedman’s use of a mysterious, pseudo-royal first-person plural.

Consider Friedman’s tormented column this week about how the United States should respond to the apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by forces close to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now known around the world as MBS. This is the same prince, of course, whom Friedman lauded last November in a column he would surely love to scrub from the internet. Back then he praised MBS as the leader of an “Arab Spring, Saudi-style,” quoted lines from “Hamilton” at him during their lengthy late-night conversation in the prince’s “ornate adobe-walled palace,” and pronounced: “I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts.” Here’s Friedman today, with the bromance breaking bad:

So, once again, what do we do? I don’t have a simple answer. It’s a mess. All I know is that we have to find some way to censure M.B.S. for this — without seeming to attack the whole Saudi people and destabilize the country. And we have to make sure that the social/religious reform process in Saudi Arabia proceeds — whoever is in charge there.

Leaving aside the maddeningly vague and deliberately toothless non-prescription on offer here — let’s “find some way to censure” MBS for allegedly having a prominent journalist tortured, killed and dismembered (I’m sure the prince is shaking in his handmade Italian loafers at that prospect) — who exactly is the “we” who must do something, …read more


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