The world has been appalled by the apparent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish consulate in Istanbul. The Washington Post reported on U.S. intelligence intercepts which claim Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—that supposed reformer—personally orchestrated a plot to lure Khashoggi into the embassy. The whole thing is outrageous.
It’s also put some of America’s media elites into a mighty uncomfortable position, because of a direct partnership with bin Salman on a very evil-sounding conference called the Future Investment Initiative.
Now, many of them are pulling out:
Others, however, are staying for the moment:
If you ever wanted the clearest possible evidence of how elite Western media can instinctively mirror the foreign policy of Western governments, here you have it. Saudi Arabia did not just become some problematic country in the past week. It’s been terrible for a really long time. It’s even been pursuing an essentially genocidal war in Yemen with steadfast American support.
This, of course, does not matter to Andrew Ross Sorkin or the editor of the Economist or the owner of the Los Angeles Times. Saudi Arabia should, by any decent standards, be a pariah state, but it is instead a major Western ally, and because it is a major Western ally, media companies and top writers and editors felt perfectly comfortable heading over to Riyadh and hobnobbing with its leaders, and it gets ludicrous, fawning coverage in the press.
Just look at the lavish treatment the Saudis have been getting from a single outlet, the New York Times. An infamously sycophantic Thomas Friedman piece wasn’t enough; the paper threw in an entire sponsorship of whatever this FII bullshit is, and was prepared to send Ross Sorkin, one of its star columnists, there to boot. This is how the system works.
For the moment, it’s a very bad look to be in the literal pocket of the Saudi government, so some of these media bigwigs are distancing themselves. It’s only a matter of time, though, before they all come back into the fold.
Correction, 10/12/18, 7:10 a.m. ET: This post initially said that Jamal Khashoggi’s apparent murder took place in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. In fact, it was the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.