Jamal Khashoggi became a hot topic in the media when he disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. After days of incessant media coverage, the story suddenly dropped out of the news cycle. Recently it has made a tentative reappearance but the question is – why?
Most of us had never heard of Jamal Khashoggi until the media began discussing his disappearance. We learned that he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but did not leave it. Later it seemed that he was removed, in pieces, in the luggage of the Saudi hit team who came to get rid of him.
Western media seems to view this story as a Hollywood thriller – and that’s where the focus on facts ended and narrative began.
The most popular narrative reads like a movie synopsis:
“The revolutionary, brave journalist went to the embassy to get documentation that would enable him to live happily ever after with the woman of his dreams, only to disappear, setting off an investigation that reveals international involvement with the evil regime that led to his brutal murder. The corruption goes to the highest levels of government, including the US government.”
- Jamal Khashoggi – ex-pat Saudi, sometime journalist
- Mohammad Bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and his hit team
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, the location of the murder
- The media
There are also “silent players” those who are not “on film.” They are the audience this screenplay is designed to influence. Can you guess who they are?
The good guy:
Every Hollywood thriller has a good guy. The narrative presented by the media says that Jamal Khashoggi was the good guy but is that true?
Even without knowing all the details, asking the most basic questions cause the narrative to begin to unravel.
Western values uphold freedom of the press so we assume the abused journalist must be the “good guy” but did the media make the same fuss for Daniel Pearl (kidnapped and murdered for being Jewish) or James Foley (kidnapped and murdered by ISIS for being American)?
Has the media focused similar amount of time on the Yazidi genocide (by ISIS)? The oppression in Iran? The slave trade in Libya?
Much has already been written about Khashoggi and who he really was. Anyone interested can easily find online the information about his connections to Osama Bin Laden, his membership and vocal advocacy of the Muslim Brotherhood (a terrorist organization that gave birth to Hamas and eventually Al Qaeda).
Personally, as someone who enjoys her western freedoms and also happens to be Jewish, I cannot categorize a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, openly and loudly advocating for Sharia and the Caliphate as the “good guy”. This is a man who belonged to a terrorist organization, an avid Islamist and a spokesperson for the destruction of our way of life. Nope. Not good.
So, does that mean Mohammad Bin Salman is the “good guy”? Before this murder occurred, the media portrayed him as a great reformer, democratizing Saudi Arabia. This is “good” right?
The problem is that “democratizing” was also a media narrative. Salman passed reforms that loosened some restrictions on the population of Saudi Arabia however these have nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with creating a strategic balance to retain power so that the young people in his country will not rebel. There is no actual freedom involved, just a little less oppression.
So why has the media expressed such shock over the murder of Khashoggi?
Is it some big surprise that Saudi Arabia is an oppressive regime with little (if any) regard for human rights? Mohammad Bin Salman, has disappeared members of his own (extended) family. They usually don’t die but go on extended “vacations” they can’t return from… What’s Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, in comparison to family loyalties, particularly in a tribal society like Saudi Arabia?
The reality is that in the Middle East (and in all dictatorial countries), disappearing political enemies is standard practice. Murder, torture and abuse is common. In the history of humankind freedom and democracy are an aberration, not the norm.
This is also true for Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The sudden demand for justice for Khashoggi is laughable in the face of Erdoğan’s own abuse of human rights, jailing of journalists and disappearance of political adversaries.
The victim was an avid Islamist and a terrorist sympathizer. The perpetrator is a dictatorial abusive regime. The country crying out in shock and outrage for what occurred on their soil has no better a track record.
None of these players are “good guys”.
The conflict between the facts and the narrative presented in the media raise disturbing questions:
- Why did the media so enthusiastically embrace Jamal Khashoggi, a known avid terrorist sympathizer, a member of a terrorist organization himself, as an innocent journalist?
- Why did the media first uphold Mohammad Bin Salman as some great reformer democratizing Saudi Arabia and now try to push for his removal?
- Why is there a huge push for America to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia when the same people violently resisted sanctions on Iran?
- Why the demand to dissolve the $110 billion dollar arms deal Trump made with the Saudis? What lies in the balance? Prosperity and jobs for more Americans and arms for the Saudis to protect themselves from Iran vs some sudden awakening that the Saudi government is not democratic and doesn’t care about human rights?
Even without knowing all the details behind these obviously contradictory positions, they raise more questions than answers. That is the point when it is time to begin asking: who benefits from this narrative? What agenda is being furthered by this type of reporting?
Recently the Khashoggi story has reentered the news-cycle, this time with a new angle. Supposedly the technology the Saudis used to track Khashoggi was created by an Israeli company. This seems to be a tacit way to imply that Israel can be blamed as an accessory to this murder. Because Israel is always to blame. Or something.
Not my circus, not my monkeys
As much as the media might imply and insinuate, this story, thank God, is not our circus, not our monkeys. This story isn’t about Israel. It’s not about Jews. It’s not about America or Europe either. This is a story about Islamism and the internal war within Islam. This is about dictators and the way things are done in places that are not free.
The problem is that what is being presented as a Hollywood screenplay, is not. Real lives are at stake as is the balance of power among nations. When Middle Eastern countries are destabilized the “circus” does not stay “over there,” the “monkeys” stop being amusing and become very dangerous to people all over the world.
WE are the silent players in this show, the audience the “screenplay” is designed to influence. But why? Who benefits from this narrative? What agenda is being furthered?