Category Archives: Media

Kissing It in Arabia: Saudis Discern a Trump ‘Axis of Adults’, or is it an ‘Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump’?………

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“Trump’s ‘Axis of Adults’ sends powerful messages to Iran. In Washington, they call them the “Axis of Adults” — Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the UN. These are the pillars of the Trump-Pence administration, if not the pillars of the state. Other influential stakeholders exist. There is the wing led by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the president, which includes his Wall Street friends Gary Cohen and Dina Habib Powell, who is deputy national security adviser. There is also a rival wing led by Donald Trump’s top adviser, the hawkish Steve Bannon. The so-called Axis of Adults has taken advantage of the tension between the two in the White House to make inroads into Trump’s heart and mind………” Arab News (Saudi)

First time I read, or hear, about “Trump’s Heart and Mind”. Didn’t know he had either. Now that is ‘kissing it’ creatively, Saudi style…..
“How do I dish thee out, oh journalistic rubbish?…..
Let me count the ways……..”

When it comes to hypocrisy towards potentates or towards a new US president, nobody can do it like Saudi semi-official media. Networks (Alarabiya), Newspapers (Asharq Alawsat, Al-Hayat), English Dailies like Arab News. All owned by princes and potentates. They hire the best, most sycophant media writers, mainly Lebanese but also other Arabs.
A few months ago Donald Trump was a pariah in Arab media. They thought their old pal Hillary Clinton will win and Trump was royally trashed in their controlled media. It is quite a different story now. Trump has been transformed into a genius. He hasn’t been elevated to the ranks of the Early Muslim Pioneers, the Sahaba, yet. But watch out!

How does an Axis of Kissers of Trump’s Rump sounds? That is what it is, but British prime minister Theresa May actually beat them to it last January. In front of a hundred cameras at the White House.


Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Trump and Media Freedom: Is He Going Arab and Muslim?………

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“We get reaction from media scholar Robert McChesney to news that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is reportedly considering suing The New York Times after it ran a major report on his past treatment of women, and has vowed to make it easier to sue news organizations. Lawsuits are not the solution, McChesney says. “Instead, it is to broaden it, enrich it, create new voices and fund new voices so we actually have the diverse marketplace of ideas.………”

Democracy Now! headlines this as: Trump Vows to Sue New York Times in Latest Show of Disregard for Freedom of Press.

What is the fuss? This happens all the time in the Middle East, and not just in the Arab states or in the Gulf states. Governments, prosecutors, even foreign embassies now sue any journalist, politician, or just plain citizen for insulting some king, prince, or dictator.
Often on the Gulf, foreign Arab embassies pressure host governments to sue and prosecute their local critics. They mostly like to sue and arrest anyone who posts on social media, since they can’t completely own and control this type of media.

Just recently, Turkey‘s dour Islamist strongman Erdogan even managed to intimidate Germany to prosecute a German cartoonist who mocked him. In Germany! Instead of Turkey adapting to European standards of freedom of expression, the Germans were forced to adopt the Turkish standards.

Donald Trump is just being Arab-ized and Islam-ized.

Cheers
M Haider Ghuloum

Riyadh Bob of Saudi Arabia………

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Saudi foreign minister Addle Al Jubeir has been making an unusual number of statements on Syria (and some other issues) for days. I would call them a frantic spurt of daily statements:

Al Jubeir: Assad will go, through a political solution OR a military solution.

If Assad does not leave, he will be forced to go.

We are ready to send ground forces into Syria.

We are ready to send ground forces to fight ISIS.

We will really send ground forces to Syria (if we have to?)

We will send troops to Syria IF the USA is willing to lead the campaign. (He didn’t say if the troops will be Sudanese, Somalian, Senegalese, Mauritanian or Klingons).

Ad nauseam, and on an almost hourly basis….. He is almost like Baghdad Bob, Saddam Hussein’s last minister of propaganda.

Then the headline of this morning (Friday 2/19): Saudi FM al-Jubeir: “We believe introducing surface-to-air missiles would change balance of power.” Which means he is threatening to wreck civil aviation in the eastern Mediterranean by supplying the Jihadists with anti-aircraft missiles. The region is not Afghanistan of 1980s where only Russian military jets flew the skies. Maybe someone in Washington will call this minister and read him the Riot Act on weapons.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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A Tour of Middle East Media………..

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Here is a summary of what Middle East media seem to focus on in recent days (besides ISIS cutthroats and daily terrorism):

  • Saudi media and its reporters and columnists always write and say: (1) how bad and dangerous Iranian policy is; (2) how wise are the policies of the Saudi King and his son and crown prince; (3) how they seek to liberate Syria, Yemen, and Iraq for freedom, democracy, and the American Way of Life; (4) how the whole world is grateful for the polygamous wisdom of the princes.
  • Iranian media much of the time report: (1) how bad and dangerous are Saudi policies; (2) how wise are the policies of Iran; (3) how the West and Zionists (not the Wahhabis) have created the sectarianism that plagues the Middle East. How otherwise all Muslims would live in peace and harmony, how all the kings, princes, dictators, and mullahs can get along if left alone. (4) They also report a lot (like every week) about their most recent domestic weapons development that they claim can match anything the West sells their neighbors across the Persian Gulf.
  • Qatari media and their reporters try to be subtle, unsuccessfully. They mostly report on how wise Qatari policies are. They only hint at how dangerous Iranian policies are and how stupid Saudi policies and their surrogates are.
  • UAE media and their reporters mostly focus on: (1) how dangerous the Muslim Brotherhood are, (2) how wise the Abu Dhabi ruling brothers are, and (3) how they should control the Strait of Hormuz (no doubt through their mercenary forces hired from Colombia and Australia).
  • Egyptian media now focus on blasting anyone who questions president Al Sisi. Occasionally they warn of Muslim Brotherhood “terrorism”, and repeat Al Azhar warnings that Shi’as might be spreading their ideology in the heart of Cairo.
  • Israeli English media are obsessed with Palestinians (naturally), Hezbollah, and are now paying attention to ISIS. They seem to be disengaging a bit now from Iran. They are also somewhat typically Middle Eastern and Arab in their ethnic focus: they seems obsessed with which Hollywood Oscar celebrity or Nobel Prize winner is Jewish (there are so many that it shouldn’t be news anymore). They also seem to have forgotten what a pre-Likud era was like.
  • In Turkey, the pro-regime media are obsessed with real or imagined insults to “national pride”, WTF that be, and with persistent Armenian ghosts, and how the Russians (and maybe the Iranians and Lebanese) messed up their plans for the liberation and Islamization of Syria.
  • Lebanese media are concerned with who will become a figurehead president, and now increasingly with the threat of Jihadi terrorism. They also always seem concerned with which country can make the largest platter of hummus or Kenafa. And also with Amal Clooney’s latest attire.
    Alles klar?

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Saudis Tighten Grip on Middle East Media: from Newspapers to Satellite TV……….

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The editor of an Arab web newspaper reports on how the Saudis are tightening their grip on Middle East media. Oddly, he himself helped that by reportedly selling his previous newspaper to the Qataris. That came after years of reports that the paper was in fact financed by the Qatari potentates.

Saudi Arabia, like other Persian Gulf potentates, has tightened its grip on Arab media over the past decade. The Gulf princes and potentates have bought previously independent publications like Asharq Alawsat and Al-Hayat and Al-Quds Al-Arabi and various Lebanese and satellite TV channels. They also own Alarabiya and AlJazeera networks. Among many others. The Qataris and the Emirati potentates (Middle East Online) also own their own share of Arab media.

Yet independent anti-Saudi networks have persisted and continue to provide some alternatives to the Wahhabi narrative. They find vast Arab audiences who do not cotton up to official or controlled semi-official media. Now the Saudis have the hit upon the practice of forcing Arab satellites to ban channels they do not own or like. One such satellite, ArabSat, is located in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has recently forced ArabSat to bloc unfriendly Arab networks from using it to broadcast. The kingdom owns about 40% of the capital of the ArabSat. These blocked channels have originated from various Middle East countries. Yet in this day and age it is impossible to completely bloc undesirable networks. The Internet is a great equalizer for now.

What will be next? Arab royal control and restrictions on international Social Media like Twitter and Facebook? Highly unlikely since they can buy a company but they can’t buy the American ingenuity that creates the likes of these social media. And they can’t keep their client accounts. They can try to establish their own social media, but the Iranian mullahs once threatened the same until they realized the futility of it.

Stay tuned………….
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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On the Gulf: Westerners Confusing Luxury Hotels with Human Rights……..

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“I had been looking forward to this year’s International Human Rights Rank Indicator (IHRRI) which was due to be issued tomorrow but – alas – it has suddenly, and without explanation, been postponed for several months. The IHRRI is (or perhaps was) an international league table of human rights, covering 216 countries. Last year, unbelievably, it placed the United Arab Emirates in 12th position worldwide – between New Zealand and Iceland. No other Arab country came anywhere close to the UAE in terms of human rights performance; Morocco was nearest, in 67th position. When this claim about the Emirates was noted (and ridiculed) on social media, IHRRI deleted the entire league table from its website – again, suddenly and without explanation…………….”

It is not the first time Western experts, pundits, journalists, even some politicians, have confused luxury accommodation and wining and dining with human rights. Especially in the Persian Gulf states. It is the traditional Arab hospitality of the Gulf, misunderstood in the West. This often happens for visitors to the United Arab Emirates-UAE. I have in the past commented on articles by Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen (I usually enjoy reading Cohen) and possibly David Ignatius (Washington Post) and how they confuse things like luxurious 6-star hosting and accessibility to ‘human rights’ and ‘credibility of leaked information’.

Of course the overwhelming majority of residents of the UAE and other places on the Gulf (95% of them) cannot afford the luxury of these 6-star hotels. So they probably don’t merit human rights.

It is usually hard to be critical of those who offer you 6-star hospitality. Although I recall that Nicholas Kristof (N Y Times) visited Iran a year or two ago and came back to write in favor of tougher economic sanctions against Iran. I am assuming Kristof did not get 6-star or 7-star hospitality from the mullahs in Iran. I doubt that they have it in Tehran now. I blame the Western blockade……..
So maybe the folks at IHRRI are waiting for the UAE to mend its ways so that it can merit being placed next to Iceland on human rights. Perhaps in a year or two, or maybe when hell freezes over……….

    

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Laughingstock of MENA? Oligarchs Hijack the Anger of Arab Youth, LOL…….

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A lot of conferences and symposiums and fora are held in the Gulf region. All allegedly representing the whole Arab world, from the Gulf to the Atlas Mountains. Another one was held recently in Dubai which seemed to trend toward pinning the blame for Arab problems on anybody but those responsible: the Arab establishment.

Just why are the Arabs angry? And how angry are the “young Arabs” at being “a laughingstock” according to Roger Cohen and Amr Moussa? And do the masses of Arab youths from Iraq to Morocco really give a hoot about the preferences and prejudices of unelected Gulf oligarchs? 

And who best expresses the anger of Arab “youth” according to most Western media types and pundits?
Why, it is first of all Amr Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister then secretary general of the Arab League under Hosni Mubarak. Who else can express revolutionary anger but an octogenarian man of the establishment? Then after that who else but the absolute Saudi princes, then the absolute oligarchs of the UAE and Bahrain and Qatar.

And why are the Arab youth allegedly supposedly perhaps so angry that Persian Iran has influence in the Persian Gulf, but they are not angry that Britain, France, Monaco, and Colombian mercenaries are building bases in the same Persian Gulf faster than petro-money can finance them? And why are these “youths of the whole Arab world” allegedly represented by a handful of foreign absolute kings, princes, potentates, and their paid media minions?

And why are Arab youths, according to Amr Moussa and others, not angry at their rulers instead of being angry at foreigners who take advantage of meddling opportunities created by the rulers? Shouldn’t they be angry, as they used to be in past decades, at their rulers for enabling foreigners (Iranians, Turks, Israelis, Westerners) to wield influence?

All this puzzling “stuff” I gleaned from the recent article by Roger Cohen in the New York Times.  Written in the warm afterglow of a well-fed six-star conference in the United Arab Emirates. While the Yemenis next door got bombed and starved by the same brotherly and sisterly Arab oligarchs.          

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Unequal Media Wars, Proxy Wars in the Middle East……….

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The Saudi Wahhabi opposition (Mujtahidd and others who support ISIS) recently claimed that the new defense minister Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince to the crown prince, has ‘purchased’ a hundred thousand Twitter accounts, possibly other social media as well. That he plans to hire many security workers to man them and use them. It claims he plans to use them to build up himself in the media. That is not new, some of the top potentates, as well as the most vociferous fundamentalists now ‘own’ millions of followers. 

Anyway, right now the media wars for the West are being won by the Arab princes. Hands down. When it comes to media control and public opinion, billions of dollars make a big difference, especially in influencing Western opinion (but not so much non-Gulf Arab opinion). That is why the Saudi and Qatari potentates have spent billions acquiring existing major traditional Arab media outlets and establishing new ones. From Asharq Alawsat (owned by King Salman) to Al-Hayat (owned by prince Khaled Bin Sultan) to Alarabiya (Saudi royal in-law) to Al-Jazeera and Al-Quds Al-Arabi (Qatari royals) to Middle East Online (UAE) to Al-Arab (owned by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal but searching for a home outside the Gulf after being ejected from Bahrain), to LBC, among others. And many others.

Now major Western outlets and news agencies often grab anything headlined by Saudi and Qatari networks and magnify them as ‘truths’. By the time they are bounced around the globe and return to where they started from, they ‘are’ quoted as ‘the truth’. A neat trick. It is like the claim that in Yemen, ‘loyalists’ to deposed president Hadi Al Zombie (actually mostly Southern Independence and AQAP) are fighting the Houthi-Saleh alliance on his behalf. Or the myth that Yemen’s war is a proxy war between saudi Arabia and Iran: except that it is the Saudis who are directly bombing Yemen (no proxies there) with Western munitions including cluster bombs. There are no proxies there now, unless the rented Sudanese and Senegalese and Egyptian troops land in Yemen. But then some clever reader might ask: and who are the Saudis acting as proxies for?

Initially the Houthis were not Iranian proxies or allies either: they had their own agenda. Colonel Saleh certainly is not: he was a close Saudi ally for years, even though he is a Zaidi, (or Shi’a) as Western media keep mentioning. But now the Houthis have moved closer to the Iranians for practical reasons, so they are Iranian-backed, but it is still farfetched to call them proxies or stooges.

Yet references to the legend of ‘proxy’ wars in Yemen and Syria continue in the media………

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Garry Trudeau: We Are NOT All Charlie Hebdo…………

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“Garry Trudeau, the Pulitzer Prize-winning satirical cartoonist behind Doonesbury, says his fellow satirists at Charlie Hebdo “wandered into the realm of hate speech.” Trudeau made the remark during his acceptance speech of the George Polk Awards in Journalism, according to Peter Bale, the head of the Center for Public Integrity. “Free speech… becomes its own kind of fanaticism,” Trudeau also reportedly said, adding that the job of satirists is to punch up, not punch down…………”

This point of view is not new, others have expressed it during the international cacophony following the terrorist attacks in Paris. But now someone, a great one, at the top of the business of satire has spoken. Funny, it doesn’t sound like blasphemy, either.

Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arab Media Outlets: a Rainbow from the Mad to the Angry to the AIPAC to the Smart…….

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New Arab media sprout almost every day. Both online and offline. I am only listing some with the word “Arab” in them. Otherwise there are more, many many more. Briefly, here are some that exist now, some that will exist, some that should exist, and some that should not exist:

Al-Quds Al-Arabi (=Arab Jerusalem):London-based. Used to be Qatari-funded but pro-Palestinian. Now totally Qatari-owned and nicely sectarian.
New Arab: sounds like Qatari or Emirati-funded propaganda website. I would guess more Qatari, tentatively.
Free Arabs: Not really ‘free’, me thinks. U.S. based, a bit cutesy. Seems more like it should be renamed AIPAC Arab or some other pro-Likud or Mujahideen Khalq or Neoconservative funded group.

AlArabiya: owned by an in-law of the Saudi royal family. Has close ties with Asharq Alawsat which is owned by Saudi King Salman.
AlArab:news network owned by Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (he sued Forbes for underestimating his wealth). Now looking for a home base after being kicked out of Bahrain on its first and last day of broadcasting.
Angry Arab: I don’t know who the hell funds this one. Almost certainly self-funded from the sale of non-Israeli hummus.
Mad Arab: partly owned by Alfred E. Neuman and his wife.
Arab Garlic: partly owned by The Onion but based in Gilroy, California.
Humorless Arab: you’d think it is a Jordanian outlet, but t goes deeper than tat……
Pissed off Arab: just about anybody between Bahrain and Casablanca who is not a ruler, relative of a ruler, or minion of a ruler.
Stoned Arab: almost certainly headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dumb Arab: probably based and operated by the League of Arab Nations (Arab League).
Smart or Thinking Arab: in exile, in prison, dead, or ruling the rest of them.
Cheers
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com