Tag Archives: Media

The Wild Suburbia of the Pacific Northwest ……..

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Who says the foothills suburbia of the Northwest see no action? Some of the more exciting items I discovered in the latest edition of our local paper:

Sword of the Stoned: A resident of 255th Lane Southeast called the police at 11:09 PM to report that his neighbor had been standing in his driveway holding a sword. The neighbor had also flipped him off.
Comrade Vyacheslav Molotov’s fizzled bomb: A resident of Northeast Ninth Drive attempted to make a Molotov cocktail at 10:36 a.m. in the front yard. The person filled a bottle with alcohol, attached a paper towel to the bottle, lit it on fire and threw it on the ground, expecting it to explode. The bottle remained intact.
A Mysterious Text: juvenile resident of Southeast 45th Place received strange text messages from Austin, Texas at 8:36 p.m. A strange text; quite unusual, Carlos Danger!
Unwilling woman anointed: At 1:11 p.m., a woman returned to her home on Klahanie Drive Southeast to find a small bottle of annointing(sic) oil on her front porch. She believed that the oil was placed there by her husband, against whom she has a court order that bans him from visiting her.

On a brighter note, there was this: “Pull on your boots for some kick-stomping to a live country music band while tasting and sipping Northwest food, wine, beers and spirits — the fifth annual Boots, Barrels and Brews returns to Issaquah’s Pickering Barn on Friday, March 23“.

Lake Wobegon? King of Norway? Meh………

Stay tuned…….


M Haider Ghuloum

AlJazeera Revived: Israel Becoming Politically More Arab, More Haplessly Repressive……..

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“Israel plans to revoke press credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, close their Jerusalem bureau and pull the Qatar-based station’s broadcasts from local cable and satellite providers, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said on Sunday. Kara accused the station of “supporting terrorism” and said cable broadcasters had agreed to his proposal to take the station’s Arabic and English channels off air. Closure of the station’s office would require further legislation, he added. “Lately, almost all countries in our region determined that Al-Jazeera supports terrorism, supports religious radicalization,”………”

Suddenly, Israel has a lot in common with several Arab oligarchy states, like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Empire of Bahrain, among a few other states.
Forget about “values”, that is not what all this is about. No more than it is with Donald Trump.
The above Arab states have blocked AlJazeera network, and closed its offices.

They have also imposed an economic blockade of Qatar, at least with tacit approval from Donald Trump. Just as they have also, for several years now, urged America (and Israel) to wage a war on Iran, a sectarian war of choice on behalf of their royal families, as explained by former President Barack Obama. Obama, like Bush before him, rejected the demands of the Gulf princes for a new American war in the Gulf. The princes had to wait for the rabid Islamophobe Donald Trump to revisit the issue and plead their case, with a promised huge price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Trump has thrown in with the Persian Gulf princes and potentates, in both cases: of Iran and Qatar. It remains to be seen if his few sane advisers can talk him out of playing full patsy to the Arab princes, and break with ally Qatar while provoking a new war of aggression in Iran’s own backyard.

Now Netanyahu has decided to move even closer to the Saudi regional position by joining the boycott of Qatari media by ejecting Aljazeera. But this will backfire on both the Saudis and Israel

Oddly, but predictably, the Israeli closure will almost certainly increase the popularity of AlJazeera among Arabs, both in country and in the Western diaspora. For a couple of years the network was losing popularity as it shifted closer to the style of the tightly-controlled Saudi media. That and the growth of competing Gulf-funded networks.

AlJazeera has in recent weeks doubled down on what made some Gulf ruling families angry with Qatar: it has moved back to the more ‘controversial’ model that had made it the top Arab network. That shift, and the little helpful shove from Netanyahu should help propel it back to the position of being by far the top Arab media outlet.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

New Syria War Plan: From Humorless Jordan to the Iraqi Border………

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Independent Arab media are a rare breed these days. They are those that are not owned (bought or bribed) by the potentates of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or the UAE. Nor those owned or controlled by other dictators. It is often hard to tell which media are independent, or who owns what. Western reports often refer to Asharq AlAwsat (London: owned by Saudi king Salman & sons) or AlHayat (London: owned by Prince Khalid Bin Sutan) as “independent Arab newspapers. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London) is now fully owned by the Qatari royals. Al-Arab (London) is owned by the UAE potentates. Various radio and television networks blanketing the Arab world and Europe are owned by the princes now (AlJazeera, AlArabiya, MBC, LBC, etc etc).

Independent Arab media, outside Lebanon and maybe Iraq, are now mainly located in Europe. Mainly in London. Oddly side by side with much of the private media owned by Arab royal princes.

The few remaining independent Arab media now report ominous developments occurring along the border of Humorless Kingdom of Jordan and Syria. They report that thousands of fighters have been trained by Americans, British, and Jordanians to fight inside Syria. Presumably these fighters are ‘moderate’ Syrian Jihadi rebels. Presumably. There have also been pictures of heavy military equipment gathered along the Jordanian border.

The Syrians have warned Jordan not to interfere in their country, but the Arab oil money is apparently too good for the humorless king of Jordan to resist. The reported plan is to enter Syria from the south, near where the border with both Jordan and Iraq meet, not far from the Saudi border. The reported plan is to move quickly toward strategic points along the eastern border of Syria. Far away from Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah, and Turkish zones of influence. Effectively further partitioning Syria.

Either to help create a secessionist part in eastern Syria, or to block an Iranian connection from Iraq into Syria and then into Lebanon. Likely both are considered worthy targets.


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Image Problem of Arab Regimes: from Incredibly Mediocre to Incredibly Criminal……..

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“DUBAI: An Arab News panel discussion held on Tuesday proposed solutions to the Middle East’s image problem in the West, as new research emerged illustrating the severity of the US “knowledge gap” about the region. The panel, held at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, detailed the importance of cultural diplomacy, effective government communication and the importance of student exchange programs in boosting awareness…….” Arab News (Saudi)

Sometimes I suspect that the ruling Arab oligarchs can never learn. In fact I am convinced that they can never learn about some issues. So many of these media events are staged, all blaming outsiders (the West) for the lousy image Arabs have.
I’ve got news for them, but I suspect they already know: the blame lies squarely with the Arab ruling classes. They are almost uniformly oppressive. At best these ruling classes are incredibly mediocre, at worst they are incredibly criminal (including many regimes perceived as being allies of the West).

So this panel, and many other events before it and after it, all seek ways to to improve the “image” of Arabs in the world. Meaning to improve the image of Arab regimes: the potentates, princes, and dictators. Arab regimes, mostly corrupt and repressive, confuse the image of their countries with their own image.
Such staged media events are part of a “real” and not just perceived Arab problem. The “image” is bad because the “reality” as imposed by the ruling oligarchs is bad. Staged media events or highly-paid lobbyists in Washington and London cannot hide the reality.
Arab regimes and their controlled media want to change the image without changing the reality. Getting rid of the symptom will not cure the illness. Morphine makes the pain go away but only for a while. The disease outlasts the patient if a serious “cure” is not applied.

How about ending the wold-class repression and corruption: that should go a long way towards improving the “image” of Arab oligarchs.

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.

M Haider Ghuloum

New Old Saudi Vision of Total Conformism: from Riyadh to Pyongyang………

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“The Council of Ministers endorsed during its session on Monday under the chairmanship of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. The Cabinet session was devoted to discuss the vision, which was drafted by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs upon instructions of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Following is the text of Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030……..”

The new phrase Saudi Vision 2030 has been covered extensively in Saudi, Gulf, and some Arab media. There has been some good coverage in international media as well, until a heavy dose of realistic skepticism set in. I am in no position to openly express my own judgment yet, but I will soon. There is certainly a need to look beyond the years of oil boom, a need for some new (and serious) vision.

Yet I don’t like the quick and intimidating cheering in the Gulf GCC region, the exclusion and rejection of any doubt or questioning.  No debate of  such a vital issue. The distinctly Saudi conformism that is spreading to all GCC states.

As expected, Saudi and Gulf GCC media are not critical: not one iota of criticism or healthy (or unhealthy) doubt has been expressed. A lot of enthusiasm has been expressed, in blissful ignorance. Suddenly everybody on the Arab shores of the Gulf is as conformist as any good Saudi citizen in Riyadh or Qassim, anyone who is not in the safety of foreign exile or in a local prison. It is like the old days when Saddam was issuing his Baathist drivel across the Persian Gulf media and nobody was allowed to criticize him.

No doubt there are many ‘secret’ doubters, especially in the other Gulf GCC states if not in heavily brain-washed Saudi Arabia, but they dare not express their doubt. It is almost like having Kim Jong Un of North Korea (the Cute Leader) publish an economic “vision” for his country! Nobody would even think of criticize him in old Pyongyang.

Similarly, some Persian Gulf states are moving rapidly toward a new common repressive model. Even in places where the press “used to be” relatively free. Criticism of the plan by Prince Mohammed, the the favorite son and possible successor of King Salman, would be considered “insulting a sisterly or brotherly” state. That is a new category of crime that could land you in prison anywhere in the GCC (as in Pyongyang).

If the open doubter is a true Wahhabi terrorist-supporter he could go to prison and maybe get rehabilitated from his doubts. If he is a Shi’a agitator or doubter, he will likely be charged with “terrorism” and lose his head to a sword.

But is this emperor, in this case Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his vision, also naked (as in the famous parable or fable)? I am not certain yet. That will be covered in a new post coming soon to a theater right here. I have not read the detailed outlines of this economic vision in detail, yet. Who knows, I might become an enthusiastic supporter as well.
But the devil is in the details.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

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?

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………….
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……….


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter
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Wall Street Journal Continues its Own Middle East Wars……

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“Well, this is a little scary. U.S. intelligence intercepted messages from Iran to militants in Iraq ordering attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad if America strikes Syria. U.S officials say they’re preparing for Iran’s fast boats in the Persian Gulf, and military resources, including Marines, have been moved to the area. The message came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard leader Qasem Soleimani and instructed Shiite groups to respond with force if the U.S. strikes Syria………..”

I didn’t know a U.S. attack ‘on Syria’ was in the cards these days. Unless the Wall Street Journal writer knows something no one else does.

Could he mean extending the current bombing attack against the Wahhabi Caliphate of ISIS into Syria? But then why would Iran retaliate in the Persian Gulf and why would Hezbollah retaliate in Beirut for any attack on the ISIS den of terrorists? Especially if the target of the Syrian campaign is NOT to alter the military balance in the Syrian civil war and tilt it toward the strategic goals of the Wahhabi oil princes. Provided Syria approves of any operations over its territory.

An attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut by Hezbollah? That would be a stupid thing for them to do these days, and they know it. Only some media types and propagandists would think of it as probable. No doubt Hezbollah planners are more intelligent than many Wall Street Journal opinion-ators who write this kind of nonsense. They read as if written by some Likud or AIPAC functionaries.

More likely any attack on the U.S. embassy anywhere and not just in Beirut, if it ever happens, would come from Wahhabi terrorists nurtured for years by allied oil princes and by money from elements of Lebanon’s right-wing blocs.

Mohammed Haider Ghulou