Mainstream Media Paint Power-Grabbing Saudi Dictator As Roguish, Visionary 'Reformer'

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Adam Johnson via (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting),

Two weeks ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman carried out a brutal crackdown on his political opponents, arresting dozens of high-ranking relatives, kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon, and seeing eight of his political rivals die in a convenient helicopter crash. The “consolidation of power” by the de facto Saudi ruler comes as his government ramps up its siege of Yemen and gets even closer to its US sponsor, thanks to Trump’s dopey love affair with - and direct assistance of - the regime.

The cynical plan has been met, in some media quarters, with condemnation, but for many in the Western press, Mohammed’s self-serving power grab is the action of a bold “reformer,” a roguish bad boy doing the messy but essential work of “reforming” the kingdom - the “anti-corruption” pretext of the purge largely repeated without qualification.

The Guardian (11/5/17) reported that de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman “is willing to take on the kingdom’s most powerful figures to implement his reforms and consolidate power.”

The most prominent sources for this spin were two major newspapers, the New York Times and Guardian:

  • Guardian (11/5/17): “Royal Purge Sends Shockwaves Through Saudi Arabia’s Elites: Move Consolidates Power of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as He Attempts to Reform Kingdom’s Economy and Society”
  • Guardian (11/5/17) : “Saudi Arrests Show Crown Prince Is a Risk-Taker With a Zeal for Reform: Mohammed Bin Salman Is Confronting Some of the Kingdom’s Richest and Most Powerful Men in His Anti-Corruption Drive—but Is He Taking on Too Much Too Fast?
  • Guardian (11/6/17): “Oil Price Rises to Two-Year High After Saudi Arabia Purge: Markets Push Price Up to $62 a Barrel After Anti-Corruption Purge by Billionaire Crown Prince Who Backs Prolonging Oil Production Curbs”
  • Guardian  (11/7/17): “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform: Consolidation of Power in Mohammed Bin Salman’s Hands Has Upended All Aspects of Society, Including Previously Untouchable Ultra-Elite
  • New York Times (11/5/17): “Saudi Crown Prince’s Mass Purge Upends a Longstanding System”
  • New York Times (11/14/17): “The Upstart Saudi Prince Who’s Throwing Caution to the Wind”

While the text of the Times articles was far more skeptical about Mohammed’s motives, the Guardian’s (11/5/17) initial coverage of the bloody purge - not just the headlines - was written in breathless press release tones:

Saudi Arabia’s leadership has pulled off its boldest move yet to consolidate power around its young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arresting 11 senior princes, one of the country’s richest men and scores of former ministers in what it billed as a corruption purge.


The move sidelined at least 20 senior figures, among them outspoken billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, sending shockwaves through the ranks of the kingdom’s elites, who had long viewed senior royals as immune.

Lot of glowing prose to unpack here. Longtime Mideast correspondent Martin Chulov began by referring to “Saudi Arabia’s leadership,” which is a nice, sterile way of referencing the country’s unelected hereditary king and crown prince. Then he pivoted into marketing pablum about “bold moves” and “consolidating power,” before unironically framing the purge as an “anti-corruption” gesture designed to stick it to the “kingdom’s elites.” One could come away from reading this lead with the impression that the billionaire aristocrat was a populist folk hero in the vein of Robin Hood or John Dillinger. The thrilling profile continued:

Prince Mohammed will oversee the corruption commission, adding to his already formidable list of responsibilities, including his role as Defense minister and champion of the economic transformation, dubbed Vision 2030, that aims to revolutionize most aspects of Saudi life within 12 years.


Prince Mohammed told the Guardian last month that the kingdom had been “not normal” for the past 30 years and pledged to return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.

While the author had a “to be sure” paragraph, citing “others” calling it a “naked attempt to weed out dissent,” the overall thrust of the article was that a roguish billionaire Boy King was earnestly seeking “reform” and opposing “elites.”

A follow-up piece (11/7/17) took flattering coverage to new extremes. The dispatch, again by Chulov, cited nothing but anonymous Saudi court hanger-ons and a Gulf-funded talking head from the NATO-aligned Atlantic Council think tank. The article, “‘This Is a Revolution’: Saudis Absorb Crown Prince’s Rush to Reform,” was populated with blind quotes from such adversarial voices as a “senior minister,” “a senior Saudi official,” a “senior figure,” a “senior Saudi businessman” and “veteran business leaders.” (Evidently no junior officials or rookie business leaders were available for comment.)

The article painted the “consolidation of power” by Mohammed as an inevitability with broad support - using the dubious “reform” narrative without irony. With Guardian editors again painting Mohammed as a populist hero by insisting he “upended” “previously untouchable ultra-elite,” one is left to wonder why they don’t consider the absolute-monarch-in-waiting - who just bought a $590 million yacht - part of the “ultra elite.” It’s a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.

The New York Times (6/23/17) editorialized that Mohammed bin Salman “has cultivated an image as a dynamic leader, keen to take a rigid conservative country into the modern era.”

This was a trope one could see emerging over the past few months. Similar “bold reformer” frames were used in New York Times editorials (“The Young and Brash Saudi Crown Prince,” 6/23/17) and straight reporting (“Saudi Arabia’s Grand Plan to Move Beyond Oil: Big Goals, Bigger Hurdles,” 10/24/17). Everything’s new and exciting. The brutal, routine functions of the Saudi state are seen as laws of nature - and those in charge of it are the reformers of the very oppression they initially authored.

A Guardian editorial on November 7 was critical of the government, calling it “regressive” and Mohammed “belligerent,” but ultimately rested on “both sides” framing of recent events. The only meaningfully critical coverage of Saudi Arabia coming from the Guardian since the purge has been in two articles (11/12/17, 11/16/17), both in the context of Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Neither mentioned bin Salman, and both stressed how the Saudis are responding in earnest to international pleas to stop their mass-murdering blockade of the Arab world’s poorest country.

Per usual, the Guardian reserves the label “regime” for Official Enemies like Syria and North Korea; Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a regime, it has “leadership.” Unlike adversary governments, often seen in need of “regime change,” the Saudi government merely requires “reform” - and a bold new “reformer,” of the sort championed by the likes of the Guardian and New York Times.

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SickDollar's picture

the MSM is trying to confuse us


BabaLooey's picture

The Main Stream Media...........

The Alphabets and the cable yakkers.


Anyone that listens to anything they say? A fucking moron.


Truther's picture

MSM brainwashing again.

Fucking bitches, will never give up.

peddling-fiction's picture

He is re-form(ing) the faces of the purged.

macholatte's picture



Mainstream Media Paint Power-Grabbing Saudi Dictator As Roguish, Visionary 'Reformer'

or Paints Saudi Visionary 'Reformer' as Power-Grabbing Dictator

Who to believe?


Luc X. Ifer's picture

Soon they'll call him The Mahdi.

slipreedip's picture

Trump seems to pay some attention to them.

Case closed.

Whoa Dammit's picture

MBS is a punk thug who will turn Saudi Arabia into a failed state. Then Israel will take it over.

Gead's picture

MbS is just another camel fudge packing terrorist. He's a reformer like Mr. Rogers was a jihadist.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Curious people might be interested in the timing of the latest Saudi political shenanigans. SPOILER ALERT: the Las Vegas shooting is extremely relevant.

veritas semper vinces's picture

yes. Mohammad Bin Salman is reforming the ways you kill your opposition and steal from them.

They are ALL criminals and our BFF.

But bin Salman is stupid enough to want to start a war in Lebanon and Iran,so he's our man and Mileikowsky's man.

Karl Marxist's picture

Yes, interesting RT America, now having to register as a foreign agent in the US, reported the Saudi army is one of the world's most incompetent, soldiers running and hiding from having to fight and die for their ruling sand nigger class. Trump won't send in American troops. He intends to MAGA through weapons manufacturing which only employs, well, you know -- not us.

SHsparx's picture

Absolutely no confusion whatsoever. Consider that right after, I mean RIGHT after the Saudis and Russia are making deals this coup happens. People think this is the good guys gaining control against the bad, but that's a heck of a coincidence. And now that MSM is painting these guys as the good guys is pretty much a closed book these are the bad guys.

SoDamnMad's picture

Dress up and paint a turd any colour you want and it is still a turd.

HRClinton's picture

Now I am confused. This must mean that Castro, Kadaffi, and Sadam were Reformers also.

It must be time to bomb KSA, I reckon. 

Saucy-Jack's picture

I coup

You coup

We all coup


Dincap's picture

It should be already well known.

Corporate media and MSM are by purpose fake news. Their aim is brainwashing and propaganda.

What is kinda sad is that most people cant understand that and follow religiously the retards of brainwashing fake news corporate media.

new game's picture

but, but brian williams was soooooo believable. that handsome young man wouldn't mislead mericans?

oh, he was some kind of a hero-right?

fuking hopeless...

can'r fix naive  dumb stupid and low iq.

lowest common denominator is the majority.

did i say hopeless?

Akzed's picture

I am still confused, just on a higher plane.

nmewn's picture


Did everyone know that former NRA firearms instructor Stephen Willeford used one of those ugly, black, "assault rifles" (an AR15) to shoot and wound (twice) that pyschopath who shot all those people in a Sutherland Texas church?

Has the Alinsky media told you that? 

You may resume your regularly scheduled programming 

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Are you saying that a legal gun owner stopped a criminal shooter? Time to repeal the Gun Control Act of 1968.

nmewn's picture

I'm saying, a gun owner (legal or illegal is irrelevant) stopped a psychopath (in fact...shot his sorry ass...twice...without having to reload his "musket") from killing anyone else before the cops could even grab their car keys and I'm going to keep posting it until I'm banned or EVERYONE see's it. 

SoDamnMad's picture

Keep it up and I'll up vote you until the cows come home.

Snípéir_Ag_Obair's picture

You mean the Jewish-controlled legacy media?

Quick, list me all the major news media not owned, managed or disproportionately staffed by jews.

Country is 97.5% not Jewish and we are all assured that Jewish media control is an 'anti-Semitic' 'canard.'

So should be easy for you, or anyone else who'd care to play.


nmewn's picture

Apparently a "different tribe" here in the US than the ones in Israel where all citizens have the right to carry.

You should do your research ;-)

Snípéir_Ag_Obair's picture

You should stay on topic.. that was the tiny minority, pervasive throughout the media in this country, and which perpetually advocates against guns...

while never, oddly, mentioning that the Jews in Israel can all carry - why even the ones in 'settlements' where the natives are not allowed to carry, but its totally not an occupation or apartheid.

Jew see what I did there?


Karl Marxist's picture

100% documented fact, Jackenfeld.

earleflorida's picture

i suppose starving/killing millions of houthi/yemen's is considered admirable in todays random acts of genocide?

jfb's picture

Read the analysis of moonofalabama on the consequences of this coup! Nearly flawless, deep,  detailed & brillant!

Bin Sukltan is heading to a disaster. This guy ( the author) teach you a lot about the way things work in KSA with all the tribes.

Obsidian Samctum's picture

Fuck ZH and its insufferable ads.

Karl Marxist's picture

And their tokens are for sale dirt cheap and Brave gonna shoot to the moon!

Snípéir_Ag_Obair's picture

And trackers.

And craptastic scripts.

Good grief.

SuperRay's picture

AMEN! Tyler is greedier than Jamie Dimon. I can’t even stay on the site because I keep getting diverted to the app store

Karl Marxist's picture

Too stupid to get a fucking free adbloker?

Clock Crasher's picture

Isn't this guy anti Wahhabi? 

HRH of Aquitaine 2.0's picture

Nuke Mecca and Medina. Fixed it for ya, sheik.

HRClinton's picture

And that 3rd place that Muzzles adore: Jeru...

Just nuke the East part though. With a 20 MT bömb. And the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch. Don't nuke the western half. 

rlouis's picture

At risk of upsetting the PTB, it often seems that they've lost their edge; the failed coup in Turkey being just one recent example.  The question that I've been pondering is what the middle east would look like if England hadn't sponsored the zionist movement. Would it be the reconstructed Ottoman Empire or Persian Empire in control of the area and reosurces? It looks as though the realignment towards China and the east is inevitable and the question then is, what of Israel?  If the collapse of the dollar would break the Israeli lifeline, forcing Israel to stand on its own, perhaps the desperate effort to sustain the dollar as long as possible is more comprehensible.  

Justapleb's picture

Thank you for a good job unpacking the marketing rhetoric.

On my note pad I have Yemen and Syria as the first two strikes against Salman.   In the wings is Hezbolla or Iran or both - and financially they look strained with oil down.

It looks like they're going to replenish the royal treasury with extortion, from mainly Alwaleed.   That's hardly a long term fiscal solution.   

I would like to hear from someone who really knows: what is the future of those Wahhabi assholes?   These are the original partners with the House of Saud in governing Saudi Arabia.   The State Religion.   Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. abroad.   They are posing him as a "moderate", which is the name they attach to jihadi head-choppers so long as they are in partnership with the CIA.  So it means nothing as a practical matter.  What is going on in the Mosques all across Saudi Arabia?   Because it is through the Mosques that any popular revolt can occur.  And these mosques are predominantly the most virulent form of bronze-age goat-herder Islam. 

Karl Marxist's picture

What is their future? Same as our future with Trump and Israel's complete takeover of the US -- death of Earth.

new game's picture

endless war supported by a false nationalistic (manipulative) message of hope and change. 

works every tyme! god tis of thee and "was ball bombs bursting"; may god be with the victor...

deoldefarte's picture

What is going on in the Mosques all across Saudi Arabia?   Because it is through the Mosques that any popular revolt can occur.  And these mosques are predominantly the most virulent form of bronze-age goat-herder Islam.


The real question should be, what is going on in Mosques across the USA and Europe????

A great number of them were financed/built by the Saudis, with a provision they be run by their own Wahhabis.

Snípéir_Ag_Obair's picture

The US media is simply Zioglobalist propaganda, of course, but MBS' power is far less secure than many seem to think.

The problem with cultivating takfiri mercenaries for years then betraying them is eventually... they find their way home.

WTFUD's picture

The Guardian Angel! Got to protect the Pedophile Circle.

khnum's picture

....and the countries biggest gun runners to the Saudis the Royal Family