One of the great paradoxes of the last two decades has been the simultaneous demonization of Islam in the West, and, at the same time, the impunity of one of the central Islamic states, Saudi Arabia. The attacks in Paris have revived the former, while depending on the latter. So far, so good. But why is this not, at least in the media, a hot issue?
To find some answers, I’d urge the curious to turn to the home page of a financial entity with the impressively ominous name, Kingdom Holding.
The official Kingdom Holding site informs us that the “central figure” behind Kingdom Holding company, according to its internet site “is His Royal HighnessPrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz Alsaud of Saudi Arabia. Named twice by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s most intelligentand creative investors, Prince Alwaleed sets the agenda for KHC’s world operations, providing a guiding vision which has seen remarkable success andworldwide recognition.
The grandson of two of the Arab world’s most celebrated figures – King Abdul-Aziz Alsaud, founder and first ruler of Saudi Arabia and HE. Riad El Solh, iconic statesman in Lebanon’s drive for independence – Prince Alwaleed has always been inspired by the uncommon achievements of his family line.”
What we are being told, here, is that Abdul-Aziz Alsaud is essentially a representative, or a member of, the Saudi government.
As such, it is a little surprising that the Kingdom Holding company hasn’t provoked a few questions. According to the New York Times, the Kingdom Holding company, from around 1999 until 2014, held a six percent stake in News corporation. Alsaud used the stake to vote with Murdoch, even as, due to the scandals in Britain, Murdoch’s management came under some stress.
In other words, the company that owns Fox news was partly owned by the Kingdom.
In 2014, there was a reorganization of Murdoch’s company, and the Kingdom moved its investment to the entertainment arm of Fox.
But not to fear! It was also making a strong play for Times Warner stock. The Kingdom site is proud of the relationship:
"Kingdom Holding Company has a substantial shareholding in Time Warner, the world’s largest media company.
KHC’s interest in Time Warner results from a 1997 USD 145m market purchase of a 5% interest in the pioneering Internet company Netscape. Netscape was subsequently sold to AOL which then merged with Time Warner. KHC had identified home and business Internet services as an area of extraordinary opportunity, and the Netscape position was KHC’s first entry into the technology sector, long before Internet-based stocks became unsustainably overvalued.
Within the first sixteen months of the initial investment, Netscape yielded an extraordinary internal rate of return of 90.6% per annum, with the company’s shares skyrocketing in value due to the surging demand for Internet stocks and announcement of AOL’s proposed bid. KHC deepened its relationship with Time Warner in 2001 and 2002 with the purchase of additional share holdings. AOL and Time Warner separated in 2009.
The relationship between KHC and Time Warner remains extremely strong, with the management of Time Warner believing that potential exists for KHC to act as the company’s regional investment partner for the Middle East.”
So, our original paradox can be restated. How is it that media – and Fox and Times Warner between them own a large part of the media that reports news and opinion to American – can host shows that are so overtly anti-Moslem? Take Bill Maher. The man has made a minor career of Islam-dissing. He loves nothing better than to knock down experts in Islam – like, uh, Ben Affleck – with his broad knowledge of the subject.
And how is it that, at the same time, it is not controversial for the US government to, say, sell a billion dollars of bombs, as they did this week, to Saudi Arabia, when Saudi Arabia has been on a campaign of both starving the Yemen population with a blockade and bombing the cities, with an untold number of civilian casualties? Untold, of course, because you won’t be told this on Bill Maher’s show, or on Fox news, for two.
My theory is: the anti-Moslem rhetoric in the US really effects Moslems who, in Saudi Arabia, would be in prison anyway. In the US, Arabic women, for instance, drive cars, vote, have a civil life, drink, have sex, and in general participate in the life of women in the US. The effect of Maher’s rhetoric means, merely, that a few mosques will be bombed, Arabic kids will be beat up at schools, etc. – the usual hegemonic cruelties. Given that the Saudis have engaged in war almost exclusively against other Moslems – in Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria – it is not surprising that Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz has never taken his good friend Rupert Murdoch aside and said, can the anti-Moslem crap.
Nor is it curious that opinion riots against the evils of Putin periodically break out in the Western media, with tons of tears shed over the jailing of dissident billionaire Khodorovsky, whereas the occasional execution by beheading of a sorceressin Saudi Arabia – which is what happened toAmina bint Abdel Halim Nassar in 2011 – produces a yawn. You would think that the elevation of the Saudi delegate to the head of the Human Rights commission at the UN this year would provoke a media storm, given the lack of human rights in Saudi Arabia. But it didn’t. Here was the Obama administration’s response, via the press conference of State Department spokesman Mark Toner:
“Asked whether he thought it was “appropriate for them to have a leadership position,” Toner said, “We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human rights concerns with them. You know, as to this leadership role, we hope that it’s an occasion for them to, you know, to look at human rights around the world but also within their own borders.”
“But you said that you welcome them in this position,” another reporter said. “Is it based on improved record? I mean, can you show or point to anything where there is you know, a sort of stark improvement in their human rights record?”
“I mean, we have an ongoing discussion with them about all these human rights issues, like we do with every country,” Toner said. “We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues. But I don’t have anything to point to in terms of progress.””
Frankly, Toner’s last remark surely earned him some reproach. Look at the fantastic progress Saudi Arabia is making in terms of ridding itself of witches!
In any case, and this is the point of this post, I’d like to start a campaign to pressure Maher into inviting the head of the Kingdom to debate Islam with him on his show. Of course, Maher is just foam on foam, a show that doesn’t even rise to the level of intellectual masturbation, but it would be fun to see him confronted with a little consequence for his views. Because, as Maher well knows, he can do what he wants on his HBO show (HBO is owned by Times Warner), but he probably doesn’t want to travel the career path of Glenn Beck. Yes to controversy that is as thin as yesterday’s bigotry, but no to endangering a “warm, valued, and long-term relationship.”
And hey, I’m wondering what Congress or the media would make of the idea of a Chinese company,or an Iranian one, owning a six percent stake in a major news network. Hmm, they might kick!