February 8, 2019

Bezos’s dick pics may have unlocked a back channel of Saudi influence in the U.S.


“The richest man on earth accused the nation’s leading supermarket tabloid publisher of ‘extortion and blackmail’ on Thursday, laying out a theory that brought together international intrigue, White House politics, nude photos and amorous text messages.”

Forgive me for beginning with this quote from the New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg and Karen Weise, but I can’t do better to summarize, nor sizzle, the latest development in the ongoing story of Amazon top-exec Jeff Bezos’s divorce.

Some re-cap before we get too deep in the weeds: Back in January the National Enquirer published an issue covering (like white on rice) Bezos’s recently announced divorce, complete with voyeuristic evidence of his extra-marital affair. This is necessary background, but honestly who cares about Bezos’s affair. Rich people have been screwing each other in all senses of the word forever.

But sometimes the right combination of rich people screwing each other in the right way threatens to become interesting—and it just so happens that the head of the Enquirer, David J. Pecker, is old buds with Donald Trump who has identified Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post) as an enemy. What we have here are very rich people, worked up into a rich lather.

Bezos made the next move and launched an investigation into how the Enquirer obtained the intimate details of his affair. In response—according to a Medium post from Bezos last week—Pecker and the Enquirer have threatened to publish even more intimate content (read: dick pics).

The thrust of Bezos’s post is much bigger than just his divorce: he writes that the Enquirer’s parent company (American Media Inc.) has become nervous that Bezos’s investigation into their methods could illuminate (or already have) some of the darker aspects of the company’s ties to Saudi Arabia, which seem closely related to Trump’s own affection for Saudi human rights violations. Bezos even provides emails from American Media Inc.’s counsel suggesting that Bezos’s silence on Saudi Arabia is part of the price he’ll have to pay to keep the Enquirer from publishing the compromising material.

So Bezos says “publish ’em”.

Now, this is all weird and interesting as hell—and we are certainly in need of a new way of criticizing our government for its bloody relationship with the brutal Saudi government.

But let’s be careful before we call Bezos a hero for his post and whatever comes after it.

He is a man of privilege with an outsize safety net that affords him a way out of his scandals, as well as a political voice that the rest of us don’t have (wow, we’ve been reading a lot of these stories lately!).

It would be apples and oranges to compare the Enquirer’s damage to our society vs. Amazon’s, and my feeling that if you did make that comparison you’d end up thinking you were standing in an orange grove. Amazon Orange (TM).

Or maybe you’d just feel like a reader of this blog.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.