March 29, 2018
Hail, the absolutely unbiased and totally reasonable magazine devoted to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman
by Peter Clark
Propaganda is common in America. It’s as expected as neverending breadsticks at the Olive Garden, and equally gross.
But overt propaganda from another country is more unusual, at least in modern times.
Hitting newsstands this week is a 100-page magazine called The New Kingdom. As Spencer Ackerman reports for the Daily Beast, 200,000 copies of this Saudi Arabia–focused glossy can be found across the country, on banal supermarket racks and in airport lounges. Its content focuses on the “new” Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS.
The New Kingdom doesn’t feature any salacious gossip about MBS, but its coverage is… breathless. “Our Closest Middle East Ally Destroying Terrorism,” the cover coos, sidestepping decades of Saudi Arabian financial support for terrorist groups and ideologues. It Disneyfies Saudi Arabia as “the Magic Kingdom.” It’s easily the most uncritical encomium to MBS since Thomas Friedman.
This seems of a piece with MBS’s recent visit to the United States, on which he palled around with politicians and tech moguls. Not mentioned during his world glamour tour was that time he held the Prime Minister of Lebanon hostage the hope of consolidating power, the ongoing military effort in Yemen, or, heck, the horrific treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, only partially (but not even) mollified by a recent law change giving the women the right drive.
Flipping through The New Kingdom won’t reveal any of those hard truths either. Instead, readers can learn about the Saudi government’s multi-billion-dollar investment in “a silicon valley of the Middle East,” and about how MBS, at just thirty-two!, is changing the world.
Writing at the New Arab, Florence Dixon was pretty underwhelmed at the stunt:
The kingdom’s latest effort in its multi-faceted campaign to normalise its authoritarian and war-mongering leader as some kind of “woke”, rave-hosting revolutionary is laughable still as women’s magazines – of the very type issued by the kingdom – have been banned in Saudi Arabia since 2014.
Making it worse, The New Kingdom has been written, designed, printed, and distributed by well-known Trump supporters over at American Media, Inc., better known as the owners of the putrid, society-ruining National Enquirer. In a statement to the Daily Beast, they claim that they did not coordinate the publication in any way with MBS or Saudi Arabia, and that running the issue was a business decision.
Let’s file that under “hmmm,” with an extra-suspicious label of “Who are you fooling?”
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.