There’s much outrage in major news outlets recently due to US President Donald Trump’s comments about the Jamal Khashoggi murder and Saudi Arabia’s hand in it. You can read many different reports on it but the most likely scenario is that Mohammed Bin Salman ordered the journalist’s execution. As a seasoned cynic, this is not surprising to me. But the main story for many journalists was that Trump was so brazen in his lack of denunciation. The thing is, Trump is simply publicly saying what every other politician in his position says in private.
Realpolitik: that’s what Trump is exposing so callously to the unwashed masses. If, for example, this murder happened during Obama’s or George W’s time in office, this is what would happen:
- they would issue statements with strong lines like “we condemn this callous act and the criminals behind it” or something similar
- diplomatic and economic sanctions would be announced
- and that’s it
This important: nothing of note would actually happen. It would be all talk. What’s more, the journalists who are getting so outraged know this is what would happen. It’s occurred so many times before.
Some of that is in the statement but those are overshadowed by the other points in the statement. Despite his numerous flaws, Trump is doing what I would do if I was in his shoes; he’s being honest. He doesn’t want to go through the whole charade of delivering empty statements to assuage people and assure them that the US is a moral and upright country. He’s skipping the whole process and saying in public what he’s being told in private.
This is not me praising Donald Trump though - he’s still disseminating about the strong links between MBS and the murder, never mind the nonsense over fighting terrorism by working with the country which is the primary breeding ground of hardline Islamic terrorists in the world. And I find him an odious, bullying dullard. My main point is more the hypocrisy of the media.
These stories are not about the murder. They are about the ongoing clash between a large swath of media outlets and Trump. It’s personal to many in the media because Trump is, essentially, supporting murder of a fellow journalist. It’s completely understandable that they feel threatened and worried for the future. That is the narrative. In my opinion, an accurate and important narrative but only tangentially related to the matter at hand.
The whole furore completely sidelines the actual murder, it’s political impact in Turkey and elsewhere, and it’s impact on the poor man’s family. But that’s standard practice in modern media - the narrative is paramount.