Front Line Scratches Surface of Saudi Arabian Squalor

Watch the new Front Line show on Saudi Arabia. Any time (and there are not many) that a corporate U.S. media outlet (yes, that it what PBS is) covers crimes and abuses of a government that the U.S. government is not seeking to overthrow and is in fact propping up, applause is due.

This program shows us how Saudi Arabia shoots protesters, jails protesters and bloggers, tortures people into confessions, executes prisoners, mass-executes prisoners, publicly whips and executes prisoners with knives like ISIS only on a larger scale.

We see abuse and discrimination against women.

We see that a large section of the population lives in poverty, as in the United States. We see dramatic inequality, as in the United States. We see that young people are much more enlightened politically than old people, as in the United States. We see great bravery in those resisting.

But imagine if Front Line hadn’t limited its report to the U.S. style, namely reporting on Saudi Arabia almost as if it were an island, just as most U.S. reporting on the United States acts as if there were no outside world. Front Line mentions Iran briefly in relation to Saudi domestic crimes. Saudi Arabia’s wars in Syria and Yemen receive literally one sentence mentioning their financial cost.

But we meet the new king without any mention of his new militarism. We get nothing on the U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia, nothing on Saudi Arabia’s corruption of the U.S. government and top officials (such as through donating millions to the Clinton Foundation), not a word on U.S. military support in the bombing of Yemen or what that campaign is doing to empower al Qaeda, nothing on the corruption that has put Saudi Arabia in charge of human rights at the United Nations, nothing on Saudi assaults on the people of Bahrain, not a single mention of the 911 crimes being committed by and funded by Saudis, no discussion of Saudi support for ISIS, and nothing on Saudi Arabia’s power to intimidate even in the United States where many, but not all, were recently intimidated out of speaking at a summit in Washington, D.C.

Scratching the surface is very helpful, but what if people were given the whole story?