Does Saudi Arabia Need Paid Propagandists?

One can easily and quickly find their fill of controversial, non-sensical and downright stupid articles on Saudi Arabia. One of my own pet peeves in regards to some of the articles published in Saudi about Saudi is that the article lacks proper research and sourcing. An article may seem to have part of a fact but that actual fact may be buried in so much unlikely speculation the true intent of the article goes missing.

Now many examples of articles that do not help the Kingdom include this one from Al Watan where the Saudi religious police mistakenly assail a married couple (thinking they were unmarried) or this one which further illustrates the frustrations and challenges women face in simply trying to buy lingerie in the Kingdom or even this one which got picked up in the New York Times on the case of the 75 year old Syrian woman sentenced to 40 lashes and jail time for allegedly mingling with two young men who she was not related to. I could go on but I think you probably get the point that these kind of incidents (and some are certainly true and factual) do not necessarily present Saudi Arabia in the most positive of lights.

So what should the Kingdom do? First I am pleased that even if the article shows the Kingdom in a negative light, at least the articles are being published. I am confident that if the Saudi government wanted to bury such articles they could and the general public would be less the wiser of such fact. I do wish though and as I inferred above, that any article would be well-sourced, researched and validated. For example, reputable news and publications like the Associated Press or Christian Science Monitor will not simply write and print an article because the issue is viewed as newsworthy. First a story needs to be verified and validated as well as researched. Then it must also have sourcing. The identities of the sourcing may not be revealed in the story but you can be assured that the senior editors and publishers insist on knowing that a story has been sourced and in most cases, multiply sourced. If a story has any reference to the Saudi government then validation from a Saudi government source in a position of access relevant to the story must have been obtained too.

But now let me segue to the crux of this particular post. Because of the contradictions found in the Kingdom and ongoing supply of controversial articles and news, does Saudi Arabia need paid propagandists? What do I mean by that? Does the Kingdom require individuals whom it engages for pay to write and promote positive information about the Kingdom? Do you as a reader think that is already happening?

I know that at various stages in Iraq the US government engaged private contractors to mount ‘hearts and minds campaigns’ in attempts to win over the Iraqi people and spread the views and policies of the American government. Similar campaigns have also been mounted in Afghanistan. While the softer term used is ‘hearts and minds campaigns’ these are actually forms of psyops (psychological operations). Wikipedia gives a good explanation on heart and mind campaigns as well as a history of events where such campaigns have been mounted.

So how much, if any, would Saudi Arabia benefit from such a campaign? Is one necessary? And if one is underway, can the average person easily detect it?


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