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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/10/21

MBS: Lord of the Flies

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lord of the flies
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MBS: Lord of the Flies

by John Kendall Hawkins

"What are we? Humans? Or animals? Or savages?"

"- William Golding, Lord of the Flies

To hear the MSM tell it, the evidence against Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) for his involvement in the murder of Washington Post Arab Affairs columnist Jamal Khoshoggi amounts to a prosecutorial slam dunk. A year before the killing he was overheard saying that he would put a bullet in the writer if he didn't return to Saudi Arabia and end his criticism of the royals. More recently, in a separate CNN piece, we read: 'Top Secret' Saudi documents show Khashoggi assassins used company seized by Saudi crown prince. This latter article alludes to a lawsuit filed by Saad Aljabri, a Saudi ex-intelligence officer living in Canada, who alleges that the planes used by the hit squad that took out Khashoggi in Istanbul were also later dispatched to Canada to kill him.

So, MBS is implicated both before and after the murder of Khoshoggi: There is the threat; the means; the motive; and, the discovery of the 'get away' vehicles. On top of this is a CIA "assessment" that MBS was responsible for the murder; that it is "inconceivable" that he didn't know and, indeed, order the hit. But this is still largely circumstantial. What's missing is the habeas corpus -- Khoshoggi's body. People accused of murder, without a body, have been convicted before, and that's what happened in Saudi Arabia, when the regime there owned that a murder had taken place and convicted several patsies for Khoshoggi's death. But MBS still walks on water.

Al-Jazeera has produced a brief animated re-enactment of the murder demonstrates how the event probably went down. It's the kind of scenario you'd see displayed to a court during a trial. It's worth a watch. Here it is.

While President Donald Trump defended MBS, essentially drawing attention to the circumstantial nature of the allegation by saying, "I guess we'll never know." He didn't want to create friction, he said, that was such an important business partner. Who would we sell our weapons to? (A 'conspiracy theorist' might wonder whether Trump knew of the intended murder ahead of time.) Once a U.S. intelligence report was declassified and released, many pundits and observers expected Biden to keep to his campaign promise to pursue punitive actions against MBS. As Politico put it, "Biden promised to punish Saudi leaders responsible for Khoshoggi's murder and to reframe the U.S.-Saudi relationship." But he didn't. Almost certainly for the same reasons that Trump didn't bother. Money doesn't talk, it swears, quoth the Bard from Duluth.

But what's described above, and depicted in the animation, are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg regarding the intrigue involved in the crime. The 2020 documentary The Dissident (Apple, Vudu), directed by Brian Fogle (Icarus), tells a far more intriguing and darkly nestled ideation at work than we are made privy to in the MSM, which is so careful to protects us from truths that might upset us. They're so good that way.

The Dissident largely revolves around the doings of Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi exile living in Montreal. He has been for years a vocal critic of the Saudi royals and ruling policies. He befriended Jamal Khoshoggi, and Abdulaziz came to rely on Khoshoggi's advice and "wisdom" in dealing with the Saudis back home. The way Abdulaziz describes it, Saudis nationals are virtually controlled and controlled virtually by Twitter feeds. The viewer is advised that 20% of Americans have Twitter accounts -- and we all know what damage Trump brought to the table with his Twitter message fussilades. But in SA, the Twitter membership is 80%.

Last year, another film about the deleterious effects of social media, The Social Dilemma, convincingly revealed the danger of mass manipulation by the growth of hive-mindedness and its algorithmic control by nefarious state and commercial interests. Along similar lines, Twitter in SA is seen as a tool of the freedom of expression, folks constantly interpenetrating each other's psyches with raw, unprocessed "thinking." But this freedom, Abdulaziz tells us, is actually deviously controlled by cyber armies within SA, referred to as The Flies, who massage Tweet Twits, and re-shape their responses, and when necessary, create a "swarm" to attack adversaries and dissidents. And, he says, MBS is the Lord of the Flies.

These Flies are sent by the thousands to drown out voices that question the government, Abdulaziz tells us. They are like hitmen sent out to enforce the fascist heeling out of freedom of expression, and behind it, the seat of all freedom -- the wilds of critical and creative thinking, lurking in our minds, like sleeper cells, needing only to be activated by Woke moments. Ouch. (Reminded me of the Glenn Greenwald "white" blood cells that swarm any criticism of the master.)

In Montreal, Abdulaziz was having none of that. He decided to start his own dissident swarm, called The Bees. But instead of coming at people like trolling regime liars, Abdulaziz tells us that the Bees would descend on folks with the Truth. (Cue the harps.) When MBS caught on, he sent a team of interlocutors, including Abdulaziz's brother, to talk him into coming home, where he could be a Star and have his own TV program that led Saudi youths down the path of frisky rectitude. Be a dissonante instead of a dissident. Apparently, he didn't know what to do, so he contacted Khoshoggi, who advised him not to return. After Abdulaziz told the nice men that he would remain in Montreal, his brother and 23 associates were arrested on trumped up charges to apply pressure.

What made Khoshoggi a dissident is standard procedure in America, complaining about government, and doing activist things to disrupt fascist movements online. Such dissidence goes all the way back to the British experience for Americans. Past Paul Revere and later the tea partiers. Past Daniel Defoe's being put in the stocks for mocking the government. Further back to the Magna Carta. But, you could see how the authoritarian regime in SA would see such activism from Khoshoggi (and Abdulaziz) as sedition, punishable by death. Nevertheless, until MBS, SA seemed content to lure "exiles" back home to deal with them, rather than draw attention to their tyranny by murdering away from home. Both Abdulaziz and Khoshoggi were asked to return home. MBS appears set to arrogantly chase after dissidents overseas, first with his Flies, then, if deemed necessary, to send hit squads.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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