A brilliant move that can’t possibly go wrong
by Jack McClatchy
Staff Funny Guy
This past week the public prosecutor of Saudi Arabia tweeted that “producing and distributing content that ridicules, mocks, provokes and disrupts public order, religious values and public morals through social media” will be punishable by up to five years in prison and an $800,000 fine.
Well, before we think of ways in which that can (and let’s be honest, probably will) go wrong, let it be clear that this didn’t come out of nowhere.
Ever since Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was appointed in June of last year, he has cracked down hard on human rights groups. This drew criticism from around the world, most famously from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Saudis responded with an all-out diplomatic assault, such as withdrawing Saudi students from Canadian universities, expelling the Canadian ambassador, and a controversial tweet from an account reportedly close to the Saudi government which seemed to threaten a 9/11-type attack against Toronto.
This isn’t the first time the Saudis have cracked down on online activity, either. France 24 claimed that Saudi officials called on people to report cyber law violations to the government in September 2017, resulting in dozens of people being arrested since.
All the while, Saudi Arabia has been fighting a proxy war in neighboring Yemen since 2015 (which they’re doing with US weaponry, but that’s another story in and of itself) which has killed over 9,000 people and wounded 50,000.
Also, women were just allowed to drive a car this year, homosexuals are beheaded, bans public worship of any religion besides Sunni Islam, and has jailed dozens of human rights activists.
So, why did I just list all of those clear and blatant human rights violations? Easy: Saudi Arabia sits on the UN Human Rights Council and has since 2016.
I guess it doesn’t even matter if satire is illegal in Saudi Arabia, because it’s dead already and is probably fully decomposed by now.
Let’s just say it isn’t for now, and imagine how perfectly this new law will go for Saudi Arabia. Surely if we ban satire (and are quite possibly more deserving of it than anything else on this planet), it will all go away?
Now, I am usually conservative when I place bets, but I am absolutely certain this will go over like a lead balloon.
Let’s just remember the time that Barbara Streisand sued Pictopia.com and photographer Kenneth Adelman to remove a picture of her private mansion taken to monitor coastal erosion in California. When the lawsuit was filed, only six people downloaded the picture (two of which were her attorneys); over the following month the image was downloaded over 42,000 times.
Or the time when Beyoncé did the Super Bowl Halftime Show and Buzzfeed was asked to remove “unflattering” photos of her. They of course posted a screenshot of the email and the photos again asking why on earth they would seem “unflattering”.
Or the time that UC Davis police officer pepper sprayed Occupy protesters, and Davis spent $175,000 trying to suppress the bad press that naturally follows from assaulting unarmed protesters. That whole affair spawned countless memes, pieces of art, and
Or the time North Korea was suspected of hacking Sony to prevent the release of The Interview, which had a scene showing Kim Jong-Un being killed. Of course, it only generated more interest in watching the movie, and what was really a mediocre Seth Rogen movie became an act of patriotism.
Basically, you get the pattern here. Saudi Arabia is ripe for some extremely clever and well-deserved satire, jokes, memes, and the like. Their attempts to suppress this won’t work to prevent it, as people around the world will fill in for Saudi citizens who may not be as motivated to speak out now.
However, I don’t think that’s the point. This is just a ploy by bin Salman to further tighten his grip on his citizens, and sadly those brave enough to speak out will be putting themselves in a lot of danger.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Saudi Arabia shouldn’t be ridiculed. We’re not subject to Saudi law (thank God) so we’re free to say most whatever we please about bin Salman and the Saudi government.
I just wish that our ridicule of Saudi Arabia led to a condemnation of the Saudi government by our own, joining Canada. Or that we stopped supplying their brutal proxy war in Yemen. Or maybe they were booted off the UN Human Rights Council and restored some legitimacy to it.
Or better yet, Saudi Arabia stopped such a corrupt hyper-reactionary absolutist hellhole that repressed women, non-Sunni Muslims, gays, human rights activists, or just about anyone who isn’t a Sunni Arab, man.