Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 1, 2018

Vogue Magazine in hot water again for puff piece on Mideast tyrants

Filed under: journalism,Kevin Coogan,Saudi Arabia,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:43 pm

NY Times, May 31, 2018
Vogue Arabia Hails Saudi Reform, Ignoring Jailed Activists
By Megan Specia

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is putting women in the driving seat — and so are we.”

That’s how Vogue Arabia described its June cover, which features a glamorous woman behind the wheel of a classic car, parked in the desert.

But the problem for some has been which woman the magazine decided to put in the driver’s seat in an issue that “celebrates the women of the kingdom and their wide-reaching achievements,” but makes no mention of the country’s most recent crackdown on women’s rights activists.

Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud — one of the late King Abdullah’s 20 daughters — sits behind the wheel, even as some prominent female activists who fought for the right for Saudi women to drive remain locked behind bars.

In mid-May, at least 11 activists were arrested and labeled “traitors” by the Saudi government, a move that surprised many as the country is just weeks away from allowing women to drive. Some of the activists have been released, but others remain detained.

On June 24, Saudi women will legally be able to drive for the first time. But critics say the Vogue coverage fails to highlight some Saudi women whose activism helped draw international attention to the issue, and who now face persecution.

The issue does feature Manal al-Sharif, one of the Saudi activists who took part in the 2011 protests against the restrictions and was later arrested for the action, but does not mention the latest arrests.

Twitter users were swift in their reaction, calling out Vogue Arabia for what some saw as an oversight.

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In March 2011, Vogue magazine published, for the benefit of its 11.7 million readers, an article titled “A Rose in the Desert” about the first lady of Syria. Asma al-Assad has British roots, wears designer fashion, worked for years in banking, and is married to the dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has killed over 5,000 civilians and hundreds of children this year. The glowing article praised the Assads as a “wildly democratic” family-focused couple who vacation in Europe, foster Christianity, are at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the “safest country in the Middle East,” and want to give Syria a “brand essence.”

Vogue’s editors defended the controversial article as “a way of opening a window into this world a little bit,” conceding only that Assad’s Syria is “not as secular as we might like.” A senior editor responsible for the story told me the magazine stood by it. A few weeks later, the article and all references to it were removed from Vogue’s website without explanation. In August, The Hill reported that U.S. lobbying firm Brown Lloyd James had been paid $5,000 per month by the Syrian government to arrange for and manage the Vogue article.

For all the controversy, the article’s author, former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck, did manage to spend some one-on-one time with both Asma and Bashar al-Assad, an exclusive many journalists might have killed for. Today, as the world watches for cracks in the Assad regime and in the Assad family, Buck’s interviews are an increasingly important tool for understanding the man at the top of Syria and the woman next to him.

Sadly, Vogue’s piece of the Syrian puzzle has been almost entirely scrubbed from the internet. But, somehow, the text can still be found at a website called PresidentAssad.net, a gif-filled but meticulously updated fan page to the Syrian dictator. The site is registered to a Syrian man living in Rome named Mohamed Abdo al-Ibrahim. A personal site for Ibrahim lists him as an employee of the Syrian state-run news agency.

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  1. This beautiful blue planet needs less motorist not more. How did becoming a driver of an automobile, is seen as liberation. When in reality the automobile is a symbol of slavery, ecocide and the meaninglessness of modern life. Every automobile is a potential weapon and every motorist a short fuse. It is the great taboo to speak truth about our diseased, addictive preoccupation with the automobile.

    Comment by Al — June 2, 2018 @ 7:21 pm

  2. “This is the Wintour of our discontent . .. “

    Comment by HH — June 2, 2018 @ 11:53 pm

  3. “How did becoming a driver of an automobile, is seen as liberation.”

    When half of a population is BANNED from driving, and that half happens to be determined based on gender, that’s how!

    Women not being able to drive or travel around and being shackled to some man who has to chaparone them around, that is oppression. Your point about cars being evil is besides the bigger point. If the picture of a wealthy princess in a luxury car is all you see, then I guess you are right to say what you say. But if you’re one of the 15 million or so Saudi woman, you’ve been waiting for this day all your life, and you’d sure as hell find it liberating that you can drive around and enjoy one of the most basic rights all humans should have: right of movement!

    Comment by Reza — June 3, 2018 @ 12:16 am

  4. AL- The sociology of Western Capitalism cherishes the car culture precisely because it literally DRIVES home the notions of individualism & freedom that the bourgeois revolutions championed.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 6, 2018 @ 5:48 am

  5. Comment by siptuactivist — July 7, 2018 @ 7:13 pm

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