What was Netflix really thinking when it caved to Saudi pressure and yanked an episode of the comedian Hasan Minhaj's new show, "Patriot Act," which featured a monologue criticizing a Saudi Arabian royal? Minhaj's monologue was hardly groundbreaking--or all that consequential--given the global fury over the assassination of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad. The Senate passed a unanimous resolution last month holding the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, responsible for the premeditated murder of the journalist. The C.I.A. also concluded with "high confidence" that the prince, who is the de-facto ruler of the desert kingdom, ordered the killing. The Turkish government leaked an intelligence tape that captured Khashoggi's desperate final struggle, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, his execution, and the grisly sounds of a bone saw dismembering his body.
The global trade in weapons is booming, with sales to the Middle East surging. Amid regional instability, an arms race is under way among Arab Gulf countries. The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait - have spent billions of dollars on weapons this year alone. Here's a look at the recent deals made. So far in 2018, Saudi Arabia has allocated over $3bn to arms deals.
When news broke on New Years Day that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had censored an episode of the Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj that's critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it wasn't a surprise. Saudi Arabia has a long history of censorship and human rights abuses, and the anti-cybercrime law the kingdom says the episode violated dates back to 2007. And though the rise of bin Salman was greeted by the US and Silicon Valley with enthusiasm, his reforms (women are finally allowed to drive) have come alongside continued abuses (hundreds of women "disappeared" for their activism). But the Netflix incident is also indicative of the pressures tech companies face beyond Saudi Arabia amid a global trend toward digital authoritarianism that shows no sign of slowing. Minhaj, an American comedian, devoted an episode of his show to the Saudi regime on October 28, weeks after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its embassy in Istanbul.