Opinion

Saudi Arabia Spending Millions On Public Relations To Spin Executions And Brutality

Ronn Torossian CEO, 5W Public Relations

Saudi Arabia is spending millions of dollars on American Public Relations firms to spin. And their spin doctors are working overtime after the execution of Shiite leader Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, followed by the severance of ties with Iran.

John R. MacArthur in Harper’s Magazine wrote some years ago that:

“The long and corrupt history of American-Saudi relations centers around the kingdom’s vast reserves of easily extractable oil, of course. Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt met aboard ship in 1945 with King Ibn Saud, the special relationship with the desert kingdom has only grown stronger. The House of Saud is usually happy to sell us oil at a consistent and reasonable price and then increase production if unseemly market forces drive the world price of a barrel too high for U.S. consumers. In exchange we arm the Saudis to the teeth and turn a blind eye to their medieval approach to crime and punishment.”

It is nothing new. The Saudis spend millions for years on public relations – it has been reported they spent over $100 million from 2000 to 2010 on American propaganda.

Today, DC PR Agency Qorvis Communications  who works as a PR agency for Saudi Arabia since shortly after 9/11 (which spent millions after 15 of the 19 bombers were found to have been Saudis) billed $7 Million Dollars to the Kingdom during the most recent billing period. They have arranged meetings for Saudi leaders — including Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, who was appointed to the Saudi throne in January – with American government officials.

The world’s largest PR firm, Edelman PR is tasked with the assignment of promoting, “the Kingdom’s interests among key groups within the world body and to U.N. observers.” Others in the PR business who work for the Saudis include Hill & Knowlton (since 1982), and other “active foreign principals for Saudi Arabia” on the FARA website include DLA Piper, Targeted Victory, Pillsbury Winthrop, Hogan Lovells, and the Podesta Group.

It’s a slippery slope. In the classic movie Thank You for Smoking which depicts the work of a big tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor, the tobacco representative in the movie argued, “That’s the beauty of argument. If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.” As he told a children’s class in the movie, My point is that you have to think for yourself. If your parents told you that chocolate was dangerous would you take their word for it? [Children say, no] Exactly! So perhaps instead of acting like sheep when it comes to cigarettes, you should find out for yourself.”

Public relations shapes minds.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a top 20 independent PR Agency.  He’s author of “For Immediate Release” and has been named Public Relations executive of the year.