This year Netflix pulled down episode two of the US comic Hasan Minhaj’s stand up comedy special, Patriot Act in Saudi Arabia.
The reason? They received a complaint from the Kingdom’s Communications and Information Technology Commission that it violated Saudi’s anti-cyber crime law. The episode is now ‘banned’.
Even though the episode released on 28 October last year, it is only now that this ban has been imposed.
The episode is still streaming on YouTube and Minhaj also tweeted about how the ‘ban’ has only increased the episode’s viewership.
Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube.— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) January 2, 2019
Let’s not forget that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now. Please donate: https://t.co/znMP8vyJma https://t.co/t2VUDhhIdB
The actual reason for the ‘ban’ seems to be Minhaj’s very vocal criticism of the Saudi government, its crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, his policies and his role in the killing of Saudi Columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post journalist was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year. On the show, Minhaj also questions and factually breaks down the Saudi Arabia led-crackdown on Yemen and how they have and are still killing innocent civilians leading to mass killings, along with almost famine-like conditions.
In a bid to understand the ‘ban’ which is being termed by many as a fierce crackdown on freedom of speech and expression, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of Patriot Act: Saudi Arabia.
The Brutal Killing of Khashoggi
Minhaj cuts to the chase as soon as the episode begins by bringing up the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi.
He addresses the many bizarre cover up stories that came after the disappearance and straight up addresses the connection with Mohammed Bin Salman, the crown prince.
He uses news clips from various channels to make his point, one of which says that the crown prince ordered a hit squad to take Khashoggi out.
Minhaj goes on to take a dig at how Muhammed Bin Salman or MBS was being hailed as the reformer the Arab world needed and how it took the killing of a journalist for people to go “Oh! He is actually not a reformer!”
Though he gives credit to Muslims for seeing through MBS, he also implies that it’s high time Muslims reassessed their relationship with Saudi Arabia. Minhaj goes on to explain, (while taking funny digs, of course) the significance of Mecca and Medina and how it is like the Coachella of the Arab world.
‘Boy Band Manager of 9/11’
To the surprise of many, Minhaj also reveals how Saudi got its name from the Saud family who have been ruling the place since 1932 and have an aggregate net worth of *wait for it* one trillion dollars!
A nation named after a family. Now, that is SOMETHING.
After briefing about how money, oil and arms makes Saudi any other nation’s BFF, he directly hits out at them for “giving passports to terrorists” and being the “boy band manager of 9/11”, who orchestrated everything even when not directly participating.
“MBS’ Sales Pitch”
One of the sales pitch that sent MBS’s popularity soaring off the charts and made the whole world go ‘hubba-hubba’ was the lifting of the driving ban on women.
A fundamental right that most of the world does not even think about twice.
Besides that, the main thing that made the US receive MBS like a rockstar was his “Vision 2030”. The project is supposed to help Saudi diversify and reduce their reliance on oil.
In his US visit post the announcement, he got to hang out with the top brass of the government, Jeff Bezos of Twitter and Oprah. Yes, he got to hang with Oprah!
“Why The Outrage?”
But it all came crashing down once the world got to know about Khashoggi’s killing. According to a report by Wall Street Journal, quoted by Minhaj, MBS went to the extent of asking “Why the outrage?”.
Understandably, he has been doing this for years. His family has been doing it for years. One more life should not have mattered, right?
He has captured and jailed hundreds of his own kin including his own mother because she was posing a risk to his rise to power. The life of a journalist shouldn’t have mattered. But it did, and how.
It would puzzle him obviously because Muhammed Bin Salman came into power after allegedly subjecting his predecessor AND cousin to excruciating pain, till he gave up the crown.
That’s like a much much more brutal version of twisting your cousin’s arm till they hand over the candy.
Minhaj also questions the jailing of activists who raised their voice against the government and reveals how Saudi will be executing more than two thousand people by 2030 and how that is the “vision 2030 no one’s talking about”
“Yemen, the Biggest Tragedy”
After Khashoggi, Minhaj systematically takes down the war on Yemen by Saudi which very well might have been one of the prominent reasons that Saudi felt so insecure that it had to take down the episode.
“Take three wars and shove it into the Arab world’s poorest country”
Minhaj’s 40 second round up of the Yemen war and how Saudi used it as a proxy to wage a war against Iran, ends with this on point conclusion.
Saudi stepped in 2015 when the rebels were about to overthrow the government. Since then, the air strikes started which apart from rebel territories have blown up schools and hospitals killing civilians including children and women.
The war is Muhammed Bin Salman’s and Minhaj spells it out. 13 million people are at the brink of starvation in Yemen and people need to know it.
We need such conversations till we achieve some sanity and stop this blind bloodshed.
This move looks like another dictatorial decision and sadly like always, Saudi will get away with it. But the increased conversation around the issue, seems like a blessing in disguise.
Netflix at the Receiving End
Netflix also received widespread flak for their move as it implies that it has complied with Saudi’s decision to put a curb on the freedom of speech and expression in the free world. Some people were also lauding YouTube for not giving in and still having the whole episode on their site.
.@hasanminhaj of @patriotact has been a strong, honest and (funny) voice challenging Saudi Arabia + Mohammed bin Salman in the wake of #khashoggi’s murder. He brought awareness about Yemen.— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) January 1, 2019
Quite outrageous that @netflix has pulled one of his episodes critical of Saudi Arabia.
For folks without FT account: Netflix defends cave-in to Saudi demand to spike a @hasanminhaj episode criticizing MBS. Saudis say it broke law against “impinging on ... religious values, public morals.” LOL. Think harder, @netflix. @YouTube hasn’t caved: https://t.co/cx2etkkPFA. https://t.co/GxJHSu514y— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) January 1, 2019
Netflix’s claim to support artistic freedom means nothing if it bows to demands of government officials who believe in no freedom for their citizens – not artistic, not political, not comedic. https://t.co/N24CY18kIK— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) January 1, 2019
The episode is still streaming on YouTube and can be watched here:
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