© Martin Rowson
‘Here’s the smell of blood still. Not all the sweet perfumes of Arabia will sweeten this hand’
The Saudi elites have been killing and killing, unconstrained by Western objections, for centuries. They have recently killed thousands of Yemeni men, women and children using UK and US weapons and even guided by UK ‘technicians’ on the ground. They daily, flog, stone or decapitate, ‘adulterous’ women. They even crucify. Liberal critics in the West write passionately and critically but nothing ever happens.
Suddenly, however, after they kill a journalist employed by the Washington Post and who is a member of one of Saudi Arabia’s aristocratic families, a bloodline in the sand has been crossed. Last night on Newsnight, we heard it described as the ‘gravest’ development and as a ‘nadir’ in Western relationships with the Kingdom. Thousands of ordinary people dead yet the killing of a single journalist is the worst, the lowest point?
Why do the members of our media elite think this?
In the second half of the 20th Century, under the umbrella term ‘post-modernism’, old Marxist certainties, about the centrality of the economy in determining group identification and loyalties, were questioned. We heard, even, that the too-simple concept, class, had been replaced by more complex ideas based on cultural preferences and the proliferation of multiple collective identities and loyalties that could not be linked clearly to political actions aimed at removing inequality. I agree that old-school Marxist politics had often become too simple and too rigid to be useful as a basis for thought or for action but there are times when things become all-too-simple again and this is one of them.
There are still two classes, though the edges of their cluster territories are blurred and shifting, as some individuals move into and out of elite groups. No more than 1% of the world’s population are in the cluster of interlocking elites, with people like Trump, the UK royals and our Tory leaders, well into the centre of them. People like me, when I was a working professor, sometimes flying to conferences and with a media profile, but in a low-status institution, might have been just inside one or more of the clusters – those of media, and education but not those of politics, industry, commerce, entertainment or religion. If I’d been assassinated in a misjudged attack, the killer might have crossed a line. If Alex Salmond were to be taken out by the same assassin, that would be well-over the line and a major mistake by the elites but if a busload of unemployed people demonstrating for Scottish independence had been taken out in a flawed attempt to merely frighten them, a cover-up perhaps blaming the driver, would be constructed and no action would have been needed within elite groups.
Even when this kind of event happens, however, the interests of elite clusters will come before those of one of their members. Watch for the ‘cleaning’ as those close to the Crown Prince pay the price for him and, in time, all returns to bloody normal. As I write, the arrests have already begun.