New York Times media critic Jim Rutenberg told readers in his latest Mediator column he doesn’t agree with Netflix’s decision to pull an episode of their program “Patriot Act” from Saudi Arabian airwaves following objection from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Maybe the Saudi complaint wasn’t all that shocking. Like any authoritarian monarch worth his bone saw, Prince Mohammed doesn’t brook criticism,” Rutenberg said. “The shock came with Netflix’s supine compliance. After pulling the episode from its Saudi feed, the streaming service told the Financial Times it was simply responding to ‘a valid legal request.'”
The offending episode of the stand up show starring “Daily Show” alum Hasan Minhaj had raised questions about bin Salman and his involvement in the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the kingdom’s war in Yemen. This apparently did not sit well with the country’s de facto absolute monarch.
“As America’s new media overlords grow at a stunning rate, expanding into every nook and cranny of the globe where governments will let them in, are they compelled to defend universal values like free speech that their home country was founded on?” Rutenberg said.
“Increasingly, it seems, profit, expansion and perhaps a wee bit of cowardice are trumping the very principles that made the United States entertainment and news industries what they are — and that made a Netflix possible in the first place,” he added.
Reps for Netflix did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
In the episode, Minhaj took a serious turn when he addressed bin Salman, saying he was an obstacle to progress in the country.
“I am genuinely rooting for change in Saudi Arabia. I am rooting for the people of Saudi Arabia. There are people in Saudi Arabia fighting for true reform but MBS is not one of them,” Minhaj said.
“And to those who continue to work with him just know that with every deal you close you’re simply helping entrench an absolute monarch under the guise of progress because ultimately MBS is not modernizing Saudi Arabia. The only thing he is modernizing is Saudi dictatorship.”
The imbroglio over the episode seems sure to raise interest in the show and as Rutenberg noted, die hards in Saudi Arabia can still find the content on YouTube.