Elon Musk Versus a Saudi Prince

CommentaryAn exchange on Twitter on April 14 between Elon Musk and Saudi billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal caused a stir on the social media platform that Musk is offering to buy. Alwaleed wrote on Twitter that as “one of the largest & long-term shareholders of Twitter,” he believes that Musk’s bid of $54.20 a share doesn’t come close to the platform’s “intrinsic value,” and he therefore rejected it. Perhaps Musk was confused by the logo, Kingdom, that accompanied Alwaleed’s Twitter post, for the Tesla owner asked: “How much of Twitter does the Kingdom own, directly and indirectly?” and “What are the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech?” Conservatives on Twitter echoed Musk’s complaint—why is Saudi Arabia opposing Musk’s efforts to liberate Twitter from America’s repressive oligarchy? But the logo in Alwaleed’s tweet doesn’t refer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; rather, Kingdom is the name of his holding company. He’s not a Saudi official, and he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Saudi monarchy. Indeed, by some accounts, Alwaleed is on the outs with the Riyadh government. Alwaleed was one of nearly 400 rich and powerful Saudis detained in November 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as part of the anti-corruption campaign led by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, or MBS. Alwaleed was reportedly asked to pay $6 billion to the government. He was released after three months upon reaching a “confidential” agreement with Saudi authorities. Who knows why Alwaleed rebuffed Musk publicly? There’s speculation in Saudi circles that he may have tried to reach out to Musk quietly and, when he got no response, took to social media to get a reaction. In any case, the Saudi investor has a history of sticking his foot in his mouth. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he pledged $10 million to New York for disaster relief—then suggested that U.S. policies in the Middle East provoked the attacks. America should “adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause,” Alwaleed said. It enraged Americans, especially New Yorkers still reeling from the terror, and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani returned Alwaleed’s check. In December 2015, Alwaleed launched a broadside against Donald Trump. “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America,” Alwaleed wrote. “Withdraw from the US presidential race as you will never win.” Trump fired back, calling him the “Dopey Prince.” And indeed, by trying to curry favor with one U.S. political party at the expense of the other and taking a swipe at the eventual winner of the 2016 race, Alwaleed richly earned the nickname. As for Musk, maybe he saw Alwaleed’s salvo as an opportunity to fire a shot across Riyadh’s bow. A few years ago, he had been in negotiations with Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund to take Tesla private, but the deal fell apart in 2018 after Musk wrote on Twitter, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” The Twitter post triggered an SEC investigation, a $20 million fine for Musk, and another $20 million fine for Tesla. And it gave evidence to the Saudis that the genius inventor was something of a loose cannon. Of course, that’s one of the reasons that free speech advocates have invested their faith in Musk. He’s bold and unpredictable and likes taking on the establishment. And as the world’s richest man, he can afford to do so. Given Twitter’s status, perhaps undeserved, as the world’s public square, Americans are now looking to Musk to give them back their voice and lead the struggle against the regime consortium that has silenced and deplatformed them and their leaders—including Trump. The joint efforts of social media platforms, prestige press organizations, big tech, intelligence services, and Democratic Party operatives to censor the opposition and block reports damaging to the regime shouldn’t be shaping America’s political reality. It may be true that Musk, as some believe, is the best hope to restore free speech in America. But the mistake is thinking that the government of Saudi Arabia is on the side of America’s performatively progressive oligarchy. The reality is that MBS holds a personal grudge against the same people who are targeting Trump and his supporters. The crown prince reportedly refuses to take Joe Biden’s phone calls. That’s because the White House is keen on restoring Barack Obama’s deal with Iran that legalizes the terror state’s nuclear weapons program—even as Iranian proxies continue to launch missiles against Saudi cities, airports, and oil facilities. It’s hardly surprising, then, that Saudi TV shows air parodies of a decrepit Biden falling asleep at the presidential podium. The current U.S. president is distrusted and disliked by one of America’s oldest allies in the Middle East. But MBS’s issues with the U.S. oligarchy predate the Biden administration. In 2020, Amazon founder and The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos claimed, without evidence, that MBS had hacked his personal cell phone. It seems

Elon Musk Versus a Saudi Prince

Commentary

An exchange on Twitter on April 14 between Elon Musk and Saudi billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal caused a stir on the social media platform that Musk is offering to buy.

Alwaleed wrote on Twitter that as “one of the largest & long-term shareholders of Twitter,” he believes that Musk’s bid of $54.20 a share doesn’t come close to the platform’s “intrinsic value,” and he therefore rejected it.

Perhaps Musk was confused by the logo, Kingdom, that accompanied Alwaleed’s Twitter post, for the Tesla owner asked: “How much of Twitter does the Kingdom own, directly and indirectly?” and “What are the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech?”

Conservatives on Twitter echoed Musk’s complaint—why is Saudi Arabia opposing Musk’s efforts to liberate Twitter from America’s repressive oligarchy?

But the logo in Alwaleed’s tweet doesn’t refer to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; rather, Kingdom is the name of his holding company. He’s not a Saudi official, and he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Saudi monarchy. Indeed, by some accounts, Alwaleed is on the outs with the Riyadh government.

Alwaleed was one of nearly 400 rich and powerful Saudis detained in November 2017 at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh as part of the anti-corruption campaign led by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, or MBS. Alwaleed was reportedly asked to pay $6 billion to the government. He was released after three months upon reaching a “confidential” agreement with Saudi authorities.

Who knows why Alwaleed rebuffed Musk publicly? There’s speculation in Saudi circles that he may have tried to reach out to Musk quietly and, when he got no response, took to social media to get a reaction.

In any case, the Saudi investor has a history of sticking his foot in his mouth. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he pledged $10 million to New York for disaster relief—then suggested that U.S. policies in the Middle East provoked the attacks. America should “adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause,” Alwaleed said. It enraged Americans, especially New Yorkers still reeling from the terror, and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani returned Alwaleed’s check.

In December 2015, Alwaleed launched a broadside against Donald Trump.

“You are a disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America,” Alwaleed wrote. “Withdraw from the US presidential race as you will never win.”

Trump fired back, calling him the “Dopey Prince.” And indeed, by trying to curry favor with one U.S. political party at the expense of the other and taking a swipe at the eventual winner of the 2016 race, Alwaleed richly earned the nickname.

As for Musk, maybe he saw Alwaleed’s salvo as an opportunity to fire a shot across Riyadh’s bow. A few years ago, he had been in negotiations with Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund to take Tesla private, but the deal fell apart in 2018 after Musk wrote on Twitter, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”

The Twitter post triggered an SEC investigation, a $20 million fine for Musk, and another $20 million fine for Tesla. And it gave evidence to the Saudis that the genius inventor was something of a loose cannon.

Of course, that’s one of the reasons that free speech advocates have invested their faith in Musk. He’s bold and unpredictable and likes taking on the establishment. And as the world’s richest man, he can afford to do so.

Given Twitter’s status, perhaps undeserved, as the world’s public square, Americans are now looking to Musk to give them back their voice and lead the struggle against the regime consortium that has silenced and deplatformed them and their leaders—including Trump. The joint efforts of social media platforms, prestige press organizations, big tech, intelligence services, and Democratic Party operatives to censor the opposition and block reports damaging to the regime shouldn’t be shaping America’s political reality.

It may be true that Musk, as some believe, is the best hope to restore free speech in America. But the mistake is thinking that the government of Saudi Arabia is on the side of America’s performatively progressive oligarchy. The reality is that MBS holds a personal grudge against the same people who are targeting Trump and his supporters.

The crown prince reportedly refuses to take Joe Biden’s phone calls. That’s because the White House is keen on restoring Barack Obama’s deal with Iran that legalizes the terror state’s nuclear weapons program—even as Iranian proxies continue to launch missiles against Saudi cities, airports, and oil facilities.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Saudi TV shows air parodies of a decrepit Biden falling asleep at the presidential podium. The current U.S. president is distrusted and disliked by one of America’s oldest allies in the Middle East.

But MBS’s issues with the U.S. oligarchy predate the Biden administration. In 2020, Amazon founder and The Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos claimed, without evidence, that MBS had hacked his personal cell phone.

It seems rather that Bezos was concerned about the publication of photographs documenting his adulterous relationship with a TV news hostess. To deflect attention from his infidelity, Bezos perhaps sought to foment an international scandal by claiming that MBS had lifted the photos off his phone. In fact, they were allegedly released by Bezos’s mistress’s brother.

Bezos’s newspaper also played the lead role in a propaganda campaign holding the crown prince personally responsible for the 2018 murder of former Saudi intelligence officer and MBS critic Jamal Khashoggi. The purpose of that information operation was to possibly try to force Trump to break with Saudi Arabia and embrace Iran, as Obama had.

Instead, Trump defended America’s decades-long alliance with Riyadh. He said the U.S.–Saudi patron-client relationship kept oil prices stable and Saudi investment in the United States created U.S. jobs. Trump believed that the alliance was so vital to U.S. national interests that Saudi Arabia was the first foreign country he visited as president.

It’s perhaps a symptom of how badly the regime’s communications infrastructure has polluted the information ecosystem that Trump supporters turned on a foreign country that Trump regarded as a pillar of U.S. peace and prosperity.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Lee Smith is a veteran journalist whose work appears in Real Clear Investigations, the Federalist, and Tablet. He is the author of "The Permanent Coup" and "The Plot Against the President."