Bigger, Better, Shinier Human Rights

My latest Free Inquiry column is online. Usually they’re subscribers-only, so it’s fun to be able to share.

It’s about Saudi Arabia’s indignation at Margot Wallström for daring to mention human rights in her address to a meeting of the Arab League – a very mild, gentle, tactful mention.

That’s all. It doesn’t seem very confrontational or harsh, does it? In fact I would expect Saudi Arabia to go the opposite way and nod pleasantly throughout the speech by way of showing the world that of course it agrees that human rights and women’s rights are important. After all, Saudi Arabia sent a representative to the Charlie Hebdo march for freedom of expression in Paris in January, despite the obvious fact that it doesn’t believe in freedom of expression at all. It could have played the game exactly the same way in March, cynically pretending to agree with Sweden in order to keep the game of diplomatic cooperation and lucrative arms deals going.

I go on to get rather confrontational and harsh myself, which is the advantage of being a writer as opposed to a foreign minister.



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