George Clooney, Desperate Housewives fight jihad

US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks shows that US films and TV shows are "a means of countering extremists" in Saudi Arabia.

George Clooney 311 (photo credit: AP)
George Clooney 311
(photo credit: AP)
American films and television shows, such as the Late Show with David Letterman, Friends and Desperate Housewives have helped persuade Saudi youth to reject extremism, according to a US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks this week.
The cable, which was sent in May 2009 from Riyadh and titled "Ideological and Ownership Trends in the Saudi Media," featured a section called "David Letterman, Agent of Influence."
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According to the document, the most popular television shows in Saudi Arabia were American ones, broadcast uncensored with Arabic subtitles. "This programming is also very popular in remote, conservatives corners of the country," the cable explains.
"The government is pushing the new openness as a means of countering the extremists," a Saudi official, whose name was not released, was quoted as saying. "It's still all about the War of Ideas here, and the American winning over ordinary Saudis in a way that 'Al Hurra' [a US government-funded station] and other US propaganda never could."
"Saudis are now very interested in the outside world, and everybody wants to study in the US if they can," the official added. "They are fascinated by US culture in a way they never were before."
The cable also hinted that the Saudi government's openness to American programming was connected to "Prince Tala's relationship with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and its sister company Twentieth Century Fox."
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Films featured on the "Fox Movies" channel were said to have "a profound effect on the values and worldviews of Saudi audiences." The cables mentioned the George Clooney vehicle "Michael Clayton" as an "exemplary illustration of heroic honesty in the face of corruption," and "Insomnia," starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams, as an example of "respect for the law over self-interest."
The US's Saudi contact said that "extremist elements...have largely been deprived of their public voice in the media and on television." However, he said that Americans "still have to be careful. They [jihadists] are still out there."