Imperial-Hipster Bible VICE Did Paid Propaganda for Saudi Arabia

Hipster media giant VICE worked with Saudi Arabia’s regime mouthpiece SRMG to create a video promoting tourism and a camel festival.

By Ben Norton

The hipster corporate media giant VICE did paid propaganda for Saudi Arabia, according to a British report on Saudi astroturf efforts.

Jim Waterson, the media editor for The Guardian, reported that VICE has worked with a soft-power arm of the Saudi royal family to generate public relations material for Saudi Arabia.

According to internal VICE sources contacted by The Guardian, the Brooklyn-based media company assembled a team to make pro-Saudi content in collaboration with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), a regime mouthpiece that is closely linked to the royal family.

The SRMG board of directors is a revolving door of Saudi princes. SRMG also owns numerous major Saudi newspapers that function as unofficial state organs, including the highly influential Asharq Al-Awsat and Arab News.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even personally met with VICE co-founder and billionaire Shane Smith, during his charm offensive in the United States in early 2018 — when the authoritarian de facto ruler likewise rubbed elbows with key figures from the US ruling class, including Oprah, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Thomas Friedman, and Jeffrey Goldberg.

Waterson noted that a video VICE published in March promoting the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival was produced in partnership with SRMG. This video has nearly 5 million views.

youtube vice saudi partnership SRMG
VICE acknowledges that it produces videos in partnership with Saudi royal mouthpiece SRMG

This revelation in The Guardian is part of a larger exposé on how the Saudi monarchy paid media outlets and public relations firms millions of dollars to spread propaganda to portray it in a positive light.

The popular British newspaper The Independent similarly has a deal with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group. And SRMG donates to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in return for assistance from the former UK prime minister.

Moreover, several major British newspapers, including The Guardian, have published paid advertisements portraying the brutally repressive Saudi crown prince as a reformer.

VICE’s American Regime Propaganda

In a two-part episode of Moderate Rebels, the podcast I co-host with Grayzone Project editor Max Blumenthal, we detailed how VICE transformed itself from a hipster bible into an echo chamber for US imperialism and the national security state.

VICE Media has received hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from some of the world’s largest corporate media conglomerates, including 21st Century Fox and Disney, and former top Obama administration official Alyssa Mastromonaco became Vice Media’s COO.

In recent years, VICE has relentlessly pushed for regime change in Syria, Libya, and other countries targeted by the US government. In addition to partnering with Saudi regime mouthpieces, VICE co-produced a hawkish documentary with Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, which brought together notorious neoconservatives and neoliberals to advance US foreign policy interests.

Another co-founder of VICE, Gavin McInnes, since leaving the company in disagreement with the other co-founders, has become a far-right demagogue and leader of the hate group the Proud Boys, which McInnes has proudly referred to as a “gang.”

The VICE co-founder has openly encouraged and incited violence against leftists and marginalized  groups, stating, “We will kill you… We will assassinate you,” and “Fighting solves everything. We need more violence from the Trump people. Trump supporters: Choke a motherfucker. Choke a bitch. Choke a tranny. Get your fingers around the windpipe.”

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a producer and reporter for The Real News, and a contributor to the Grayzone Project and FAIR. Ben co-hosts the Moderate Rebels podcast with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.