The Ex-Spymaster Currently Known as Prince

Sam Husseini’s encounter with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud makes me wonder once again–why do we call a person like Al Saud a “prince”?

Al Saud was the longtime chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, and later served as ambassador to the United States and Britain. His grandfather, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, declared himself a king in 1926–which seems like kind of a late date to be latching on to the legitimacy implied by a once-upon-a-time title.

Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq in 1968. If he had decided to call himself “King Saddam,” would U.S. media have gone along with it? Would they have talked about Prince Uday and Prince Qusay? As long as Hussein was allied with Washington, they probably would have.

Or imagine that the British military decided to overthrow the elected government and install Charles Windsor as the head of a military regime. Would news reports continue to use his current ceremonial title of “prince,” or would they acknowledge that an unelected ruler in the 21st century is generally referred to as a “dictator”?

Except, of course, in the Middle East.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.