Of All the Absurd Political Interviews in the World, This Might be the Most Absurd

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If I didn’t know that Mehdi Assan was an Al-Jazeera journalist, and if I hadn’t confirmed that Abdallah al-Mouallimi was an actual UN ambassador from Saudi Arabia, I would have 100 percent believed that the video below was a smart, insightful comedy sketch.

The crux of what’s happening in the clip: Assan is asking al-Mouallimi why Saudi Arabia supports democratic elections in Syria, but won’t support them in Saudi Arabi—where it’s actually illegal to call for a change in government. That’s enough explanation, because the rest has to be seen to be believed:

My favorite part, for those who can’t watch:

Al-Mouallini: Go and ask the Saudi people if they are happy with their system of government.

Assan: How do I do that? What’s the process?

Al-Mouallini: In any way way you want.

Assan: Opinion polls?

Al-Mouallini: Opinion polls, anything.

Assan: What about an election?


No, wait, this is actually my favorite part:

Al-Mouallini: The key question is, is the population content and happy and satisfied with the form of government they have. And I would like to claim that if you went to Saudi Arabia, and you conducted a survey in any way, official, formal, otherwise, you would find a high degree of support for the system of government in Saudi Arabia.

Assan: Isn’t that partly because if they do say they don’t want this government, they want another government, they’ll go to jail. It’s against the law in Saudi Arabia to call for a change in the system of government.

Al-Mouallini: But that’s not the issue—

Assan: That is the issue…how can I as a Saudi say I want different system of government if it’s illegal for me to say that?

Al-Mouallini: I’m saying that if there was a way by which you could ask the common people in the street anonymously, privately…

Assan: There is. It’s called voting.

Al-Mouallini: —awkward silence—


The absurdity is so rich. Credit to Assan for sticking it to the ambassador, but man, the self-delusion is strong here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any politician walk into a trap with that level of denial before. And maybe “absurdity” is the wrong term for this conversation…does “heartbreaking irony” work better? Too bad there’s no way for the people reading this article to make their voices heard in a public way that would allow other readers to get a sense of the general preference and to contribute their own views. Oh well.

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