Gov't Spokeswoman Brings #Influencer #Vibes to Discussion of Murdered Saudi Journalist

Secretary Mike Pompeo’s spokeswoman posted tone-deaf influencer-style photos from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

by Rachel Tashjian
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Oct 18 2018, 4:59pm

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia and Turkey this week to meet with leaders of both countries to discuss the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey over two weeks ago to sign his divorce papers and never left—likely because he was tortured and murdered by Saudi agents who possibly acted at the behest of the Saudi Crown Prince, according to Turkish and American intelligence as well as multiple audio tapes of the murder.

Pompeo brought his spokeswoman Heather Nauert along with him—and, according to her Instagram, she is having the #trip of a #lifetime!

Yesterday, she posted a photograph of herself outside the Saudi Court, either just before or after Pompeo met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed inside the building to ask about the possibility that they orchestrated Khashoggi’s murder and to express his support for a full investigation. Pompeo grinned and shook hands with the Saudi leaders and refused acknowledge Khashoggi’s death, instead referring to the journalist, who was highly critical of the Saudi government and worked as a columnist for the Washington Post, as “missing,” despite mounting intelligence from the Turkish government that he was brutally killed and dismembered.

“#SaudiaArabia at the Royal Court,” read Nauert’s Instagram caption.

A day later, Pompeo traveled to Ankara to meet with Turkish officials, at which time the Turkish media continued to leak intelligence suggesting that Khashoggi was murdered by members of the Crown Prince’s inner circle.

“#Turkishcoffee in #Turkey,” Nauert Instagrammed.

These are the kinds of posts you would expect someone with the username BrunetteCitizen to post, with a little note thanking a vodka company for generously sponsoring her trip to the #gorgeous and #sofriendly Middle East—not an employee of the United States government. What’s next, Joseon-ot shopping in North Korea?

The Trump Administration is not immune to tone-deaf blunders—in fact, that may be their only discernible media strategy. And, of course, the administration is obsessed with image (ironically, given that no administration has never been less physically appealing). But this has mostly extended to the President and First Lady’s television-inspired understanding of role-playing; “so-and-so is straight out of central casting,” Trump likes to say, and Melania dresses like she’s being advised by the finest costume designer in the business. Nauert herself has television credentials as a former Fox News host. Her name is also being floated as a replacement for Nikki Haley as U.N. ambassador.

While Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin’s wife Louise Linton plunged herself in hot water with a vicious and ignorant Instagram post last year, members of the administration and their circle have generally been more cautious about their use of the platform. But the fact that “influencer” aesthetics are now being applied to international crises adds a new level of oblivion. The “influencer” aesthetic, after all, is about documenting alternative reality—to put it cynically, its purpose is to gloss over anxiety and insist to yourself through the approval of others that everything is not merely fine but so fun and so great and aren’t you jealous? Trump continues to buy the sad Saudi line that “rogue killers” are responsible for the attack, despite information from his own government’s intelligence agencies. So why did Pompeo even have these meetings? Like Nauert, he was just doing it for the ’gram.

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