White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre came very close to committing the cardinal sin of referring to a US-aligned nation as a “regime” on Monday.
In the official White House transcript of Jean-Pierre’s interaction with a reporter inquiring about Biden’s upcoming meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the press secretary’s comment reads as follows:
“Of course, he will be — they will discuss energy with the Saudi government.”
However, if you watch a video clip highlighted on Twitter by Kawsachun News’ Camila Escalante, you’ll notice Jean-Pierre gets tripped up before the word “government”, with a more accurate transcribing reading something like, “Of course, he will be — they will discuss energy with the Saudi re— uhh, err, government.”
Which is hilarious, because for imperial spinmeisters the word “regime” is traditionally reserved for governments which are not aligned with the US empire, because it suggests that they are undemocratic and authoritarian. The theocratic monarchy of Saudi Arabia is most certainly authoritarian and is the exact opposite of democratic, but because it is aligned with the interests of Washington that pejorative label is typically avoided at the upper echelons of imperial narrative management.
Whether or not a government will be affixed with this label has far less to do with its level of oppressiveness than with whether or not it cooperates with imperial agendas. In a 2018 article titled “A ‘Regime’ Is a Government at Odds With the US Empire,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Gregory Shupak explained:
The function of “regime” is to construct the ideological scaffolding for the United States and its partners to attack whatever country has a government described in this manner. According to the mainstream media, the democratically elected government of Nicaragua is a “regime” (Washington Post, 7/11/18). Cuba also has a “regime” (Washington Post, 7/25/18). Iraq and Libya used to have “regimes”—before the United States implemented “regime change.” North Korea most definitely has one (New York Times, 7/26/18), as do China (Washington Post, 8/3/18) and Russia (Wall Street Journal, 7/15/18).
When, for the media, does a government become a “regime”? The answer, broadly speaking: A country’s political leaders are likely to be called a “regime” when they do not follow US dictates, and are less likely to be categorized as such if they cooperate with the empire.
Washington’s economic and military partner Saudi Arabia is described as having a “regime” far less often than is Syria, despite its rather “regime”-like qualities: Its unelected government represses dissidents, including advocates for women and its Shia minority, and carries out executions at an extraordinary clip, including of people accused of adultery, apostasy and witchcraft. Saudi Arabia crushed an uprising in neighboring Bahrain in 2011, and with its US and UK partners, is carrying out an almost apocalyptic war in Yemen.