The Atlantic June 2022 Issue: Readers Discuss Mohammed Bin Salman and COVID Skeptics

Absolute Power

Mohammed bin Salman is modernizing a stubbornly premodern kingdom, Graeme Wood wrote in April. He has additionally eradicated rivals and critics, making a local weather of worry with out precedent in Saudi Arabia’s historical past.

Graeme Wood’s article is the very best argument I’ve learn in a while for why the West must wean itself off oil. Mohammed bin Salman could be very scary, and holds nice energy solely due to our oil habit. The prospect of him being in energy for 40 to 50 years is really chilling, and needs to be all the motivation we have to transfer to renewable power now.

Thomas Cannon
Leicester, N.C.

No sooner had I learn Graeme Wood’s fascinating article on absolute energy in Saudi Arabia than I noticed the information that 81 folks had been executed in someday within the nation.

Wood concludes his article with nice care and talent, but means that the U.S. should discover a modus vivendi to work with the crown prince. Is this doable?

Frank Vogl
Author, The Enablers
Washington, D.C.

I’ve learn The Atlantic for years. While I recognize that your publication usually presents a differing perspective from my very own, I discover the character of this interview unconscionable.

I might like to know why, in your opinion, MBS agreed to cooperate for this text. Do you assume he likes the eye? Do you assume he knew his staff may cherry-pick items of reward from it? Do you assume he thought it may whitewash his tarnished legacy? It appears to me that it did all three.

Alex Chapman
New Orleans, La.

There aren’t any phrases for what The Atlantic has carried out right here. The U.S. intelligence neighborhood has concluded that MBS accredited the grotesque homicide of Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has an unelected, authoritarian regime that brutally suppresses dissent. The standing of girls there stays subordinate, and the current “reforms” hardly even qualify as beauty. Saudi Arabia’s brutal warfare in Yemen has created one of many world’s most horrific humanitarian disasters. MBS has not condemned Vladimir Putin’s slaughter of harmless Ukrainian civilians. There isn’t any excuse for coddling authoritarian murderers.

Gary Stewart
Laguna Beach, Calif.

I’ve by no means written a letter to the editor earlier than, however felt compelled to after studying Graeme Wood’s current article “Of Course Journalists Should Interview Autocrats,” written in response to criticism of his April cowl story. Both this text and Mr. Wood’s authentic profile of MBS had been actually necessary items of journalism that knowledgeable me a few world chief and an accused murderer who has largely fallen out of the information as outrage over Jamal Khashoggi’s homicide has ebbed.

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That’s why I used to be disillusioned to learn that Mr. Wood’s article had prompted a little bit of a stir amongst Western journalists. He was 100% appropriate when he wrote in his follow-up article, “Any publication bragging that it is too sanctimonious to accept an invitation to interview the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is admitting it cannot cover Saudi Arabia.” Although Mr. Wood’s phrases could have been utilized by Saudi propagandists and prompted controversy right here within the West, I’m happy with each him and The Atlantic for interviewing MBS.

Eric Wells
Miami, Fla.

It was wonderful to me how a lot character was revealed by the quotations that Graeme Wood selected to place in his horrifying portrait of Saudi Arabia’s chief with out ever making a press release of his personal opinion.

Bruce C. Miller
Alexandria, Va.

Stiff Neck

Richard Russo had run out of sympathy for COVID skeptics, he wrote in April—till he remembered his father.

Thanks for Richard Russo’s considerate essay about lack of sympathy for anti-vaxxers. The means Russo associated this world subject to his private expertise together with his in-laws, and the sometimes-outdated views his late father espoused from his barstool, reaffirmed why he’s certainly one of my favourite writers. And his level about how lack of entry to good well being care has contributed to the anti-vax motion is one thing I hadn’t totally thought-about.

However, the larger downside stays: Those who unfold COVID skepticism—or racism, like Russo’s dad—don’t simply damage themselves; they harm society at giant. Perhaps, as Russo suggests, writing about others, and studying about them, may give us the empathy many appear to be missing.

Adam Idelson
New York, N.Y.

Just earlier than studying Richard Russo’s lovely essay, I used to be reviewing my college students’ solutions to numerous multiple-choice questions on a current quiz. Just about everybody received many of the questions proper, however for one specific query, half of the scholars chosen the mistaken reply. When that occurs, both the query was phrased in a complicated means or the trainer failed to speak the underlying precept successfully. It would clearly be inappropriate to conclude that as a result of they chose the mistaken response, half of the scholars have to be fools. As Russo so artfully factors out, the identical is true of refusals to put on a masks or obtain inoculations to guard towards COVID-19. If a big share of the inhabitants refuses to comply with public-health suggestions, then one thing is mistaken both with the best way necessary messages are delivered or with the best way many individuals’s life experiences are understood. As a society, we should study to do higher on each fronts. Along the best way, Russo’s feedback could assist restore an applicable stage of compassion for individuals who undergo needlessly.

Steve Weissman
Lecturer, UC Berkeley
Goldman School of Public Policy

Berkeley, Calif.

The Facts

What we realized fact-checking this subject

In“Can Forensic Science Be Trusted?” Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes concerning the public’s reverence for forensic science, a area that was given new prominence when the sequence CSI turned successful within the early aughts. That long-running present, in addition to its many spin-offs and look-alikes, provided viewers a shiny, high-tech imaginative and prescient of forensics—a world the place compelling proof is sort of at all times obtainable and savvy investigators produce conclusive findings.

Various research concerning the so-called CSI impact discover that familiarity with the present doesn’t appear to sway jurors’ verdicts. Still, analysis suggests, watching CSI can affect jurors’ expectations about what sort of proof needs to be introduced in courtroom.

Prosecutors, protection attorneys, and judges are all alert to the potential pitfalls of such expectations—as I noticed in trial transcripts I learn whereas fact-checking Hagerty’s article. During a 2008 homicide trial, an Ohio prosecutor requested potential jurors if they may put aside their assumptions—“not feeling like Horatio [the protagonist on CSI: Miami] would have done this and that, and the other thing.”

Such approaches will not be unusual, because the legislation professor Tamara F. Lawson has famous. One Florida decide routinely asks jurors earlier than choice in the event that they notice that some assessments carried out on CSI aren’t doable in actual life, and confirms that they’d be prepared to convict with out CSI-style proof. A Maryland decide has reminded jurors that “there is no legal requirement that the State utilize any specific investigative technique or scientific test to prove its case.” Anticipating that jurors will count on fingerprint proof, prosecutors now regularly have a fingerprint examiner testify, even in circumstances the place no prints had been discovered.

As a prosecutor put it in his closing argument in that 2008 homicide trial: “We live in a CSI age. We put on the show.”

Stephanie Hayes, Deputy Research Chief

Behind the Cover

In “Chasing Joan Didion,” Caitlin Flanagan units out on a journey to go to a number of the locations in California the place the late author lived. For the journal’s cowl, we wished to re-create her in a vivid gentle. We requested the artist Wayde McIntosh to painting her on the seashore, in Malibu. McIntosh’s Didion meets our gaze earlier than a backdrop of wealthy yellows, blues, and greens that evoke the Southern California hills the place she as soon as resided.

Gabriela Pesqueira, Associate Art Director

This article seems within the June 2022 print version with the headline “The Commons.”

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