Fox News and the new political landscape: A sociological perspective

September 24, 2023

By Dalal A. Bin Hamdan, Ph.D.

Recently, the world witnessed a momentous event when Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) had his first conversation in English with Fox News channel. This engagement with a local American TV channel, known for its strong support from the Republican Party, marked a significant milestone for both Americans and Saudis alike.

It was a momentous occasion, not just due to the time differences that made it either a “BIG DAY” or “BIG NIGHT,” but because it provided insights into the intellectual prowess of MBS as he engaged in what’s often referred to as “English Framework Thinking.”

Americans have a particular fascination with the concept of “thinking like them when you’re speaking their mother tongue.” This notion is something I’d like to elucidate for my fellow Saudi Arabian readers, who are currently celebrating National Day with boundless joy and enthusiasm.

To comprehend why MBS’s age was a major concern in the questions asked during the interview and why the reference to language in a local channel was so vital, we need to delve into some sociological aspects.

Western culture has historically been associated with cultural imperialism, believing itself to be “dominant,” the “standard,” and an “excellent example” for others to follow. Bret Baier, the host of the interview, embodied this mindset.

From Baier’s impeccable appearance to his serious demeanor, he exuded an air of White Supremacy or White Objectivity, while subtly conveying that they are just “mellow.” This raises questions about the power dynamics at play in society.

In sociological terms, power is defined as the “control to have an impact on others,” while age is a “time dimension” that encompasses various phases in human development, such as education, marriage, and retirement. Thirty is a pivotal age when individuals typically embark on their family and career journeys after enjoying the carefree days of college life.

However, the age of thirty as a powerful leader often raises eyebrows, primarily due to the American classical assumption that individuals in power should ideally fall within the age range of fifty to late sixty — considered the age of wisdom. Yet, MBS’s responses during the interview challenged these norms and made us proud of his age.

The importance of language in the context of Fox News and imperialism thinking cannot be overstated. English is not merely a language but a means of exerting power and control, a tool for shaping worldviews and dictating behavior. It’s a form of colonialism, albeit a more sophisticated and civil one, used for educational purposes.

Bret Baier, even when off-camera (likely wearing a brighter smile), was clearly eager to witness how MBS’s mind operated in English. He had high expectations and posed questions to gauge the Crown Prince’s intellectuality. Baier’s curiosity was met with responses that both disappointed and reassured him.

MBS performed admirably in his first English-language interview. His profound, witty, and informed answers showcased his confidence. He has created a brand built on transparency, loyalty, and a deep-rooted sense of being Saudi at heart. In essence, every word he uttered conveyed, “I am Saudi at the core of my heart, and you’d better watch out.”

American sociologist Robert K. Merton’s idea that “the micro-environment shapes individuals’ thinking” helps us understand why Baier asked provocative questions related to MBS’s age. Age undoubtedly influences one’s capacity for holding positions of power.

From a sociological perspective and functional analysis, the interview served as an introduction to the American public about the new political landscape represented by MBS. Despite being under forty, he has demonstrated the acumen and sharpness that set him apart from other world leaders.

His age has become a new norm for power and knowledge structure in our post-information age, where the majority of the global population falls within the same age group as the Crown Prince.

The timing of the interview on Fox News, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, is significant. It is likely to resonate with younger Americans who aspire to make a difference, especially in contrast to the political landscape dominated by politicians in their seventies, such as Trump and Biden. This contrast leaves many Americans feeling frustrated and torn between respecting their elders in power and desiring their retirement from federal offices.

In conclusion, the interview was a pivotal moment for both Saudi Arabia and the United States. It shed light on the interplay between age and power, essential elements for promising reforms and programs aimed at enhancing the quality of life.

As we celebrate National Day, let us reflect on this fascinating intersection of age, power, and language.

— The writer is Professor of Sociology based on Saudi Arabia. She can be reached on X account @Dalal770.

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