RSN Fundraising Banner
'Shameless' Influencers Face Backlash for Promoting Saudi Arabia Music Festival
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=52710"><span class="small">Alyx Gorman, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Wednesday, 25 December 2019 15:00

Gorman writes: "MDL Beast had all the markings of a big budget electronic music festival. The line-up included big name acts like David Guetta and Steve Aoki."

Armie Hammer, Joan Smalls and Wilmer Valderrama attend the MDL Beast Festival Lunch at the historical city of Diriyah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)
Armie Hammer, Joan Smalls and Wilmer Valderrama attend the MDL Beast Festival Lunch at the historical city of Diriyah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (photo: Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)


'Shameless' Influencers Face Backlash for Promoting Saudi Arabia Music Festival

By Alyx Gorman, Guardian UK

25 December 19


Celebrities criticised for posting about a ‘cultural revolution’ in country without mentioning human rights record

DL Beast had all the markings of a big budget electronic music festival. The line-up included big name acts like David Guetta and Steve Aoki. The guest list featured supermodels (Joan Smalls and Alessandro Ambrosio) and actors (Armie Hammer and Ed Westwick), and there was plenty of fluorescent face paint and neon lights.

But the event was not held in the California or the Nevada desert. Instead, MDL Beast was located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The festival, which took place over the weekend, billed itself as “the region’s biggest music event”. Now many of its high profile attendees are being accused of engaging in “image rehab” for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

It is not the first time western celebrities and influencers have been criticised for promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination. In September, the kingdom announced it would open itself to foreign tourism. In addition to offering tourist visas, the government enacted policy changes to make the region more appealing to tourists, including allowing unmarried foreign couples to book hotel rooms together, and allowing solo female travellers to rent hotel rooms.

Following these changes a number of influencers, with follower numbers in the hundreds of thousands, accepted paid-for press trips to the kingdom, and posted fawning commentary on social media.

The biggest-name attendees at MDLBeast have follower counts in the millions. While many documented their experience at the festival on social media, mentions of the kingdom’s human rights record were noticeably absent.

Actor Armie Hammer said on Instagram the festival was “felt like a cultural shift”.

Journalist Yashar Ali responded by asking Hammer “Did you find Jamal Khashoggi’s body while you were there?” Podcast host and writer Aminatou Sow said on Twitter that influencer culture was “shameless”.

According to Instagram stories posted by model Theodora Quinlivan, Emily Ratajkowski – who has more than 24 million followers – turned down a paid invitation to attend the festival, because she was uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, particularly for LGBTIQ+ people.

The actions of the influencers were called out by Diet Prada, an Instagram account that has garnered 1.6 million followers for criticising the fashion industry on issues of plagiarism and cultural appropriation. Diet Prada received a statement from Ratajkowski detailing why she declined to attend.

“It’s very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there,” the statement said.

View this post on Instagram

What’s worse than an all white @revolve influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, a country said to be causing “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, according to the United Nations. According to anonymous sources, six-figure sums were offered for attendance and geo-tagged posts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Following the government’s pre-meditated murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018 , the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in May 2018, the outing of a gay Saudi journalist and his partner who began receiving death threats from their families (homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death), and countless other human rights abuses, a bevy of supermodels, influencers, celebrities, and musicians convened in Riyadh for the inaugural @mdlbeast . According to @hypebeast , the electronic music festival is “one of the most significant musical events the region has ever seen”. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Saudi Arabia has been spending billions to change its image in the west, but this is sure to be the most expensive campaign yet. In a series of Instagram stories posted by transgender model @teddy_quinlivan , it was revealed that fellow model @emrata had turned down the trip, evidently aware of the country’s human rights crisis. “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there”, said Ratajkowski in a statement to Diet Prada. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Unfortunately, not all shared the same sentiments. There are simply too many attendees to name. Dieters, feel free to tag any attendees you know of... just in case they haven’t been reading the news. • #propoganda #jamalkashoggi #humanrights #humanrightsabuse #lgbtq #lgbtqrights #freespeech #journalism #independent #womensrights #mdlbeast #edm #electronicmusic #supermodel #influencer #content #riyadh #emrata #emilyratajkowski #teddyquinlivan #model #celebrity #dj #electronicmusic #musicfestival #wtf #smh #government #corruption #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on

Writer and editor Phillip Picardi, who has previously worked as digital editorial director of Conde Nast’s Teen Vogue was also critical. On Instagram stories, he said he was “extremely, profoundly disappointed to see people on my Instagram feed who traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of their government’s image rehabilitation campaign”. He later posted: “a lot of the messaging of the captions is about portraying SA as changed and accepting, and the trips appear to be coordinated with the government or tourism board. You can’t really ‘buy’ that kind of messaging, and how was your experience there tainted by who organized your trip and what you can or cannot say?”

Smalls, Hammer, Westwick, Amy Jackson and Ambrosio, amongst others, all posted content from the festival, as did Halima Aden, one of the first hijab-wearing models to sign with a major modelling agency. Ambrosio and Aden disclosed that they had been paid to post.

Conde Nast publication Glamour UK also included a sponsored campaign from the festival.

The festival comes more than one year after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The killing was soon traced to the door of the Saudi royal court. The stain on the reputation of the royal family endures, despite Crown Prince Mohammed’s repeated denials that he had personally issued the “kill order”.

The prince has presided over an opening up of the kingdom, allowing women to travel without the permission of a male guardian, register a marriage and be the legal guardian of children.

Still in place, however, are rules that require male consent for a woman to leave prison, exit a domestic abuse shelter or marry. Women, unlike men, still cannot pass on citizenship to their children and cannot provide consent for their children to marry.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 December 2019 15:32