Tom Friedman, MBS and a McKinsey metaphor gone horribly wrong

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman enthusing over Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Nov. 7, 2017:

He is much more McKinsey than Wahhabi — much more a numbers cruncher than a Quran thumper.

The New York Times reporting on Saudi Arabia’s brutal crackdown on dissidents under Salman, Oct. 20, 2018:

After the country [Saudi Arabia] announced economic austerity measures in 2015 to offset low oil prices and control a widening budget gap, McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, measured the public reception of those policies.

In a nine-page report, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, McKinsey found that the measures received twice as much coverage on Twitter than in the country’s traditional news media or blogs, and that negative sentiment far outweighed positive reactions on social media.

Three people were driving the conversation on Twitter, the firm found: the writer Khalid al-Alkami; Mr. Abdulaziz, the young dissident living in Canada; and an anonymous user who went by Ahmad.

After the report was issued, Mr. Alkami was arrested, the human rights group ALQST said. Mr. Abdulaziz said that Saudi government officials imprisoned two of his brothers and hacked his cellphone, an account supported by a researcher at Citizen Lab. Ahmad, the anonymous account, was shut down.

McKinsey said the austerity report was an internal document based on publicly available information and not prepared for any government entity.

“We are horrified by the possibility, however remote, that it could have been misused,” a McKinsey spokesman said in a statement. “We have seen no evidence to suggest that it was misused, but we are urgently investigating how and with whom the document was shared.”

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