Sunday, May 30

News Not News

Everybody's reporting that the attacks in Saudi Arabia are aimed at the Saudi oil industry. Everybody except one source, that is - Market Flash. This story cropped up at the very top of Google News just now.

Saudi Militants Hitting Westerners, Not Oil posted on 05/30/04

The terrorist strike in al-Khobar appears to be more ominous than recent similar strikes in Saudi Arabia. It resembles the May 1 attack on western oil workers in Yanbu, but was more elaborate and more deadly.

The attackers were organized and they seem to have prepared extensively. They wore uniforms of the Saudi National Guard, which is responsible for security at residential compounds of foreign workers, and they drove vehicles with military markings. They successfully struck multiple targets and managed to fight off security forces for a considerable period of time. They took hostages, rigged their location with explosives, and all but one gunman reportedly escaped a siege by Saudi commandos on the sixth floor of a high-rise building.

Based on a statement attributed to its planners, the primary aim was to lash out at westerners who work in the Saudi oil industry and drive them out of the Arabian Penninsula. This motivation is corroborated by the attackers' behavior. For example, this is the second recent incident in which a foreign worker's body was reportedly tied to a vehicle and dragged through the streets by militants, a tactic clearly meant to terrorize and strike fear into the hearts of foreigners living in the kingdom.
If the skeptic in you is saying "What do these guys have to gain by reporting this story from this angle?" reward your inner skeptic. Click on Market Flash's "About Us" button, and here's what we find.

MARKET-FLASH Advisory Services is a boutique consulting firm specializing in global political risk and its effects on oil and financial markets.

Now more than ever, investors are exposed to a variety of geopolitical risk factors that directly affect their bottom line. Using a unique network of global contacts in industry and government, MARKET-FLASH is able to tell its clients
What's happening in the world - and what's likely to happen next
How these developments will affect energy and financial markets
Which trading/investment strategies can reduce risk and enhance profits
Who benefits from MARKET-FLASH Advisory Services?
Oil trading companies
Asset-management funds
Hedge funds
Investors whose portfolios are affected by political risk
It's one thing to be alarmist in the name of selling your goods and services, which is ghoulish enough.

To warrant the lead spot at a "news" site like Google News borders on downright scary. Pity anyone who took this as real news. Google needs a spankin' here.

Give 'em one. (

CLARIFICATION: Some folks have e-mailed me chastising me that I shouldn't object to the story strictly because it's not in line with my way of thinking. That's not the point at all. Otherwise, I'd be calling for a LOT of spankings.

My objection is the actual source itself - an obvious commerce site which is specifically selling a service. Google News adding this to its news crawler is like using eBay as one of their sources. Can you imagine a Google News headline leading the page, "Lose 40 Pounds by July!" and the story links to one of 10,000 eBay auctions for carb blockers? This is the same thing - posting a story meant to foster fear and to sell their services. Had it come from Fox, Reuters, Buzzflash, WaPo, NewsMax or anywhere else - no problem. Hope I cleared that up.