Trend stories are some of my least favourite kind of stories in the media. Even worse, many of these trend stories tend to be bogus. “The bogus trend story thrives thanks to the journalists who never let the facts get in the way when they think they’ve discovered some new social tendency,” says Slate’s Jack Shafer.
It is said that one is an exception, two is a coincidence, but three is a trend. However, when it comes to Saudi Arabia and its infamous religious police two is more than enough to make a trend, apparently. During the last week, international media went crazy over two little stories about attacks on the members of Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) aka Haia.
Many reporters who worked on these stories from abroad called their sources in the Kingdom asking them the same question: Does this incident (and later these two incidents) indicate a shift in attitude by the public towards the religious police? Regardless of the answers they got, they somehow came out with pieces along the line that Saudi people have had it and are finally rising up against Haia.
Sorry to disappoint you guys, but I really do not think this is the case. The talk about a revolt against Haia is a gross exaggeration. What these stories suggest is not an anti-Commission revolution but rather a change in the press. Few years ago these kind of stories won’t make headlines; now they do. Local media cannot be blamed for hyping up Haia stories because, well, they sell. It is outside observers and self-appointed experts that should be blamed for falling for bogus trends.