A lot of advertising online is arranged by computers, by algorithm or automation. When it comes to banner ads there is a general sense of whoever is willing to pay gets the spot. That’s why you may see a Democrat campaign ad on a conservative site, or scammy weight loss ad on a prestige media outlet that debunks scams.
It’s less automated when you see ads in a newsletter, particularly sponsors (as opposed, for example, to keywork or context ads). And even with those caveats there are generally some lines. You don’t see porn ads at The New York Times.
But you did, if you read Politico’s Playbook, see one from the government of Qatar, which is not only regularly under fire as a state sponsor of terror but is controversial among both American allies and enemies alike.
And we’re not talking about a tourism ad, either. Tuesday’s Playbook — a newsletter read by everyone in D.C. politics — was sponsored, even littered, with defenses of Qatar on geopolitical grounds.
Throughout the newsletter, messages from the Qatar government appear in between tidbits of juicy news from Capitol Hill. An example:
A message from The Government of Qatar:
President Trump’s then Secretary of State on Qatar: “We are grateful to Qatar for the longstanding support of America present and continuing commitment to regional security, a commitment that includes information sharing and counterterrorism training” Learn more.
The Qatar government spends a good deal on Doha-based Al-Jazeera to get their message out, and they buy ads elsewhere in media, too. Which is not the only place big money from the nation is spent. The Wall Street Journal just in the past few weeks has outlined some of the money flow to terror from within the borders. And the country has been characterized as a haven for the terrorists themselves. And the nation’s support for Hamas and renewed closeness with Iran round out the ways in which one should probably consider government-sponsored ads from the nation to be, at the very least, iffy.
Middle East politics are complicated, obviously, and so it should be no surprise that there was previously a controversy about a political ad being run against Qatar, when Axios was dinged for ads from Saudi Arabia bashing Qatar over terror.
Axios was founded by Mike Allen, who was previously the chief editor for Politico. He earned his fame by launching and writing the Playbook, a Bible of insidery D.C. politics chat, on a daily basis.
One doesn’t have to sort out the intricacies of who is paying for which terror group and why in order to think that a news and political organization in the United States should probably consider it wise not take money to air their defense of, or someone else’s attacks on, a national government accused of being a state-sponsor of terrorism.
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