The Saudis, Khashoggi and Stalin: Why does one death count more than thousands?

Leave aside the fact that when a member of the Fourth Estate is tortured, dismembered and executed in that order, there’s an excellent chance his colleagues will rally to his defense as a simple matter of professional courtesy. The grim fate of the one has always captured the public imagination in ways that the grim fate of the many cannot.

It’s easier to see oneself as a lone victim than it is to see oneself among a host of them. Martyrdom abhors company. Death is more relatable when it is personalized. Even in tyranny, as Stalin understood so well, the grievously botched and ludicrously covered-up snuffing sticks more vividly in the memory than does the industrial slaughter or Great Terror.

But, then, for a tyrant, even a sensational mistake might prove useful, which is is why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely believed to be the intellectual author of the Khashoggi murder, may yet look for more scapegoats to sacrifice at the altar of his errors. As he cleans up the mess made by his minions, he can also clean out some more of his enemies.