Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

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Saudi twins Mohammed and Murad Salem have accumulated more than 500,000 followers on Instagram through their pranks and comedic skits. Social media
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Saudi YouTube and Instagram Pranksters Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz have combined to amass over 1.3 million subscribers and followers between them. Social media
Updated 17 April 2018
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Beware: Saudi pranksters are on the prowl, and they're ready to catch you out

  • Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing
  • A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter

JEDDAH: Although people have been pranking each other for thousands of years, the age of the internet paved the way for mainstream video-sharing websites such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, ushering in a global platform of viewers for pranksters. Famous YouTube and Instagram pranksters are quickly establishing themselves as the new generation of self-made celebrities.
They have built a fan base by creating entertaining user-friendly content, even if at others’ expense.
Pranking is entertaining on multiple levels because it serves to manipulate social power, cultural norms and status hierarchies while initiating strong human emotional responses.
“Not only is a good prank harmless, but like a good story, it reveals an essential truth that would otherwise be hidden,” said American author Mac Barnett. “It is a great way to indicate the underlying absurdities of the world.”
There can be a lot to learn about human responses through this sometimes-cruel engagement. Since pranking is heavily influenced by societal and cultural norms, they function as a release of pent-up societal tensions.
Confusion, embarrassment, flattery, fear and ultimately laughter are sought when individuals are being pranked.
That feeling of losing control or being rendered powerless in a situation can illicit powerful human responses.
A well-constructed prank is a sort of social experiment on human emotions under the guise of seeking laughter.
Saudi Arabia, too, has a culture of pranksters to contribute to this trending industry, in Mohammed and Murad Salem, and Hassan and Hussein bin Mahfouz.
The two sets of twins have garnered nearly 2 million subscribers and followers combined on YouTube and Instagram by uploading entertaining skits and pranks in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Pranks have been our hobby long before social media. Now with social media, the idea has become more of a prank war between us as twins,” the Salems told Arab News.
“In Saudi Arabia, pranks are far from dangerous or intimidating. They rely on public embarrassment. We find they’re usually popular among most society groups, especially youngsters, and although not everyone will like our pranks, most encourage us to keep doing them.”
But it is imperative to not just look at pranking through rose-colored glasses, as it can deeply affect and emotionally scar some victims.
Since pranking can often involve social humiliation, a three-way relationship between the one who humiliates, the victim and the witness can create a helpless power dynamic for emotionally sensitive individuals.
“The reaction we often get from friends and family is positive,” the Salems said. “Although we don’t always agree on how bad the pranks should be, we make sure not to cross any red lines, as certain pranks have led to serious confrontations.”
Saudi prank culture has always existed, but it is only now starting to garner exposure and attention via social-media platforms. An added incentive is the potential income these content creators can accumulate via advertising revenue.
But the Salems aim to use their fame from pranking as a stepping stone to much bigger ventures. “We want to expand and enter the fields of media and acting,” they said.
“Pranks were one of the reasons that led us to fame, but we also sing. We’re currently studying some ideas to create sketches that portray everyday situations in a comedic way.”


4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

Updated 21 April 2018
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4 ex-presidents among hundreds at Barbara Bush’s funeral

  • President Trump's misses out on attending former first lady Barbara Bush's funeral
  • Former US presidents and their spouses attend the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush

HOUSTON: Four former presidents joined ambassadors, sports stars and hundreds of other mourners on a gray, rainy day Saturday at the private funeral for Barbara Bush, filling the nation’s largest Episcopal church a day after more than 6,000 people paid their respects to the woman known by many as “America’s matriarch.”
President George H.W. Bush was helped into the cavernous sanctuary with a wheelchair behind his sons, former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and other Bush relatives to remember his wife of 73 years who died at their home Tuesday at age 92.
Also seated near the front of the church, in the same pew, were two other former presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — along with their wives and current first lady Melania Trump.
Flags were flown at half-mast for the wife of the nation’s 41st president and mother of the nation’s 43rd as the service began at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, as the choir sang “My Country Tis of Thee.” The church is adorned with sprays of yellow garden roses, yellow snap dragons, antique hydrangeas and other flowers.
Among the other roughly 1,500 guests were former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and professional golfer Phil Mickelson, along with Karl Rove, and other former White House staff. Many were seen embracing in the church before the service.
President Donald Trump isn’t attending to avoid security disruptions and “out of respect for the Bush family and friends attending the service,” according to the White House. He released a statement Saturday saying his “thoughts and prayers” are “with the entire Bush family.”
A burial will follow at the Bush Library at Texas A&M University, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) northwest of Houston. The burial site is in a gated plot surrounded by trees and near a creek where the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953, is buried.
The family has said Barbara Bush had selected son Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, to deliver a eulogy along with her longtime friend Susan Baker, wife of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a 2015 biography of her husband.
The funeral program shows that her grandchildren will also play prominent roles: her granddaughters will offer readings during the service and her grandsons will serve pallbearers.
On Friday, a total of 6,231 people stopped by the church to pay their respects. Many of the women wore the former first lady’s favorite color, blue, and trademark pearls.
After seeing how many people had lined up to pay their respects to his wife, former President George H.W. Bush decided to attend — he sat at the front of the church in a wheelchair, offering his hand and smiled as people shook it, for about 15 minutes.
Barbara and George Bush were married longer than any other presidential couple when she died Tuesday at their home in Houston. She was 92.
One of just two first ladies to have a child elected president, Barbara Bush was widely admired for her plainspoken style and her advocacy for causes including literacy and AIDS awareness.
Barbara Bush was known as the “Enforcer” in her family, the glue who kept the high-powered clan together. Eight of her grandsons will serve as pallbearers.