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Covering Bin Laden

Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World's Most Wanted Man

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Covering Bin Laden
    Book Description:

    Starting in 2001, much of the world media used the image of Osama bin Laden as a shorthand for terrorism. Bin Laden himself considered media manipulation on a par with military, political, and ideological tools, and intentionally used interviews, taped speeches, and distributed statements to further al-Qaida's ends. In Covering Bin Laden , editors Susan Jeffords and Fahed Yahya Al-Sumait collect perspectives from global scholars exploring a startling premise: that media depictions of Bin Laden not only diverge but often contradict each other, depending on the media provider and format, the place in which the depiction is presented, and the viewer's political and cultural background. The contributors analyze the representations of the many Bin Ladens, ranging from Al Jazeera broadcasts to video games. They examine the media's dominant role in shaping our understanding of terrorists and why/how they should be feared, and they engage with the ways the mosaic of Bin Laden images and narratives have influenced policies and actions around the world. Contributors include Fahed Al-Sumait, Saranaz Barforoush, Aditi Bhatia, Purnima Bose, Ryan Croken, Simon Ferrari, Andrew Hill, Richard Jackson, Susan Jeffords, Joanna Margueritte-Giecewicz, Noha Mellor, Susan Moeller, Brigitte Nacos, Courtney C. Radsch, and Alexander Spencer.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09682-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: After bin Laden
    (pp. vii-xxxviii)

    It would be difficult to find someone for whom this name does not evoke images, emotions, memories, desires, beliefs. Even years after his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden’s name conjures up a complex array of narratives and representational structures. Depending on one’s location—geographically, politically, religiously—the name invokes stories of evil, bravery, destruction, retribution, deception, truth-telling, cowardice, courage. The name—“Osama bin Laden”— goes far beyond the man—Osama bin Laden—and extends well beyond his death.

    In 1998, American Broadcasting Company journalist John Miller wrote that “the American people, by and large, do not know the name...


    • 1 Bin Laden’s Ghost and the Epistemological Crises of Counterterrorism
      (pp. 3-19)

      Osama bin Laden remains one of the most recognized figures of this century. At the height of the war on terror, he received more media coverage than his opponent, President George W. Bush, and likely more than any other single newsmaker over the past ten years.¹ At the same time, the United States government invested billions of dollars and vast human and material resources in the attempt to bring him to justice, arguing that as the mastermind, symbolic leader, and financier of the global jihadist movement and the individual most directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks, his death or capture...

    • 2 The Discursive Portrayals of Osama bin Laden
      (pp. 20-34)

      This chapter attempts to illustrate how the creation of illusive categories and perceptions through the use of religious metaphor among other rhetorical tools culminated in the inevitable dichotomy in the way the world perceived Osama bin Laden. It thus conceptualizes bin Laden’s discourse as a set of discursive illusions, in which the dual faces created of and by him turn out to be two sides of the same coin.

      Drawing on a combination of analytical tools, which include the historical approach, membership categorization analysis, and discourse as metaphor,¹ this chapter analyzes a selection of speeches by Osama bin Laden and...

    • 3 The bin Laden Tapes
      (pp. 35-52)

      If Osama bin Laden, in the position he assumed in relation to the spectacle of the assault on Afghanistan, can be conceived as constituting an “anamorphic ghost”—as will become evident across the course of this chapter—the conception of bin Laden as a type of ghostly presence reveals much about the role he has continued to play in the War on Terror in the midst of a hunt for him claimed to be the largest ever undertaken for an individual.

      This chapter takes as its focus bin Laden’s video appearances since the September 11 attacks (while also discussing aspects...


    • 4 Words and War: Al Jazeera and Al Qaeda
      (pp. 55-72)

      On September 11, 2001, members of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network blew up the Twin Towers in New York City. Less than a month later on October 7, Al Jazeera swooped onto the world stage by scooping the major international media. Al Jazeera was the only news outlet in Kabul, Afghanistan, when the United States launched its war against the Taliban, and it aired an exclusive videotape of Osama bin Laden, who was seen as the mastermind for the 9/11 attacks. Its coverage was rebroadcast on leading outlets around the world, and the pan-Arab network became the leading...

    • 5 Metaphorizing Terrorism: Al Qaeda in German and British Tabloids
      (pp. 73-94)

      The media are considered vital for a terrorist group because they provide the means of attracting attention and spreading the group’s message.¹ Considering the strategic communication aspect of terrorism, the media have often been considered the terrorist’s “accomplices” or even their “best friend” for providing the “oxygen of publicity.”² At the same time, it has been noted that terrorists provide media with emotional, exciting, and bloody news that helps them sell their product.³ Therefore there are mutual benefits for both, and the relationship could be described as “symbiotic.”⁴ To date, terrorism research has predominantly focused on this relationship and its...

    • 6 The Myth of the Terrorist as a Lover: Competing Regional Media Frames
      (pp. 95-111)

      As the main enemy of the Western world for nearly a decade, Osama bin Laden was the focus of international news media and the topic of several books about his life before and after exile from his homeland. Several of these stories, particularly in the Anglo-American media, illustrated a significant fascination with the Arab male’s sexuality, mainly in the most authoritarian states, which contributes to the image of the Arab as a neurotic sexual being.¹ Indeed, this fascination was not confined to bin Laden, as other male authoritarian figures received similar attention; for instance, Saddam Hussein was rumored to be...

    • 7 Images of Our Dead Enemies: Visual Representations of bin Laden, Hussein, and el-Qaddafi
      (pp. 112-140)

      In a nine-minute speech at 11:35 p.m. Eastern time on the evening of Sunday, May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. Navy SEALs had killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.¹

      How do you know someone is dead unless you see the evidence? If the fact of a death really matters—politically, militarily, even emotionally—is it enough to take someone else’s word for it, to just simply hear (or read) a narrative account of that death?

      Does a waiting audience want—orneed—visual confirmation?

      In the minutes and hours after the news of...


    • 8 Without Osama: Tere Bin Laden and the Critique of the War on Terror
      (pp. 143-160)

      Released in July 2010,Tere Bin Ladenis a madcap comedy about an ambitious Pakistani journalist, Ali Hassan, who stages a fake video of Osama bin Laden as his golden ticket to immigrate to the United States; the film provides a trenchant critique of global media, the War on Terror, and the capitalist aspirations of lower-middle and middle-class Pakistanis.¹ An Indian independent film in Hindi, written and directed by Abhishek Sharma, it became an instant box office success in the key “metro cities” of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Bangalore and was thereafter distributed in international markets such as the...

    • 9 Obama bin Laden [sic]: How to Win the War on Terror #likeaboss
      (pp. 161-182)

      The greatest night of Geraldo Rivera’s career: this is worth looking into. To understand Rivera’s nationalist ebullience—echoed in the streets and tweets across the United States on the night of bin Laden’s death—I’d like to figure Osama bin Laden’s body as an object in the Ahmedian sense of the word, that is, as an orientation device with world-mapping capabilities. In this framing, it could be said that bin Laden’s fugitive tenure occasioned, among many Americans, a profound and prolonged bout of phenomenological disorientation. Not only did an at-large Osama forestall the realization of “healing” by means of retribution,...

    • 10 Congratulations! You Have Killed Osama bin Laden!!
      (pp. 183-210)

      One of the easiest, and most common, ways to begin an academic essay on videogames is to start with an experiential point of view into a gameworld that the reading audience presumably knows little about beforehand. The language is often overwrought, it addresses the reader as if he or she were an interactor, and it exaggerates or omits many details about the game in question. Perhaps we do this because the medium still seems so new and strange to much of the academic community. Maybe it is a holdover from the era when writing about “computer games” could only mean...

    • 11 Muslims in America and the Post-9/11 Terrorism Debates: Media and Public Opinion
      (pp. 211-234)

      Three years before 9/11, President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race reported a major problem regarding “the representation, coverage, and portrayal of minorities on the news, on television, in film, and in other forms of media.” Arab and Muslim Americans were among those minorities. In the words of one Muslim American quoted in the report, “In the United States, we see . . . the Arab and the Muslim have become . . . not only the other, not only the potential terrorist who is a threat to the way of life . . . the Arab and the Muslim have...

  7. EPILOGUE. After bin Laden: Zero Dark Thirty
    (pp. 235-244)

    Media around the world shared the news of Osama bin Laden’s death on May 2, 2011.¹ His death was largely celebrated as a milestone in the Global War on Terrorism. Former president George W. Bush called bin Laden’s killing a “victory for America”²; former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice echoed these sentiments in calling the death a “tremendous victory.”³ Across the United States, groups broke into celebratory cheers upon hearing the announcement of bin Laden’s death.⁴ At the site of the most devastating attack on 9/11—the World Trade Center—crowds waved American flags and burst into choruses of Lee...

  8. About the Contributors
    (pp. 245-248)
  9. Index
    (pp. 249-265)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)