This isn’t a bad dream. 

Twenty-two years after he masterminded the 9/11 terror attacks, and 12 years after he was killed by U.S. special forces while cowering in his Pakistani bolthole, al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is back in the headlines. 

The reasons: TikTok + Gen Z + the Guardian + the Israel-Hamas war = a big comeback for the terror king.

Confused? Don’t worry, we explain it all here. 

Are you serious? 

Unfortunately, yes. 

Okay, tell me more. (And explain it to me like I’m five.) 

Bin Laden’s “Letter to America” is a chilling 4,000-word spiel, written decades ago, by the perpetrator of the 9/11 passenger-jet terrorist attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

The letter and its translation started circulating online shortly after the 2001 attacks, especially among extremist Islamist organizations, and was first published in the Guardian in 2002. (More on that later, by the way.)

In the letter, addressed to the U.S. and Americans, bin Laden sharply criticizes the U.S. government, including its support for the creation of Israel, which he calls “one of the greatest crimes.” 

OK, I can see where this is going. But what do TikTok and Gen Z have to do with it? 

After the escalation of Israel-Hamas violence in the Middle East, in which Palestinian militant group Hamas killed 1,200 people in a violent surprise attack and Israel’s retaliation has so far killed more than 11,000 people, bin Laden’s letter started circulating online once again. 

On the Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok, dozens of users — including many Gen Z’ers, who make up the majority of the app’s users —  started posting videos quoting excerpts from the letter and talking about how it allegedly gave them a new perspective on the historical context behind 9/11. 

You’re kidding?! 

Nope. Parts of the letter criticizing U.S. support for Israel resonated with some users, at a time when people across Western countries are becoming increasingly critical of the Israeli government.

TikTokers described the letter as “eye-opening,” with some even going as far as saying that mass-murdering bin Laden “was right.” 

As more people shared their reactions to reading the letter for the first time, the posts started going viral. CNN said that videos discussing the letter had garnered 14 million views by Thursday.

Oh gosh. Is TikTok doing anything about it? 

TikTok pledged to stop the trend, which it said in a statement “violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism.”

The app added on Thursday that it was working on “proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform.” 

It also removed the hashtag #lettertoamerica from its search function.

But it also ducked taking the blame, saying the phenomenon of people posting content sympathetic to bin Laden was “not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”

Wait a second. You said the Guardian also had something to do with it? 

On Thursday, the Guardian removed a full transcript of bin Laden’s letter, which the left-wing U.K. newspaper first published online in 2002, replacing it with a short statement claiming it had been “widely shared on social media without the full context.”

“Therefore we decided to take it down and direct readers instead to the news article that originally contextualised it,” the statement reads.

Isn’t this an example of the Streisand Effect? 

That’s exactly what this is. By removing the letter from its website — a misguided attempt to limit its distribution — the Guardian sparked people’s interest and contributed to making it go (even more) viral. It is a perfect example of the so-called Streisand Effect, where the attempt to censor or hide something from the internet backfires and massively increases interest in it.

What are the official reactions to the controversy? People are angry, right?

Very.

Politicians in the U.S. have been scathing. A White House spokesperson said “no one should ever insult the 2,977 American families still mourning loved ones by associating themselves with the vile words of Osama bin Laden.” 

“Particularly now, at a time of rising antisemitic violence in the world, and just after Hamas terrorists carried out the worst slaughter of the Jewish people since the Holocaust in the name of the same conspiracy theories,” the spokesperson added. 

Several lawmakers across the political spectrum accused the Chinese-owned app of spreading anti-American propaganda and called for it to be blocked. 

Democrat Representative Josh Gottheimer said TikTok was “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans” and called for it to be “banned or sold to an American company,” while Republican Senator Josh Hawley described TikTok as “a geyser of terrorist propaganda — and the most effective surveillance tool for a foreign government ever invented.”

It’s all very heated.

So … where can you read the letter now? Asking for a friend.

The Guardian removed its transcript of the letter, but excerpts and the full text can still be found in various corners of the internet, including here. 

Just don’t talk about it on TikTok.


#Osama #bin #Laden #POLITICO

By David

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