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Middle East Correspondant?
January 6, 2004 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Osama bin Laden writes today's comment in the Guardian. Is the Comment & Analysis section of a major national paper (and international website) the right place to publish a call for jihad?
posted by davehat (50 comments total)

 
Why not? OBL is certainly saying things similar (laying out policy, that is) to the piece Colin Powell wrote for the NY Times OpEd a few days ago, albeit much less things to my liking.
posted by billsaysthis at 1:54 PM on January 6, 2004


Its not much of a jihad if nobody knows about it, now, is it? The Op/Ed page is probably not a key location, but cheaper than taking out a full page ad.

When I publish my call for jihad I hope it gets such good coverage.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2004


It's a bit puzzling, really. I expect that the pieces in that section to be solicited by the newspaper in some capacity. But I'm glad that I got to read it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:05 PM on January 6, 2004


"This is an edited extract of a recording believed to have been made by the al-Qaida leader, transmitted by al-Jazeera and translated by the BBC Monitoring Service"

It's quite obvious The Guardian didn't phone him up and ask him to fill a page for the paper. It's not on the Op/Ed page, it's on the 'Comment and Analysis' page. Same thing in all but name, yes - but isn't it sensible to read for ourselves why he's the world's public enemy number one, rather than just being told?

I think a more shocking story to report would be 'WORLD'S MOST WANTED MAN IGNORED AND FORGOTTEN'.
posted by tapeguy at 2:08 PM on January 6, 2004


Is it really that much different from NBC Nightly News or CNN airing the tape with subtitles? It's just an excerpt from the most recent OBL speech. The Op/Ed (or Co/An) section is a somewhat quizzical place to publish it, but I don't see it as that big of a deal.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:10 PM on January 6, 2004


besmirch the jihad.

i just like saying besmirch the jihad.
posted by quonsar at 2:12 PM on January 6, 2004


nellie the elephant

i just like saying nellie the elephant.
posted by jpoulos at 2:14 PM on January 6, 2004


It's brilliant PR for the United States. We're invading the middle east under the "pretext" of fighting terrorism? And just who made that pretext possible, even compelling? No dialogue except through arms? Geesh.
posted by weston at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2004


If I was in Kuwait or Qatar, I'd be very nervous about this message,as it seems to be directed there more than here...And Osama popping up now is just another fact to belie the whole "we're safer now that Addams is captured" bullshit.
posted by amberglow at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2004


oops--spellcheck got Addams for Saddam : >
posted by amberglow at 2:16 PM on January 6, 2004


It's because he's no longer news - he's just another opinion on the conflict. Hence, his transcript is an op/ed piece and not a front page article.
posted by FormlessOne at 2:16 PM on January 6, 2004


Bah, don't worry. He'll be captured by election day.
posted by Hankins at 2:27 PM on January 6, 2004


In a ideal country in which media are free to publish whatever the hell they like, I see no problem in publishing Osama's n-th call to Jihad.

If my memory serves, that's not the first time he calls for an holy war, so its neither big news neither a proclamation that will star a new holy war, as it is already ongoing at least for the Osama associates.

But even if this was the first time that a Jihad call was published by a "western" newspaper it would be as soon forgotten as thousand other "important political articles" that are published everyday in newspapers. Do you remember the details of the last 10 articles on politics you have seen on a newspaper ? Or even their headlines ?

And if anyone is thinking about "sekrut order kodes" remember that all you need is a radio and some silly talk, like the British did during 2nd World War with Radio London (as far as I remember). "Mary has nice funbags" could mean "attack this now" or literally mean what it means, but one could never tell except the recipient of the message. Guess that Media Conglomerates wouldn't like being shut down for Naaational Sekuritaeh !

So what's the big deal of having the call published on a national paper davehat ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:27 PM on January 6, 2004


Do you remember the details of the last 10 articles on politics you have seen on a newspaper ?
Yup--they were all anti-Dean.
posted by amberglow at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2004


And just who made that pretext possible, even compelling? No dialogue except through arms?

perhaps compelling to the barely illiterate. the rest of us saw and parsed the qualifying portion of the sentence, which you left out of your paraphrase.
posted by quonsar at 2:30 PM on January 6, 2004


He speaks in a very formal and flowery fashion. Here's the backstory to what he's speaking about
posted by Fupped Duck at 2:37 PM on January 6, 2004


> So what's the big deal of having the call published on a national paper?

There's a distinction that interests me. If the complete tape transcript were published as a news item in the news section, that would raise no eyebrows, any more than a transcription of the black box recording of a crashed aircraft would raise eyebrows. Such publication wouldn't be taken to imply that the paper endorsed aircraft disasters, or Al Qaida.

On the other hand, to publish a long extract (long enough, in my opinion, to call for Berne Convention royalty payments to the author,) to publish it in the editorial/commentary section, and to publish it very conspicuously without the usual disclaimer (The following editorial reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of this newspaper) invites speculation that The Guardian does share Mr. Bin Laden's opinions and endorse his proposals.
posted by jfuller at 2:53 PM on January 6, 2004


but isn't it sensible to read for ourselves why he's the world's public enemy number one, rather than just being told?

Sensible, perhaps, but it runs counter to the successful execution of the administration's agenda. Ye gods, man! If we let people take a close look at this man bin Laden, next thing you know they'll want to come to their own conclusions, after examining all the evidence, on Hussein!!
posted by rushmc at 2:57 PM on January 6, 2004


As long as OBL is in a designated free speech zone, isin't he allowed to say what he wants?

Having said that, it's a good thing that OBL isn't downloading music off the Internet. The RIAA would have found him already.
posted by DragonBoy at 3:06 PM on January 6, 2004


You got W calling for, defending, and lauding the soldiers of a sort of different but not all that really different jihad over here on Fox News, CNN and so on and so forth so what's the difference.
posted by xmutex at 3:11 PM on January 6, 2004


jfuller's right -- especially given the similarities between the headline the Guardian chose for this little screed ("Resist the New Rome"). The editors chose this headline as THE salient idea of this "editorial", and given its similarities to the "New Roman Empire" editorial that The Guardian published last year -- the subject of much discussion here -- The Guardian owes the public a forthright explanation of their decision to publish. And please let's table the moral equivocation of Bush = bin Laden and Us = Them.
posted by coelecanth at 3:20 PM on January 6, 2004


I think it safe to assume that the Guardian is not a terror-supporting organization bent on furthering Bin Laden's life of crime while hoping for the destruction of America and the implementation of Sharia law on a global scale. They most likely have what might be called a "profit bias" and realize that they are going to get a lot of attention and sell a lot of copies. I think it kind of weak (or at least, intellectually dishonest) to claim the Guardian shares Bin Laden's belief in Jihad.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:32 PM on January 6, 2004


After preview: People here aren't claiming, but implying things about the Guardian (which shows how much we have learned about public discourse in the W era,) but still I stand behind my post.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:34 PM on January 6, 2004


we would be like our forefathers, the Ghassanids [Arab tribes living under the Byzantine empire]

See, if you read the Grauniad you learn about history. When's the last time the NY Times told you anything about the Ghassanids?
posted by languagehat at 3:44 PM on January 6, 2004


elwoodwiles: Nobody said that the Guardian supports jihad. But it's a little unusual for a publication to reprint without alteration or comment the statements of someone who, for the reasons you just stated, is pretty clearly their country's enemy.

In this case, where they have not only done so, but where they've also deliberately highlighted those parts of OBL's statement that were congruent with items they've previously published, they have an obligation to explain. I would say the requirement is not a national or patriotic one -- although I don't think they're automatically bad -- but a journalistic one.
posted by coelecanth at 3:45 PM on January 6, 2004


> I think it safe to assume that the Guardian is not a terror-supporting
> organization

The Guardian cordially hopes you will assume so, to save them the tackyness of having to say so explicitly and allow them to continue to cozy up and acquire a little radical chic ruboff. I'm not calling them terrorists, I'm calling them asshats.
posted by jfuller at 3:52 PM on January 6, 2004


847 days, 8 hours, 7 minutes, 10 seconds
posted by homunculus at 3:54 PM on January 6, 2004


I think it's exactly the kind of place where something like this should be published. It's important for a civilization to know its enemy in every way possible.
posted by tiamat at 4:06 PM on January 6, 2004


Well jfuller seems to be implying things about the guardian's motivations in publishing this piece, but maybe that's just me.

Back on to relevant issues, I think the statements of our enemies should be disseminated so that the public understands what the issues are. To censor Bin Laden's speech, or to accuse those who carry it of not being properly nationalistic patriotic is to weaken the very freedoms we say we are fighting for. So my question is this: Why not let the Guardian run this? What do we have to fear from bin Laden's statements?
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:10 PM on January 6, 2004


Personally I'm for exposure to a wide variety of opinions and ideas, where they stand (or fall) on their merits; which is exactly what the ObL 'comment' does.

Although I agree with elwoodwiles' coment above as far as the weakness (or even disingenuity) in claiming the Guardian supports ObL's jihad, it's worth pointing out, re. "They most likely have what might be called a 'profit bias' and realize that they are going to get a lot of attention and sell a lot of copies," that the Guardian is a not-for-profit company; that, and I really don't believe you're going to get the man on the street chosing to read the Guardian because of ObL appearing in some tucked-away Comment section, which is often pretty forthright and challenging anyway (see the George Monbiot comment in the same issue about the use of foreign aid as a capitalist-backed attack on the public ownership of ameneties and resources.)
posted by Blue Stone at 4:23 PM on January 6, 2004


Blue Stone: I'd forgotten Guardian's not-for-profit status, thank you, good comments. And perhaps you show why the Guardian carried the piece - it's challenging.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:41 PM on January 6, 2004


who cares where they publish it? I've seen lots of places (well, mostly internet sites) publish public-domain speaches verbatim without comment, including those by OBL.
posted by delmoi at 4:43 PM on January 6, 2004


I agree with tiamat, and I'm a little puzzled that anyone really cares where this is published, so long as it isn't actually endorsed by the paper. It's immaterial whether the writer is the country's enemy or not; the point of a piece of commentary isn't to signal the paper's approval of that comment, but to engage and inform the reader. This is clearly something worth being informed about. While the Guardian probably has a little too much sympathy for Osama bin Laden (the choice of headline being revealing of that), that doesn't affect the validity of publishing the speech. So long as there's a good reason to print it - and know thine enemy is a good one - why shouldn't they print it? It's always better to hear it from the horse's mouth.
posted by Dasein at 4:47 PM on January 6, 2004


Hasn't Osama bin Pushing-Up-Daisies for the past year?

I'm surprised that whoever wrote this didn't mention the Kyoto Protocol again for maximim comedic effect.

Coming soon to the New York Times!
posted by hama7 at 5:06 PM on January 6, 2004


The Guardian has provided a service to readers who desire to understand OBL's world view. Especially in ahistorical "Amrika, " where the deer and the Zionist crusaders of evil play, it is important to understand the peculiar historical dialectic that motivates the radical anti-Western forces of the Middle East that are now embodied by the hairy visage of one Western educated engineer from Arabia Deserta.

To combat a ruthless enemy, one needs to get inside his head. If that enemy is foolhardy enough to provide a window on his thought processes via a "guest editorial," in a manner of speaking, I for one will read it.
posted by rdone at 5:07 PM on January 6, 2004


I keep hearing the right say that Osama is dead, but there is no evidence of this idea what-so-ever. Where is this claim coming from?

And I have to hand it to hama7 for further equating the Kyoto Protocol and the New York Times with terrorism. Whats YOUR favorite flavor kool aid, buddy?
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:10 PM on January 6, 2004


And I have to hand it to hama7 for further equating the Kyoto Protocol and the New York Times with terrorism. Whats YOUR favorite flavor kool aid, buddy?

The flavor that pays attention to nonsense.
posted by hama7 at 5:19 PM on January 6, 2004


Hasn't Osama bin Pushing-Up-Daisies for the past year?

Guess not.
posted by Ptrin at 5:24 PM on January 6, 2004


Hasn't Osama bin Pushing-Up-Daisies for the past year?

The CIA doesn't seem to think so.
posted by homunculus at 5:29 PM on January 6, 2004


> And I have to hand it to hama7 for further equating the Kyoto Protocol and the
> New York Times with terrorism.

Can I have an order of Gore Vidal with that? French fried.
posted by jfuller at 5:35 PM on January 6, 2004


And please let's table the moral equivocation of Bush = bin Laden and Us = Them.

Either you see things in very simplistic terms or you enjoy creating straw men to argue against rather than addressing the statements of other people here. No one has suggested such an equivalence; rather, some have pointed out that irrational, aggressive, dangerous, self-centered behavior remains such no matter which side of imaginary lines on a map it occurs on.
posted by rushmc at 5:57 PM on January 6, 2004


perhaps compelling to the barely illiterate. the rest of us saw and parsed the qualifying portion of the sentence, which you left out of your paraphrase.

The qualifying portion you refer to doesn't change the effective meaning of the sentence or the article, nor pose a problem for the actual point of my statement, which is: Bin Laden's words do a better job of illustrating and reinforcing his status as a real threat than the last three months of press releases from the Bush administration. Hence my suggestion that releasing this is far, far better for the plans of said administration -- for anyone sincerely or ostensibly opposed to Bin Laden -- than it's good for the "jihad." Especially since most of the population, like me, will not approach quonsar's uncanny abilities to see and parse qualifying portions of sentences.
posted by weston at 7:50 PM on January 6, 2004


It's my considered opinion that The Guardian did it as a comment piece rather than a news story with an except for one very good reason...

They are now the only newspaper in the western world (I expect) to have published an item with the byline "Osama bin Laden"

Hell, if I edited a newspaper, I'd do it!
posted by sycophant at 8:14 PM on January 6, 2004


All right, already: we've hashed out the issue of if and where the Guardian should have printed it. I've heard scant mention of the content of the piece. Thanks to xmutex, coelecanth and rushmc, who are asking good questions.

One interesting thing I found was that this was the first time I regarded bin Laden's message as in any way approaching statesmanship. All I have ever seen or heard on American news sources portray him as Ted Kaczynski. Gone are the sand dunes, craggy rocks and crappy video quality. When everything but the message is stripped away, it seems very different.

Different and EVIL, of course!
*whew*

posted by squirrel at 9:14 PM on January 6, 2004


Hama7 - thaks for the pointer to the Osama 'letter to America'. Hadn't seen that one.

Got to say, he lost me on:

(a) We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest.

Fornication and intoxicants - sorry. The Bank seems to not be responsive to 'trading with interest'
posted by rough ashlar at 12:36 AM on January 7, 2004


it's a little unusual for a publication to reprint without alteration or comment the statements of someone who, for the reasons you just stated, is pretty clearly their country's enemy.

Well, the Guardian puts Tony Blair in the 'Comment' section, too.

Seriously, though: it's a bit oh-so-clever on behalf of the editors, but I have more of a problem with those who say we mustn't ever hear what Osama has to say ('seekrit kodez'). The salient point is that to many sections of the world, Osama's comments are heard and read in the same way as an op-ed. It's a good thought-experiment.
posted by riviera at 12:50 AM on January 7, 2004


I was quite surprised by it in the paper yesterday. The presentation of it was interesting: they put it in the same place as their usual guest columns, with a normal-looking title and an Osama bin Laden byline... they chose to present it in just the same way as a normal column.

I suspect they're hoping for a certain amount of controversy. In spite of being a non-profit, the Guardian has fewer readers than most of its rivals and they're not averse to the odd bit of sensationalism.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:42 AM on January 7, 2004


they may also have thought it an amusing solution to the problem of where to put the article. after all, the text itself is not exactly news. their reason may have been that it is bin laden's opinion, so why not put it where opinions normally go? i think they probably expect their readers to be sufficiently smart to be able to work out that he wasn't commissioned for the piece.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:04 AM on January 7, 2004


Personally, if I were OBL, I wouldn't bother calling Guardian readers to Jihad. As a Guardian reader myself, I really can't be arsed. We should all just have a nice cup of tea and a full and frank exchange of ideas, then go and listen to a Dido album.
posted by Pericles at 2:21 AM on January 7, 2004



And I have to hand it to hama7 for further equating the Kyoto Protocol and the New York Times with terrorism.

Can I have an order of Gore Vidal with that? French fried.
And a bowl of Chomsky soup for an appetizer please?
posted by nofundy at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2004


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