Pakistani president Zardari said Tuesday that he believes Osama bin Laden may be dead, but US officials insist that he’s still alive – and, apparently, he’s just as elusive as ever.
Here’s a sensibly irreverent 2006 report on the new millennium’s most famous Waldo. Thanks again to VizReport for opening up its archives. (“BinWaldo” image: About.com – Political Humor)
Echoes of Graceland:
The Bin Laden Sessions
February 20, 2006
(VizReport) Like Elvis fans at the gates of Graceland, so are the media at the portals of Al-Jazeera; hopeful of gaining a glimpse of something strange and elusive. Something almost mythical.
But it’s a circus. It’s not real. Let’s all just admit that Osama bin Laden is dead and forego the introduction of any more audiotapes. The quality is just brutal anyway — and no amount of digital remastering is going to make them sound any better.
Okay, they’re doing a fair job on the marketing end. I’ll grant them that. While Elvis’ career started with tape recordings and proceeded to films, Osama’s people have decided to come at it from the other end. Smart. In today’s MTV universe, any producer worth his pillar of salt knows that you just don’t bring a new talent to the world stage without a video to hype the product.
They did everything right at the beginning. Osama was hot. He had a video. He had some solid tracks. All the ingredients were there. But then, as with so many popstar careers today, the focus got soft, the quality started to suffer.
Even if you have a hot commodity, like a ’50s Elvis, or a poetry-spouting millennial Osama, you still have to protect and expand your brand position through the implementation of an effective quality control program. Is there an ISO standard for terrorist operations?
Probably not. (At least, I hope not.)
The quality of the lyrics has gone downhill since late 2001, when Osama met up with Elvis (so to speak) in a Tora Bora mountain cave. There’s a great parable in there somewhere… something about “the mountain coming to Osama”. Well, it’s not like it had to travel very far; it only had to drop a couple of feet.
But this is about more than dreadful lyrics. It’s a matter of “presence”. The new Osama, played by his eldest son, Sa’ad, is living proof that there’s no such thing as a dominant gene for charisma. Can you imagine how happy AQ#2 Ayman Zawahiri was when he discovered that the kid’s voiceprint was similar to his late Dad’s? But then, to his chagrin, he learns that the boy just doesn’t understand the whole “Mahdi” thing. And it’s not like you can just send him off to any old school for lessons. This is esoteric stuff.
“We’ll fix it in post,” Zawahiri is now frequently overheard to say at their recording sessions.
Post-production consists of taking the studio cut, back-masking it with a track of chickens being mechanically deboned, recording it to a cassette, and from there onto an 8-track, stamping the cartridge into the hard, dry ground several times, dubbing it back to a cassette, pulling the tape out by hand onto the dusty floor, before finally rewinding it back onto the spool with a pencil.
At this point, you’d think that the voices of Osama and Sa’ad would be indistinguishable from one another, but they’re not. They might be able to fool a machine because a machine only knows the percentile correlation of digital patterns. It can’t hear the “spirit” of the tape ’cause it’s got no soul.
Elvis had soul. Osama did, too. He didn’t rock out like the King, but he could deliver his lines. He threatened to put the “boogie” back in boogeyman, but he is no more and his body is unrecoverable; a fact that bothers many who are seeking closure, but a source of endless possibilities for both Al-Qaeda and the U.S. administration.
For those conducting the Jihad, they have an untouchable hero. And for those prosecuting the War on Terror, there are endless leads to track down in the field, as well as continued funding from Congress. Osama may be lost, but so many will not let him be forgotten.
They tried a stand-in for Osama in early 2002, but that didn’t work too well. The guy’s nose was too flat, and even when they backed the camera up until he was taking up just 10% of the screen, you could still see that it wasn’t Osama.
My personal opinion is that they should’ve been better prepared. The terror market is a killer. They knew that! It’s got a higher attrition rate than rock stars who are foolishly permitted to drive the tour bus, or worse… fly the plane.
No one seems to accord the general population much credit for common sense. When the average guy can record a decent quality video on his cellphone, why is Al-Qaeda still sending messengers on a hazardous journey across many lands to the peninsula of Qatar where an archaic tape is dropped into a mailbox just across the street from the head offices of Al-Jazeera? The quality would be higher using an internet-compatible cellphone (it couldn’t be any worse) — and it could be e-mailed there in minutes.
The answer is simple and obvious: He’s dead.
But this enduring drama may soon be drawing to a close. In his latest tape, “Osama” says that they’ll never take him alive. A bold-sounding statement, but an excellent bet!
This apparently comes from the same tape as some earlier excerpts that were released by Al-Jazeera on January 19th. Among the highlights in that speech was the usual promise of new attacks against America.
Killing a dead guy is, at the same time, the easiest thing in the world to do, and the most difficult. It bothers me that Osama’s people are saying that he may soon be dead, as that might herald a dangerous shift in strategy.
But maybe he’s not dead after all. I hear that Barry Manilow just released some new material, so I guess anything’s possible.
There won’t be anymore videotapes unless Peter Jackson is hired to direct the next one. It’s tough to sneak things by a sophisticated video-viewing audience. The best rendition of Elvis that I’ve seen in a long time was the performance by Bruce Campbell (of Evil Dead fame) doing a top-notch “Retirement Home Elvis” in the camp horror flick, Bubba Ho-tep.