Saturday, September 8, 2007

More Data about the bin Laden Video

Al Jazeera English has now provided us with data points that can refine yesterday's analysis of the flawed Associated Press account of the latest video from Osama bin Laden. Their own version of the story cites "Al Jazeera and agencies," which is the way they claim to use their wire services (without, unfortunately, naming them) and then supplement those accounts with their own sources. This report also includes a link to a Web page of excerpts from an English translation of the transcript of the tape. In the context of my own analysis, this page offers good news and bad news. The bad news is that it consists only of excerpts, none of which have to do with the promotion of Islam (which seems to have attracted the most attention in the Western press). The good news, however, is that Al Jazeera is given as the source of the translation, meaning that it is probably the work of the same translators responsible for all the other English versions of Al Jazeera reports; and, when one compares the Al Jazeera version with the one that ABC News was using, they match up rather well. This thus adds to the level of confidence we can assign to the validity of the full text made available to ABC News. Furthermore, the Al Jazeera news story does include a reference to the recommendation to "embrace Islam" (also quoted in the Al Jazeera text); but the Al Jazeera version supports my own reading that this is part of the concluding remarks, rather than the "solution" that the Associated Press account made it out to be. (The Al Jazeera account does cite the "solutions;" but only the first is given as a quotation from the transcript. Al Jazeera seems to have recognized better than Associated Press that the "second solution" was wrapped in the cloak of an extended rant, whose target had to do more with capitalism than with religious belief.) Unfortunately, the "conversion meme" has done a prodigious job of "infecting" Western journalism to the extent that even BBC News, usually one of my preferred sources, has turned this into a story about conversion to Islam. The conclusion thus seems to be that, while there are an abundance of resources that bring clarity to this situation, we continue, as I argued yesterday, to prefer the muddled confusion into which we allowed ourselves to be immersed by both our government and its media support when 9/11 provided the incentive to cultivate that culture of fear around a new concept of Homeland Security that now dominates our day-to-day lives.


Anonymous said...

New Osama video seems yet another forgery. Everyone needs Osama alive:
terrorists as symbolic leader and the US Administration - to avoid
scaling down the war on terror.
Obadiah Shoher rightly notes ( ) that
new Osama talks like a leftist university professor. I like Shoher's
analysis. No way a terrorist leader like Osama would use a speechwriter. Osama is famous
for his rhetoric.
Also, in the tape Osama both threatens America with attack (by
"proving" Americans polytheists) and offers (yet another time)
long-term coaching in Islam.
But his dyed beard makes me cautious. Islam's mujahedeen dye their
beards before battle.

Stephen Smoliar said...

eugene, in the interest of full disclaimer, I think it is worth noting that the wording of your simile ("like a leftist university professor") is yours, rather than Shoher's!

I agree that Shoher has made some good points; but he is basically reading the logic, without giving much attention to the rhetoric. My own impression (expressed more in my earlier post) is that the "rant factor" is higher than usual. On the other hand the language he used in reviewing the 9/11 tapes (shortly after the attack) was very much the language of the MIT undergraduate's surprise at the success of a "neat hack." So perhaps a sophomoric rant (that invokes an MIT Professor) is not out of character!

Meanwhile, another tape appears to be on the way; I just hope that a credible translation will be available.