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31 May 2004 | Draft

Marketable Tales of the Exploits of Osama bin Laden

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Commentary

Regrets are now being expressed by the western media -- notably The New York Times as newspaper of record -- concerning their role in misrepresenting the threat of Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction [more | more]. The question is whether this pattern has also determined the representation of the role of Osama bin Laden in the Middle East and elsewhere -- given that the evidence backing such claims has not been presented for independent verification, for reasons of "national security". Indeed, as with Iraq, there remains some probability that the association of actual terrorist incidents with Bin Laden has been hastily made (notably by the media) in the absence of any evidence, other than claims to that effect from interested parties -- whether fundamentalists or government agencies.

In promoting the unconfirmed stories about the role of Osama bin Laden through the media, required to demonstrate loyalty in the "war against terrorism", there seems to have been an opportunity missed by the intelligence services of the Coalition of the Willing. A new source of funds could be developed -- beyond those already obtained by appropriating Iraqi oil resources, protecting the production of opium in Afghanistan (as previously in the Golden Triangle), and ensuring healthy sales by their arms industries. It would seem that the creative government approach to news management could be extended to ensure what are technically termed "media tie-ins" relating to reported incidents of terrorism -- with which the name of Osama bin Laden is associated (in anticipation of any unnecessary factual confirmation). Corporations already intimately involved in profit generation from the "war against terror", have a clear interest in developing these associated marketing opportunities.

Although exposure is no longer the main reason why many companies invest in media tie-in sponsorships (especially in the case of arms manufacturing), it remains an important benefit in the pursuit of shareholder value. The larger the audience that the Coalition can expose to its message through such tie-ins, the more valuable its initiative becomes as a source of revenue. Media companies should therefore be the first targets in the Coalition's solicitation strategy as their involvement can dramatically increase the audience reach for both a terrorism news event and for associated sponsors. This has been dramatically demonstrated in the case of media coverage of Iraq. In exchange for providing the media with official information regarding such an event -- or confirming the results of their investigations, the Coalition receives advertising space which can then be featured in promotional packages to attract subsequent sponsors foe the marketing initiative.

As demonstrated by the massive increase in arms sales since 9/11, Osama bin Laden is clearly an ideal marketing vehicle through which to promote support for the military-industrial complex of the Coalition, as well as for their intelligence agencies.

Given the world-wide success of the Asterix series in many languages, it is therefore proposed that a similar marketing concept be developed in relation to media stories about Osama bin Laden -- through books and associated media tie-ins (T-shirts, posters, etc) produced to celebrate his legendary adventures at different times. Those marked by an asterisk (*) might be expected to be of widest appeal.

Books

Films

Many of Osama bin Laden's adventures could also been made into films:

Related opportunities

Similar inspiration could be sought from the famed stories of the Incomparable Mullah Nasruddin of the Middle East. This is especially the case because, just as Asterix is famed for his strategic cunning under diverse circumstances, Osama bin Laden's strategic thinking might have in part been derived from his exposure to the exploits of Nasruddin. This should make the tales especially valuable to the intelligence services -- beyond whatever income might be generated by production of the books. Consideration could be given to associating any products with the name of Mullah Omar, the much sought strategist of Osama bin Laden. But this would probably dilute the marketing effect. Examples of tales associated with Osama bin Laden might therefore include:

Proactive opportunities

Osama bin Laden's name, and that of al-Qaeda, has been willingly associated by the media with any violent incident -- conveniently omitting "allegedly", since it is envisaged that he will never be in a position to sue for misrepresentation. Given this media facility, the above strategy, and its tie-ins, could be extended to a different series of marketing concepts. These would focus attention on the role of Osama bin Laden as the responsibile party in relation to a wider series of problems (from which it has unfortunately been possible to divert resources in support of the security needs of the "war against terrorism"). Examples of books and videos that this series might include are therefore:

For such marketing strategies to be sustainable, it is vital that the Coalition's security forces avoid capturing Osama bin Laden -- or proving that they have destroyed him. However their skills in this respect with regard to those sought in former Yugoslavia, for war crimes in the 1990's, indicates that they would have no difficulty in sustaining their efforts for the duration of the "war against terrorism".

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