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TikTok does for Osama bin Laden what 9/11, his ‘Letter to America’ couldn’t do

Chris Graham
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(© chathuporn – stock.adobe.com)

TikTok wants you to believe that it doesn’t juice its algorithms. It’s just coincidence that a relative handful of videos on the Chinese-owned social-media platform promoting Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America” got tens of million views last week.

Gotcha.

“We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform. The number of videos on TikTok is small, and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate,” the company said in one of its many statements to the media on the matter last week.

Sure, Jan.

Credit due to the folks at TikTok, which is a genius-level troll, an app designed to fit a generation’s short attention spans with just enough information to make them dangerous, and marketed to get the kids who can’t get through a few minutes without seeing what’s new to defend their toy like their lives depend on it.

It helps TikTok’s cause that our Gen Z, the app’s target audience, came of age in the No Child Left Behind era that stressed learning how to take standardized tests over the development of critical-thinking skills.

“I was 3 in 2001 and was always taught 9/11 happened because other people were jealous of our democracy in the U.S. Now that I’m older and am able to learn about history beyond the narrative of mainstream media, I’m realizing that there is more to the story,” said Lynette Adkins, who posted a video to her 175,000 TikTok followers urging them to read the bin Laden letter, which she couldn’t have actually read, given what bin Laden had to say.

Among other things, bin Laden wrote in the letter that Americans were “servants” to Jews, who he said control the country’s economy and media, that “the creation of Israel is a crime that must be erased,” and he instructs his American readers to give themselves over in “complete submission” to Islam and to discard “all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict it.”

Seriously, this message is what has an army of overgrown children who can’t be bothered to look up from their phones ready to take it to the streets?

“When you look at social media, I have long said that we have to ban TikTok. And if you didn’t know why, there’s another example today. They are posting letters of Osama bin Laden’s letter, the week after the 9/11 attack, and it is the justification for why he did it. And so you have a lot of our kids sitting there siding with that, that, Oh, America deserved it,” Republican Party presidential primary candidate Nikki Haley said last week during an appearance on “The Guy Benson Show” on Fox News Radio.

The criticism of TikTok isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat issue, as evidenced by a statement from the White House, which had a spokesperson chime in with a statement that “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.”

Then there was New Jersey Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer saying last week that TikTok is “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans” and calling for the app to be “banned or sold to an American company,” echoing Haley.

The olds vs. the kids aspect to the debate over TikTok, of course, just reinforces to the kids the notion that the olds are trying to keep the truth from them.

“TikTok is going to save this generation,” Adkins gushed, clueless to the concept of the Stockholm syndrome – TikTok playing the role of captor, Adkins playing the Patty Hearst taking up arms to fight their battles with them.

“The amount of things that we’ve learned on this app in this past month alone that other people in other generations I tried to talk to them about it, they don’t understand,” Adkins said. “They don’t get it because they’ve been literally so programmed to think a certain way. TikTok is undoing all of that. It’s crazy to watch in real time.”

So, there was that nonsense about the bin Laden letter from this Adkins influencer person, then another user went viral with a video pushing the idea that “they have lied to us more than enough,” and another made the breathless claim after supposedly reading the letter that “I will never look at life the same, I will never look at this country the same.”

“Complete submission” to Islam, kiddos.

“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 [usury],” bin Laden wrote in his “Letter to America.”

“If you fail to respond to all these conditions, then prepare for fight with the Islamic Nation.”

This is what y’all are spittin’ mad about.

The letter didn’t gain the traction that bin Laden assumed it would at the time he wrote it, and that wasn’t his only miscalculation.

Nelly Lahoud, a professor of security studies at the US Army War College and the author of The Bin Laden Papers, an examination of all the files recovered at bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, including nearly 6,000 pages of al Qaeda’s internal communications, said last week that bin Laden had assumed that the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. would get Americans to “take to the streets and replicate the Vietnam anti-war protests and demand that their government withdraw their military forces from the Middle East.”

What 9/11 and the bin Laden letter couldn’t do, TikTok and its feckless twit influencers are now doing for him.

“It is appalling to witness younger Americans voicing sympathy for bin Laden’s dangerous and antisemitic worldview 22 years after our nation was horrifically attacked and our loved ones were callously murdered by Islamists who were financially supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and at Osama bin Laden’s direction,” Terry Strada, national chair of 9/11 Families United, said in a statement.

Juxtapose those words with what Adkins said in her viral video: “They don’t get it because they’ve been literally so programmed to think a certain way. TikTok is undoing all of that. It’s crazy to watch in real time.”

She doesn’t – and millions of TikTok kids don’t – get that what TikTok is “undoing” is aimed at getting them “programmed to think a certain way.”

We can agree on one thing: it is “crazy to watch in real time.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].