The site’s a mess at the moment – I’m in the middle of a re-branding exercise, so mind your head on the scaffolding. But with the news today, I just couldn’t not post …
I’m surprised that with all the column inches devoted to Osama bin Laden today, there’s not a single mention of his one great claim to fame. He was probably the most successful indie writer, artist, performer of our age. When Osama spoke, the whole world listened and trembled. Even when we didn’t have a clue what he was saying.
You have to feel for the poor guy. Imagine how he felt when he saw his other buddies, Bush and Blair, landing big book deals with proper publishers. Even Saddam, for goodness sake, has 12 books on Goodreads – and now Sacha Baron Cohen’s turning one into a film. But Osama, what did he get? An interview. One lousy interview, way back in 1997 with CNN’s Peter Arnett and produced by Peter Bergen.
I mention Bergen because he immediately spotted Osama’s potential. I remember a couple of hours after the 9/11 attacks a fresh-faced, English-accented young analyst assuring the CNN audience that the outrage bore all the hallmarks of Bin Laden and an organization I’d never heard of before, Al Qaeda. Gospel truth. And while Osama never got his publishing deal, Bergen hit the big-time. He’s had three best-sellers already, including ‘The Osama Bin Laden I Know‘, and I notice today, less than 48 hours after the dramatic end to the manhunt, Bergen has been commissioned to write the definitive book. By George W Bush’s publishers.
Can you imagine how Osama must have felt? Is it any surprise that he was bitter and twisted? Everyone cashing in except him. What’s a guy gotta do to get a deal?
We were talking about Osama this evening, my daughter and I. A newspaper, folded, between us. The headline: OBAMA WATCHED .. But they weren’t Obama’s eyes staring out at us – they were Osama’s.
- Do you think it’s true?
- Dunno. Dunno if it was ever true.
- He had such kind eyes.
Trust Josie. She’s always been immune to mental re-conditioning, praise the Lord.
I looked again. Sure enough, he did have kind eyes. Only problem was, turn the paper over and below the fold he had a curling sneer and a zealous uncompromising beard. The devil incarnate.
And I got to thinking. Now he’s gone, who do we have to replace him in the public imagination? Ayman al-Zawahari? Has a beard, but not the right kind of beard. No sneer. Who else is bad enough? Julian Assange? Young enough to terrify us for years. But just look at him. The face of an angel. Gaddafi then? All the right credentials, and I suppose the evidence is that he’s the West’s favorite for the role: after all, we know exactly where he lives, but we haven’t sent Seal Team 6 to batter down his doors. The problem is, he wears silly hats and looks like a pantomime version of Richard III. And he still doesn’t have a proper beard. So who’s going to scare children and grandmothers to bed? Where’s the face that will make us all believe our cause is right?
It’s a rhetorical question. I already know the answer. It’s my face. I’ll need to fashion the beard a bit. But in the right light, at the right angle, I can do the sneer. I have a bit of background too – with all those years I spent in the Mid-East. Why? – I ask you to ask me.
Of course, I’ll need to cut back on some of my other activities to do the job properly. Being Santa at Christmas – that would have to go, for a start.
I’ll have to work a bit on evil too. But I think I know just the man who can help me. Peter Bergen, if you happen to be reading this, you’ll find me in the cave at the end of my garden. No, any time’s OK – just tweet me.
FOOTNOTE: Huffington Post reports ‘Bin Laden’ Google searches increase 1 million percent. Peter – seriously, call me. We could be HUGE together. And look at the graph. Your numbers are falling. You need me.