It’s time for the PR quiz of the day. Who wrote the following: “He who does not make known his own history runs the risk that some in the media and historians will construct a history for them, using whatever information they have, regardless of whether their information is accurate or not.”
Was it Eddie Bernays, former U.S. propaganda chief Charlotte Beers, or Harold Burson? Give up? It was Osama bin Ladin, engineer of the greatest special event in the annals of the history of terrorism.
West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center has released a trove of letters written by bin Ladin while he was holed up in the now destroyed compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
They depict a person obsessed with media outreach and protecting the Al-Qaida brand from the actions of loose-cannon affiliated terror groups. Bin Laden had a deputy try to find an U.S. outlet to broadcast a speech to the American people on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 to “make known the justice of our cause to the world,” and to separate al-Qaida from more extreme jihadi elements.
A planned Al-Qaida outreach to Christians in Iraqi was aborted only after a militant group bombed a Catholic Church in Baghdad.
Bin Ladin believed military actions and media releases should be tightly coordinated so that “we do not violate our words with some of our practices.” A sophisticated and coherent media strategy was called a “principal element of the battle.” The terrorist stressed that with the rise of satellite TV “winning the media occupies a greater portion of the battle today.” He was irked after viewing an al-Jazeera profile that contained factual errors about him. Bin Ladin saw the opportunity to use PR to incite “people who have not yet revolted and extort them to rebel against the rulers.”
Even the far-fetched proposal to shoot down the planes of President Obama and/or General Petraeus on their visits to Afghanistan or Pakistan contained an element of PR.
The death of Obama would result in the “utterly unprepared” Vice President Joe Biden assume the president. To bin Laden, that would have triggered a PR crisis in the U.S.