Bin Laden's porn stash: Too good to be true?
The shadow of black propaganda
The revelation that US commandos who stormed Osama bin Laden's Pakistan bolthole unearthed a "massive smut stash" didn't much surprise those who'd been expecting news that the terrorist wasn't quite the paragon of Islamic virtue he claimed to be.
Of course, the "extensive" collection of "modern, electronically recorded video" may not have belonged to the al Qaeda leader - his son and two couriers also lived in the Abbottabad compound - and there's no evidence he ever viewed it.
Reuters' cautious initial report into the discovery stresses as much, but fails to address a critical question: does the porn repository actually exist?
Another report from "American-owned" Associated Press raised an eyebrow down at the UK's Independent on Sunday.
AP wrote: "The disclosure that US investigators found pornography... fuels the US narrative that Bin Laden was not the respectable or noble figure that his supporters embraced."*
Robert Strang, "former co-chair of the New York state Legislature 9/11 task force", expressed a similar sentiment down at the New York Post, saying: "He was inspirational to them [his adherents] in a big way. And the more that comes out about him, the more it shows that he's not the man they thought he was."
The Independent claims AP's words bear "the imprint of a spin doctor", and there's a certain legitimacy in suggesting that "fuelling the US narrative" is a euphemism for "feeding the US black propaganda machine".
Let's face it, the only way the US administration could have got more column inches out of the outrage was if bin Laden had been caught in bed with a Las Vegas hooker and a bottle of Scotch, toking on a post-coital spliff while reading The Satanic Verses.
Among the coverage highlights is a splendid News of the World piece (registration required), which insists that Bin Laden was "obsessed with US singer Whitney Houston - and especially enjoyed porn videos starring women who look like her".
The paper reckons CIA operatives are now staring drop-jawed at vids of "unnatural acts involving black, white and Asian women", which may have been used to carry "subliminal messages".
Whether al Qaeda really did use pneumatic Whitney Houston-alikes to disseminate information remains to be seen, as in fact does whether Bin Laden's penchant for porn was real or an invention of the CIA's dark imagination.
Roderick T Long, professor of philosophy at Alabama's Auburn Uni, refused to be drawn on Friday, when he blogged: "I have no problem believing that Bin Laden was a hypocrite. But I also have no problem believing that the US government is a liar. Hence I have no opinion one way or 'tother as to the existence of bin Laden's alleged porn collection.." ®
The full quote reads: "The disclosure that US investigators found pornography - which provoked ridicule among bloggers Friday - fuels the US narrative that bin Laden was not the respectable or noble figure that his supporters embraced."