Ekstreme islamister på facebook

I to år har jeg fulgt europeiske Facebook-sider der ekstreme, kvinnelige islamister møtes og deler tekster, videoer og annet med ekstremistisk innhold. På facebook møtes kvinnene for å utvlovejihadeksle informasjon og kunnskap og for å bli kjent med nye kvinner som deler deres ekstreme ideologi.

På disse sidene råder propagandaen. Jeg kan med andre ord sjelden vite hva som er sant og hva som ikke er sant. Hva som er ekte og hva som er fabrikkert. Jeg vet som oftest ikke en gang hvem kvinnene er, for de fleste opptrer mer eller mindre anonymt. Noen av kvinnene er imidlertid gjenkjennelige fra nyhetsmediene. Blant kvinnene skjuler det seg også innimellom menn og journalister, og kvinnene advarer hverandre mot disse falske profilene. Men uansett om alle facebookprofilene virkelig representerer kvinner, og om historiene de deler på sosiale medier er sanne eller ikke, så gir facebooksidene innsikt i hva kvinnene er opptatt av. Det er fordi sakene som deles oppfattes som autentiske.

Selvmordsbrev

En type saker som deles på sosiale medier, er avskjedsbrev eller videoer som er skrevet og laget før en selvmordsaksjon. Teksten under er et eksempel på et slikt brev. Brevet har jeg forkortet og oversatt til norsk.

Min elskede kone,

Jeg har nådd mitt mål! Jeg er martyr! Nå er operasjonen gjennomført. Foran meg ligger Paradiset i all sin prakt. Her ser jeg noe mine øyne aldri har kunnet forestille seg. Mitt største ønske har gått i oppfyllelse. Så ofte jeg har drømt om paradiset! Hvor ofte har ikke vi to snakket om min lengsel etter å forlate verden! Nå er min tid kommet. Helt sikkert! Gud belønner martyrene. Med dette brevet tar jeg farvel med deg. Fylt med smerte har jeg valgt min vei. I min kjærlighet til Gud har jeg forlatt din varme kjærlighet, slik at jeg kan skape en plass for oss to i Paradiset.Jeg tenker på deg med kjærlighet og begjær. Det øyeblikket jeg kan omfavne deg og vise deg vårt nye hjem. Hjemmet jeg har gitt mitt liv for. Kona mi, forbered deg på det evige liv!Livet i verden er bare for et øyeblikk. Nå snakker jeg til deg fra det hinsidige. Det skal du vite, min elskede kone, at i det daglige kan verden være både slu og utspekulert. La deg endelig ikke forlede! Se opp, og la paradiset bli ditt evige liv! I går er borte, og i dag varer ikke så lenge. Lov meg at du gjør deg din Herre verdig!For nå vil jeg si farvel til deg. Jeg håper at mine ord kan lege deg og trøste deg. Kona mi, paradiset venter på deg. Jeg gleder meg sånn til å dele livet i Paradiset med deg. Din plass er holdt av her ved siden av meg. Min elskede, gi alt du kan gi! Ved Gud, verden er bare for et øyeblikk. Snart vil du være her hos meg. Tiden er nær. Vis styrke under denne store prøvelsen. Gled deg til vårt storslagne møte! Kona mi, betingelsesløst skal jeg elske deg i all evighet. 

Slik lød angivelig avskjedsbrevet fra en ung mann som tror han har gitt sitt liv til Gud, at han er martyr. Brevet, som han skal ha sendt til sin kone før han gjennomførte en selvmordsaksjon, har vært delt på sosiale medier. Det er, som sagt, ikke sikkert brevet er ekte. Det kan være fabrikkert i propagandaøyemed. Brevet er likevel interessant for meg som forsker, fordi det er blitt oppfattet som ekte. Jeg har ikke sett noen som har stilt spørsmål ved brevets autentisitet. Det har høstet mange likes på facebook.

Det mest typiske ved islamistiske ekstremister er at de leser de islamske tekstene helt bokstavelig, og at de leser dem på egenhånd uten reflektert veiledning fra en skriftlærd. Med min kunnskap om ekstreme islamister kan jeg forestille meg hvordan enken har reagert på brevet, dersom det er ekte.

På facebook

Etter å ha lest avskjedsbrevet går den unge enken kanskje på Facebook for å dele nyheten med sine venninner. For å illustrere et eksempel kan vi kalle henne Umm Osama, Osamas mor. De fleste ekstreme islamister har slike kallenavn som begynner med umm, som betyr mor, eller abu som betyr far. Men så er det også mange andre som bruker denne navneskikken. Navneskikken er ikke et sikkert kjennetegn på ekstremisme. Selv blir jeg kalt Umm Sara blant venninner i Egypt.

Umm Osama referer til Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida lederen som støttet angrepet mot USA 11. september 2001. Blant mange ekstreme islamister regnes bin Laden som en helt. Derfor benyttes han også i slike kallenavn. Det er en hyllest til al-Qaidas tidligere leder.

binladen

Bin Laden har i stor grad bidratt til å etablere og spre konspirasjonsteorien om korstogene. En teori som sier at vesten/korsfarerne forsøker å utrydde islam og muslimene med alle mulige midler. I sine taler ga han mange eksempler på det han mente var korsfarernes ondskap. Slik som invasjonen av Irak og Afghanistan, opprettelsen av staten Israel og karikaturtegningene. Korstogene fra middelalderen sluttet aldri, mener tilhengerne av denne konspirasjonsteorien. De har vedvart til i dag, og de pågår fremdeles i ulike former.

På Facebook bytter enken kanskje ut profilbildet sitt med bildet av en liten grønn fugl, for hun tror nok at martyrenes sjeler lever videre i yndige, små fugler som flyr rundt ved Guds trone øverst i himmelen. Fuglene symboliserer martyrene. Kondolansene på Facebook lar derfor antakelig ikke vente på seg:

facebookdialog

Figurene i samtalen over finnes ikke, men de ligner på folk jeg har observert på Facebook. De er anonyme og har alle navn, profilbilder og bannere med ulike symboler som gir assosiasjoner til IS. Løven er for eksempel et symbol på heltemot, og i denne konteksten gir løven assosiasjoner til voldelig jihad. Dessuten betyr Osama løve.

No-go sonen

Mens jeg skriver denne artikkelen sitter jeg i Brussel. Nærmere bestemt på et hotell i bydelen Molenbeek. En vesentlig del av Belgias fremmedkrigere er fra denne bydelen. De har reist fra Molenbeek til Syria for å slutte seg til IS. Noen av de unge kvinnene jeg har observert på Facebook, bor antakelig i Molenbeek.På norsk ville vi kalt Molenbeek for Møllebekken. Bydelen med det koselige navnet har vært beskrevet som en av Europas såkalte no go soner. Et område det er farlig å bevege seg inn i. Et område der politiet verken har kontroll eller blir respektert, og der de blir kastet stein etter så snart de nærmer seg. Et område der ekstreme islamister råder. I Norge har Møllebekken vært trukket frem som et skrekkens eksempel, og som en advarsel til våre politikere og andre interesserte. Men Møllebekken lever ikke opp til sitt rykte. Det er ingenting som skremmer meg her. Jeg føler jeg meg verken truet eller uønsket. Det er ikke farlig å bevege seg rundt her. På en kafé blir vi ønsket velkommen av en guttegjeng med bakgrunn fra Marokko ved nabobordet. Servitøren har også bakgrunn fra Marokko. Han serverer marokkansk myntete og er vennligheten selv. Møllebekkens rykte er betydelig overdrevet. En politimann vi snakker med, bekrefter vårt inntrykk.

Terrorturisme

Mens vi snakker med politimannen, passerer en guidet gruppe eldre turister oss. Politimannen antar turistene er på vei til huset der den terrormistenkte Salah Abdesalam ble arrestert. Salah sitter fengslet mistenkt for både å ha vært involvert i angrepet mot Paris i november 2015 og i angrepet mot Brussel i mars i år. I Paris ble 130 mennesker drept. I Brussel ble 31 personer drept og 220 ble såret. Det er voldelig islamisme turistene kommer til Møllebekken for. Politimannen kan også fortelle at det negative ryktet utgjør et betydelig problem for innbyggerne. På jobbmarkedet er man sjanseløs med adressen 1080 Molenbeek. I Møllebekken er befolkningstettheten stor, og stedet har atskillige sosiale problemer. Her er det mange vanskeligstilte familier. Arbeidsledigheten er høy, og spesielt høy blant ungdom. I området bor det mange rotløse unge med dårlige fremtidsutsikter.

Ungdom uten en trygg plattform kan være enkle bytter for karismatiske ledere. Noen av dem kan lett la seg lokke inn i ekstremisme. Bydelen er derfor et sted som tiltrekker seg ververe fra IS. Men hvordan kan unge mennesker komme dithen at de de ser frem til døden? At noen til og med fremskynder døden gjennom avskyelige handlinger? Vi vet ikke så mye om det, men vi vet at unge mennesker i en vanskelig livssituasjon kan være enkle ofre for karismatiske ledere som rekrutterer til Den islamske statens ideologi. Vi vet også at hver ungdom har sin egen sin egen historie, som på ulike måter kan gjøre dem lett påvirkelige.

Rekruttørene

profilbilde-umm-aaishahDe såkalte rekruttørene er gjerne likandes og karismatiske. De vet hvordan de skal manipulere ungdommen. De vet hvordan de skal finne ungdommens såre punkter. Rekruttøren fyrer opp under ungdommens frustrasjoner. Deres mangel på muligheter og deres opplevelse av utenforskap. Ungdommene blir for eksempel fortalt at de ikke trenger å bli integrert i samfunnet. Snakket om integrering er bare tøv, for det europeiske samfunnet vil egentlig ikke ha dem. Det er bortkastet tid å forsøke å få en plass i samfunnet. Ungdommene vil aldri få jobb. Ingen ansetter muslimer. I neste omgang blir de fortalt at det er bedre for dem ikke å omgås de vantro i det hele tatt. Europeiske kvinners såkalte frihet bunner ikke i noe annet enn en grov utnyttelse av kvinner som ikke skjønner sitt eget beste. Halvnakne går de rundt til mennenes forlystelse og tror de er frigjorte, men de er ikke frie. Kvinnene i Europa er lenket til moteindustrien som former dem til sexobjekter for kåte og ustyrlige menn.

Et meningsfylt liv

Rekruttørene lokker med et meningsfylt liv og en plass i paradiset. De kan tilby kjærlighet og vennskap. Det vi alle streber etter og trenger. I ekstreme grupperinger knyttes tette vennskapsbånd og medlemmene får en følelse av betydning. At de er viktige. Rekruttøren og fellesskapet kan derfor fylle noen mer eller mindre bevisste behov hos ungdom. Av rekruttørene får ungdommen servert enkle svar på kompliserte spørsmål. Ungdommen forledes av sine følelser, av sine ønsker om å skape seg et meningsfullt og godt liv innenfor et fellesskap. De blir forespeilet en helt spesiell plass hos Gud. Gradvis blir de indoktrinert i en tankegang der alt er enten svart eller hvitt. En verden som består av noen venner og veldig mange fiender. Ingen midt imellom. Ingen gråsoner.

 

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Publisert i Al-Qaida, Ekstremister, Facebook, Islamistisk ekstremisme, Osama bin Laden, Propaganda, Uncategorized, Ungdom | Legg igjen en kommentar

Hate Speech: use of intolerant language

This article was first published in the Norwegian Scientific journal FLEKS

Anne Birgitta Nilsen, associate professor Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied sciences

Introduction

This article discusses the use of intolerant language, which is also known as hate speech. Hate speech is a genre of rhetoric that evokes negative emotions, attitudes and opinions among specific groups of people, and promotes intolerance. The intolerant content of hate speech originates in conspiracy theories or phobias and anti-isms, like homophobia, anti-feminism, anti-Semitism or anti-ziganism. The content is spread and reinforced by appealing to the public’s emotions. In political and religious environments where extremism and radicalisation processes gain a foothold, hate speech leads young people to develop a distorted image of reality through its unique linguistic instruments.

However, hate speech does not only occur among extremists or individuals with antisocial behaviour. It is also found in other contexts. In a report from the Council of Europe regarding Norwegian society, we read that despite a general climate of tolerance and dialogue, hateful statements in the public discourse regarding immigrants have increased in recent years (Phillips, 2009). Hate speech is presumably found in every language, and Norwegian hate speech therefore shares many traits with corresponding language use in other languages, as this article will show, using analyses from right-wing European extremists’ hate speech and hate speech from al-Qaida’s former leader, Osama bin Laden. This article also shows that the Eurabia and the crusade conspiracy theories have much in common.

The overarching objective of the article is to describe hate speech using rhetorical theory, and to show how this type of rhetoric helps spread conspiracy theories. Rhetorical theory has been chosen because it focuses on how people’s ways of thinking and acting change, and how people are led and deceived using language. Persuasive language can get us to do something. Convincing language can get us to understand something or change our opinion. Jens E. Kjeldsen also uses theoretical terms to analyse visual rhetoric (Kjeldsen, 2002). Visual rhetoric is an important part of hate speech, especially that found on the internet, where pictures and text are interweaved in order to create meaning. Part of Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto was copied from different web sites, and precisely consisted of such complex texts (Nilsen, 2012a).

This article first presents the theoretical perspectives at the heart of the author’s definition of hate speech. This is followed by the author’s definition of hate speech, and a more detailed description of the content, form and function of the genre through linguistic analyses of text examples from the crusade and Eurabia conspiracy theories. The analyses are based on the theoretical concepts of ethos, logos and pathos, with emphasis on the potential effect of this language use on its audience. Finally, the analyses are summarised using a table of genre characteristics which, as well as the analyses presented in this article, is based on the author’s past analyses of hate speech (Nilsen, 2010, 2012a, 2014). The table of genre characteristics identifies patterns of expression in hate speech; what in linguistics is referred to as genre conventions.

 

Theoretical perspectives

This article bases its definition of hate speech on hate speech as a rhetorical genre, where the genre represents a specific recurring rhetorical act. A genre must thus also be understood as a repetitive social activity that uses verbal or written language. Language use here refers to an activity that draws on different semiotic resources, or which interacts with them (see Kress, 2010; Kress & Van Leeuwen, 2006), like verbal language, non-verbal language, text, gestures, images, graphics, etc. A definition of genre based on rhetorical theory has been chosen because it shows how language is used to create effects, as asserted by Jan Svensson and Jyrki Kalliokoski in an interview with Per Ledin (2001). From the perspective of rhetorical theory, it can be said that genre is a rhetorical tool that has been developed to achieve a certain effect in a specific sociocultural context. Like all other language use, the extent to which hate speech works or has social consequences will therefore depend on the context.

According to rhetorical theory, persuasion and convincing always require that the judge of the speech receives the correct impression of the speaker’s personality (ethos), is affected in a specific way (pathos) or that a matter is considered to have been proven (logos). Ethos refers to the speaker’s self-representation and who the listeners or readers perceive the speaker to be. A speaker with coherent, relevant arguments appears to use reason. A speaker who shows that he understands the difference between right and wrong appears to be morally credible, fair and just. A speaker who shows that he cares about his audience appears well-intentioned and welcoming. Through his language use, the speaker shows his audience that he wants their best. The concept of ethos is thus based on the importance of reason, morals and good intentions to a speaker’s credibility.

 

The ethos of hate speech

The ethos of al-Qaida’s former leader, Osama bin Laden, was an important component of his rhetorical power. The relationship between his theory and practice, his life and lifestyle, was convincing in several ways. He came from one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families, and it has often been mentioned that he left a life of luxury to fight with his Muslim brothers in Afghanistan (see e.g. Atwan, 2006). He was also admired for his simple and modest lifestyle, because for long periods of time he lived on a very plain diet, without running water or electricity. An audience’s prior knowledge of a speaker, and their perception and impression of him are also critical to a speaker’s ability to convince this audience. This is often called introductory ethos, the ethos before a person begins speaking.

 

Ethos can be used in hate speech, because a person whose credibility is linked to reason, morals and good intentions towards his audience will have a greater chance of winning over the audience with his message. In his speeches, Osama bin Laden played on his good intentions towards his audience, but also on corresponding bad intentions towards those he perceived to be his enemies. He exploited the us-them perspective by trying to turn the Muslim part of the global population against the Western part of the population by asserting the immorality of the West. The texts implied that bin Laden and al-Qaida would save the Muslims of the world, as we see in the poem below, which he recited in an interview with al-Jazeera in 1998:

 

 

He prepared himself for battle, for the matter was very grave.

I will don my armour and defend her with teeth and stones.

Would you leave us besieged by the infidel wolves, eating my wing?

They have not ceased harrying us, these sons of evil, from all sides.

So where is the nobleman among the sons of my religion

who will defend his noble brothers with the sword? Death is better than a life of humiliation and some shame none can erase. (Bin Laden and Lawrence 2005)

 

He frequently used poetry in his speeches. By reciting poetry, bin Laden may have been perceived as competent and a learned man, as he showed that he was interested in and mastered several literary genres; poetry and politico-religious oratory. Today, after bin Laden’s death, we see clear traces of his credibility and charisma among the members of al-Qaida and similar organisations, for example in their uploads to YouTube, where bin Laden is praised and quoted (Nilsen, 2012b), in the hate speech directed towards Americans, Jews and their allies. The tributes to bin Laden tell us something about what they remember about bin Laden, what it was that appealed to his ideological supporters. In general, it appears to be his fight against the enemy and concern for oppressed people (Nilsen, 2012b:17). Like other leaders, bin Laden received able assistance from a media company. During the past few years, the company al-Sahab promoted bin Laden as both a leader and a heroic figure through audiovisual productions published on the internet (Nilsen, 2013, 2014).

 

The logos of hate Speech

Logos is a form of appeal that targets the audience’s reason. This form of appeal is characterised by arguments and reasoning that show what is true and untrue or probable or improbable. The probative force may be real or apparent. In hate speech, the probative force is mostly not factual, because it is often based on untruths, exaggerations and over-generalisations. The rhetoric generalises individual events, and therefore requires an uncritical audience – an audience which is either unable to see through false conclusions or conclusions made on very thin grounds or which does not want to do so because the arguments and conclusions fit in nicely with its world view.

 

Hate speech can reinforce the idea of a single group’s superiority. This superiority is often linked to genetics and race, as in one of Fjordman’s essays on Gates of Vienna, «Surviving the coming crash», from 2009. Fjordman writes that white people create superior societies, and that this can be explained by the genetic intelligence of white people:

 

The truth is that whites create superior societies. Not only are others not capable of creating what we do, most of them are not even capable of maintaining it. The one major exception would be Northeast Asians, the only other large group of people on this planet apart from Europeans capable of sustaining a technologically sophisticated society. If anybody replaces us as the world’s leading civilization it will be them, for the simple reason that they are the only ones who possess a genetic intelligence to match ours, and they are not suicidal.[1]

 

The quote illustrates apparent probative force in academic form. This affected academic form of writing appears to be typical of Fjordman’s texts. There is a lack of sound arguments and thoroughness, as shown by Professor Tore Slaatta, after analysing Fjordman’s Master’s dissertation (Slaatta, 2012). The reason Slaatta studied the dissertation was that he found it odd that a person who had taken a Master’s degree at the University of Oslo would be unwilling or unable to use sound arguments in the public discourse. Slaatta therefore reviewed his dissertation[2] (Jensen, 2004). In an interview with Uniforum, Slaatta said the following about Nøstvold Jensen:

 

In brief, I would say that he has not incorporated any academic values or knowledge into his Master’s dissertation. He has not formulated a research question or presented any theory or method for the dissertation. It is merely a simple and superficial discussion of something, and it completely lacks credibility and value in its structure and method. This method of writing consists of a great deal of «cut and paste», and it was possible for him to write the dissertation without leaving his place in front of the computer. In my opinion, the dissertation shows that the educational projects at the University of Oslo allow shortcuts and detours.[3]

 

A major foundation for hate speech is so-called conspiracy theories, which are based on an idea of a secret conspiracy. According to the theories, the conspiracy is that a group of people are secretly sneaking up on another group in order to eradicate them or their culture and religion. The crusade conspiracy theory is a theory that asserts that the USA and its allies, the crusaders, are conducting a crusade against Islam and Muslims, and that this crusade is supported and aided by the authorities of the different Muslim countries. The foremost proponent of this theory was al-Qaida’s former leader, Osama bin Laden, who described a crusader war against the Muslims in one of his speeches. The term crusader and the crusade conspiracy theory explains part of the impact of Osama bin Laden’s speeches – an impact that gave his speeches much attention in the media. In one speech he said, for example, that:

 

And the rulers of our region consider American and Europe to be friends and allies, and also consider the Mujahid groups fighting the Crusaders in Iraq and Afghanistan to be terrorist groups, so how can there possibly be dialogue and understanding with them without weapons? (Bin Laden et al., 2007:456)

Crusade and crusaders are the most widely used concepts in the conspiracy theory. In bin Laden’s speeches, we see an expanded use of the terms, where he puts them into new contexts and uses language creatively. The expression Zionist/Crusader war is used frequently when bin Laden talks about the conflict in Palestine, for example. He talks about UN resolutions as Zionist/Crusader resolutions:

 

[…] it is a tool used to implement the Zionist/Crusader resolutions, including the declarations of war against us and the division and occupations of our lands. It is a Zionist/Crusader war against the Muslims (Bin Ladenand Lawrence 2005).

 

The term crusade, around which the conspiracy theory is built around, is useful and effective, because the Crusades of the Middle Ages are a historic trauma for many Muslims. Links can be drawn from this trauma to the colonial period and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Abu Musab al-Suri, one of al-Qaida’s foremost ideologists, divides history into three different crusade periods. The first Crusade took place in the Middle Ages, the second Crusade took place during the colonialisation, and the third Crusade began in 1990, when Western forces established a presence on holy ground in Saudi Arabia. Al-Suri describes the War on Terror as a covert crusade against the Muslims (discussed by Nilsen, 2010). Used in such a context, the term provides a sense of continuity, reinforcing the image of the evil enemy. At the same time, the crusaders and the crusades help increase the us-them perspective and the idea of an international Muslim community.

 

In a speech in April 2006 (Bin Laden et al., 2007:447-477), bin Laden described the attacks on Afghanistan as an evil crusade against Islam, and said that the reason for the crusade was an unspeakable Crusader hatred. In the same speech, he asserted that the caricatures which were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten are an example of a Western crusade against the Western world. In this speech, the crusade is described with reference to different players, like the crusader journalists, as we see in the quote below:

This talk of mine is for you, to continue to encourage and urge you to aid our Messenger, may Allah’s peace and prayers be upon him, and punish those responsible for the heinous crime committed by some journalists among the Crusaders […] (Al Qaeda 2006 Yearbook,).

 

In the same speech, bin Laden holds the US authorities, here referred to as crusader forces responsible for the conflict in Sudan, where they incited a baseless war in order to steal the oil under the pretext of peacekeeping (Bin Laden et al., 2007:459). Further down in the same text, he refers to the regime in Khartoum as the Crusader thieves in the west of  Sudan, a reference to a Sudanese conspiracy with the USA. The conflict in Kashmir is described as a Crusader-Zionist-Hindu war against Muslims (Bin Laden et al., 2007:460). Halfway through the speech, bin Laden asks what the different events mean, and answers all of the questions himself with: a Crusader-Zionist war against Muslims. In one example, he mentions Bosnia in the 1990s:

 

And then what does it mean when the weapon is forbidden for the defenseless in Bosnia and the Serbian Army is left to slaughter the Muslims and spill their blood and violate their rights for several years under the cover and veil of the UN? It is a Zionist/Crusader war against the Muslims (Bin Laden and Lawrence 2005).

In another example, he mentions Iraq:

What does the destruction of the infrastructure in Iraq mean and the tragedy that befell them mean? And the use of depleted uranium, besieging Iraq for years, causing the death of more than one million children? […] It is a Zionist/Crusader war against the Muslims (Bin Laden and Lawrence 2005).

 

France’s position in the hijab case is also described as a Crusader-Zionist war (Bin Laden et al., 2007:464). The leader of the crusade at the time was President Bush, who bin Laden believed led a crusade against Muslims in order to plunder their resources and enslave them. It is also worth noting that he says that the gravest and most critical Crusader-Zionist attack against Muslims is the attack on the prophet, the religion and Sharia, and that he expects the Crusader-Zionist tide to turn (Bin Laden et al., 2007:470). As we have seen, Bin Laden was a very imaginative user of the concept crusade (Nilsen, 2010 has discussed the concept of crusader in further detail). In his texts, the term serves as a way of legitimizing a specific world view. According to the crusade conspiracy theory, it is a matter of an extensive campaign, which is not only military, but also a cultural and financial invasion of Muslim countries. In a speech from December 2004, he says that even the schools’ curricula reveal an attempt to deform children’s Islamic identity and westernise them. Bin Laden says that this Crusader interference is the most dangerous form of intervention in Islamic society (Bin Laden et al., 2007:368).

 

The crusade conspiracy theory has many parallels to the Eurabia conspiracy theory. One shared starting-point is the enemy’s secret intention to destroy. The terms colonialisation and imperalism recur on both sides, in a rhetoric where the respective governments are in collusion with the colonialists. Both Islamic extremists and right-wing extremists monitor the news, focusing on cases people are interested in, and they greatly exaggerate their descriptions of reality when they approach these cases, which can be described as rhetorical situations, following Lloyd F. Bitzer (1968/1997). Carolyn Miller (1984) asserts that rhetorical situations give the speaker a socially recognizable way to make his or her intentions known.

 

In Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto, the Muslims are the conquerors, which is why he is taking action to save us. We find some of the same thinking among Islamic extremists, where the Western world slowly but surely is conquering the Muslim world in a crusade that has been ongoing since the Middle Ages. In order to legitimise his world view, Breivik and Islamic extremists, as well as al-Qaida, make reference to history. The rhetoric on both sides is full of military symbolism, and they name themselves after historic heroes from the Crusades. Brevik used Sigurd Jorsalfare (Sigurd the Crusader) as his online alias. As the name implies, Sigurd was a Norwegian king who went on a Crusade to Jerusalem. Jorsal was Norse for Jerusalem. It is also common for al-Qaida’s members to use warrior names which refer to historic war heroes. Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden, has been compared with Saladin, the ruler who won Jerusalem back from the crusaders. Breivik has said that a man called Richard the Lionheart was his mentor and ideological guide.

 

The conspiracy theories about Eurabia

Eurabia is a theory of Muslim colonialisation of Europe using economic, military and demographic instruments like family reunification and high childbirth figures (Bat, 2005; Spencer, 2008). This is an idea that corresponds to the Muslim view that the West is crusading against Islam in order to eradicate Islam and Muslims. The Eurabia conspiracy theory is one of Muslim families who intentionally have many children as part of a covert Islamisation process. Muslims are seeking to destroy Western civilisation in order to realise their goal of Islamic rule based on a literal interpretation of Sharia, and thus restore a form of prehistoric 6th–7th century caliphate. According to this theory, there are no moderate Muslims. Muslims are warriors, and they foster terrorists. If Muslims appear moderate, according to this conspiracy theory, they are only concealing their true identity for their own gain. At heart, all Muslims are actually all the same. There is only one form of Islam, and all Muslims follow it. This is the form of Islam that al-Qaida and similar organisations recognise and where, as we have seen, the ideology is controlled by the crusade conspiracy theory.

 

In Norway, Peder Nøstvold Jensen, also known as Fjordman, is one of the best known proponents of the Eurabia conspiracy theory, which particularly inspired Anders Behring Breivik. Journalist Simen Sætre highlights Fjordman’s ability to popularise and dramatise the ideas regarding Eurabia (Sætre, 2013:260). In his book, Det mørke nettet [The dark night] (2011), journalist Øyvind Strømmen seeks to explain the origin of the hatred that manifested itself on 22 July 2011. Strømmen provides examples of how Fjordman helped develop the terrorist’s world of ideas, and quotes Fjordman’s texts, saying among others:

 

I predict that the EU will break up within the next 20 years, and that there will be a full civil war in at least one Western European country before then. Sooner or later regular people will discover that the EU and European leaders have already voted behind the backs of the native population in favour of Muslim colonisation of our continent to continue freely. This is the greatest betrayal in global history, and it is incomprehensible that our supposedly power-critical press corps, including the country’s largest newspaper VG, has not written a single word about it. The fact is that Western leaders are conducting a demographic and legal war against the white majority population in Western countries in order to break them down in favour of an authoritarian, post-democratic world order, with themselves at the top. The EU has already come far down this path (Strømmen, 2011:57 cited in Fjordman).

 

Part of the concept of Eurabia is not only linked to right-wing extremists, the so-called counter-jihadists, because, as mentioned earlier, the relatively widespread term of stealth islamisation also contains a semantic link to this conspiracy theory. The term indicates that a covert islamisation process is taking place in Norway. We also find these messages in visual form, as we e.g. see that under the Norwegian flag there are Islamic crescents, crescents that appear to be spreading.[4] The shape implies that key values are under threat, and that Norway is about to become an Islamic country. The drawing thus connotes Eurabia.

norsk flagg.png

 

 

Visual shapes, where national symbols are placed together with Islamic symbols, recur in texts on the internet that promote the Eurabia conspiracy theory. In another example, the Norwegian Storting has mosque-like domes, which has connotations to Eurabia. The drawing comes from the web site of SIAN (Stop Islamisation of Norway), an organisation which is one of the main proponents of Eurabia in Norway.

all makt.png

 

Just like in Islamic extremist texts, Breivik’s manifesto and other right-wing extremist texts describe political worst-case scenarios and paint lurid pictures of the enemy. It is typical of images of the enemy that they create an expectation of inhuman, aggressive or hostile acts, as we e.g. see in the drawing below, where an aggressive Muslim surfaces in Europe.

overflaten-europa

 

The drawing comes from a blog that actively promotes Fjordman’s texts.[5] Like this drawing, the Eurabia conspiracy theory is presented in unusual and shocking forms of expression that attract attention, which is where we find the potential impact of this rhetoric. Visual resources like photographs, drawings, caricatures, collages, colours and logos are used to highlight, repeat and elaborate on the message of Eurabia (Nilsen 2012a).

 

The pathos of hate Speech

The main trait of hate speech is its appeal to people’s negative emotions. Negative emotions towards a group of people can be activated and reinforced. This allows a link between language use and action, as also asserted in speech act theory (Austin, 1962; Searle, 1969, 1979). Speech acts are intended to create an effect among the people they address; they can have an effect. A sense of fear can be reinforced through the speech act to scare. By activating people’s anger, they can become more inclined to take revenge. This inclination can be exploited politically, as part of a dangerous game, something we saw al-Qaida’s former leader Osama bin Laden do. His spreading of hatred of the West made Bin Laden an important source of inspiration for terrorist acts. Negative emotions, ideas and attitudes are reinforced and spread when the terms Eurabia and the Crusade are used, with their negative connotations.

 

The term pathos refers to the emotional argumentation expressed by the speaker. It is about awakening or reinforcing the listeners’ emotional investment, touching them. Emotions can affect people, so that they change their opinion or it is reinforced. It is well known that part of Adolf Hitler’s persuasiveness lay in his ability to awaken and reinforce people’s negative emotions towards Jews. Swedish professor of rhetoric Brigitte Mral (2009) has studied how Hitler used his voice, and she shows that also the way he used his voice appealed to people’s emotions. His tone put Hitler’s audience in a specific mood, he stoked negative emotions like anger and hate. Hate speech thus does not primarily focus on the people the speaker hates or feels negatively towards; these people are often referred to as objects of hate or victims. More accurately, hate speech focuses on the people the speaker wants to win over. Naturally this does not mean that the speaker’s victims are not affected. Victims are affected by the awakening of negative views of them in society. Judith Butler (1997) describes hateful utterances as linguistic acts with the ability to hurt and impose pain. Hate speech tells selected groups that they are neither wanted nor welcome in society, and the language use can lead groups to feel threatened, unsafe and afraid. What is most important in order to understand this rhetoric is that it can awaken and reinforce intolerance, not that it hurts or frightens. The most characteristic speech acts associated with rhetoric in general are convincing and persuasion. The speech act linked to hate speech is to malign a group of people’s standing and reputation.

 

Definitions associated with hate speech

Definitions of hate speech are often based on either the intention behind the language use (see e.g. Waldron, 2012) or its effect (see e.g. Weber, 2009). The definition presented in this article emphasises the potential effect of the language use on its audience; this means the listeners or readers. The main reason for this is that its potential effect makes hate speech harmful and possibly dangerous to a society. I also want to emphasise the possible impact of hate speech in order to point out that language users are not only responsible for their intention, but also for how their utterances may be perceived, and what actions the utterances may inspire. Hate speech also has potential consequences that make its language use stand out from other types of utterances, like insults. The language use can have a negative impact on a group, because it can affect their reputation, status and self-esteem. Hate speech hurts and causes pain (Butler 1997). This is the main argument in favour of focusing on the effect rather than the intention.

 

Hate speech is a compound noun, consisting of hate and speech, but hate speech is not limited to language use that exclusively spreads the feeling of hatred towards a group of people. It also draws on other negative emotions, like revulsion, anger or fear. Activation of other negative emotions can give rise to the same negative effects as hate. Hate speech is defined as follows in this article:

language use that can either awaken or reinforce negative emotions, attitudes or views of a group of people based on race, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation or other group affiliation.

 

Following this definition, we can say that the main speech act realised in hate speech is to malign or bad-mouth a group of people. According to language philosopher John R. Searle’s speech act terms (Searle, 1969, 1979), this is based on a specific type of expressives in direct or indirect form. The result of this rhetoric may be that the in group views the out group either as a disease, something contagious, or something dangerous that needs to be dealt with. The rhetoric exploits the emotions of its audience, and puts critical thinking aside. On the content side, the foremost characteristic of the language use is extremist utterances based on faulty generalisations and a lack of nuances. In other words, hate speech is not founded in argumentation based on objectivity, reason and a search for truth – what we call logos. Hate speech is characterised by a special form of pathos argumentation that targets the negative emotions of the audience. Hate speech targets an audience that can be swept away and fosters negative ideas.

 

Hate speech is expressed using drama and charged language. The caricatures of the prophet Muhammad have been used extensively in hate speech. The one side focuses on human rights and asserts that there is a conflict between Muslims and freedom of expression. The other side focuses on the offence, and asserts that the repeated publication of the caricatures is part of a number of other attacks on Muslims. ‘Stealth’ is a word that recurs in different forms. One of al-Qaida’s ideologists discusses the serious threat to the Muslims of the world posed by stealth crusaders (Nilsen, 2010). In Norway there is talk of stealth islamisation (the term is discussed and described by Døving, 2012; Nilsen, 2012a), which shows that the conspiracy theories have extended beyond extremist groups. Different social media like Facebook and YouTube provide many examples of groups whose membership is based on a community of hatred towards a different group of people (Herz & Molnár, 2012), and where the main activity is to share negative ideas and selective information about the group of people. Hate speech is also occasionally expressed by Norwegian politicians. In 2012, a local Norwegian politician wrote the following on his Facebook page:

 

CAN’t understand why it should be a problem to get rid of all  the rapes in Oslo and NORWAY… You just have to stop everybody at Norway’s border and send all the monkeys back to Africa where they can tend to their FUCKING great culture (as some people say).The worst is that there are women in Norway who think African apes are sooooooo fine.[6]

This quote is an example of hate speech, because it expresses a condescending attitude through offensive references to Africans as monkeys and apes. The premise of the conclusion, that the only rapists in Norway are Africans, is furthermore untrue. The Facebook status is not based on objectivity and sound reasoning, because the politician uses falsehoods and lies when he speaks of Africans and those who like Africans in negative terms. The politician appears to be exploiting rape, which had been in the headlines at the time he wrote his status update, to malign Africans. Using Carolyn Miller’s terms (1984), we can say that the public discourse on rape gave the politician a socially recognisable way of proclaiming his attitudes and views regarding Africans.

 

In hate speech related to conspiracy theories, large groups of people are turned against each other by appealing to the emotions of the public. An expectation of evil acts is created. These expected acts can be interpreted as doing one’s best to defend oneself, and the images of enemies therefore contain a link between language and action. Images of the enemy can be seen as indirect speech acts, as an incitement to defend oneself. Both Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists have an image of the enemy that is removed from reality, and can be described as extremist in both a religious and political sense. Lars Gule’s (2012) definition of extremism is useful here. He distinguishes between descriptive and normative extremism. Descriptive extremism is characterised by an overall perception of reality that conflicts with an empirically-based, rational approach and understanding of reality. While normative extremism is about an extreme ideological conviction as to how things should be, descriptive extremism is an idea of how things are. Both Muslim extremists and right-wing extremists represent a descriptive type of extremism which conflicts with our best knowledge. People in the West are neither crusaders nor supporters of a major cultural, economic and military crusade against Islam where the goal is to eradicate Muslims and Islam for good, as asserted by al-Qaida. On the other hand, it is well known that Muslims are not trying to take over Europe, introduce Islamic law and establish Eurabia, as asserted by a number of right-wing extremists.

 

A summary of previous analyses of Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto and video (Nilsen, 2012a) and analyses of Osama bin Laden’s speeches (Nilsen, 2010) have been presented in the table of genre characteristics below. The form shows the opportunities and limitations inherent in hate speech. It should be possible to describe the opportunities and limitations associated with contextual factors and instruments that are necessary for a given verbal or written text to be described as hate speech.

 

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HATE SPEECH GENRE
CONTENT Conspiracy theories Anti-isms and phobia

Ideas of the superiority of one’s own group

APPEALS TO Feelings
FORM Sensational and dramatic
SPEECH ACT To malign

To denigrate

DURATION Repeated acts
VICTIM Group
AUDIENCE Broad, uncritical audience
POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES FOR VICTIMS Feeling of being unsafe, fear and anxiety

Tarnished reputation, status and self-esteem Dehumanisation

Hate crimes

POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES FOR SOCIETY Social cleavages Terrorism

 

Following pragmatics, a genre can be defined as a type of verbal and/or written text based on norms and conventions that have been developed among language users in order to meet a communicative need. For hate speech, the communicative need may be a matter of creating or reinforcing social cleavages or inspiring terrorism, as we see in potential consequences in the table of genre characteristics. We also find hate speech to be characterised by conspiracy theories or phobias and anti-isms, like anti-feminism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-ziganism or anti-Semitism. According to rhetorical theory, these can be described as different topoi; this means as established views or conventional arguments that can help create conviction. One type of topos is loci communes, which are lines of argument that are so useful that they can be placed in many different speeches without needing to be adapted to the matter in question. According to Øyvind Andersen (1995:159), they constitute a set of views and arguments, tirades and harangues, arguments and general forms of expression that give the speaker a greater impact. In hate speech they facilitate the creation social cleavages, and may at worst inspire terrorism. This is the sensational and dramatic form that particularly helps create conviction among an audience. It magnifies conflicts for listeners who may continue to spread the content of the rhetoric.

 

Conclusion

Hate speech is a type of language use that spreads intolerance, here seen as negative emotions, attitudes and unfavourable ideas about a group of people. The language use is directed towards an audience that may be caught up in a rhetoric where emotions, not reason, prevail. Hate speech is described in this article using a table of genre characteristics and theoretical terms from the field of rhetoric, as well as using examples from right-wing extremist and Islamic extremists. A key aspect of these groups’ verbal and written texts is that their argumentation and ideology are based on conspiracy theories. They also share a belief that people can thank themselves for the current attacks.

 

Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik was inspired and motivated by the Eurabia conspiracy theory, and attacked the government because he believes that it is responsible for what he views as a multicultural muddle. Islamic terrorists are inspired by the hate speech associated with the crusade conspiracy theory. In the same way, also they believe that their governments have not taken action to prevent attacks by the West, and that their governments have collaborated with the attackers instead. The terrorists see themselves as heroes, sacrificing themselves for the community.

 

What is disturbing about many of the extremists’ descriptions of reality is the use of language and topics that many can identify with and be convinced by. They spread political worst-case scenarios, elaborate on dramatic images of the enemy, and they point out that action must be taken before it is too late. Key values appear to be at risk. What is typical is the us-them perspective, where they play on people’s xenophobia, and large groups of people are turned against each other: the crusaders against the Muslims, the Muslims against the West.

 

The loci communes of hate speech facilitate the creation of social cleavages, and may at worst inspire terrorism. By illuminating hate speech and the conspiracy theories associated with the content of this rhetoric, this article provides knowledge that can help provide an understanding of the role of hate speech in creating and sharing specific world views and ideologies, and motivating people to commit acts of violence, as well as justifying them.

 

References

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Atwan, Abdel Bari. (2006). The secret history of al-Qa’ida. London: Saqi.

Austin, J. L. (1962). How To Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures Delivered at Harvard University in 1955. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Bat, Ye’or. (2005). Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Bin Laden, Osama, Lawrence, Bruce, & Lia, Brynjar. (2007). Budskap til verden: Osama Bin Laden’s ytringer [Messages to the world: The statements of Osama Bin Laden]. Oslo: L.S.P. forlag.

Bitzer, Lloyd F. (1997). «Den retoriske situation» [The rhetorical situation]. Rhetorica Scandinavica (3), 9–17 (original 1968).

Butler, Judith. (1997). Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge.

Døving, Cora Alexa. (2012). «Norge snikislamiseres» [Stealth islamisation of Norway]. In S. Indregard (Ed.), Motgift: akademisk respons på den nye høyreekstremismen. Oslo: Flamme forlag.

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Kress, Gunther. (2010). Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.

Kress, Gunther, & Van Leeuwen, Theo. (2006). Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge.

Ledin, Per. (2001). «Reflexioner kring genre av fyra nordiska forskare» [Reflections on genre by four Nordic researchers]. Rhetorica Scandinavica, 18, 2–8.

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Nilsen, Anne Birgitta. (2012a). «Hatets verbale og visuelle retorikk» [The verbal and visual rhetoric of hate]. In S. Østerud (Ed.), 22. juli – forstå, forklare og forebygge (pp. 199–224): Abstrakt forlag.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta. (2012b). «Osama bin Laden – demonen og helten» [Osama bin Laden – The Demon and the Hero]. Internasjonal Politikk 70, no. 4, pp. 455–473.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta. (2013a). «Den visuelle Osama bin Laden» [The visual Osama bin Laden]. Ekfrase: Nordisk Tidsskrift for Visuell Kultur (1), 20–34.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta. (2013b). Shaykh Osama Bin Laden: «An Evolving Global Myth». In I. Weismann, M. J. Sedgwick & U. Mårtensson (Eds.), Islamic Myths and Memories: Mediators of Globalization: Ashgate.

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Searle, John R. (1969). Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Searle, John R. (1979). Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts.

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Spencer, Robert. (2008). Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub.

Strømmen, Øyvind. (2011). Det mørke nettet [The dark night]. Oslo: Cappelen Damm.

Sætre, Simen. (2013). Fjordman: portrett av en antiislamist [Fjordman – Portrait of an anti-Islamist]. Oslo: Cappelen Damm.

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[1] http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.no/2009/12/surviving-coming-crash.html

[2] https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/17746/jensen.pdf?sequence=2

[3] http://www.uniforum.uio.no/nyheter/2012/12/uio-burde-aldri-godkjent-fjordmans-masteroppgave.html

[4] http://someofmyessays.blogspot.no/ and http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.no/search?q=fjordman

[5] http://slantedright2.blogspot.no/2011/07/defeating-eurabia-part-3.html#.Ux77gYWa97B

[6] http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/norsk-politikk/artikkel.php?artid=10015602

 

 

Publisert i Eurabia, Hate speech, Hatprat, Osama bin Laden, Uncategorized | Merket med , , , | 1 kommentar

Osama bin Laden – the demon and the hero

Anne Birgitta Nilsen, Dr.art., Associate Professor, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

This article was firs published in Norwegian in the Scientific journal Internasjonal Politikk, 2012

 

Introduction

Osama bin Laden (1957–2011) was the world’s most wanted terrorist, and the clearest enemy of the War on Terror. He led the al-Qaida terrorist organisation, one that has been responsible for a number of shocking and horrifying terrorist attacks. However, Osama bin Laden was also a freedom fighter, a leader and a hero. He gave up a life of luxury to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and he spoke up against the US president and other political leaders.

These two differing depictions of bin Laden have been an important part of the War on Terror, because this is a war that is not only being conducted using state-of-the-art weaponry and suicide bombers. In our media age, it is also a war of words and images, where the contradictory images of bin Laden serve different purposes. The opponents use their different verbal and visual depictions of bin Laden to achieve their global view and their politics. They each work hard to ensure that their words and images prevail. The war is therefore not only about killing or being killed. It is a matter of winning people’s hearts and minds, of winning people over to their side. Bin Laden has been a key figure in this war, because each side has fought for its portrayal of the head of al-Qaida.

In this article, I will shed light on the person Osama bin Laden through the different ways in which he was depicted. These divergent images not only reflect different perceptions of bin Laden, but they also serve specific functions. On the one hand, the demonisation of bin Laden legitimised the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the War on Terror. On the other hand, the praise for bin Laden strengthened anti-US and anti-Western opinion. The depictions thus tell us something about the use of symbols and propaganda on both sides of the War on Terror. The portrayals of al-Qaida’s leader also say something about the amount of power that can be achieved in international politics by looking at the mechanisms used to present charismatic and eloquent leaders like Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden’s images and texts have been reproduced in new contexts as praise and as inspiration following his death, albeit within what appear to be very small international groups, as shown at the end of the article, where I present several examples from YouTube.

Michael Scheuer (2011) also discusses different narratives related to bin Laden over the years from a social science perspective. There is otherwise little research on this topic. The analyses in this article supplement Scheuer’s descriptions, offering a linguistic perspective and more recent data. The first half of the article provides examples of part of the demonisation of bin Laden in different Western media through use of both text and images. The second half of the article provides examples of how images and texts by bin Laden live on in tributes from some of his supporters on YouTube. We will find that different modalities (Kress 2010) like text, images, icons, collages, music and photographs are used in the cultivation of the person and the demonisation.

 

Demon or hero

There are few sources that can tell us who bin Laden ‘really’ was, other than his many speeches, statements and letters. Journalist Peter L. Bergen (2006) has interviewed a number of people who met bin Laden over the years, but Bergen’s sources do not paint a complete or clear picture of him. Bin Laden did not allow himself to be interviewed many times either, and during the few interviews he granted, he almost exclusively talked about political matters in Muslim countries and his anti-imperialist politics. There is therefore a great deal of knowledge about his political views, based on the interviews and his texts. Brynjar Lia (2011) talks about bin Laden’s leadership, claiming that the findings after bin Laden’s death have taught researchers a few lessons about the difference between what people know about al-Qaida and what they think they know: Bin Laden was not in a Pashtun village on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan when he was found and killed, as many researchers expected him to be. Nor was there any substance to the assumption that he was merely an isolated figurehead without the ability to control the network’s terrorist attacks. The material seized at his house included documents and other material that indicates that his role in the organisation was far more prominent.

Bruce B. Lawrence (2011: 120), the editor of bin Laden’s speeches in English (Bin Laden & Lawrence 2005) and Norwegian (Bin Laden & Lawrence 2007), asserts that the more that was written about bin Laden, the less we understood him. The stories that can be told about bin Laden are closely linked to how he was depicted in different media, and bin Laden’s contradictory media image has endured after his death. During the days after he was killed by US special forces, the US president’s presentation of the country’s spoils dominated the Western media. On the website YouTube, bin Laden appears in different videos where he is praised by al-Qaida’s supporters and maligned by his opponents. As we will see, bin Laden mainly appears in these different media as a demon and a hero, respectively.

 

The demon

Osama bin Laden was the clearest enemy of the War on Terror, at the same time that the lack of knowledge about this enemy was striking (Scheuer 2011). Bin Laden’s views did not make it into the Western media, and he did not appear to be either eloquent, charismatic or particularly intelligent. Bin Laden’s style of political oratory was characterised by religious language and a particular political ideology. His speeches are difficult to translate. The translator’s challenge lies in reproducing this unique politico-religious speech genre, while refraining from presenting bin Laden as excessively mysterious and exotic. For example, the Norwegian media’s translations of quotes from bin Laden’s texts contain many exoticisms and errors. The exoticisms are expressed in grammatical and cultural traits from the source text, with little adaptation to the target language. When translating bin Laden’s texts, the translators also appear to have difficulty preventing the translation from being coloured by their own political views. In some cases, a comparison with the original Arabic text tells us more about the translator’s view of bin Laden’s texts than about what they actually intend to express. One example is translations that use vocabulary from the Old Testament (Nilsen 2007).

Bruce Lincoln (2003) points out that the Western media portrayed bin Laden as an intellectually-disabled Oriental monster. One example of the demonisation of bin Laden is clearly expressed in an Orthodox church in the Romanian city of Timişoara, where he is found on an icon (Bruland 2011). The icon is divided in two, and uses semiotic resources like composition, symbols, colours and contrasts to create meaning. In the upper section, Jesus and his disciples are praised through their positioning at the top of the icon and their depiction as distinct figures with clear colours and strong colour contrasts.

The strong colours and contrasts, combined with the figures’ gentle and friendly facial expressions produce a sense of joy and peace. The warning against demons is expressed in the bottom section of the icon. Here we find bin Laden on top of an airplane flying towards two towers. His gaze and the Devil’s fork are directed towards the two towers that represent the World Trade Center in New York. The warning is expressed through a reminder of the bombing of these commercial buildings in New York on 11 September 2001. At the bottom of the icon are small figures with dark, unclear colours and contrasts, surrounded by orange flames. This creates a gloomy and somewhat frightening impression. Bin Laden, the airplane, the Twin Towers, the flames and a demonic figure symbolise Hell in the bottom section, while the upper section symbolises Heaven, where Jesus and his disciples can be found. Together, the two sections of the icon show the contrast between Heaven and Hell. The icon answers the question of who to follow and who to fear and distance oneself from.

On 2 May 2011, bin Laden was killed in an ambush on his house in the city of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan. His enemies and killers did what they could at the time to make his passing as unworthy as possible. Stripping away the enemy’s dignity is an important part of the War on Terror. People around the world must be convinced that the person killed does not deserve to live. His humanity must be taken away. The US president himself said that the one thing he did not lose sleep over was the possibility of killing bin Laden, and that anyone who questioned that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn’t deserve what he got needed to have their head examined (CBS News 2011). In an interview with Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, rhetorician Kjell Terje Ringdal commends President Obama’s speech to the people in connection with the killing of bin Laden. Ringdal describes the speech as a beautiful, poetic and powerful ode to revenge (Barstad 2011). In the same interview, he also says that he finds it interesting that Obama pointed out that the Americans had secured the body. According to Ringdal, this humiliation can be understood as a reference to the Native American war trophy – a moral scalping. Bin Laden did not receive a grave, his body was buried at sea. The US forces defended this act, stating that they followed the procedures for an Islamic burial; that they had washed the body of the deceased, covered it with a white sheet, and buried it within 24 hours. The burial of a Muslim at sea was very controversial, though, and was criticised by many people, including imams. They pointed out that they have no tradition of burying people at sea, and that it was actually a violation of Islamic tradition. They also pointed out that this act might provoke thoughts of revenge (al-Jazeera 2011).

In connection with the attack on bin Laden, information was also provided that he had been killed in a fire fight, and that he had used one of his wives as a human shield. A few days later it turned out that there had not been a fire fight. Nor had he used his wife as a human shield when he was shot at (Inkster 2011). However, the story of the cowardly terrorist lives on, including in a colouring book for children published in the USA in connection with the 10th anniversary of 11 September. The book is called We Shall Never Forget 9/11 (ReallybigcoloringBooks 2011). In one of the line drawings in this book, bin Laden is drawn with a frightful face, hiding behind his wife while he is shot at by soldiers.

Large amounts of digital material were found at the property where Osama bin Laden hid out during his final days. They include several PCs, hard drives and mini drives. The material seized includes videos of bin Laden that had yet to be shown publicly. Parts of these videos have been shown to journalists, but without audio. The reason given by US spokespersons is that they do not want to disseminate al-Qaida propaganda material. In one of the videos, we see bin Laden as an elderly man in a very sparsely-decorated room. A still from this video was shown in many media after his death.[1] The only pieces of furniture visible in the still are a crooked table with an old TV on it and a low bench with a computer on it. Bin Laden sits on the floor in front of the TV with a blanket over his shoulders and a black knitted cap on his head. He is watching a report about himself in the mountains of Afghanistan. Here we see the image of a sad old man in a poor, dark and unheated room, looking back on his glory days. The publication of the still seems like an attempt to reduce bin Laden from a heroic figure to a vain fool, a has-been leader looking back on his glory days. However, the miserable image is not as sad when seen from a different perspective. The darkness in the room does not evoke negative associations in countries where people try to shut the sun out, and are not as interested in allowing daylight inside. Another picture becomes clear here, the picture of an ascetic who does not waste anything or use electricity unnecessarily. This portrayal is well known among many Muslims – a man who spent his fortune fighting for the cause of the Muslims, and who lived very frugally. Born into one of the most powerful families in Saudi Arabia, he renounced a life of luxury. The still confirms bin Laden’s simple lifestyle.

Over the years we have also witnessed demonisation of other individuals linked or allegedly linked to bin Laden and al-Qaida. One example was Saddam Hussein’s alleged ties to bin Laden, ties that provided some of the background for the invasion of Iraq, but which were later disproved. The demonisation of Saddam and the images of him that were released and published in many media after he was arrested made the invasion easier to comprehend. In one of the most famous and humiliating photographs of him, Saddam looked like a crook. His hair and beard were unkempt, his mouth was wide open, and his teeth were being examined.

The clearest example of the demonisation of one of bin Laden’s associates was the demonisation of al-Qaida’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. A press conference was held after he was killed in a US bombing raid in 2006. The press conference bore the hallmarks of being carefully staged. Nothing appeared to have been left to chance. The world would now see the results of the War on Terror – a war that had yielded few positive results. This was the fifth year of the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Bin Laden himself was still at large.

There had been suicide bombings on the London underground the previous year. The year before that, trains had been bombed on their way into the Spanish capital of Madrid. Iraq was in a state resembling civil war. Thousands of Iraqis and Afghans had been killed. Many US lives had been lost – far more than those that had been lost during the September 11th attacks, which led to these wars. With al-Zarqawi out of the way, here was an opportunity to show that progress had been made, and they appeared to attempt to take full advantage of this opportunity. During the press conference, a photograph of al-Zarqawi’s dead body was displayed in a gold frame. Displaying the photograph this way made it look like a war trophy.

The photograph of al-Zarqawi exhibited at the press conference only shows his head and shoulders, but the man is clearly naked. The photograph had been enlarged many times and showed a pathetic, naked loser. It was placed on the floor in the room where the press conference was held, and a US press spokesman stood at a lectern right next to the picture, describing the military operation. The picture from the press conference that circulated in the Western media is taken from the bottom up, elevating the press spokesman. In the picture he becomes a person to look up to. The logistics of the staging are simple: down is bad, up is good. This is also why the press spokesman is in an elevated position, standing on a lectern, while the photo of the dead terrorist leader is placed on the floor during the press conference. Behind the lectern, the US and the Iraqi flags are placed side by side in order to symbolise unity between the two countries. The two flags placed next to each other tell us that this act of war was carried out by the USA and Iraq, working together to make the world a safer place. To the right of the flag is a screen displaying the symbol of the foreign troops in Iraq, indicating their part in the operation. The staging of the press conference expresses hope and progress in the War on Terror. It has clearly been staged to communicate more than mere information about the killing of one of al-Qaida’s leaders. In his speech that day, President Bush reassured the world that «this violent man will never kill again» (Whitehouse 2006). This statement was reproduced in the media, for example in a headline in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, together with other quotes from the president and the aforementioned photograph (Dagbladet 2006). Dagbladet told its readers in this way that it was good that al-Zarqawi had been killed.

Bin Laden and his associates have naturally not only been demonised in the West. Rumours about him have also circulated in bin Laden’s home country, Saudi Arabia. One of these rumours is that Osama bin Laden’s father, powerful businessman Muhammad bin Laden, was never married to his mother. The rumour is that she was some sort of slave wife for a short period of time, without social status. However, there is nothing to indicate that Osama bin Laden’s mother, Allia, had lower status in the family. In the biography written by his first wife, Najwa, and his fourth son, Omar, together with US writer Jean Sasson (N. Bin Laden, Bin Laden & Sasson 2009), Najwa says that Allia was the one who wanted the divorce. Najwa knew Allia well, because she was not only Najwa’s mother-in-law, but also her aunt.

Other rumours said that when bin Laden was young, he led a dissolute night life in the Lebanese capital of Beirut (as cited in Robinson 2001). Also these rumours were refuted later. Another widely-circulated rumour was that he suffered from kidney disease, and that he required dialysis to survive. The media reported his death several times. However, these rumours were not completely worthless to al-Qaida, as they were always refuted after a while. They helped keep their supreme leader a mystery. This mysterious image likely suited both bin Laden and al-Qaida’s media company, as this was an image it was trying to promote (Nilsen 2011).

 

The mythical hero

Due to the different ways in which bin Laden is depicted, the first name Osama brings up associations of both a hero and a terrorist leader. At the end of the 1990s, Osama was a popular boy’s name in the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan (BBC News 1999). However, its popularity in countries like the United Kingdom declined drastically after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 (The Guardian 2012). Bin Laden’s status as a hero is expressed on T-shirts, posters, match boxes and mugs with photographs of him that are still sold at markets around the world. Bin Laden had acquired his status as a hero through his appearances in the media and his past as a holy warrior in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He had personal charisma, and his political and religious convictions made him both alluring and enticing. In an interview with Peter Bergen in 2005, Abdel Bari Atwan, journalist and the author of a book about al-Qaida (Atwan 2006) said the following:

 

He’s adored by the people around him. For them, he is not a leader. He is everything. He’s the father; he’s the brother; he is a leader; he is the imam. He is a good example: a man who sacrificed all his wealth to come and live with them, among them, and to fight for their causes. He is different and he [is] not corrupt and so he represents the pioneers of Muslim early Islamic history – The Prophet Muhammad’s companions (Bergen 2006: 381).

 

Linguist and Arabic language expert Mbaye Lo also attempts to describe bin Laden’s popularity by examining bin Laden’s original texts and interviewing people in different parts of the Arabic-speaking world. In his study, he shows different examples of bin Laden’s eloquence and how he manipulated Islamic history, texts and poetry to support his world view. Lo asserts that «Bin Laden’s world views may appear to many like medieval outposts, and to some as eclipses of the Muslim narrative discourse, but no one can ignore the powerful picture of tragedy they paint» (Lo 2009: 108). One example of such a powerful and tragic picture can be found in a quote from a speech in 2003, where bin Laden mentions the invasion of Iraq:

 

Muslim blood is being spilt unheeded in Palestine, Chechnya, the Philippines, Kashmir and Sudan; our children are dying in Iraq because of the US siege; we still suffer from the injuries inflicted by the Crusaders’ wars on the Islamic world in the last century and by the Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France which divided the Muslim world into fragments and truncated limbs where Crusaders’ agents still rule. And now we find ourselves confronted once more with the spirit of the Sykes-Picot agreement [under another name]: the Bush-Blair agreement, which is conducted under the same banner and for the same purpose — the banner is that of the cross, the purpose is the destruction and plunder of the Nation of God’s beloved [Muhammad] (Bin Laden & Lawrence 2005).

 

Journalists and others have looked for stories that can sow a seed of doubt about bin Laden’s religious convictions and sincerity, but all of the stories have later been refuted. He never touched alcohol or other intoxicants. Nor can any scandalous stories be found involving women. He did marry five times, and left 24 children, but this is not unusual on the Arabian Peninsula, where he came from. He appeared genuine. This relationship between life and lifestyle likely contributed to his status as a hero (for a more detailed discussion of his status as a hero, see Gardell 2007).

 

The Pew Global Research Attitudes Project has conducted surveys of bin Laden’s popularity over the years. They show that bin Laden’s popularity has been on the decline in recent years (Pew Global Research 2011). The question the Project asked its Muslim respondents is whether they felt confident that bin Laden as a leader had done what was right. The answers given show that this confidence declined significantly from 2003–2011 in the countries surveyed. Nigeria constituted an exception, with the share of people who say that they have confidence in bin Laden remaining high. In Egypt in 2011 the figure was 22% and in the Palestinian areas it was 34%, while it was 48% in Nigeria in 2010. Even though these figures appear to be declining, bin Laden was far from insignificant at the time he was killed. During the last few years of his life, however, he likely was not considered a possible or real leader. This probably is not only related to the decline in his popularity, but also the uncertainty surrounding his well-being during his last few years. People did not even know if he was alive, and the media regularly reported his death. As already mentioned, the rumour that he suffered from serious kidney disease and required dialysis to survive was well known – this was treatment that would be complicated for a man who the whole world believed to be on the run in the barren mountain ranges between Pakistan and Afghanistan. During his last few years, bin Laden doubtless had a mainly symbolic and mythical status (Nilsen 2012).

 

There are many myths surrounding the charismatic leader, and later we will see that these myths live on – on YouTube, among other places. The myth of the rich man’s son who renounced a life in first class is first among them – the multi-millionaire who sacrificed himself to fight for the Muslims. In Afghanistan he supposedly lived a frugal life without running water or electricity. The food was so plain that it was virtually inedible. Abdel Bari Atwan says that during his three-day visit with bin Laden in Tora Bora, one of the dinners made him so nauseous that he had to go outside and vomit (Atwan 2006). Bin Laden’s lifestyle was not only simple, as the prophet Muhammad’s had been; he followed the prophet in everything. All of his strategies were inspired by Muhammad (Habeck 2010), and he knew how to play on important historical events from the prophet’s day in his texts. The stories that circulate of this multi-millionaire who chose to live like the prophet likely contributed to his status as a hero.

 

During his years in Afghanistan, he gained a reputation as a brave and persistent warrior and an effective administrator and leader with a large international network. He had participated actively in the war in this country, raised large sums of money and established training camps for the holy warriors. As known, the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989, and the entire Soviet Union crumbled shortly afterwards. After the Soviet withdrawal, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero. This withdrawal is a theme he returned to frequently in his speeches. Finally, it is the myth of the leader, the one who was among the very few who dared to stand up on behalf of the Muslims and criticise corrupt, tyrannical leaders in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Both Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, together with other political and religious leaders in the region, were strongly criticised by bin Laden long before the Arab Spring. This criticism resounded among many Muslims. When bin Laden spoke on al-Jazeera, people gathered around their TV sets (Atwan 2006).

 

After his death, some of the hero worship and praise for bin Laden continued on the Internet. Here we find his texts, elegies, obituaries, songs of praise and laments that extol him. The most readily available of these tributes are audiovisual files uploaded to YouTube. In the following, I will provide some examples of how images and texts of bin Laden are placed in new contexts and thus live on and sustain the myths about him among some of his supporters on the YouTube web site.

 

Bin Laden on YouTube

On YouTube it is possible to subscribe to different channels, which means that the subscriber receives a message every time a new video is uploaded. Anyone can create and decorate their own channel here. It is possible to upload own videos to the channels and recommend other people’s videos and web sites. When such a dedicated channel is established, the owner must create an identity marker. The identity marker consists of an image, a user name and a motto, if desired. One of the most noticeable tributes to bin Laden on YouTube comes from users who use his picture as their identity marker. This image appears at the top of the channel page together with a nickname and any motto entered. The identity marker also appears when remarks are left on other users’ channels.

 

In other words, YouTube has a number of users who use a picture of bin Laden as their identity marker. The identity markers indicate admiration for bin Laden and identification with him, in a context of other positive references to bin Laden. Several of the people who use bin Laden as their identity marker have also wallpapered their background page on the channel with collages of him. The collages are so-called complex texts, also called multimodal texts as they use different modalities (Kress 2010) like images, photographs, oral and written text, music and composition to create meaning and express their message. In one example of a channel page wallpapered with collages of bin Laden, several copies of the same collage are used on the wallpaper. This collage shows bin Laden against the background of a landscape reminiscent of a plain in Afghanistan where some of the landscape is covered in snow. The collage evokes associations of bin Laden’s war efforts in the fight against the Red Army in difficult terrain, because we see a slightly cloudy sky in the top corner of the collage, and in the top right of this sky is a photograph of bin Laden’s head with a white turban inset. This photograph of bin Laden is the most prominent modality in the collage because it stands out in lighter colours. Here the collage shows who the principal character is; the subject. At the left of the photograph is the text «leader of the jihad» in Arabic. This epithet gives the reader more information about bin Laden’s ethos, specifically his competence. The following text appears in the centre of the top section of the collage in Arabic: «Your army longs for you, Osama. We promise you jihad for God’s cause». This is a direct address to bin Laden, and is a trait that is often seen in the tributes to him. Direct speech indicates that those who create memorials to bin Laden feel a sense of closeness to him, and that he is still with them in a way. A small group of soldiers has been inset right below this text, on the ground of the background image. They stand at attention with a rifle at their back, turned away from the readers, i.e. facing bin Laden, and in a way highlight the written text above; they depict Osama’s army, highlighting and confirming the promise of jihad. By promising bin Laden jihad, the collage says that his army will continue bin Laden’s battle, that his battle remains important.

 

A globe, a hand grenade and a rifle are inset at the very front of the collage, under bin Laden. The globe can be read as a symbol of the global fight against crusaders, the Kalashnikov is the symbol of resistance, and the grenade brings up associations of acts of war. These symbols reinforce the verbal message, showing where and how the battle is taking place; with grenades, Kalashnikovs throughout the world. Bin Laden’s memory is lauded through the picture of him placed at the top of the collage. The fight will continue, and bin Laden still provides inspiration, because in the collage his face lights up and expresses optimism in a dark war, depicted with cold colours like black, grey and brown. Bin Laden is presented here as hope itself, with his light colours, implying a better future through martyrdom, because this photograph is in stark contrast to the other modalities of the collage. The collage thus appears to promote bin Laden as a source of inspiration for martyrdom, as he is placed above the soldiers, somewhere in Heaven. The collage can be read as incitement to jihad and martyr attacks, because the real life in this collage appears to be Heaven, where the most realistic modality, the photograph, is placed; namely the picture of bin Laden. The soldiers look less realistic, as they are drawn and look like cartoon figures. The light on Earth looks sad and grey, compared with the light in Heaven, where there are colours and light. Life as a martyr is better than life as a soldier, and is therefore something to aspire to, which the text in the collage also says; namely that the soldiers long for their leader. The text thus indicates that they will meet again. The collage brings to mind a quote from one of bin Laden’s speeches where he spoke to his enemies, but also indirectly encouraged martyrdom. The quote received much attention in the media when the speech was published in 2006:

 

As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way. You tried to deny us the decent life, but you cannot deny us a decent death (Al Qaeda 2006 Yearbook) .

 

The channel owner who uses a picture of bin Laden as part of his identity marker and who has covered his channel page with collages of bin Laden subscribes to 149 other channels. These include nine people who use bin Laden as an identity marker in different ways. There is one who calls himself Osama, seven others who also use a picture of bin Laden as an identity marker, and one who uses both bin Laden’s picture and name. Some of them also have collages with bin Laden as a background image on their channels, albeit with very different designs. The background page mentioned above is characterised by the seriousness of war, portraying soldiers, weapons and gloomy colours. Here it is the martyr who is shown in a cold war and represents hope in this war. Other collages are of a completely different nature. For example, they depict warmth and joy, where bin Laden appears to have completely different qualities. On one channel, the background is a collage of drawings of white and yellow daisies, green grass and an azure sky. Bin Laden’s civilian-clad torso is placed on this background, together with two white doves: one that flies up behind him, and one that looks like it is flying out of his hand. The collage carries a message of peace, and it can be read as a tribute to bin Laden as a man of peace – one who brings peace, as implied by the dove flying out of his hand.

 

YouTube contains other types of tribute to bin Laden. The most obvious tributes are religious songs, so-called anasheed (nasheed in the singular), which are Islamic songs of praise or of lament. What particularly characterises these songs is that they are vocal music without accompanying instruments. What is typical of the videos dedicated to bin Laden is that the lyrics praise him as a holy warrior and martyr and show photographs and/or video clips of bin Laden that are edited into a film with a song of praise as the background for the film. Others are more like laments. A German nasheed (Es lebe Sheikh Osama Bin Laden) sings about how hard it is to say goodbye, and how much they miss God’s soldier, bin Laden (YouTube 2011). An example of an Arabic song of praise, which was recently recommended on a multilingual YouTube channel, where Norwegian is one of the languages, shows a video clip of bin Laden in a frame, while a song of praise called «Freedom is in Heaven – nasheed to sheikh Osama bin Laden» can be heard in the background (YouTube 2011).[3] The nasheed summarises bin Laden’s message in its title, which is repeated in the refrain, because bin Laden often encouraged attacks by martyrs, and said that Muslims will first find freedom in Heaven, as we saw in the previous quote from bin Laden, and also see in this poem from an interview with al-Jazeera in 1998:

He prepared himself for battle, for the matter was very grave.

I will don my armour and defend her with teeth and stones.

Would you leave us besieged by the infidel wolves, eating my wing?

They have not ceased harrying us, these sons of evil, from all sides.

So where is the nobleman among the sons of my religion

who will defend his noble brothers with the sword? Death is better than a life of humiliation and some shame none can erase. (Bin Laden & Lawrence 2005)

 

We find several other references to bin Laden on the channel where the above-mentioned song of praise was recommended. Among the 32 files uploaded here are five which are directly related to bin Laden. They include a different song of praise dedicated to bin Laden, where clips from one of his speeches are included in a video of praise (YouTube 2011). This video opens with a collage of bin Laden where he is placed at the top, over a picture of a city, where a bomb appears to have gone off. There is much smoke in part of the city, and the picture thus tells the story of the leader who started martyr attacks. In the background is a clip from one of bin Laden’s last speeches in January 2010, where he speaks to President Obama. The speech starts with a few religious phrases before bin Laden forcefully and humorously plays on the phonetic similarity of their names, saying that «this speech is from Osama to Obama». He thus implies a similarity between bin Laden and the president of the USA. In a way he presents himself at the same level of leadership. They are each other’s opponents. Bin Laden then says that «I swear by Almighty God who raised the heavens without pillars that neither the United States nor he who lives in the Unites States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine» (O. Bin Laden et al. 2007: 165) . The quote recurs in several other videos on YouTube. It is also said by bin Laden both before and after this clip. We find the quote in a speech from October 2001 where he praises the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001. We also find the quote in a speech that was produced shortly before he was killed and published on the internet only a few days after he was killed. The quote became popular, because it also became the headline of an article in one of Egypt’s largest online newspapers on 9 May 2011 (al-Ahram 2011).

 

As bin Laden’s voice begins speaking, the image shifts to a collage where the same picture of bin Laden is now superimposed over the Palestinian map, with the names of known places like Hebron, Bethlehem and Jerusalem written clearly. This is a clear reference to the conflict in Palestine, which was important to bin Laden, and which he often mentioned in his speeches. The video reminds its viewers about bin Laden’s fight for the Palestinians. In this collage, the title mujahid sheikh is written under the picture of bin Laden, and below that again is his name in gold lettering. The title can be ready as recognition, and the gold letters can be read as a tribute. To the left of his name, the quote has been written on a piece of paper. The collage thus follows the Arabic writing system, from right to left. The quote is repeated and the written version of the quote is zoomed in on, like in the still below from the video:

bilde demonen og helten.png

 

It then zooms out again, and the entire collage appears as the quote is repeated. The quote is repeated this way several times, zooming in and out, until we hear a shot, and the nasheed where bin Laden is praised starts with a new collage. This collage promotes jihad, Sharia and the caliphate using quotes from the Koran. The nasheed concludes with a shot and a clip of bin Laden, finishing his 2010 speech to Obama.

 

Several multilingual channels have clips from bin Laden videos, where bin Laden praises what he calls the 19 students who captured the airplanes that were crashed in the USA on 11 September 2001. In this video, bin Laden is wearing a camouflage uniform with a white headdress. In the upper left corner, pictures of the 19 hijackers are inset, as a tribute to them. Here the channel owner clearly wants to show bin Laden’s gentler side, because in the comments field under the video, he writes in Norwegian that «sheikh Osama cries when he talks about the 19 mujahideen of ‘The Manhattan Raid’, may Allah accept them as shuhada».[4] Two other people have also written in this comments field. One writes: «The secular media trying to make people? hate you. But all the world knows you are an honourable man and does not want thanks or praise from any one and U.S. Government know this too, but the Zionist regime in control of them». The other one writes: «I LOVE YOU BIN LADEN. You are honest man. You left your millions and gone to support the oppressed». In these quotes, the two write to bin Laden in the second person; i.e. they address him directly in the present tense, as we have seen elsewhere. The comments were written about eight months after bin Laden’s death, and by addressing him directly, they imply that bin Laden is still very relevant to the two of them. They appear to believe that he still lives, as they can address him directly. Or are they talking to bin Laden’s picture and text? It is not easy to tell, but it is interesting to see what the two highlight in bin Laden. One highlights the demonisation of bin Laden in the media and the conspiracy theory of Zionists who control the US government. The other one focuses on his love for bin Laden, which appears to be based on bin Laden’s honesty and generosity towards the oppressed. Among the uploads to this channel we also find a tribute to his son Hamza bin Laden, who was killed with his father in Pakistan on 2 May 2011. The title of this video is: «Hamza bin Laden (the son of Osama bin Laden) died with his father». This video contains a clip of Hamza as a child and as a young man during military training, while a tune is hummed in the background. One commenter writes the following in the comments field: «i just don’t understand how there is so much hate from the people of Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia and so many? other country’s there’s more to life then hate. i pray for people of this magnitude of radicals». The channel owner answers: «the hate is from the Crusader? West and their allies, NOT from our people! We are a people who want to live in peace, but the Zionist-Crusader-Hindu will not let us live in peace in our lands, as they spread mischief on earth. One day we will get justice inshaAllah!».[5] Here we see expression of the crusader conspiracy theory, on which bin Laden’s impact partly rested (Nilsen 2009). In brief, this conspiracy theory is based on the idea that the USA and its allies are conducting a major cultural, economic, political and military crusade against Muslims, with the goal to eradicate Islam for good.

 

The last file that has been uploaded to this channel is a video clip where an imam cries about bin Laden’s death. The video is titled «Imam Ghamdi crying about the death of Osama bin Laden». Under it is a more detailed description of the content of the video in Norwegian, English and Arabic.

 

The tributes to bin Laden are in several different languages, even though most of them appear to be in Arabic. These videos do not appear to have been viewed many times. They appear to be kept within small groups, and not distributed much outside them. These groups mainly appear to consist of people with a similar world view as al-Qaida, as the clips they recommend and have uploaded to their channels express similar political messages. We find the same videos with different titles and web sites with different designs, but the range of the tributes and the communication does not appear to be great. For example, the song of praise «Freedom Is in Heaven», which was described earlier in this article, had 13 169 views, while the song of praise which was recommended in Norwegian had 659 views in March 2012, and the clip from the speech where bin Laden praises the 19 hijackers had 964 views. Nor do YouTube searches for expressions that correspond to the Arabic «Osama bin Laden song of praise» and «Osama bin Laden tribute» have many hits. «Osama bin Laden tribute» has 300 hits. «Osama bin Laden song of praise» has 740 hits, ten months after his death, but new ones appear to pop up on certain YouTube channels on a daily basis. Several of them are constantly being removed from YouTube due to inappropriate content. This makes it difficult to say much about how extensively these tributes have been distributed, and about the level of interest in them.

 

 

Conclusion

There is no single picture of Osama bin Laden, one that can tell us who al-Qaida’s leader ‘really’ was. He will continue to live on as both a demon and a hero. Bin Laden was the evil enemy during the War on Terror, the face of terrorism. In the holy war against the crusaders, bin Laden was a hero of the resistance. These different depictions of him not only reflect the very different world views of the War on Terror and the holy war of defence against the crusaders. The depictions of bin Laden have also had important functions. After 11 September, his demonisation helped legitimise the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, because without this demonisation of bin Laden, the War on Terror, and particularly the invasion of Afghanistan would have been difficult to comprehend. People would not have had a concrete enemy, which helped them understand why they were going to war. In connection with the invasion of the two countries, the images of the enemy helped sustain an understanding that the War on Terror is important. Following bin Laden’s death, the demonisation justified his killing on 2 May 2011, and created support for the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

 

On the other hand, the tributes to bin Laden have continued after his death among al-Qaida sympathisers, on YouTube among other sites. The video tributes are composed of different types of oral and written texts, photographs, drawings, collages and music. Here we find clips from bin Laden’s speeches, and images of him, placed into new contexts in order to praise the martyr. These tributes to bin Laden may strengthen anti-Western sentiment and attitudes and inspire violent attacks, like bin Laden did in the texts he produced during his life, because much of the focus appears to be on bin Laden as a hero of the resistance and a martyr in the war against the crusaders. The praise for bin Laden also tells us something about what people remember about bin Laden after his death, what it was that appealed to his ideological supporters. This mainly appears to be based on his fight against the enemy and concern for oppressed people, as this topic recurs on YouTube.

 

Thank you to Internasjonal Politikk‘s peer reviewers for their useful comments.

 

 

 

Literature

al-Ahram (2011)ي ف ا واقع ه نعيش أن ل قب األمن ب م تحل ن ل ا أمريك: الدن بن لـ جيل تس طين فلس Available at: http://www.ahram.org.eg/The%20First/News/ 77119.aspx. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

al-Jazeera (2011) «Was bin Laden’s killing and burial legal?» Available at: http:// www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/05/201155113345557824.html. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

Atwan, Abdel Bari (2006) The Secret History of al-Qaeda (Updated edition). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Barstad, Stine (2011) «En hymne til hevnen, blodig og vakkert» [An ode to revenge, bloody and beautiful]. Aftenposten 02.05.2011.

BBC News (1999) World: South Asia, «‘Osama’ popular in Pakistan.» Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/390248.stm. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

Bergen, Peter L. (2006) The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader. New York: Free Press.

Bin Laden, Najwa, Bin Laden, Omar & Sasson, Jean P. (2009) Growing Up Bin Laden: Osama’s Wife and Son Take Us inside their Secret World. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Media.

Bin Laden, Osama & Lawrence, Bruce (2005) Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden. London: Verso.

Bin Laden, Osama, Lawrence, Bruce & Lia, Brynjar (2007) Budskap til verden: Osama Bin Laden’s ytringer [Messages to the world: The statements of Osama Bin Laden]. Oslo: L.S.P. forlag.

Bruland, Roger Sevrin (2011) «I denne kyrkja er bin Laden djevelen». [Bin Laden is the devil in this church] Aftenposten. 09.09.11.

CBS News (2011) «Obama on bin Laden: The full 60 Minutes interview». Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504803_162-20060530 10391709.html?tag=contentMain;contentBody. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

Dagbladet (2006) – «Denne mannen vil aldri drepe igjen» [This man will never kill again]. Available at: http:// www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/2006/06/08/468373.html. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

Gardell, Mattias (2007) Bin Laden i våre hjerter: Globaliseringen og fremveksten av politisk islam [Bin Laden in our hearts: The globalisation and rise of political Islam]. Oslo: Spartacus.

The Guardian (2012) «What does 15 years of baby name data tell us about modern Britain?» Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/apr/25/baby- names-data. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

Habeck, Mary R. (2010) Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror: Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Media.

Inkster, Nigel (2011) «The Death of Osama bin Laden». Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 53 (3): 5–10

Kress, Gunther (2010) Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication. London: Routledge.

Lawrence, Bruce B. (2011) «Osama bin Laden: The Man and the Myth». In C. B. Strozier, D. Offer & O. Abdyli (Eds.), The Leader: Psychological Essays. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (119–134).

Lia, Brynjar (2011) «Osama bin Laden: Mannen bak al-Qaida» [Osama bin Laden: The man behind al-Qaida]. Samtiden (3): 120–131.

Lincoln, Bruce (2003) Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lo, Mbaye (2009) Understanding Muslim Discourse: Language, Tradition, and the Message of Osama bin Laden. Maryland: University Press of America.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta (2007) «Osama bin Laden’s skjulte slagkraft». [The hidden impact of Osama bin Laden] Norsk medietidsskrift (4): 298-312.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta (2009) «Osama bin Laden’s retorikk» [Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric]. Rhetorica Scandinavica, 51: 6–24.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta (2011) «Interkulturell retorikk – Osama bin Ladens makt» [Intercultural rhetoric – The power of Osama bin Laden]. In Tonje R. Hitching, Anne Birgitta Nilsen & Aslaug Veum (red.), Diskursanalyse i praksis. Analyse og metode (pp. 136–160). Kristiansand: Høyskoleforlaget.

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta (2012) «Shaykh Osama Bin Laden – The Evolving of a Global Myth». In Itzchak Weismann, Mark Sedgwick & Ulrika Mårtensson (Eds.), Islamic Myths and Memories: Mediators of Globalization. Ashgate (in press).

Pew Global Research (2011) «Osama bin Laden Largely Discredited among Muslim Publics in Recent Years». Available at: http://www.pewglobal.org/2011/05/02/ osama-bin-laden-largely-discredited-among-muslim-publics-in-recent-years/. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

ReallybigcoloringBooks (2011) We Shall Never Forget 9/11 Coloring Book – Graphic Coloring Novel. USA: Really Big Coloring Books.

Robinson, Adam (2001) Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.

Scheuer, Michael (2011) Osama bin Laden. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Whitehouse (2006) «Statement by the President on Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi».

Available at: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/ 2006/06/20060608.html. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

YouTube (2011) «Es lebe Sheikh Osama Bin Laden». Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBzTb5dkdc4. Date retrieved 28.08.2012. 5.5.12.

YouTube (2011) ة حوري ة الجن ي ف Available at: http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=8dfgVjWC2g8. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

YouTube (2011) ﷲ اء إنش ھيد ش الدن ن ب امة أس يخ الش يد نش Available at: http:// www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9avArSAvD8&feature=plcp&context= C4e6d551VDvjVQa1PpcFOWxHFjMawos-KYgvPPxyjRlexaRHVjXek%3D. Date retrieved 28.08.2012.

[1] Part of this video can be seen on Arabic Wikipedia: http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9_%D8%A8%D9%86_%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%86

[2] «Nation of God» or Ummah refers to the international Muslim community.

[3] English translation of the author’s Norwegian translation of the title of the nasheed from Arabic.

[4] Arabic for martyrs.

[5] Arabic for «God willing».

 

 

 

Publisert i Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, Propaganda, Rhetoric | 1 kommentar

The Visual Osama bin Laden

This article was first published in Norwegian in the Scientific journal EKFRASE in 2014.

Osama bin Laden was the leader of al-Qaida for 23 years before he was killed by US special forces on 2 May 2011. During these years be built a multinational organisation.[1] As a leader, he was both eloquent and charismatic. However, there is little knowledge about him, and there are few sources. For a long time, al-Qaida’s leader did not have a private life that could be exposed. He had great freedom to create the media image he wanted among his people and adapt it to the audience’s longings and fear. His enemies were also free to create a media profile of him that suited them. In the West, Osama bin Laden was primarily the leader of the world’s most-feared terrorist organisation, and the main target of the War on Terror, but among a number of people in the Muslim world, he was seen as a resistance fighter and a hero.[2]

This article does not focus on the terrorist leader, but on the charismatic leader. Rhetorical analyses will illustrate how this leader has been staged in different ways since he first appeared in the media as an international player in the mid-1990s, when he declared war on the USA – staging that not only used verbal language, but also used visual instruments that draw on the symbolic importance of specific cultural connotations. The visual depictions are important, because bin Laden spent much of his life in hiding. He therefore did not risk being photographed in undesirable situations, which gave al-Qaida good control of the media’s visual depictions of their leader. This article therefore focuses on the visual, which is a new perspective in the linguistic research on bin Laden. The article will show how visual depictions of bin Laden form a rhetorical development throughout three periods: from the holy warrior to the political leader, and finally to a mythical heroic figure.

 

ANALYTICAL PERSPECTIVES

The analyses presented in the article have a rhetorical and multimodal perspective.[3] The rhetorical perspective has been chosen because it examines what it is the visual depictions of bin Laden are intended to convince the audience about, and how they achieve this. As known, rhetoric is the theory of convincing speech. Its starting-point is that pictures, like language, are rhetorical.[4] The concepts used in rhetorical analyses are demonstrative speech and the speaker’s ethos. The multimodal perspective has been chosen as a supplement to the rhetorical perspective because some of the texts being analysed are so-called complex texts made up of different modalities, like speech, text, photographs and collages. An analysis based on multimodal perspectives shows what the different modalities express separately, as well as what the interaction between these modalities may express in more detailed analyses than is possible if one solely relies on a rhetorical vocabulary. The idea behind the theory of multimodality is not that words or symbols have a fixed content, but that they represent a meaning potential. The purpose of analyses that draw on this perspective is therefore not to make reference to an inherent meaning in the data material presented, but rather to illuminate some of the creation of meaning that is facilitated by the text.[5] An important precondition for the analyses is that neither words, sentences nor other rhetorical resources have an inherent meaning.

Terms from rhetorical theory are particularly suited to describing rhetorical language use, like bin Laden’s speeches. The goal of analyses that draw on this perspective is to identify the speaker’s objectives, what he wants to achieve with his speech, and the strategies he uses to achieve these objectives. I have previously described how bin Laden’s popularity can be described using the term demonstrative speech in analyses of verbal rhetoric.[6] Demonstrative speech is also a useful term to describe visual rhetoric, because it is a genre of speech that, among others, is characterised by a special way of constructing the past through language use based on rhetoric. The intention is to create and establish a community; a community based on shared values and ideas, which in turn are linked to a shared past and history. Bin Laden shares respect and love of God, religion and his last prophet, Muhammad, who was an important role model, with many of his supporters. The texts therefore contain comparisons with the achievements and past glories of the Muslims.

Bin Laden’s rhetoric focuses on a crusader campaign against Muslims, which bin Laden believes has been ongoing since the Middle Ages.[7] The texts praise Islamic heroes throughout history, and the crusaders are highly criticised. The intention of the texts is thus to bring the public to feel antipathy towards the crusaders and awaken compassion and identification with Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians using demonstrative Speech.

Demonstrative speech is also a form of speech where the speaker attempts to strengthen his ethos by demonstrating his speaking skills. The speech itself confirms the leading position assigned to bin Laden by al-Qaida by letting him act on behalf of the organisation. The visual rhetoric associated with the verbal texts depicts the war hero of the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the sheikh (the learned leader) and finally the mythical hero. The language use is exhibitory and entertaining, which is also a typical trait of demonstrative speech, and it thus seeks to strengthen support for bin Laden and al-Qaida as an organisation.

Demonstrative speech explains incidents that otherwise would be difficult to understand or accept. Form is often more important than content, and the texts are intended to have a long-term effect. Andreea Deciu Ritivoi says that demonstrative speech awakens positive memories from or about the past.[8] These positive memories appear to pervade many descriptions of demonstrative speech, but the texts attributed to bin Laden also exploit negative memories to create a clearer us-them perspective, where the crusaders’ evil and the Muslim’s goodness and helplessness are demonstrated. The choice of demonstrative speech is a way to attempt to get people to understand the events in the Muslim world as they are framed by al-Qaida, namely using the us-them perspective. This perspective thus contains a link to al-Qaida’s ideology, because this us-them perspective is at the core of its ideological foundation; a crusader conspiracy theory. What is key to this organisation is the idea of a global jihad which links fighting Muslims throughout the world in a united battle against the enemy: the crusaders.[9] The motives underlying the texts ascribed to bin Laden thus appear to be to promote a leader with different types of competence, and to strengthen and awaken anti-Western sentiment.

Jens E. Kjeldsen argues that visual rhetoric is particularly suited to creating epideitic rhetoric, also called demonstrative speech.[10] The photographs therefore also play an important role in the understanding of bin Laden’s position because they are realistic in the sense that they first can serve as documentation of bin Laden’s appearance and health. Second, they are realistic because they resemble that which has been depicted, and thus contain an element of reality. A picture can conjure up associations and ideas about what it seeks to evoke in reality. Pictures can also create expression and conviction. This is called visual rhetoric.[11] According to Kjeldsen, photographs have the ability to produce something that gives the viewer the sense of seeing it with their own eyes.[12] When photographs show something that resembles objects, beings and phenomena we know from reality, this may evoke emotions like the ones we would have experienced if we had seen the same thing for ourselves in reality. In the same way that an audience can be influenced by words that sound like a holy warrior (mujahid), the same audience may be influenced by photographs, because they can display forms of expression that are known from the mujahideen (the plural of mujahid). For example, the holy warrior is well known from Arabic news items in connection with the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. When the Soviets pulled out, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia as a hero, followed by many positive news items.

During his years in Afghanistan, bin Laden gained a reputation as a brave and persistent warrior and an effective administrator and leader with a large international network. He had participated actively in the war, raised large sums of money and established training camps for the holy warriors. In addition to their iconic and indexical function, pictures also have symbolic importance linked to different cultural codes. In Roland Barthes’ terms, it is a matter of the images’ connotations; that they also connote, and not only denote.[13]

In the same way as verbal rhetoric, visual rhetoric seeks to awaken memories of or from the past, particularly memories of a long-term war between Muslims and crusaders, where Muslims are the victims of the crusaders’ aggressiveness. During the last few years of this history, bin Laden was presented as a war hero, a political leader, and a mythical heroic symbol. The different roles lead us on to an important question related to understanding rhetorical texts. The question refers to the speaker and who he is. In rhetorical terms, it is a matter of a speaker’s ethos, his own authority and credibility, because his ethos may convince an audience of a message. A speaker’s ethos is a matter of his competence, decency and good will. Competence is linked to the speaker’s knowledge and reason. Decency is related to the morality of the speaker. Good will means that the speaker appears to have good intentions towards his audience.

Texts attributed to bin Laden not only use verbal rhetorical resources but, as we see in other modern texts, there is growing use of multimodal resources, like pictures, videos, music, animations and graphics. These different resources have also contributed to bin Laden’s authority. The texts follow a modern trend, from the tape recordings of the texts in the 1990s and early 2000s to the videos of 2004–2006, up to the latest audiovisual texts, with animated collages. The texts have both movement and action, stills of bin Laden and an audio text with his voice in the background. This clearly illustrates the development of the use of modern technology in texts, and shows al-Qaida’s technological skill. During these three periods, bin Laden appears to have different types of expertise, and different impressions are formed of him. During the period of tape recordings of the speeches, bin Laden was often presented in the media as a mujahid (a holy warrior). This means that news items about bin Laden in different news media used photographs with this image. The photographs often originated with the pan-Arab news channel al-Jazeera, which mysteriously received bin Laden’s speeches, and later videos, from al-Qaida. Eventually the videos showed bin Laden as a sheikh (a learned leader). The collages that came with his speeches during the last few years of his life presented him as a mythical hero. In the following, I will present a more detailed analysis of bin Laden’s ethos.

 

THE HOLY WARRIOR

Up to 2004, readers primarily met bin Laden depicted as a mujahid in connection with news items in the media.[14] The terms mujahid (al-mujahid with the definite article) and jihad are originally Arabic, and are often translated as holy warrior, i.e. a person who defends Muslims and Islam against attacks, and holy war. Bin Laden pointed out that this was a war of defence, and not a war of attack. The two terms are derived from the same root (j-h-d, ), and their meaning is therefore related. A mujahid is someone engaged in jihad. Bin Laden became a mujahid back in the 1980s, when he participated in the battles against the Soviets in Afghanistan. In these depictions, his ethos thus appears to have competence related to acts of war, as shown in Illustration 1 from a 1998 interview. This is one of the most widely-used photographs of him in the global news media.

bin-laden-i-telt

Illustration 1

In the photograph in Illustration 1, bin Laden is shown as a mujahid in the field, on the floor of his tent, as proof of his simple and dangerous lifestyle. Much background knowledge is also associated with the photographs of bin Laden and the depiction of him as mujahid among other mujahideen. For example, the photographs make reference to his family background. It is well known that he came from one of Saudi Arabia’s most wealthy families, and that he gave up a life of luxury to dedicate himself to the cause of Muslims and live a simple life in the field.[15] The photograph confirms bin Laden’s fight and choice of path. The fight and the choice of path say something about his morals and good intentions towards Muslims. This may therefore have strengthened his ethos, and from this perspective he appears to have good morals.

The Kalashnikov in the background of Illustration 1 is the very symbol of resistance, and he is in uniform. The picture is therefore a reference to fighting, resistance and the victory over the Soviets in 1989, nine years before the picture was taken. The functions of the speeches and the images from that time appear to confirm bin Laden’s well-being and willingness and ability to remain active as a mujahid and the head of al-Qaida, despite major campaigns to catch him. The campaigns were heavily increased after the terrorist attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001.

Bin Laden’s facial expression in the photograph is gentle, a gentleness that is shown in a faint smile around his eyes and mouth. A simple tape recorder lies next to him on colourful, flower-patterned pillows. It looks like he records his speeches here, speeches that are shared all over the world. The photograph gives the impression that he has set up his workplace and home in this tent, with pillows like those that can be found in many other homes in the Middle East. The flowery pillows with their bright colours are in contrast to the dark military field uniform and highlight the gentle side of the holy warrior, together with the bright white headdress, which connotes a religious leader. This visual rhetoric generates and reinforces a positive view of bin Laden. The picture can appeal to the audience in different ways. It can appeal through ethos, bin Laden appearing credible, because he is seen in a tent with a uniform and weapons, which says that he has military competence. The picture can also have an aesthetic and emotional appeal, as bin Laden’s faint smile creates a sense of calm over the picture, as the situation looks peaceful. His rifle is placed in the background. There are no visible acts of war here; in fact there are no traces of them. His clothes look recently laundered. This way the picture can also appeal to people who do not identify themselves with the more brutal and militant side of bin Laden. The outcome of the war in Afghanistan is also important to the understanding of bin Laden’s ethos as a heroic mujahid. The Soviets withdrew in 1989, and bin Laden returned to Saudia Arabia a hero, becoming a focal point for war veterans.

Journalist Abdel Bari Atwan is among the very few who have interviewed bin Laden. Atwan says that al-Qaida’s leader lived without running water, electricity or a toilet because he wanted to live in the same way as the prophet Muhammad and his companions in the 7th century.[16] In one of the reports about bin Laden, he appears with a type of toothbrush that was used in the prophet Muhammad’s day, the miswak, which is a little twig which is still in use today, because symbols related to the prophet are important to many Muslims. For example, these toothbrushes can be found in many of the bazaars in the Middle East today, and are in use in a number of other countries.[17] Up to 2004, it is this humble young mujahid with a strong vocation and a simple lifestyle which is reminiscent of the age of the prophet Muhammad and the victory of the resistance in Afghanistan that the readers often encounter in the media. He is not only humble, but also a brave young man outside the field, because in 1996 he declared war on global power USA, apparently from a cave in Afghanistan. The cave is an important symbol, because the angel Gabriel appeared to the prophet Muhammad in a cave on the Arabian Peninsula. The prophet also hid in a cave when he was on the run from his enemies. Lawrence Wright, the author of one of the most quoted books about al-Qaida states that «It was a product of bin Laden’s public-relations genius that he chose to exploit the presence of the ammunition caves of Tora Bora as a way of identifying himself with the Prophet in the minds of many Muslims who longed to purify Islamic society and restore the dominion it once enjoyed».[18]

In the years following al-Qaida’s establishment in Afghanistan in 1988, bin Laden appeared increasingly in the role of leader of the al-Qaida organisation, which first gained notoriety after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. In 1996, bin Laden took on a role where he no longer merely talked to the Muslims on the Arabian Peninsula, but also to Muslims worldwide, and he warned against attacks by the alliance of Jews and crusaders against Muslims. He encouraged continued resistance, a resistance that began with the attack on the US forces in Riyadh and Khubar in Saudi Arabia in 1996. An important factor in bin Laden’s declaration of war against the USA is Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 2000. At the time, the authorities in Saudi Arabia were concerned that Saddam would continue marching towards Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden offered the Saudi authorities his forces to defend the country, but his offer was rejected. The authorities chose the US military to protect them instead. In bin Laden’s view, infidel forces, the crusaders, were now establishing a presence on holy ground in the country where the prophet Muhammad had lived. For him and many Saudis, the foreign crusaders were as much of a disaster as the one brought upon them by Saddam Hussein. A whirlwind of emotions like anxiety, rage, humiliation and xenophobia raged through Saudi Arabia at the time. Resistance against the Saudi royal family was also on the rise then; against a family that was associated with corruption, hypocrisy and greed. Bin Laden was someone who knew how to fire up people’s emotions, and this political engagement meant that he had to flee the country. In 1992 he moved his whole family, which consisted of four wives and 17 children, to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.[19] In Khartoum he not only helped advance the country’s economic development, he also gathered people with similar ideological ideas around him. In 1996 he had to pack his bags again. This time, it was as a result of pressure by the US and Egyptian authorities. On 18 May, bin Laden left Sudan and returned to Afghanistan.[20] He most likely lived a life on the run here, but protected by the Taliban, until he moved into his house in the military city of Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2005. Taliban leader Mullah Omar declared that «Islam says that when a Muslim asks for shelter, give the shelter and never hand him over to enemy. And our Afghan tradition says that, even if your enemy asks for shelter, forgive him and give him shelter. Osama has helped the jihad in Afghanistan, he was with us in bad days and I am not going to give him to anyone.»[21]

In 1998, bin Laden held his only press conference together with his second-in-command at the time, the current leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Muhammad Atef, better known as Abu Hafs al-Masri, al-Qaida’s military leader of the time. He presented himself and his colleagues as the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, and declared war against these groups. The declaration of war came to the fore two months later, when the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. At the press conference, bin Laden appears as a military leader, as he speaks on behalf of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. He has the most prominent place in the centre, as shown in the still in Illustration 2, and he is the one with the microphone.[22]

pressekonferanse

Illustration 2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDmp-lM5hL0

The photographs from the press conference show a more pronounced leader, with his second-in-command and the military leader present. Their positioning on either side of bin Laden confirms his position as leader; they are deputies supporting their leader. The photograph serves as evidence of an organisation of a certain size, because it implies several departments and levels of leadership. Bin Laden’s clothing also indicates that he has assumed a slightly different role. The military attire has been downplayed. The camouflage jacket has been replaced by a vest, and he is clearly wearing civilian clothing underneath. Behind the three men is the black flag with the Islamic creed on it. The flag is known from the mujahideen, and is considered the foremost symbol of jihad. The flag has been in use by different Islamic groups since the early 1990s. Today it is also seen on jihadi websites, which often use it as a symbol. Through their placement in front of the flag, the three men are presented as the leaders and spokesmen of the mujahideen. The very staging of the press conference with the jihad flag in the background is a staging that was also seen at the press conference of the Norwegian organisation Profetens Ummah (the prophet’s community) in the autumn of 2012.[23]

As mentioned earlier, references to Islamic history are used in bin Laden’s texts. Michael Scheuer writes that bin Laden has great knowledge of Islamic history, and a strong sense that he is playing a part in a historic process that has been taking place for 1400 years.[24] He also asserts that bin Laden fits well into Islamic hero models, where important virtues are modesty and moderation.[25] Kepel describes al-Qaida’s staging in connection the message from bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Qaida’s current leader) on the al-Jazeera TV channel on 7 October 2001 from the mountains of Afghanistan as follows: «The entire scenario – the cave, the outfits, the exhortations – suggested that Zawahiri and Bin Laden were playing out, in full costume, the epic story of the Hegira, or Flight from Mecca, which marked the beginning of the Islamic era in 622 CE».[26] Illustration 3 is a still from this broadcast.

bin-laden-med-ayman

Illustration 3 , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDmp-lM5hL0, Al-Jazeera:

From left Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Muhammad Atef.

In the still in Illustration 3 we see key leaders of al-Qaida, with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in the middle. They are sitting on a carpet on the ground of what looks like a cave. However, the picture does not only depict a simple lifestyle and a 7th-century setting, as Kepel points out. There are also modern weapons, camouflage suits and a contemporary suitcase. The picture thus depicts leaders with the necessary competence and equipment to take jihad into a modern world, and thus strengthen their credibility.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003 are important topics in bin Laden’s speeches. He therefore appears to speak for Muslims. Through his thematic choice, he appears to have good intentions towards his public. In a video announcement in December 2001, bin Laden explains the attacks on Afghanistan as an evil crusade against Islam, and describes the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York as the blessed attack on global unbelief:

Three months after the blessed strikes against global unbelief and its leader America, and approximately two months after the beginning of this Crusader campaign against Islams, we should discuss the meaning of these events, which have revealed things of the greatest importance to Muslims. It has become all too clear that the West in general, with America at its head, carries an unspeakable Crusader hatred for Islam. Those who have endured the continuous bombing from US aeroplanes these last months know this only too well. How many innocent villages have been destroyed, how many millions forced out into the freezing cold, these poor innocent men, women, and children who are now taking shelter in refugee camps in Pakistan while America launches a vicious campaign based on mere suspicion?[27]

 bin-laden-pa-tv

Illustration 4, http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=2Ru Vs0jeMyM

This speech was broadcast on al-Jazeera. The visual rhetoric as shown below, in Illustration 4, which is taken from the video, talks about the leader of the mujahideen.[28] The military symbols are prominent; the camouflage suit which is known from the mujahideen and the weapon next to him. He looks like a leader reporting from the war, and in this speech he justifies the attack on the USA on 11 September 2001.

Bin Laden’s demonstrative speech is a type of language use that can strengthen a sense of belonging to a cultural and religious community through an us-them perspective. Relevant political issues are elaborated on and highlighted through this perspective, which is also a key aspect of demonstrative Speech.

bin-laden-i-fjellene-1bin laden i fjellene.png

Illustration 5, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA5v1pTsE9I

Illustration 5 comes from a report published on the internet in 2003, where bin Laden walks around what the report calls the Mountains of Islam.[29]

The depiction of bin Laden has now begun to change markedly. He is clearly older here, his beard is greyer, and he is walking with a staff. His uniform is gone, but he still carries the Kalashnikov on his back. The weapon implies that he is still part of the resistance, but the civilian clothing indicates that he now plays a different part, and has a different type of competence. He does not appear to participate in acts of war anymore. Now he is dressed in civilian Afghan clothes with short trousers, which gives brings up associations of the prophet Muhammad. He looks more like an older man, and it is not only the greying beard that makes him seem older; he often sits down and takes breaks while walking through these desolate mountains. The report implies that he has less physical endurance, and that he is talking life at a slower pace. Despite his diminished physical endurance, he still appears to be in good physical shape, because the terrain appears to be difficult to traverse. The report thus refutes the rumours that were reported in different news media, which said that he was suffering from serious kidney disease, and that he depended on dialysis to survive, because that would be difficult in that area. In other words, the visual depiction can be seen as a response to the rumours of his kidney disease.[30] During the breaks, when he sits down, he looks pensive, and contemplation can bring up associations of wisdom. During this report he also appears to move freely through the mountains. The viewers see a healthy man, living a quiet life in the mountains of Afghanistan, and who still survives all attempts to catch him.

Something interesting happens with bin Laden’s ethos one year later, in 2004. Now he appears as a political leader, he assumes the role of statesman, a sheikh (a learned leader).

 

THE SHEIKH

The first time that bin Laden clearly appears with a sheikh’s ethos can be seen in a video recording from the autumn of 2004 in connection with the US election. This visual change also matches the verbal change. Now bin Laden has begun to assume the role and function of the statesman to a greater extent, where he not only attacks, he also proposes solutions. Bombs were set off on trains in Madrid, Spain in March 2004. In April, bin Laden offers a truce to Europe, promising to stop all attacks on European states if they do not participate in attacks on Muslim countries or otherwise interfere in their affairs.[31] That year, Spain withdraws its forces from Iraq, an act that otherwise may have helped solidify bin Laden’s role as leader. It also was not until 2004 that bin Laden explicitly assumed responsibility for the attack on the USA on 11 September 2001, an attack that took al-Qaida from being a fairly unknown organisation to one of the world’s most feared terrorist organisations. Taking responsibility also fits in with a clear leadership role. However, there are other explanations for bin Laden’s late admission of responsibility for 11 September 2001. Peter Bergen, the journalist who wrote the book that is probably the most quoted book about al-Qaida’s leader, and who also interviewed him on one occasion, claims that the reason that bin Laden did not admit his responsibility for 11 September 2001 was that it would make it difficult for Mullah Omar not to extradite him to the USA.[32] This analysis may have some truth to it, but Mullah Omar was only the leader of Afghanistan until the end of 2001; i.e. only weeks after 11 September, and three years before bin Laden took responsibility for the acts. It was also widely known that bin Laden did not take much consideration of his Afghan hosts, and went his own way. His political agitation was not viewed kindly by the Afghans, and Mullah Omar threatened to throw him out of the country if he did not end his media campaigns. Bin Laden promised to stop, but continued his activities nonetheless.[33]

bin-laden-i-tv-studio

Illustration 6, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videos_and_audio_recordings_of_Osama_bin_Laden

After 2004, bin Laden looks more like a learned political leader in his media campaigns, as shown in the image in Illustration 6.

The change in bin Laden’s ethos is reflected in the verbal and the visual rhetoric; in his clothing, and not least the staging around him when he was filmed. He is no longer in the field, but appears to be in a modern television studio, where he even appears to be reading from a teleprompter, and can thus meet the eyes of the viewers. Such a direct gaze can be interpreted as both an expectation of and a demand for attention. However, what is most striking is the impression created by the exclusive clothing and the dignity with which he presents himself. The Kalashnikov and the military uniform are gone now. The new visual depictions of bin Laden give a sense of a different type of authority, as he appears to have the competence of the learned leader, a man with knowledge and experience. The brown cape with gold embroidery on the shoulders is a garment worn by leaders throughout the Arabian Gulf, including his home country of Saudi Arabia. The headdress is also associated with religious leaders.

The warnings in the speech take centre stage. He warns against continuing to interfere in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Palestine was also a recurring theme, and in several of his speeches he said that «I swear by God Almighty Who raised the heavens without effort that neither America nor anyone who lives there will enjoy safety until safety becomes a reality for us living in Palestine».  In the texts, bin Laden highlights his leadership abilities, eloquence and care for Muslims, and he puts their suffering on the agenda. He uses his comprehensive knowledge of Islam and Islamic history to support his arguments and his ethos as a leader. Bruce Lawrence describes bin Laden’s selective use of quotes from the Koran, and shows how they are adapted to his anti-imperialist politics.[35]

After 2004, bin Laden takes a more analytical perspective and talks about why a war is being waged against the USA, and claims that the causes of the terrorism have been misunderstood, and have been concealed from the US people by the US president. He presents himself as President Bush’s opposite number, the counter-party to the world power, a powerful leader, not only of al-Qaida, but all Muslims, someone who talks on behalf of the Muslim ummah (the international Muslim society). We see the rhetorician in these speeches, a leader who is able to convince others. As a leader, he was an accomplished speaker. He knew how to move his audience. He knew which buttons to push. The speeches are carefully structured. No words are chosen at random. His wording is certain, and his message is very clear, as we see in a quote from 2004, where he talks to the people of Europe:

We only killed Russians after they invaded Afghanistan and Chechnya, we only killed Europeans after they invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, we only killed Americans in New York after the supported the Jews in Palestine and invaded the Arabian peninsula, and we only killed them in Somalia after they invaded it in Operation Restore Hope.[36]

 

THE MYTHICAL HERO

The texts attributed to Osama bin Laden after 2006 are of a very different nature. Now they appear on the internet as animated collages with a verbal text in the background (so-called audiovisual files), and they are published on sites like YouTube. These multimodal productions require other analytical perspectives because they make greater use of the interaction between different semiotic resources; a multimodal meaning potential.[37]

The images in these audiovisual files highlight and repeat bin Laden’s message, at the same time that they promote a mythical leader. Some of them are bilingual, i.e. verbal Arabic texts, subtitled in English, sometimes in other languages. This indicates an attempt to reach a larger audience. Illustration 7 is a still from one such subtitled audiovisual file from 2007 where bin Laden talks to the Iraqi people, as seen in the heading: A Message to Our People in Iraq: A Message from Sheikh Osama bin Laden (May God Protect Him).[38]

In the collage in Illustration 7, bin Laden is dressed as a powerful sheikh. The picture probably comes from the video we saw a still from earlier on in the article, and placed on a dark background. This dark, unclear background may play on the uncertainty regarding bin Laden’s place of residence at the time. The background appears to be a vague depiction of the Earth with planetary rings around it. The contours of the Iraqi map are barely visible under these shining rings. This map thus highlights bin Laden’s audience, the Iraqis, and that Iraq is the subject of this speech. Bin Laden was preoccupied with Iraq, not only because of the suffering caused by the invasion on the population of Iraq, but also because the invasion made it possible to establish an an-Qaida faction in the country. This faction, under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi turned out to be very brutal and violent,[39] and probably helped undermine al-Qaida’s reputation and bin Laden’s support and credibility.[40] The diminishing of bin Laden may also be related to al-Sahab’s work to establish him as a mythical hero, rather than an active hero, as in these collages. A mythical hero with connotations to a golden past is better than an active hero with connections to the brutality of the Iraqi faction, connections that probably led to a decline in bin Laden’s popularity. The reason he was launched as a mythical hero may therefore have been in order to tone down the connection with the Iraq faction.

In the collage, the text translated has been highlighted in a separate frame in the foreground and with white text. The collage is divided in two, with the globe on one side and bin Laden on the other, with bin Laden highlighted through his size and positioning in the foreground of the globe. This depicts him as a global leader. As mentioned, we have seen this image of bin Laden before, in connection with the US election in 2004. We also see that his death is implied at the top of the collage: To the people of Iraq from Sheikh Osama bin Laden (May God Protect Him). The phrase «May God Protect Him» often refers to people who have died, but it is not exclusively used for this purpose. The figure also appears to shine, as orange, blue and white light shines off of him. The light gives an unearthly impression of him, a ghost-like appearance. He looks like a sheikh who is no longer part of our world. Bin Laden’s voice gives the impression that the sheikh is still alive, but the pictures imply that he no longer lives in this world – that only the sheikh’s words live on; he is dead. In other words, the visual and auditive modalities express a contradiction. This provides an important link between these modalities, because the interaction between the modalities strengthens the uncertainty as to whether bin Laden is still alive, through the contradictory messages. These contradictory messages in the images and sound files may have increased the mystery around bin Laden, because at the time the text was published, it was unclear whether bin Laden was alive. The collages appear to exploit this uncertainty by strengthening the mystery surrounding bin Laden.

bin laden mystisk sjeik 1.png

Illustration 7, http://www.youtube.com/watchv=nwAWwa6sgmQ&playnext=1&list=PLA966AAFFC08D067E

mystisk-sjeik-2

Illustration 8, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiCck0xYe-Q

 

In other audiovisual files published on YouTube, bin Laden is seen as a holy warrior, albeit more as a mythical holy warrior, as seen in the image in Illustration 8, which comes from a 2008 text.[41]

Illustration 8 comes from an animated collage where «from Sheikh Osama bin Laden (May God Protect Him)» is written at the bottom of the collage. The animation begins dramatically, with the spear at the right shooting across the screen with a religious song, a so-called nasheed, in the background. The spear hits what appears to be a bloodstain, then bin Laden’s image appears, as in the still in Illustration 8. This sets the stage for the speech, with a reference to past wars through the spear and up to the present fighting, with modern weapons, as visualised by the rifle. The song stops, and bin Laden begins his speech. There is a quote from the speech at the top of the collage. The quote is written in red, a colour that stands out and demands attention. This is a colour that is often associated with warnings, like a red traffic light, and here the warning is about the loss mothers can expect unless Muslims defend the prophet Muhammad. The quote is as follows: «May our mothers be bereaved of us if we fail to help our prophet» .[42] The quote can also be read as an indirect incitement to holy war; a response to the caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, which are the main topic of the speech made by bin Laden here to his enemies. In the verbal section, bin Laden describes how these drawings are part of an extensive crusade against Muslims which has been ongoing since the Middle Ages. Towards the end of the speech he says: «In closing, I tell you: if there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.» [43] In the photo collage, bin Laden appears to be in action, and the action in the photo thus highlights the threats in the verbal message. The visual modality tells the story of the battle between Muslims and crusaders, like the verbal modality. The Kalashnikov is a symbol that provides associations to rebel movements and resistance. The other weapon, the spear, provides associations to Islam’s past, the golden age of Muslims. The collage can be read as a narrative and, following the Arabic writing system, is read from right to left. This visual narrative thus also makes reference to a continuity from the age of Muhammad up to the present, a long-lasting fight with bin Laden, as the final hero of this battle. Like many of the other texts, the text shows a deep understanding of the feelings of many Muslims towards their lost golden age through the use of historic symbols. The texts also appear to be able to exploit these memories rhetorically by linking them to events in the present, and thus bring hope. This is done by calling forth memories of victory, and placing Islamic symbols and myths into new contexts.

The audiovisual collages from al-Qaida’s media company stand out greatly from past photographs and videos, also in other ways than through exploitation of several different modalities, as they are not meant to resemble the real world. Instead the function of the collages is to create inner pictures for their audience, through recontextualisation of the photographs used. Bin Laden appears ghostly and unreal, which provides associations to an immortal and strong leader. He does not let himself get caught or killed, but continues to live outside this world. He represents the unassailable symbol of resistance, an invincible hero. In these texts, he is a mythical historical hero, and it no longer seems important whether he lives. Through these texts, he took a place in history as part of people’s memories, already before he was killed.

In al-Qaida’s version of Islamic history, bin Laden sometimes appears as a mythical mujahid, other times as a mythical sheikh. The media company appears professional, because the picture presented by bin Laden matched people’s views of him during the last few years before he died. He was not a major international player anymore. Instead he was a symbolic figure to many people. This appears to be the image the media company tries to reinforce through its collages. The company appears to want to consolidate bin Laden’s symbolic role among his admirers as a mythical hero. The collages therefore remind his readers about his accomplishments through the composition of different images. In these complex texts, he has already assumed the role of martyr, despite clearly being alive at the time, well hidden in a house in Pakistan with his three wives, children and several grandchildren. The house was in the city of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan. Abbottabad was one of the last places where anyone would expect him to do be. The city was far from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where most people thought he was. This is also one of Pakistan’s main military cities, and thus a risky place to be. He recorded his speeches in this house in Abbottabad. The speeches were carried by his courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, to al-Qaida’s Pakistan-based media company as-Sahab. As-Sahab compiled the audio files together with photographs, graphics, translations and collages in audiovisual files before they were published online.

 

BIN LADEN’S VISUAL RHETORIC

Much has been written about bin Laden’s verbal rhetoric, while his visual rhetoric is virtually unexplored in the research into al-Qaida’s former leader. Some of the visual aspects of bin Laden’s rhetoric have therefore been presented in this article, through rhetorical and multimodal analyses of his original Arabic texts. The analyses show how the visual depictions of bin Laden reinforce the image of a leader and different types of hero. The article is also a contribution to a more nuanced picture of bin Laden. It can be read as a counterweight to the many negative presentations of bin Laden as a terrorist, disseminated in both the Arabic and Western media. This article therefore does not focus on the leader responsible for the major bombings that received attention, but on an eloquent rhetorician. I have described the eloquent rhetorician by focusing on bin Laden’s visual rhetoric and providing examples of some of the instruments used in the texts. Examples of this are references to Islamic symbols and myths, as well as recalling past experiences. These references are so important to people that they evoke emotions, and can thus persuade and engage people. This article may therefore help explain bin Laden’s popularity.

 

NOTES

[1] Brynjar Lia, «Osama bin Laden – mannen bak al-Qaida» [Osama bin Laden – the man behind al-Qaida], Samtiden 3, (2011), pp. 118–131.

[2] Anne Birgitta Nilsen «Osama bin Laden – helten og demonen» [Osama bin Laden – the Hero and the Demon]. Internasjonal Politikk, no. 4, 2012.

[3] Represented, respectively, in Jens E. Kjeldsen, Visuell retorikk [Visual rhetoric], PhD thesis in Media Studies and Rhetoric. Department of Media Studies publication no. 50. Department of Media Studies, University of Bergen, 2002, and Gunther Kress, Multimodality – a Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication, London: Routledge, 2010.

[4] Jens E. Kjeldsen, Visuell retorikk [Visual rhetoric].

[5] For descriptions of multimodal analyses in Norwegian, see Aslaug Veum, «Historisk blikk pa meiningsskaping i avisforstesider» [A historical perspective on opinion creation on newspaper first pages] and Gunnfrid Oyerud, «Hvordan analysere multimodalitet» [How to analyse multimodality], in Diskursanalyse i praksis: metode og analyse, Tonje Raddum Hitching, Anne Birgitta Nilsen and Aslaug Veum, Kristiansand: Hoyskoleforlaget, 2011, pp. 88–110 and pp. 43–78.

[6] Anne Birgitta Nilsen, «Interkulturell retorikk – Osama bin Ladens makt» [Intercultural rhetoric – the power of Osama bin Laden], in Diskursanalyse i praksis: metode og analyse, pp. 136–160.

[7] Ibid., pp 155–157.

[8] Andreea Deciu Ritivoi, Paul Ricoeur: Tradition and Innovation in Rhetorical Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

[9] Peter Bergen, Menneskejakten [Manhunt], Oslo: Cappelen Damm, 2012, p. 285.

[10] Jens E. Kjeldsen, «Visuel politisk epideiktik» [Visual political epideitics], Rhetorica Scandinavica, 14, (2000), pp. 18–31.

[11] Jens E. Kjeldsen, Visuell retorikk [Visual rhetoric].

[12] Jens E. Kjeldsen, Retorikk i vår tid [Rhetoric in our time], Oslo: Spartacus forlag, 2004, p. 264.

[13] Roland Barthes, «Bildets retorikk» [Rhetoric of the image], Tegnets tid, Oslo: Pax forlag, 1994 [1964], pp. 22–35.

[14] Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003, p. 25.

[15] Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of al-Qaeda, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ismail Abbas Darout, The Natural Toothbrush «Miswak» as an Alternative to the Modern Toothbrush: A Clinical, Microbial and Chemical Evaluation, PhD thesis, University

of Bergen, 2003.

[18] Lawrence Wright, Al-Qaida og veien til 11. september [The looming tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11], Oslo: Gyldendal, p. 234.

[19] Ibid., pp 168.

[20] Ibid., pp 224.

[21] Bergen, p. 46.

[22] The still is from «I knew bin Laden – al-Jazeera documentary»: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDmp-lM5hL0. Downloaded on 20.11.2012.

[23] TV2, News: «Profetens umma: – Vi er misforstatt» [Profetens umma – We are misunderstood]. http://www.tv2.no/nyheter/innenriks/profetens-ummah-vi-ermisforstaatt-3917690.html Downloaded on 20.11.2012.

[24] Scheuer, Michael, Through our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2006, p. 75.

[25] Ibid., pp 303–304.

[26] Gilles Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West, Cambridge Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004, p. 77.

[27] Ibid., pp. 221–222.

[28] Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s speech 2001. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=2RuVs0jeMyM . Downloaded on 20.11.2012.

[29] Complete footage of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA5v1pTsE9I Downloaded on 01.11.2012.

[30] The rumours were also documented by Bergen, pp. 32–33.

[31] Bruce Lawrence and Osama bin Laden, Budskap til verden, Osama bin Ladens brev og taler (Messages to the world: The statements of Osama bin Laden], Oslo: L.S.P. forlag, 2007.

[32] Bergen, pp 53–54.

[33] Wright, pp 245–247, 284–285.

[34] The translation from Arabic comes from Bruce Lawrence and Osama bin Laden, p. 165.

[35] Bruce B. Lawrence, «Osama bin Laden: The Man and the Myth», The Leader: Psychological Essays, Eds. Oliger Abdyli, Daniel Offer and Charles B. Strozier, New York: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 2011, pp. 119–134.

[36] Bruce Lawrence and Osama bin Laden, p. 346.

[37] Kress.

[38] (Osama bin Laden’s speech to the Iraqi people) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAWwa6sgmQ&playnext=1&list=PLA966AAFFC08D067E. Downloaded on 20.11.2012.

[39] Abu Musab himself was known for having beheaded one of his hostages and for having filmed the executions, which were later posted online.

[40] Bergen, p. 166.

[41] Syaikh Usama bin Ladin Audio Message 20 March 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiCck0xYe-Q

[42] The author’s translation from Arabic.

[43] The author’s translation from Arabic.

[CPU1]Husk å rette på sidehenvisningene iht. den engelske boken.

[CU2]IntelCenter Words of Osama Bin Laden, Volum 1

[CU3]

Publisert i Al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, Propaganda, Rhetoric | 1 kommentar

Skrivekurset i Marrakech – det foruroligende etterspillet

Et etisk rammeverk er viktig for skrivelærere, ikke bare under kurset, men også i etterkant når de eventuelt får kritikk.  Det er min erfaring etter å ha kritisert et skrivekurs.

marrakech

Skrivekurs er populært, og stadig flere forfattere holder kurs. Som kursholdere og som rollemodeller folk ser opp til, har forfatterne mye makt. En bevissthet rundt denne påvirkningsmakten er viktig, og derfor skrev jeg en kritikk av et skrivekurs våren 2016. Det kritiske essayet ble publisert i det faglitterære tidsskriftet Prosa, og det har vært gjenstand for diskusjon i pressen og på sosiale medier. På Facebook bemerket en av Prosas lesere:

Jeg leste essayet siden jeg holder skrivekurs selv, ikke slike kurs, men kurs i akademisk skriving. Det du forteller, sier mye om hvordan verden vil bedras. Artikkelen din kommer selvsagt kurslederen for øre (vet ikke hvem det er), og erfaringsmessig vil han ignorere kritikken og vise til at de andre deltakerne var SÅ fornøyde.

Ikke bare endte det omtrent som Prosas leser forutså. Det dukket også opp andre foruroligende saker og handlinger. Disse bekrefter at et etisk rammeverk er viktig for skrivelærere, ikke bare under kurset, men også i etterkant når de får kritikk.

Skrivelærer eller skriveterapeut

På en idyllisk gresk øy lytter skriveelevene henført til en forfatters forelesninger om å komme i kontakt med sine innerste følelser, drømmer og det overnaturlige. Spesielt er sørgelige opplevelser gode som gull for forfattere, hevder foreleseren. De skal dele slike personlige erfaringer med hverandre. Skrivekurset blir terapi. Kurslederen blir skriveterapeut. Dette forteller en tidligere elev ved skrivekurset på den greske øya. Hun er kritisk til den terapeutiske vridningen. Kritikken er ikke tatt ut av luften. Skriveeleven er godt skolert i psykologi, både teoretisk og praktisk, og hun har selv holdt faglitterære skrivekurs.

Hennes beretninger styrker min oppfatning om at det er på sin plass å reise spørsmål ved forfatteres skrivekurs. Hun fremmet imidlertid ikke en kritikk av det hun opplevde på den greske øya, for som hun skriver i sin e-post:

Jeg visste at det ikke ville komme noe ut av det med så mange henførte beundrere.  Jeg ville bli stilt i gapestokken som den vanskelige og umulige. Jeg tror at folk kan ha så mange andre grunner for å dra på skrivekurs enn å lære å skrive, f. eks å oppleve andre land og steder.

Det var tøft av deg å skrive offentlig om dette, hadde jeg gjort det, er jeg sikker på jeg hadde fått akkurat samme reaksjon som deg fra de andre deltakerne. «Vi kjenner oss ikke igjen i beskrivelsen», hvordan kan hun skrive noe sånt.

Vi skal se at reaksjonen jeg fikk ble omtrent som skriveeleven fornemmet. Det ble opprettet en elektronisk gapestokk.

Pakten

I Prosa ble min kritikk av skrivekurset i Marrakech imøtegått av kursleder. I sine innvendinger hevder kursleder at det ble inngått en pakt om at det som sies og skrives forblir i Marrakech. Jeg kan ikke huske noen «pakt» utover at det var enighet om at vi ikke skulle omtale hverandres tekster eller andre personlige forhold for utenforstående. For meg er det en selvfølge, men som kursleder kan man ikke inngå en pakt med deltakerne om at innholdet i kurset ikke skal kunne refereres, og på den måten unndra seg kritikk. Man kan ikke inngå en avtale der man fratar kunden klageretten etter at varen er betalt. Å hevde at jeg har brutt en pakt faller på sin egen urimelighet.

Kunden har ikke all rett

Kursleder har rett når han sier at min oppfatning av kurset avviker fra flertallet av deltakerne sine opplevelser. Elevevalueringer er viktige, men de forteller ikke alt. En del mennesker melder seg antakelig først og fremst på skrivekurs fordi de gjerne vil oppleve og bli kjent med en forfatter de beundrer, og ikke på grunn av forventninger om et etisk rammeverk. Følgelig vil disse elevene få sine forventninger innfridd, og de vil gi kursleder positive tilbakemeldinger. Vi skal heller ikke se bort fra at en anonym evaluering ville fått frem flere sider ved kurset.

Kursleders kundeperspektiv minner om diskusjonen som har vært ført om litteraturkritikk der noen forfattere hevder man heller bør spørre forbrukerne. Fra et slikt perspektiv er faglig fundert kritikk overflødig, sier Arve Hjelseth i Dagbladet 3. mai i år: «vi kjenner alle historier om folk som velger å se alle filmer som får karakteren 1 eller 2 av kulturavisens anmeldere, i trygg forvissning om at nettopp dette gjør filmen severdig.» Hjelseth refererer til en artikkel av Olaf Haagensen i Morgenbladet 26. mars 2015.

Min kritikk handler om mer enn hvorvidt deltakerne liker kurset og blir en sammensveiset gjeng i Nord-Afrika. Kritikken har støtte i objektive vurderingskriterier som i etiske normer formulert under Vær varsom-plakaten, i pedagogikken og i tekstvitenskapen. Jeg mener Vær varsom-plakaten er anvendelig også for skrivekursledere med bakgrunn i journalistikk.

Vær varsom

«Av hensyn til kildene og pressens uavhengighet skal upublisert materiale som hovedregel ikke utleveres til utenforstående» (Vær Varsom-plakaten 3.6). I min kritikk viser jeg til et klipp fra et intervju med en av kursleders intervjuobjekter, som ble spilt på kurset. Elever ved et skrivekurs er utenforstående i denne sammenheng, og vi burde derfor ikke fått ta del i opptaket. Videre under 3.9 står det: «Opptre hensynsfullt i den journalistiske arbeidsprosessen.» Å spille et klipp fra et intervju med en mann som vanskelig kan gjøre rede for seg og som vekker latter blant tilhørerne, er ikke å opptre hensynsfullt.

Under 4.3 står det: «Vær varsom ved bruk av begreper som kan virke stigmatiserende. Fremhev ikke personlige og private forhold når dette er saken uvedkommende.» I min kritikk av kurset gir jeg eksempler på personlige og private forhold som er skrivekurset uvedkommende. Jeg gir også eksempel på stigmatiserende begrepsbruk. Videre er det brudd på Vær varsom-plakaten 4.7 når man bruker navn på personer som omtales i forbindelse med straffbare forhold.

Den hatefulle teksten

I Prosa karakteriserer min kursleder en av tekstene jeg skrev på kurset. I sin karakteristikk bruker han adjektivet hatefull og graderingen uvanlig. Teksten er ikke uvanlig hatefull. Den er et karikert portrett.

Det kan synes som om kursleder verken forstår sin egen rolle eller evner å skille mellom min rolle som kritiker og som elev ved hans kurs.  Vurderinger av elevtekster har ingenting i offentligheten å gjøre. Heller ikke når de er skrevet av en elev som kritiserer kurset i skarpe vendinger i Norges største faglitterære tidsskrift.

Jeg er også kritisk til at kursleder i Prosa gjengir noe han hevder er en privat e-post-utveksling mellom meg i rollen som kursdeltaker og seg selv i rollen som kursleder. Korrespondanser med elever bør behandles med fortrolighet. Også når eleven kritiserer kurset. Kritikk fra elevene danner ikke grunnlag for å oppheve denne fortroligheten. Det er uprofesjonelt.

Kurslederens makt

En kursleder påvirker sine elever gjennom eksempelets makt. Derfor er en bevissthet rundt kurslederrollen viktig. Det handler om ansvar knyttet til hans funksjon som kunnskaps-, kultur- og verdiformidler. Min erfaring fra skrivekurset tilsier fremdeles at det er verdt å stille spørsmål ved den kulturen som etablerer seg rundt forfatternes nye kursvirksomhet. Mine erfaringer i etterkant av kurset tilsier det samme.

Noe av det første kursleder gjør etter å ha lest mitt kritiske essay, er å gi opplysninger om kursdeltakerne til en journalist som skal lage en sak rundt mitt essay. Personopplysninger er å regne som fortrolig informasjon, og de bør ikke videreformidles ut uten å på forhånd ha innhentet de involvertes samtykke. En av kursdeltakerne forteller at oppringningen fra journalisten kom svært brått på henne. Hun syntes samtalen med journalisten var ubehagelig, blant annet fordi hun opplevde at hun ikke ble trodd. Journalisten var lite interessert i hennes faglige innvendinger mot kurset.

Etterspillet

Etter at mitt essay sto på trykk ble det også igangsatt en e-post-korrespondanse med utvalgte deltakere fra skrivekurset. Jeg var ikke en av de utvalgte, men derimot gjenstand for en følelsesladet og høyst usaklig diskusjon. Kursleder og en del av de andre kursdeltakerne følte seg hengt ut, selv om jeg ikke hadde nevnt noen av dem ved navn. Jeg nevner ingen navn nå heller. Det er ikke personene som er viktige her, men forfatternes nye kursvirksomhet og hvordan de håndterer kurslederrollen.

Korrespondansen som ble startet, er egnet til å nå flere enn de opprinnelige deltakerne på listen, og flere enn 20-30 personer. Jeg mener den er å anse som offentlige handlinger og ikke som en privat utveksling. Jeg behandler den derfor ikke med fortrolighet, og refererer til det jeg mener er vesentlig for saken.

Kritikeren fjerndiagnostiseres

I løpet av e-post-utvekslingen ble det temmelig hemningsløst spekulert i mine motiver for å kritisere kurset. Man unnlot seg heller ikke å lefle med psykiatriske diagnoser. Kurset i seg ble knapt nevnt av noen. Uimotsagt fikk deltakerne gå løs på meg som person. Både i dialogen, og i ulike tekstutkast rettet mot Prosa. Igjen glimrer kritikken med sitt fravær. Helt til det dukker opp en utenforstående som blander seg inn i diskusjonen. Etter samtykke fra den utenforstående gjengir jeg deler av dennes innspill i korrespondansen:

For meg er det svært underlig at dere drar i gang noe som ligner en hets av Anne Birgitta Nilsen.  Dere fleiper til og med med å gi henne en diagnose.

Man pleier ikke argumentere mot et terningkast. Man starter ikke en personlig vendetta mot anmelderne selv om de har en annen opplevelse enn deg.

Selv om hun tydeligvis skrev en tekst som støtet kursleder under kurset, er det under enhver kritikk å lage forslag til et svar som trekker frem en kursist og omtaler henne og hennes tekster negativt. Det er kort sagt å grave sin egen grav som underviser.

Å hakke ned AB Nilsen som strategi for å redde æren til kursleder, tror jeg ikke er særlig konstruktivt for hverken videre skrivekurs eller kursleder selv. Æren bevares nok best i å skrive en kritikk av kurset som er så god som dere synes kurset er, begrunne det faglig, ikke med at AB Nilsen er slem.

E-post-korrespondansen ble altså ikke bare lest av innvidde. Den endte også relativt raskt i min innboks. For det jeg vet lever korrespondansen sitt eget liv gjennom videresend-knappen der deltakere flettes inn og trekkes fra på kopilisten.

Slarv og bøss

Det står selvfølgelig kursleder fritt å påstå at det jeg skriver ikke er sant. Han må også gjerne snu saken på hodet og hevde at det er kritikeren som farer med slarv og bøss. Som kritiker må kursleder  gjerne kritisere meg, men i Prosa og andre offentlige og private sammenhenger bør han avholde seg fra å kritisere meg som sin elev.

 

Litteratur

Haagensen, Olaf: Kritikken som presenteres av Aftenposten, vitner knappest om forståelse

Arve Hjelseth, Arve: Kritikken av litteraturkritikken

Nilsen, Anne Birgitta: Skrivekurs med kjendissladder

Geelmuyden, Hans Christian: Skrivekurset i Marrakech

Publisert i Etikk for skrivekurs, Kritikk, Kritikkhåndtering, Marrakech, skrivekurs, Skrivekurset i Marrakech | Merket med , | Legg igjen en kommentar

Skrivekurs med kjendissladder i Marrakech

Har skrivekursene som holdes i nære og fjerne strøk, noe mer å by på enn en forførende kjendis? Her er mine erfaringer etter seks dager i Marrakech.

marrakech

Skriving er populært. Skrivekurs med norske forfattere i inn- og utland griper om seg. Jeg er tekstforsker, og jeg har vært på skrivekurs i Nord-Afrika.

Noen vil kanskje spørre seg hva en tekstforsker gjør på et skrivekurs.

– Kan ikke du alt som er verdt å vite om tekster og skriving?

– Tja, jeg kan mye om hva som er gode og dårlige tekster. Jeg er spesielt interessert i språkets mørke sider. Mobbing, sladder og annet hatprat.

Som tekstforsker kan jeg altså mye om virkemidler i tekst og tale, men jeg har fremdeles noe å lære når det gjelder å omsette kunnskapen til praksis. Det er ingen automatikk i det. Jeg er dessuten opptatt av forskningsformidling, og jeg forsøker derfor stadig å utforske nye sjangere for å nå ut til nye lesere med min kunnskap. Formidling er en del av min plikt som forsker. Jeg meldte meg på et kurs i portrettskriving for å bli en bedre formidler av kunnskap. Teksten du leser nå, er basert på noe av det jeg opplevde og lærte på kurset, og på noe av det jeg kunne fra før.

På Gardermoen møtte jeg spent min kursleder den 17. oktober 2015. Kurslederen viste seg å være en vennlig og tillitsskapende mann i femtiårene. På forhånd hadde jeg lest kursleders intervjuer med Kjendis-Norge. Intervjuene er på sett og vis velskrevne. Intervjuobjektene trer umiddelbart frem for leseren. Som skribent evner han å holde på mange leseres oppmerksomhet. På kursets nettside forteller flere tidligere kursdeltakere at kurset er inspirerende, og at de er blitt flinkere til å skrive. Spørsmålet er hva slags skriving kurset i portrettskriving inspirerer til, og hva elevene blir flinkere til.

Se og hør

I kurslokalet midt i gamlebyen i Marrakech treffer vi vår kursleder igjen. Kurslokalet er en vakker toetasjes riad med takterrasse; et tradisjonelt marokkansk hus med et atrium i midten. Bygningen er flere hundre år gammel, tror den norske eieren som har pusset opp bygningen. Oppussingen bærer preg av kunnskap om og respekt for marokkanske byggetradisjoner.

I en halvsirkel sitter vi rundt kurslederen i riadens svale atrium. Under føttene våre er det marokkanske fliser i livlige farger. Over hodene våre er det blå himmel. Fuglene kvitrer i sitrontreet. Bordet i midten av halvsirkelen er dekket med myntete i små glass, oppskårede granatepler og søte marokkanske appelsiner. Den vennlige hushjelpen tar godt vare på oss. Det kommer stadig noe nytt på det mosaikkbelagte bordet. Riaden med den smakfulle innredningen innbyr ikke bare til ro og kreativitet. Som bærer av solid håndverk nedarvet gjennom generasjoner står riaden i kontrast til kurset bygningen huser. Kurset skal vise seg å mangle både fagkunnskap og et etisk rammeverk.

I løpet av de seks dagene i den vakre riaden deler kurslederen raust fra sine erfaringer som portrettør. Det har vært mange innvendinger mot tekstene hans, der han har gjort seg morsom på den enes og den andres bekostning. Det har også vært overtramp av mer alvorlig karakter. Noe av det kursleder beretter, er utvilsomt både morsomt og underholdende.

På kurset blir vi også kjent med kursleders intervjuobjekter. Vi får vite ting om Kjendis-Norge som de fleste av oss antakelig aldri ville fått tilgang til ellers. Etter hvert blir det plagsomt mange uvesentlige sidespor. De samme sladderpregete anekdotene går igjen og igjen, bare med forskjellige aktører.

Jeg er ikke kommet helt til Marrakech for å høre historier jeg kunne lest i Se og Hør på tannlegekontoret, mumler jeg i mitt indre. Den danske deltakeren på kurset ser drømmende ut på den blå himmelen over oss i atriet, og sovner godt tilbakelent i den bløte sofaen. Den stakkars dansken vet ikke engang hvem alle kjendisene er.

Elskerinnen

I den vakre riaden får vi vite at en norsk kjendis nevnt ved navn har en elskerinne. Jeg lurer på hvorfor kvinnen omtales som elskerinne. Kjæreste er en mye vanligere betegnelse i norsk. Er kjendisen gift, og så har han henne på si?

Vi får også vite hva den såkalte elskerinnen jobber med, og vi får vite hvor hun utøver sitt virke. Navnet og identiteten hennes er bare et raskt googlesøk unna for dem som ikke allerede har gjenkjent henne.

– Er denne kjendishistorien ment som en pedagogisk ressurs i skrivekurset?

– Hva kan elskerinne-betegnelsen potensielt gjøre med kvinnens rykte og anseelse i samfunnet?

Elskerinne-betegnelsen er egnet til å sverte kvinnens omdømme. Dessuten er informasjonen irrelevant. En persons sexliv har ikke noe å gjøre på et skrivekurs i Marrakech. Ikke på skrivekurs andre steder i verden heller. Språkbruken fremmer en ukultur, brummer jeg i mitt indre.

Kursholders anekdoter er altså ikke bare trøttende. I meg vekker fremstillingene ubehag og medfølelse for ofrene. Er det slik man skal lære seg å skrive portretter? Er det historienes pedagogiske funksjon? Skal de tjene som eksempler til etterfølgelse? Det sterkeste ubehaget er knyttet til den fraværende kritikken. De fleste av deltakerne på kurset ser ikke ut til å plages. De er velutdannete, men lar seg forføre.

Fortelleren

Riktignok består ikke kurset bare av anekdoter og sladder. Eventyret til den marokkanske fortelleren som i årevis har underholdt folk på det store torget, Jamaa al-Fna, var av en annen kvalitet. Han fortalte om «Den gode og den onde». Eventyret kjente jeg fra før gjennom Thor Arne Hauers nennsomme oversettelser til norsk. Møtet oppfylte alle mine forestillinger om en storslagen forteller. Han er inspirerende og underholdende, men underholdningen er verken platt eller grenseløs. Det gode vinner over det onde, og:

fortelleren

– Om dette er sant, vet bare Gud.

I løpet av kurset får vi også en innføring i det som omtales som skrivingens ti bud, men det er lite som minner om Moses’ ti bud. De etiske retningslinjene er fraværende. På kurset er det ingen klart definerte grenser, men vi blir oppfordret til å sprenge noen likevel.

– Våg noe! Risiker noe! Sett noe på spill!

Utfordringen gis i forkant av den første oppgaven, som er å skrive en A4-side om mor eller far. I anekdotisk form får vi samtidig vite om mindre flatterende sider ved kursholders egne foreldre og familie for øvrig. Videre blir vi fortalt at det er vanskeligere å portrettere mor enn det er å portrettere far.

– De fleste har et mer komplekst forhold til sin mor.

Informasjonen gir noen føringer for hva som forventes av tekstene. Det ligger mellom linjene at den som våger mest, vil være den som skriver om sitt komplekse forhold til mor. Eleven som gjør dette vågestykket, vil derfor trolig også ha best sjanser for en positiv vurdering av sin tekst. Men er det egentlig så modig å skrive om folk som ikke er til stede, og som antakelig aldri skal lese teksten? Hva er det man risikerer da? Hva er det man setter på spill?

Før vi vender tilbake til hotellet for å skrive vår første oppgave, blir vi fortalt at vi skal skrive slik at vår mor eller far trer frem foran leserne. Vi skal skrive slik at personene stiger opp fra arket. Leseropplevelsen skal gi leseren lyst til å se filmen om vår far eller mor. Oppgaven skal ikke bare gi oss skrivetrening. Den gir også mulighet for å bli bedre kjent med mor eller far, blir vi fortalt.

Det får heller gå som det går med vurderingen, tenker jeg. Jeg er på kurs for å lære å skrive bedre. Den målsettingen vil jeg holde fast ved. Jeg er ikke kommet til Marrakech for å bli bedre kjent med mine foreldre, og heller ikke for å dele dette nye bekjentskapet med fremmede mennesker.

Mor og far

På godt og vondt ble vi kjent med hverandres foreldre den dagen tekstene ble lest høyt i den tradisjonsrike riaden. Mest på vondt. Oppgaven hadde lagt opp til det. Vi skulle jo våge noe. Konteksten for vågestykket var komplekse forhold til foreldrene og en mulighet for å bli bedre kjent med mor og far. Derfor fikk vi høre om vold og annen omsorgssvikt. Innimellom var det også noen lysglimt. Én far vi fikk høre om, hadde alltid sjokoladehjerter i lomma på jakken sin.

Tredje kursdag var det 13 spente elever som møtte opp i riaden for å høre teksten lest for de andre elevene, og for å motta vurderingen av tekstene. Både fra medelever og fra kursholder. Teksten min var ikke innenfor. Jeg hadde snakket rundt grøten. Jeg hadde vridd meg unna oppgaven ved å skrive om mine barns bestefar, og ikke om min far. Jeg hadde ikke våget noe. Jeg hadde ikke satt noe på spill. Jeg hadde ikke risikert noe.

– Din far fremtrer ikke for meg i denne teksten. Jeg får ikke lyst til å se filmen om din far, sa kursholder.

Nei nei, det var ikke annet å vente, tenkte jeg. Skjønt det var ikke helt sant. Innerst inne hadde jeg håpet at kursleder ville se at jeg ikke hadde skrevet teksten for ham, og at den ville bli vurdert deretter. Jeg hadde skrevet teksten for mine barn.

De forestilte leserne

Også andre tekster bar preg av å være skrevet med kursdeltakerens barn eller andre familiemedlemmer for øye. Dette særpreget gikk igjen hos tekstene som fikk overveiende negativ tilbakemelding. Og det er ikke så rart, for oppgaven inviterer til å skrive for noen andre enn kursholder og et allment publikum. Hvem ellers skulle egentlig ha interesse av å lese om våre foreldre?

En kursholder med mer kunnskap om tekst ville trolig tatt høyde for «de forestilte leserne» i sin vurdering. Det er ikke slik at alle tekster passer for alle. Det er ikke slik at en tekst som egner seg som filmmanus, nødvendigvis er god. Det er ikke slik at en tekst der en person fremtrer som underholdende for kurslederen, nødvendigvis er god. En god tekst tar også hensyn til den man forteller om, og holder noe tilbake. Dette etiske hensynet gikk også igjen i noen av tekstene som fikk mest negativ vurdering.

Barna mine visste om oppgaven. Jeg hadde fortalt dem om den på Skype. Og på Skype mellom Oslo og Marrakech var barna og mannen min spente på å høre resultatet.

– Likte læreren fortellingen om bestefar, mamma?

– Nei, han mente jeg ikke hadde gjort leksen min ordentlig. Oppgaven var å skrive om min far. Og så skrev jeg om bestefar isteden.

– Ja men bestefar er jo pappaen din også, innvendte døtrene mine.

Mine døtre på ti og tolv år har et poeng. Dessuten likte de historien om bestefar, og de vil gjerne se filmen om ham. Ut fra et vurderingskriterium om «de forestilte leserne» er altså teksten god. Jeg skrev teksten for barna mine. Derfor handlet A4-siden om bestefar. Jeg løste oppgaven så godt jeg kunne. Det gjorde jeg ut fra en oppfatning om at man ikke bør utlevere sine foreldre blant fremmede på et skrivekurs. Jeg mener man skal ta hensyn til dem man skriver om.

Den rørete kunstneren

Kursholder tar alltid opptak av sine intervjuer. På den måten kunne han i et av sine portretter fremstille en statsminister som en person som ikke er i stand til å gjøre rede for seg. Det gjorde han ved ordrett å gjengi det Gro Harlem Brundtland sa. Riktignok snakker Brundtland litt innfløkt. Men kursleders skriftlige gjengivelse er ikke representativ for hennes muntlige ferdigheter. Gjengivelsen er utelukkende egnet til å latterliggjøre den daværende statsministeren. Det har å gjøre med forskjellene mellom språkets skriftlige og muntlige form. Det er ingen som vil komme godt ut av en slik gjengivelse. Aller minst kursholder selv. Det er lett å gå seg vill i ordene og setningene hans, som hver for seg kan virke overbevisende nok.

Dag tre får vi høre et lydopptak av kursleders intervju med en kjent norsk kunstner. Kunstneren blir presentert ved navn. Vi sitter tett rundt bordet for å lytte til den svake lyden fra kursleders pc. Ut strømmer kunstnerens vrøvlete tale.

På skrivekurset i Marrakech blir kunstneren redusert til et lattervekkende underholdningsobjekt sammen med en av sine venner, som også blir nevnt ved navn. Kursleder forteller at vennen har sonet en lang dom for en alvorlig forbrytelse. Kunstneren og hans venn blir en del av underholdningen.

Spørsmålene i mitt hode ble påtrengende, og de ble plagsomme:

– Vet kunstneren at det sitter 13 mennesker i Marrakech og hører på ham nå?

– Vet han hvor lattervekkende, usammenhengende og rørete han fremstår for oss?

– Synes han det er greit at mennesker han ikke kjenner og ikke engang vet hvem er, sitter og ler av ham?

– Hva ville han tenke om det noen av oss forteller til venner og kjente etter å ha hørt på ham?

– Hva ville han ha følt hvis han fikk se oss på film mens vi hørte på ham?

– Er det noen av oss som er glad i denne kunstneren, eller som kanskje kjenner ham?

– Hvilken pedagogisk verdi har denne presentasjonen?

Vågestykket

På slutten av dag tre får vi kursets andre skriveoppgave:

– Nå skal dere skrive en A4-side om noe eller noen i Marrakech.

Med kritikken fra forrige oppgave ferskt i minne gikk jeg i gang. Fast bestemt på å våge noe. Mitt vågestykke er imidlertid på et annet plan enn det kursleder legger opp til. Denne gangen løser jeg oppgaven ved å speile kurslederens virksomhet. I teksten gjør jeg det samme mot ham som jeg opplever at han gjør mot andre mennesker. Jeg skrev et karikert portrett av ham basert på hans egen undervisning, hans egne anekdoter og hans egen fremstilling av andre mennesker.

Det karikerte portrettet av kursleder falt ikke i god jord. Men jeg hadde noen poenger. Først og fremst var portrettet unyansert. Det hadde ikke tydelig nok fått frem kursleders positive sider. Fokuset var for negativt. Det var ikke bra. Det var sjofelt. Men innvendingene mot selve teksten er ikke relevante. Karikaturen som sjanger er nettopp spissformulert og unyansert. En karikatur er heller ikke nødvendigvis snill.

I portrettet av kursleder fremstilte jeg en person jeg hadde et forhold til der og da. Portrettet kunne også leses som en kritikk av kurset. Etter mitt syn er portrettet et større vågestykke enn å karikere noen bak deres rygg eller på trygg avstand etter at et intervju er over. En av kursdeltakerne bemerket:

– Gjennom hele denne uka er vi blitt bedt om å våge noe og å risikere noe. Denne teksten er den aller mest vågale. Ingen har risikert så mye. Ingen har satt så mye på spill.

Det er mulig det ikke var bra å gjøre det jeg gjorde. Å karikere kursleder. Spørsmålet er hvorvidt jeg sparket oppover eller nedover. Det er et spørsmål om makt. Hvem av oss er det som har mest makt? Kurslederen eller kursdeltakeren? Skribenten eller tekstforskeren? Å sparke nedover er ikke bra, for den som blir sparket, har færre muligheter for å forsvare seg. Hvis man ser seg nødt til å sparke noen, så må det være oppover.

Til slutt: I kursbeskrivelsen burde vi ha fått informasjon om at kurset også gir anledning til å bli bedre kjent med mor og far. Informasjonen kan være avgjørende for folk som vurderer å melde seg på kurset. «Bli kjent med mor og far»-oppgaven utgjorde en tredjedel av kurset – to hele dager. Oppgaven er heller ikke en ren skriveoppgave. Den bærer også preg av å være et lite gjennomtenkt psykologisk eksperiment. Det sitter sikkert tidligere kursdeltakere rundt omkring og lurer på hvor det er blitt av fortellingen deres om mor eller far. Lever den sitt liv videre blant de andre kursdeltakerne, eller er fortellingen glemt?

Jeg er usikker på om skrivekurs er den rette betegnelsen for de seks dagene jeg tilbrakte i den flotte riaden i Marrakech.

 

Essayet sto først på trykk i første nummer av Prosa 2016

Kurslederen avviser min kritikk i Morgenbladet. Jeg svarte ham i Morgenbladet 18. mars 2016:

Skrivekurs i Marrakech?

En skriveopplevelse er nok en bedre betegnelse. Opplevelsen passer best for kursleders tilhengere, venner og bekjente.

I vårens første nummer av Prosa skrev jeg en anmeldelse av et skrivekurs. I Morgenbladet forrige uke hevder Niels Chr. Geelmuyden at jeg presenterer et sterkt misvisende vrengebilde av kurset. Jeg mener skrivekurs må kunne kritiseres på lik linje med all annen virksomhet man tar seg betalt for, og annonserer bredt for. Det er verdt å minne om at det ikke var et privat middagsselskap jeg deltok i.

Jeg stiller spørsmål ved om skrivekurs er den rette betegnelsen for de seks dagene jeg tilbragte i Marrakech. I anmeldelsen unnlot jeg å nevne kurslederens navn, fordi jeg ønsket å fokusere på kurset, og ikke på kursleder. Flere av leserne ser ut til å tenke som meg. Det er ingen av dem jeg har hørt fra som synes å være videre interessert i hvem kurslederen var. Min tekst ser derimot ut til å vekke gjenkjennelse. Det folk kjenner igjen er uinnfridde forventninger, opplevelsen av å delta på et kurs som ikke holder mål og opplevelsen av å høre på utidig sladder. Flere mener fokuset på sladder som en ukultur, er viktig. De er opptatt av hvordan vi voksne overfører vår egen sladrekultur til våre barn. Veien fra sladder til mobbing kan være kort.

Andre kjenner igjen irritasjonen ved manglende fagkunnskap. En leser forteller om et kurs i presentasjonsteknikk han deltok på hos en skuespiller. Skuespilleren er flink til å spille teater, men det holder ikke når man skal lære andre presentasjonsteknikk. Spesielt hjelpeløst og pinlig ble det da skuespilleren koblet sin undervisning til sosiobiologiske teorier, da han skulle forklare forholdet mellom foredragsholder og publikum. En annen leser forteller om et håpløst kurs ved et norsk universitet.

Jeg har også hørt fra folk som underviser og skriver selv. En av dem mener vi oftere bør sette kritisk søkelys på oss selv og den virksomheten vi og våre kolleger bedriver. Mest opprørt ser folk ut til å bli over det manglende etiske rammeverket i kurset jeg deltok på. Det mest kritikkverdige synes å være avspillingen av et klipp fra et lydopptak med et intervjuobjekt. En referanse til Vær varsom-plakaten punkt 3.6 er i denne sammenheng relevant. «Av hensyn til kildene og pressens uavhengighet skal upublisert materiale som hovedregel ikke utleveres til utenforstående.» Under punkt 4.3 står det «Vær varsom ved bruk av begreper som kan virke stigmatiserende. Fremhev ikke personlige og private forhold når dette er saken uvedkommende.»

I mitt essay i Prosa stiller jeg spørsmålstegn ved om skrivekurs er den rette betegnelsen for de seks dagene jeg tilbragte i Marrakech. En skriveopplevelse er nok en bedre betegnelse. Opplevelsen passer best for kursleders tilhengere, venner og bekjente. En meddeltaker jeg nylig var i kontakt med, som fikk sine forventninger innfridd og som var svært begeistret for kurset, sa han ikke var så opptatt av det faglige. Han mente selve opplevelsen var viktigst for ham. Han ble kjent med nye mennesker, fikk utfordrende skriveoppgaver, fikk oppleve en ny by og understreket at han ikke ville vært opplevelsen foruten.

 

Publisert i Marrakech, skrivekurs, Skrivekurset i Marrakech, sladder, Uncategorized | Merket med | Legg igjen en kommentar

Skremselspropaganda fra kunnskapens høyborg

Forsiden til boka om islamisme, redigert av to profilerte professorer og en historiker, overrasker. På forsiden troner Jihadi John. Ikke en gang Norges mest iherdige og mest utskjelte islam-motstander, Hege Storhaug, er i nærheten av å finne på noe slikt.

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Boka Islamisme – ideologi og trussel er illustrert med et av historiens verste eksempler på ekstrem brutalitet. Valget av forside er å sammenligne med en tenkt bok med tittelen Nasjonalisme: ideologi og trussel illustrert med et fotografi av Anders Behring Breivik. Eller en tenkt bok med tittelen Kommunisme: ideologi og trussel med et fotografi av Pol Pot.

På forsiden av boka om islamisme forherliger Jihadi John dolken med sitt blikk. Grepet rundt skaftet er fast og uttrykker handlekraft. Bajonetten er et våpen som åpenbart kan gjøre mye skade i hendene på mannen med finlandshetta. Fotografiet gir assosiasjoner til en voldelig ideologi.

Jihadi John

Jihadi John var en av IS mest brutale drapsmenn. Han er kjent for å ha halshogget flere av IS sine fanger. Som voldsforherligende underholdning og til skrekk og advarsel for IS sine fiender, er henrettelsene lagt ut på YouTube. Høsten 2015 ble Jihadi John drept av en britisk drone i Syria.

Det er altså denne barbariske drapsmannen som er valgt som illustrasjon for boka Islamisme – ideologi og trussel, redigert av Øystein Sørensen, Bernt Hagtvet og Nik Brandal. To av redaktørene er professorer ved Universitetet i Oslo. Hagtvet er professor emeritus i statsvitenskap og Øystein Sørensen er professor ved Historisk institutt. Illustrasjonen kunne neppe vært mer tendensiøs og misvisende. For ikke å si uventet fra akademisk hold.

Forsidens retorikk

Bøker er viktige, ikke bare for de av oss som leser dem, men også for folk som bare hører om bøkene gjennom venner og bekjente, eller bare leser anmeldelsene. Bøker kan til og med spille en rolle for folk som bare ser forsidene utstilt i en bokhandel eller i en nettbokhandel, mener jeg. Jeg er tekstforsker med en spesiell interesse for islam og norsk islamdebatt. Spørsmål jeg stiller meg er: På hvilken måte kan forsidene til årets bøker om islam påvirke folks oppfatninger og følelser? I denne omgang er jeg er altså ikke interessert i selve innholdet i bøkene. Jeg er opptatt av forsidenes funksjon, for jeg mener forsidene kan bidra med opplysning eller villedning, slik innholdet i gode og dårlige bøker kan. Bøkenes forside er altså ikke bare markedsføring som skal få folk til å kjøpe boka. Forsidenes påvirkningsmuligheter er større, mener jeg.

Dette essayet handler om forsidens retorikk, for retorikk er studiet av overbevisning. Nærmere bestemt er det studiet av hvordan overbevisning kan skje gjennom visuelle eller verbale virkemidler. Jeg skal se nærmere på virkemidlene i forsiden til boka om islamisme. Da blir spørsmålet: Hva kan forsiden overbevise sitt publikum om? Hvilken makt kan forsiden ha?

Sammenblanding av islamisme og jihadisme

På forsiden er det Jihadi-John og Islamisme skrevet i rødt som først fanger blikket vårt. På den måten blir Jihadi John selve billedgjøringen av islamismen. Det blir han som får representere islamismen. Vrengebildet av islamismen føyer seg inn i en gjengs feiloppfatning om at islamistiske bevegelser, som for eksempel Det muslimske brorskap, står for den samme linjen som IS.

IS står bak terroraksjoner mot vestlige og andre mål. Det muslimske brorskapet vant som kjent frie politiske valg i Egypt i 2011 og 2012. Partiet for rettferdighet og utvikling har ledet regjeringen i Marokko siden 2011. Også dette marokkanske partiet er et islamistisk orientert parti som ikke har noe med IS å gjøre. En-Nahda i Tunisia har nettopp gått inn for å skille stat og religion, og å definere seg som et «sivilt», dvs. sekulært, parti. Disse partiene har like lite til felles med IS som Fremskrittspartiet har med høyreekstremister som myrder innvandrere i Russland, sier en av Norges aller fremste eksperter på islamisme, professor Bjørn Olav Utvik, i Klassekampen 28. april i år.

Boka har også tidligere fått kritikk for å sette likhetstegn mellom islamisme og voldelig jihadisme. Noen av bokas bidrag slår legitime islamistpartier i hartkorn med jihadister, påpeker Brynjar Lia, professor i Midtøsten studier, i Aftenposten 17. april i år. Islamismeforskerne Jacob Høigilt og Bjørn Olav Utvik har kritisert en kronikk redaktørene har skrevet om islamisme.  I sin kritikk sier Utvik og Høigilt at kronikken tyder på svært dårlig kunnskap om utviklingen av islamistiske bevegelser i løpet av de siste tretti årene.

Likhetstegnet mellom islamisme og voldelig jihadisme kommer sterkest til uttrykk på bokas forside. Forsiden er derfor godt egnet til å villede leserne gjennom sin sammenblanding av islamisme og jihadister. Den er også godt egnet til å villede forbipasserende i bokhandlere der boka står utstilt, eller tilfeldig forbipasserende på nettet.

Forsidens byggesteiner

Forsiden består av et fotografi og en tekstboks. Sammen forteller disse elementene både noe om boka og noe om islamisme. Som tekstforsker spør jeg hvilket meningspotensiale som ligger i forsiden. Hvilke fortolkningsmuligheter tilbyr forsiden? Jeg kan jo ikke vite hvordan hver og en oppfatter siden. Det vil avhenge av deres forkunnskaper om symbolikken. Jeg kan heller ikke vite hva forlaget eller redaktørene har ment med sitt valg av forside. Jeg avholder meg derfor fra å spekulere i hensikten bak dette valget. Snarere skal jeg si noe om de virkemidlene som er tatt i bruk. Det skal jeg gjøre ut fra min egen kunnskap om tekst og virkemidler. Jeg skal se på de ulike byggesteinene på forsiden: tekstboksen og fotografiet. Jeg skal se nærmere på hvilket meningspotensiale disse uttrykker hver for seg, og på hva de uttrykker sammen.

Advarsel

Boka har tittelen Islamisme: ideologi og trussel. Tittelen er satt inn i en tekstboks i hvitt foran fotografiet som dekker hele forsiden. Islamisme er skrevet i en skarp rødfarge. Fargen forbinder vi med advarsler, forbud og faresignaler. På den måten bidrar rødfargen til å forsterke underteksten der vi kan lese at islamisme både er en ideologi og en trussel. Forsiden advarer mot islamismen. Advarselen forsterkes ved hjelp av fotografiet av Jihadi John. Trusselen kommer fra IS. Den kommer fra barbariske menn som jihadi-John. På forsiden kan fotografiet av drapsmannen fungere som et illustrerende bevis på at islamismen er en trussel.

Gjennom sin bruk av sterk symbolikk appellerer forsiden til lesernes følelser. Forsiden er ikke primært rettet mot fornuften, slik en kunne forvente fra akademikere. Den appellerer til frykt og til vemmelse. Vemmelsen kan vekkes gjennom en assosiasjon til Jihadi John sine avskyelige handlinger. Frykten kan vekkes gjennom en assosiasjon til IS og terrorisme. Et publikum uten tilstrekkelig kunnskap om islamisme kan trolig forledes til å tro at islamisme er det samme som en voldsforherligende ideologi.

Islamfrykt

I Norge er det mye islamfrykt. Advarselen på forsiden er egnet til å forsterke denne frykten. En av dem som stadig er ute og fyrer opp under folks frykt er Norges mest iherdige og mest utskjelte islam-motstander, journalisten Hege Storhaug. Hun har også fått kritikk for innholdet i sin bok. Forsiden hennes fremstår imidlertid ikke som villedende. Boka hennes har tittelen Islam den 11. landeplage. Tittelen har en tydelig referanse til Arnulf Øverland sitt foredrag til det norske studentersamfunn i 1931: «Kristendom – den 10. landeplage». I sin tale sier Øverland blant annet at «Den niende landeplage, som Gud sendte menneskene, var et tykt mørke. Det lå over Egypten i tre dage. Den tiende landeplage var et mørke, som bredte sig over hele Europa og Amerika, og det har varet i 1900 år. Og det kan være nok.»

Storhaugs bok er illustrert med et bilde av forfatteren selv. Forsiden kan derfor leses som at boka representerer hennes subjektive syn på islam. Det er Storhaug selv som med referanse til Øverland, sier at Islam på linje med kristendommen er en landeplage som har lagt seg over hele Europa og Amerika. Den personlige stilen på forsiden med en følelsesladd stillingstagen gir boka til Storhaug et subjektivt preg. Det gjør også det litt poetiske språket med referansen til landeplage. På den måten gir forsiden ikke et inntrykk av objektivitet slik forsiden til de tre akademikerne gjør. Hvis vi ser bort fra fotografiet, har akademikerne en mer saksorientert stil med fagterminologi, som islamisme og ideologi, i sin tittel og undertittel. Storhaugs bok vil derfor trolig appellere mest til islam-motstandere og til islamfiendtlige lesere, mens forsiden til boka om islamisme kan appellere til et bredere publikum.

Skremselspropaganda

Islamismebokas forside fremstår som ren skremselspropaganda. I konteksten av norsk islam-debatt kan den leses som et usaklig innlegg – et innlegg som først og fremst er egnet til å nøre opp under folks frykt. Det er en type propaganda en kanskje kunne forvente fra Hege Storhaug. Men, denne gangen kommer skremselspropagandaen fra Norges største universitet. Boka kommer opp på Google-søk på islamisme. Den har med andre ord potensiale for å skremme et større publikum enn det bokas lesere utgjør. Det sørger bokas forside for gjennom sin komposisjon og gjennom sin bruk av sterk symbolikk.

Rundt omkring i bokhandlene på nett og ellers appellerer forsiden til frykt og avsky. På rektors blogg på Universitetet i Oslo sine hjemmesider vekker den potensielt samme følelser. Eller vekker den kanskje enda mer frykt når en av Norges mektigste akademikere anbefaler boka og avbilder forsiden?

Forsidens bidrag i islam-debatten er den indirekte påstanden om at islamisme er en voldsforherligende ideologi og en alvorlig trussel. Påstanden om islamismen føyer seg inn i en allmenn feiloppfatning om at islamisme er ensbetydende med IS. Forsidevalget er ikke bare usaklig og misvisende med hensyn til hva islamisme er. Det er uansvarlig.

Essayet ble først publisert i Dagbladet 14. juni 2016. Redaktørene av boka svarer ikke på min hovedkritikk, og skriver heller et forsvar for boka.

http://www.dagbladet.no/kultur/den-voldelige-islamismen/60243543

 

 

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