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Covering Bin LadenGlobal Media and the World's Most Wanted Man$
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Susan Jeffords and Fahed Al-Sumait

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038860

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038860.001.0001

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Covering Bin Laden

Ryan Croken

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the cultural “confusion” that existed in the United States between Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama. It uses the cultural slippages (Obama/Osama), conspiratorial elisions (Obama is Osama), and religious assumptions (Obama, like Osama, is Muslim) that surround Osama and Obama as points for analyzing racialized dynamics that underlie narratives of U.S. exceptionalism, military power, and global dominance. It identifies some of the myriad streams through which popular culture effects its messages: T-shirts, web tools (photo morphing), memes, hip-hop, tweets, YouTube videos, and the like. Attending to these media formats is an essential component of examining sense-making across the complexities of U.S. cultures. The chapter argues that the “confusion” between Osama and Obama is more than just difficulty with name pronunciation, lack of familiarity with Islam, or merging of nonwhite skin color, but is instead a complex negotiation of racial intersections with national narratives.

Keywords:   Barack Obama, cultural confusion, Osama bin Laden, race, exceptionalism, military power, global dominance, popular culture

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