With just 371 followers on TikTok, _monix2, a user of the platform caused a stir on the networks. She had the brilliant idea of posting a video in which she read parts of the “Letter to America” written by Osama bin Laden and released in 2002, a year after the terrorist attacks orchestrated by Al-Qaeda. The unfortunate woman didn’t know this Osama guy and chose him as the new icon of the fight for the rights of the oppressed.
The video was viewed more than 2 million times on TikTok – a relatively low number for such a popular app – and generated dozens of other videos on the platform. But the subject only became popular when journalist Yashar Ali had the brilliant idea of improving tiktoker’s genius idea and shared a compilation of these videos (innocently deleting the most disturbing parts of the letter) in a post on X, formerly Twitter, which was viewed more than 38 million times. Result: within hours Bin Laden became a “trending topic” on the networks. The #lettertoamerica posts have had more than 15 million views.
The spread of the letter received a flood of comments and sparked deep reflections from TikTokers, the majority of whom were children and teenagers who weren’t even born on September 11th. “If you read it, let me know if you too are having an existential crisis right now, because in the last 20 minutes, my entire outlook on the entire life I believed and lived has changed,” wrote one.
Another postgraduate and master of TikTok, put together some trendy words in a single sentence to give an intellectual air to his comment: “in colonialism, any type of resistance is classified as terrorist, because the only acceptable violence is the violence of the occupier “.
Some people saw the light and found the answer to all their existential problems: “Everyone should read it”, “This letter is revealing”, “It explains a lot”, “He was right”, “EVERYTHING makes sense now”. There were also conspiracy theory supporters who questioned the veracity of September 11th, “it was all set up”, “a hoax”.
The hallucinations of an oppressed terrorist, who, poor thing, was forced to kill almost 3,000 people as an act of resistance, excited young people, for whom TikTok is – if not the only one – the biggest source of information and news. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist group thank you! For many TikTokers, Bin Laden’s letter was new and, detached from the context in which it was written, it was easy for them to glorify its author and consider the letter a source revealing the great truth, hidden all this time by the cruel colonialists.
It doesn’t matter to them that what went viral was a selective reading of parts of the letter. The points omitted in the video? Mere details. The part that refers to Western immorality and debauchery, such as “acts of fornication, homosexuality, drugs, gambling and interest trading”, is really irrelevant. Bin Laden never hid his ideas about objectifying women, not even from his own wives who bore his more than 20 children. These are insignificant details compared to the case being sustained.
The videos were removed – only after they went viral – for violating the platforms’ community guidelines. The Guardian newspaper, which had published the letter in full in 2002, also decided to take it down, to prevent it from being shared on social media without the full context.
But efforts to lessen the impact of the issue backfired. The removal gave importance to the letter, shedding more light on harmful ideas. On Thursday afternoon (16), the link to the removed document was listed as one of the most viewed on The Guardian website. It’s the phenomenon called the “Streisand effect”, a reference to singer Barbra Streisand, who, by suing a photographer for invasion of privacy who took aerial photos of her home, generated more curiosity and increased the dissemination of the photos. This effect is heightened when it comes to young people, who have the most beautiful and immutable ideological certainties behind a screen.
NewsGuard, which monitors online misinformation, is tired of pointing out false information in videos automatically suggested by TikTok: out of 5 posts, 1 is fake (2021 research). The Chinese platform is accused of acting intentionally, despite having no evidence to that effect. “It’s either incompetence or something worse,” said Steven Brill, founder of NewsGuard.
Is there a way out? I do not believe. The possible solution would be to expand the strict and manipulated vision that young people receive from the networks, because the only remedy for misinformation, of course, is information. Data, contexts, news, documents, books, newspapers, none of this is of interest to either the networks or young people. Accustomed to processing knowledge with their eyes, without needing to reason, they let social intelligence think and decide for them. There is no curiosity left to look for new sources, to make them go beyond the walls of the networks and discover other dances. The medicine of information is very bitter, compared to the sweet and dopamine-inducing social networks. It’s unfair competition.
Indoctrination machines disguised as entertainment, social networks produce keyboard activists who understand little about geopolitical issues and human rights. It has been said that culture is like jelly, the less you have, the more you try to spread it. Nothing more current.
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This news article has been translated from the original language to English by WorldsNewsNow.com.
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