Who is Osama bin Laden?


Screengrab from Sean Bonner. But this is not a joke! In a company blog post today, Yahoo reported that two-thirds of people searching for "Who is Osama Bin Laden?" today were teenagers. Yes, that's right, a non-insignificant number of teenagers in America do not know who Osama bin Laden is.

According to Yahoo!, The Top Searched Questions on Osama bin Laden are (based on Sunday, 5/1):

1. Is Osama bin Laden dead?
2. How did Osama bin Laden die?
3. Who killed Osama bin Laden?
4. How old is Osama bin Laden
5. Who is Osama bin Laden
6. Where was Osama bin Laden killed?
7. Is Osama bin Laden dead or alive?
8. How tall is Osama bin Laden?

News of Osama bin Laden's death seemed to have struck a chord with younger folks who grew up during the war on terrorism.
- On Yahoo!, 1 in 3 searches for "how did osama bin laden die" on Sunday were from teens ages 13-17.
- According to Yahoo!, 40% of searches on Sunday for "who killed osama bin laden" were from people ages 13-20.
- However, it seems teens ages 13-17 were seeking more information as they made up 66% of searches for "who is osama bin laden?"

More here at Yahoo's search blog.


  1. Don’t blame the teenagers, blame the generation(s) before them that made it cool to be uninformed.

  2. The hottest band out of Saudi Arabia, featuring wahabi and hip-hop influences, Bin Laden and the Jihadis features extensive vamping and sitar solos, in addition to the occasional suicide vest crowd surf.

    1. while hilarious, you have to remember: i’m 32 and if now was 1992 and the WTC stuff happened in 1982, then i may not really know who this guy was either. But in 1992, you couldn’t just go to yahoo or google and search him. you would have to ask your parents. so what this really says to me is that most kids don’t really care or want to bond with/learn from their parents. they just want a quick and easy answer and chat with friends.

      now if you’re over 25 and don’t know who he is than you’re an idiot

  3. Not long after the event. . .when the national conciousness was akin to being smacked on the side of the head with a fairly large stick: it seemed IMPOSSIBLE that ANYONE could forget 9-11-01

    9-1-1 for cryin’ out loud: the Emergency number to dial in case of National Frickin’ Meltdown, OK!?

    I thought to myself: ‘you know, some kids are going to totally F this question up in their Civics class, at some point in them future days’

    Ten years is all it took? No surprises: these kids today. . .what do they know? (tends lawn)

    1. Civics classes? Really? REALLY? Where the hell ARE Civics classes being held these days?

      If I could do 10 thing to change the US’ education curriculum, one of the top 3 (if not the top) would be to have Civics be a mandatory class. Period, end of report.

  4. I’m 27. I remember 9/11 in vivid detail. I am now a middle school science teacher. The first thing a student said to me this morning was, “Osama is is dead.” I asked the kid, “how old were you when 9/11 happened?” Five. My students were five years old. I remember the day better than yesterday, and the teenagers I’m teaching were only five years old. It blew my mind.

    1. i was a junior in college and old enough to race down to the local Red Cross and donate blood!! Wow!!!

  5. All the more reason for a “Call of Duty: Bin Laden” edition.

    Seriously, tons of kids nowadays know about World War II purely via a video game.

    1. There is actually a valid reason for this. Video games are one of the greatest enablers for learning available, and World War 2 games are perfect examples of this. After playing the Point DuHoc campaign in Call of Duty 2, I actually went into my school library to do more research. I was a High School Sophomore at the time and actually had to do a report on World War 2 and chose DuHoc as my topic.

      Dont knock the video games.

  6. If you don’t want to look like an ass:

    *Do NOT sign in to search engines while using them.
    *Try a query like “Osama Bin Laden Wikipedia” which in all likelihood will answer every single one of the top 8 questions.
    *Be vaguely aware of the world in which you live.

  7. I had a roommate once who had never heard of Ireland. Needless to say, his secret nickname was The Idiot.

    1. My sister’s friend thought an octagon was an animal. She may still think that, actually.

  8. Maybe goes to show how much physical effect OBL had on Americans in the past 9 years. Can you imagine any European teenagers not knowing who Hitler was by 1946? Terrorism – if you don’t read newspapers, there’s nothing to fear.

    1. I was just thinking about all the efforts in Europe (and not only here) to remember who Hitler was and what he represented for millions and millions of people, more than 70 years ago…
      This is horrible.

  9. Hmm, 66% of searches for “Who is Osama Bin Laden?” were by teenagers. But it doesn’t say how many searches there were. Would it be overly cynical to suspect that the answer is 3?

  10. Not sure what the problem is here – the people searching the most were 13-17, or 3-7 years old when 9/11 happened – they probably don’t remember it or understand it. So of course when something they don’t understand happens, they google it – that’s how you learn things in this day and age. It would be much sadder if the teenagers WEREN’T googling it.

    1. I was 3 when the Berlin Wall fell. At 13, I knew (vaguely) who Reagan and Gorbachev were.

      Then again, I might very well have phrased my Ask Jeeves query for more info as, “Who is Gorbachev?”

      Schools don’t actually teach recent history. Not really.

      1. Schools don’t actually teach recent history. Not really.

        I wasn’t taught anything about the Vietnam war until high school, and even then it was only a few pages in my history textbook. I think a lot of educators steer away from recent history because it’s too politically charged.

    2. I wasn’t born until 38 years after Hitler died, but I sure as hell knew who he was long before I was a teenager. I also didn’t have the internet readily available at my fingertips.

  11. Who is Anwar-Sadat?
    Who is Che Guevara?
    Who is Malcolm X?
    Who is Grigoris Lambrakis?
    Who is Mahatma Ghandi?
    Who is Benito Mussolini?
    Who is Vladimir Lenin?
    Who is Rasputin?
    Who is Robespierre?
    Who is Loius XVI?
    Who is Guy Fawkes?
    Who is Francisco Pizarro?
    Who is Julius Caeser?
    Who is Jezebul?

    Who are countless others killed in the name of deciding who is right and who is wrong? Even when they themselves are guilty of the same?

    We’re wretched creatures. Several thousands of years of bloodshed, condemnation of said bloodshed, celebration of the same, and blood begetting blood.

    Nothing changes. One side’s hero is the other side’s villain. And we’ll keep killing for as long as our species ekes out a miserable existance on this desolate rock.

    ~D. Walker

    1. D.Walker/Anon. OK, I’ll bite: Who IS Jezebul?

      At least when you type in “Is Osama bin Laden…”, Google doesn’t suggest ‘gay’…

    2. Mr. Walker, you lost me when you put bin Laden in the same category as Ghandi. I wasn’t aware of the part where Ghandi planned mass murders.

      One side’s hero may be the other side’s villain, but some of them really *are* villains.

      1. The list was of people who were killed in the process of deciding right from wrong, not a list of heroes or a list of villains.

        New category: humans.

        Okay, now you’re in the same category as Osama bin Laden.

    3. I suppose we’ll be killing each other as we spread along the arms of the galaxy.

    4. the name is gandhi…. ghand is an abuse in hindia roughly translated to asshole, but much worse in the language its used…

  12. Face. Palm.

    I realize some of these kids were maybe too young to remember… but it isn’t like his name hasn’t been spoken since, or there are special reports in magazines and on TV.

    Really – WTF are they teaching kids? 9/11 is one of the most significant events in history. Do they not cover it? Do they not cover the basic who, what, when, where? This is another reason to home school.

    People are too placated with smart phones and Snooki. They have a world of knowledge at their finger tips, and they use it for inane and banal research into pop culture.

    1. “9/11 is one of the most significant events in history.”

      Really? In all of history? Not just American history? In American history (as in the United States of- mind you) I could understand, but in the scope of the entirety of human history it’s not really that big of a deal. (Which is not to say it wasn’t a tragedy – it certainly was.)

      Your comment illustrates one of things that I can kind of understand about people from other countries not liking us -people from the U.S., that is- which is the degree to which many Americans hold a wildly ethnocentric world view. It’s certainly not a reason to kill for, but to be pretty annoyed – yeah, fair enough.

      1. Yes, it is one of the most significant events in all of modern history, not just American history. The seriousness of the damage was beyond anything previously accomplished by a non-state actor.

        This is not American chest-thumping. This is just a simple fact — no attack of this scale had ever occurred before, anywhere in the world, that was not the work of a state actor. By “state actor” I mean a formally recognized body in control of a country of substantial size.

        1. Unless, of course, one counts Bhopal.

          5.000 to 25.000 dead, w/out and help from a state at all.

      2. Interesting reading all of this stuff.

        From a UK perspective the modus operandi of the USA media and government is very alien. GBS said we are divided by a single language ………it goes deeper, into nuance, folk memory, mercantile capitalism apropos European social democracy and many other engrained factors.
        One of the principal problems was the West’s (more or less) creation of Saudi and the puppet regime of Saud to the exclusion of Bin L’s family. Your (US) dependence on Middle East oil and the refusal by successive US governments to value the human factors in raw materials production (something you learnt from us) is a principal root cause of O B-Ls anger

        History repeats itself viz Hitler’s growth following Deutscheland’s exclusion from exchange markets post ww1

        It will happen again – prob in USA as China grows and the US shrinks. Paranoia in USA lies close to the skin viz McCarthy …..he would have willingly assasinated anyone left of centre!!

      3. You are in great need some perspective.

        Of course 9/11 was one of the most important events in world history. Because of the subsequent things that have taken place, including the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq by not only the US but by NATO countries and at least 20 other allied nations around the globe, the increased tensions in the middle east between muslims and jews or muslims and Americans, the change in global procedures for flying and other forms of travel that has affected billions, the worldwide protests of actions taken by the United States, the massive changes in foreign policy by the lone world super power United States which has had global ramifications, I mean do I seriously need to keep going? Ok, I will, how about all of the other terrorist actions taken by Al Qaeda in nations like England, Spain, Yemen, etc., all of which are an almost direct result of their emboldened nature post-9/11 and their increased recruitment due to the US occupations in the middle east?

        Not one of the most important events in world history, are you kidding? Almost everything that has happened in the world since 9/11 has been shaped in some way by 9/11. It’s not ethnocentric, it’s just fact.

        1. You’re correct, but it’s an odd argument that something is significant primarily because of the US government’s (and the governments of our client states) overreactions to it.

          Remember the Maine.

        2. Anon #114:

          “Almost everything that has happened in the world since 9/11 has been shaped in some way by 9/11.”

          That’s hyperbole, and it is simply not true.

          You display a selective vision, and you have not paid enough (or any?) attention to those things which do not concern you, to make any such judgment, or to draw any such conclusions: you have not the facts, and seemingly see only what concerns yourself.

          A quote from the Koran seems apposite: “You know not”.

          At least, not enough to make the sweeping assertion about “everything in the world being effected by 9-11” that you did make…The insects trees and fishes, amongst others, would surely disagree with you.

          The events of 9-11 have no intrinsic power over people’s actions, other than what people themselves let them have; nor further effect on our present actions, than what people themselves allow them to have.

          To say it another way, the terrorist’s actions simply have not had, and don’t now have, the power to have determined, or to further determine, our subsequent or present conduct – which you have impliedly ascribed and so quickly granted to those terrorist acts.

          The terrorists had, and have, not the power to so influence “everything that has happened”.

          Unless that is you grant it to them. And why would you ever want to do THAT?

    2. 9/11 is one of the most significant events in history.
      Maybe YOU need some history lessons, this statement is absurd.

      1. Actually, if you think about it, the idea that “9/11 is one of the most significant events in history” isn’t as “absurd” a statement as you may think. Besides the event itself, the resulting policies, wars, etc. were significant in both US history as well as world history, considering how many other countries got involved in the resulting wars, etc.

        Granted, this isn’t the ‘discovery’ of America or anything, but it is probably more significant than Vietnam, in the long term, because of the numerous ripples it caused. It’s hard for us to judge this at the moment, it was only 10 short years ago that it took place, but I think we are going to feel significant effects for many years to come because of that one event.

    3. It’s not “one of the most significant things in history”. Seriously. It’s just another attack, like so many in the past, that have killed people. Why you find it significant is because it happened in the US, where such a thing hasn’t happened for quite some time.

      But yes, it is significant since at that time, apart from a handful, most people at that time in the world were sympathetic to the US, including muslim countries. That has changed now, with half the world pretty much hating the US, thanks to it’s post- 9/11 response. This might prove to be a huge mistake by US.

  13. Of course, just because someone searched for “who is Osama Bin Laden” doesn’t necessarily mean they have never heard of him. It could be a legitimate way to search for more details on his background and origins. IMO it’s incredibly important to understand how an apparently normal Saudi guy evolved into the most wanted terrorist on the planet and to understand why he hated the West (and the US in particular) to the point he organised such terrible atrocities.

    1. I 100% agree with you. Do you mind, if I use your quote in a letter to the President and various U.S officials?

  14. Clearly Osama has failed a significant demographic as our hate figure. The next one needs to be that guy out of Paramore or something.

  15. For all those who think Osama Bin Laden was involved in 9/11, you might want to remember – no good evidence has ever been publicly presented to support this theory.

    8. How tall is Osama bin Laden?

    …That’s my kind of people

    1. You mean besides the video he released in 2004 where he takes credit for the attacks?

  16. Expressing ignorance like this on Twitter is indefensible… if you know how to use Twitter, you know how to search on google (or yahoo I guess).

    Hopefully after being ridiculed, these twitterers will think twice about asking ignorant questions on twitter or elsewhere without a minimal amount of research first, and hopefully they’ll serve as an example to others. I have no problem with people asking questions about things they don’t know, and I encourage it, but I really don’t understand how they could not realize that doing something like this via twitter is just broadcasting their ignorance.

    That said, there is an upside to these statistics. It does mean that some teenagers are using the internet for good reasons – like enriching their knowledge of history and the world. But if you think deeper, it’s actually even more troubling – imagine how many kids are wondering the same thing, but not only aren’t asking anyone, but aren’t looking it up either! And worse, 33% of searchers were adults… imagine how many of *them* aren’t asking or looking it up!

  17. To all my fellow old cranks, think how old you were when you became interested in history and politics, as well as the early mistakes you made. The fact that people who were under ten when the towers fell are a little confused about the narrative that followed is understandable.

    As others said, good they’re finding out now.

  18. It never fails to amaze me that people look for something on the internet by writing real questions in their search engines.

    1. Seriously, that was my first thought too. Schools need to teach these kids how to get the most out of their search strings. And then maybe they won’t have to do anything about the lack of general knowledge, it might just fix itself.

    2. I’ve settled on starting with natural-English questions in Google. Usually, the best answers are on pages that explicitly answer that question anyway, so a hit on the exact question is very good. It also seems to help Google figure out how your search terms are related and give better hits that don’t happen to have that exact question in them. If I get too much noise, however, I dust off my classic search-fu.

    3. “[W]riting real questions” into search engines is no longer an irrational thing to do.
      Because of the great proliferation (in numbers) and growth (breadth and depth of material covered, and level of detail available) of Q+A and forum sites (both general and highly subject-specific), framing a question in conventional, or “natural language” terms will often lead directly to the most specific, relevant, and detailed of answers.
      Obvious caveat: “often” ≠ “always.”
      I can’t say for sure that “real questions” will necessarily yield *better* results than the traditional keyword(s) approach, but I would bet that they often do, and rarely, if ever, yield worse outcome sets.
      Try a few experiments; I’d be very surprised if your results don’t support this.

      *such as…


      …to name just a few.

  19. I’m guessing some portion of ppl searching for that question were looking for more details of his life or background, not that they were totally unaware of who he was.

  20. I’m glad they don’t know who he is, and sad that anyone would seek to inform/infect them with the information. In the scheme of things, it’s awesome that History’s Greatest Assholes will be forgotten. Mankind, in the greater scheme of it, always fails to learn any lesson of consequence from its past. Refute that as you may, but had we been any semblance of a truly enlightened society, none but those most directly affected would have given Team Bin Laden’s attack a second thought. We wouldn’t have fallen for all the lies that followed. We wouldn’t have allowed those 2000 deaths to be far surpassed in needless wars. What didn’t kill us would have made us stronger.

    No, the greater part of our government, commerce sector and society panicked and utterly capitulated to the events of 9/11 and knelt before our new master: fear.

    If you don’t think Team Bin Laden won, ask yourself: is America better off now then it was on 9/10/2001?

    The kids are all right. In fact, let’s follow their lead.

  21. So, do we have confirmation yet on Bin Laden’s height? The important questions are going unanswered.

  22. Actually, I think it’s great there are kids out there who don’t know who Bin Laden is.

    For someone who spent the last 10 years of his life trying in instill terror in everyone in the west, and bring the downfall of the modern world, I can’t think of a greater insult to the religious crazy’s then a cocky, happy, (even gay/lesbian) teenager laughing and saying, “Sorry, who the $%$% are you??!”

    I think it shows 1) Terrorism doesn’t work and 2) he and his mates will all be forgotten and be just a footnote in history.

  23. Well, so what?

    Teenagers are notoriously bad with these kinds of things. Will knowing about Osama get them laid? Become popular ar school? Alleviate the feeling of not being understood and loved by their parent? Will it get rid of their acne?

    I mean, it’s not like Osama was a well research topic and the newsreel, considering how many papers and anchormen called him the mastermind behind 911.

    Knowing about Osama is of very little use of them. It’s not like they could vote and ask that he gets a fair trial, if he happened to get caught alive.

  24. There’s sample bias at work here: these are people who are using Yahoo to search, so we would expect them to be on average more ignorant than the general population.

  25. @Anon who posted “Who are countless others killed in the name of deciding who is right and who is wrong? Even when they themselves are guilty of the same?”

    Sometimes it is not only permissible but necessary to violate Godwin’s Law, which I shall now proceed to do.

    That’s all well and noble-sounding, but when Hitler was murdering 6 million Jews, Gypsies, and gays, should we have just asked him to stop, pretty please, with sugar on top?

    As much as I loathe Dick Cheney and think he should be brought up on war crimes charges, and who is responsible for the deaths of possibly hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, at least he didn’t deliberately target innocent civilians. Osama bin Laden did, and that puts him and others like him in a different moral category. If you don’t like it, well, then I don’t think I’d much like the kind of world that would result if your credo took effect, because sometimes truly evil men will arise to inflict enormous suffering, and the only way to stop them is with violence.

    That is how the world works, until we make angels out of men. Which will never happen. Sorry. Deal with it.

  26. Adults and internet-savvy teens would just search for “Osama bin Laden” without the question. Putting in “Who is” will return a lot of results in which other people are just asking the same question.

  27. “Osama Bin Laden is a little boy who refused to turn off his games console and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. And they shot him.”

  28. For generation after generation, and hundreds of years, kids never had iPhones and Wikipedias and “text-messages!” They got by with real paper books and encylopedias and were completely aware of politics, wars, and the news.

    The problem is this new-fangled “technology!” Now they even have to search Google to spell Qadaffi!!

  29. In other news – Yahoo! is collecting and collating data on teenagers on the internets. If they know the IP address, they know approximately where they live. And as Yahoo search is powered by Bing we know that Darth Microsoft is tracking teens as well.
    Conspiracies and nefariousness

  30. I once worked with a guy who was unaware that there are different religions.

    We had a very interesting conversation with him on the subject. Mainly consisting of us saying “WTF” and “really??”
    Yes, really.
    He was 24 when this conversation took place.

  31. I dont think that osama died. it happened in pakistan and american government is announcing.

  32. “i’m probably retarded for asking this”

    Yes, unfortunately you ARE retarded.

    No, not in that sense. But most people like yourself are in these ways
    • lack of critical thinking
    • lack of interest in becoming a world person
    I also think that teenagers have a filter beyond getting laid and popular. The line: “is it in the test?”
    Modern History teaches up to 20 years ago. Before that is too soon. Courses that cover becoming a whole being take about 8 to 10 years. That’s too long if you want a job in IT, management, engineering etc.
    Life is more about making yer money, not becoming a whole person.
    Are that detrimental consequences that I can’t avoid by blaming someone else or suing about NOT knowing about OBL? No. Well then, don’t need to think about that.
    • no societal interest around them.
    Friends don’t care. Not demanded by anyone, let alone their parents.

    And, before someone says “the system keeps them dumb”, I would add that the system includes the personal responsibility of people. They contribute and carry along the marketers and politicians wishes to stay dumb. Wouldn’t work otherwise.

    See parents that don’t give a rats arse about anything other than their kids becoming famous or a big sportsstar, or the classic ‘oboe lessons on Monday, ballet on Tuesday”.

    It’s them.

    Oh well….

  33. So, would it be better if 2/3 of the people searching for this were adults? Like a few others above, I don’t see the problem. It’s a ratio. Xeni, do a search on the word “ratio” please.

  34. I’m much more worried that Yahoo thinks it has a handle on the ages of who is searching for what.

  35. Regarding the yahoo search, I believe these types of search queries will only increase as my bet is that first thing Monday morning a bunch of class assignments on “Who is Osama Bin Laden” were assigned across the country. Seems like an obvious homework topic discussion. Don’t jump to conclusions about the youth, they’re a lot more advanced than we were at that age.

    Besides, I’d rather see people admit when they’re honestly ignorant instead of seeing all those drunken douchebag frat parties at the Whitehouse & Ground Zero shouting “USA! USA!”

    Take her, for example:

    When she looks it up eventually, maybe she will run across some 911Truth.org websites instead of instantly believing the “official story” like we were all fed…

    1. SaraFenix:

      “Don’t jump to conclusions about the youth, they’re a lot more advanced than we were at that age.”

      I have to strongly disagree. Kids always have an aptitude for adopting the new, regardless of their generation. Just because they can work that newfangled internets thing and own powerful networking and communication devices like iPhones, doesn’t make them any more advanced than the youth of any generation. Doesn’t make them take it for granted any less, either. As they say, youth is wasted on the young.

  36. In related news, teenagers were found NOT to be searching for:

    1. What Was Freedom Like?
    2. Why Were We Safe Before There Were Cameras Everywhere?
    3. How Come Planes Didn’t Explode Before They Took My Shampoo Away?
    4. What Is The “Military Industrial Complex”?

  37. Is it not possible for the statistics to be misleading? As per usual. Could it be that there is a movement in youth humor revolving around irony, memes and abhorrent ignorance. Thus teens are looking up “who is bin laden” in order to find lists of stupid asses. Because thats how I found this article.

  38. This degree of ignorance of culture and global events was often illustrated by Jay Leno in his skits, called “Jay Walking”.
    It’s a truly disturbing commentary.

  39. I’m pretty sure something similar happened to me regarding the Kennedy assassination when I was a teen—-often things that are critical to one generation are meaningless to the next. While in some ways sad it’s the only thing that makes peace possible in the future.

  40. I find it unsurprising that teenagers don’t know history very well and inspiring that the first thing they do when they realize this is go look up the answers to their questions.

  41. I’m less shocked by this than I am that there is now a whole generation that is growing up with their understanding of our country warped by terrorism, war and a security state mentality instead of as the home of democracy and freedom. Kids just entering college pre-9/11 are now in or approaching their thirties. Little children spent their whole childhood in a war state, with family members and neighbors off in other countries fighting “the enemy.” How are these people going to vote and shape our country’s future?

    Maybe we can peek into their values through the television that is produced for them; every drama has a terrorism angle and torturers are no longer bad guys, they are the ones trying to save lives. I think their ignorance of Bin Laden is just a reflection of our media culture,but I shudder to think what today’s youth believe are acceptable practices from our national government in the name of security….

  42. First thing I said when I heard bin Laden died is “He was still alive?”

    Seriously, these kids where little in 2001. And they were still little when the Iraq War started in 2003, at which point the War on Terror changed focus. Even GW Bush said he wasn’t concerned with Osama bin Laden at that point. The focus of the wars have been on nameless, faceless “Islamic terrorists”. There’s been little news of bin Laden since then, except the occasional audio tape. Really, I’m not surprised that some kids don’t know.

    And if you had to pick an age group to be the bulk of searches for “Who is Osama bin Laden”, wouldn’t be teens? If it was 20-30 year olds, wouldn’t that be just a tad bit more worrisome?

    For the record, my two teenage kids said there was a lot of talk yesterday at school about the killing, but neither mentioned that no one was unfamiliar with bin Laden.

  43. It’s not a specific to this generation. It’s not due to the Internet, Facebook, the education in the US. The Francophone Swiss television asked who was Adolf Hitler to young persons in the 60’s: The aswer was I don’t Know. And Bertrand Blier made an interview in the 60’s of young french people called “Hitler…connais pas!” (Hitler ? I don’t Know !)

  44. I doubt they were looking so much because they didn’t know who he was, but when a good topic for their “Current Events” report due this week pops up, they just want an overview.

  45. Reminds me of the time I was in a restaurant and loudly heard a woman behind me say, with all sincerity, “wait, there was a World War _TWO_?!”

    I can see a 13 year old not having a great grasp of who the significant people in the news were when they were two. Yes, even as it relates to 9/11. When the Berlin wall fell, I recall a lot of people watching the television news (like they always did) and a Chipmunks cartoon on the subject (which is what told me the event was somehow important). I can easily see someone remembering the Wall coming down, and growing up to learn of its significance, but not clearly understanding the significance of Gorbachev in the process. Similar situation here.

    What worries me is the 34% of non-teenagers who searched for “Who is Osama Bin Laden”.

  46. But seriously, who is Osama Bin Laden? The man behind the beard? Where does he unwind after a hard day’s plotting? Does he prefer red or white wine? Sunsets or walks in the park? In short, what makes him tick?

  47. It’s not just generational. Michele Bachmann wants to know who Packy Stan is and why that matters.

  48. At least they’re looking for an answer to the question, give ’em some credit.

    Sweet zombie Moses, when did my peers become the “when I was your age…” set?

  49. Honestly, expecting kids that are 13-17 now when they were between to remember what was going on in the world at that age?

    Do you remember what was happening in the news and current affairs at that age? And if you do consider why you remember, and then see if the kids have any similar reason to remember Bin Laden’s name.

    Does 9/11 regularly come up in conversation between parents and children? Is it studied in history yet? No.

    1. Absolutely. When I was 11, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostages.

      When I was 13, Iranian extremists took the US embassy.

      I have basically zero recollection of these events and they had little impact on my live.

      It’s not ignorance, it’s the bliss of youth.

      1. When I was 11, Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostages. When I was 13, Iranian extremists took the US embassy. I have basically zero recollection of these events and they had little impact on my live. It’s not ignorance, it’s the bliss of youth.

        When I was in my early teens, I was glued to the television watching the Munich Olympic massacre and the Watergate trials. I guess that you had a more blissful youth than I did.

        1. I was 6 when the Berlin Wall fell and 8 when the Soviet Union fell, and I can remember these events quite well for one reason: My father sat me down to witness what was happening, and he told me “Remember what happened today, because someday your kids will be reading a history book and ask you what it was like to be there, and it’ll be your job to tell them, much like I’m doing now.”

          It really isn’t these kids’ fault they don’t know, it’s our fault for not explaining it to them, for not being open and honest, for being too sheltering in some cases.
          My blissful ignorance of youth was shattered at the beginning of my senior year of high school, when on a clear autumn day I sat in US History class and watched 3000 of my countrymen die live on CNN. For the first time in my life I was awakened to the fact that people in the world would be happy to kill me just because I’m an American.
          It’s not an experience you soon forget. I still flinch seeing the footage on TV.

        2. Hell, I was glued to the TV during the Persian Gulf War, and I wasn’t even a teenager yet. There is no ignorance of youth at 13, and if there was I don’t see why it would be some sublime period to fondly recollect.

  50. Not totally on topic but who took this screenshot? When I click thru to Sean’s blog it points to “soup soup” as the source http://soupsoup.tumblr.com/post/5152873533/mbyhoff-peterfeld-tanya77-hats-off-to-ned which points to “tanya” http://tanya77.tumblr.com/post/5152450433/hats-off-to-ned-hepburn-for-collecting-all-the which points to “ned hepburn” http://nedhepburn.tumblr.com/ who in turn points back to soup soup.

    Probably doesn’t even matter, but getting “boinged” is a big deal for a little blog so I’d hope the original poster get’s credited. Also, if it is in fact from someone else, I’d take issue with the caption “Screengrab from Sean Bonner,” which would be misleading in that case.

    1. The original curator/retweeter of these posts was @nedhepburn. Please credit accordingly.

  51. I don’t find their lack of knowledge worrying. I do, however, find completely stupid and asinine that these kids decided to ask Twitter or Yahoo Questions to find out the answers to their questions.

    I thought this was supposed to be the most technologically literate generation? I thought this was the generation that was never going to need to memorize facts, because they had all the world’s information instantly at their fingertips? I thought this was the generation that would groan when grandpa tried using The Google by typing in a complete question?

    It turns out these kids have brought “dear lazyweb” to a whole new level. The easiest way to find out who bin Laden was, apparently, is not to search in Google for the words “bin Laden” and read the very first result, but to ask strangers on Twitter or Yahoo and wait around for some random person to send them back a random answer.

    This is worrying not only because of the gross research incompetence, but because they won’t have any filter on what good responses are. If someone replied to the Tweet by saying “he was a freedom fighter who fought for the rights of women and was killed by racist LA cops,” how many of these kids would have taken that at face value?

    1. SamSam:

      When I’m researching I don’t rely on one source:

      1.- I search wikipedia
      2.- Ask on a forum
      3.- Google it

      In no particular order, but most of the time I ask a friend first (because If he knows something about the subject, then can guide me to a good source). The “RTFM Culture” is so pedantic

      ¿What’s wrong with asking?

      Specially when i don’t have a grasp on the subject at hand, I tend to use several sources. And I’m almost certain that most of those teens do too.

  52. Wow. I had just turned five when JFK was assassinated, and it is burned in my memory forever. My parents reaction made sure of that. Mom identified with Jackie. And both Mom and Dad talked to me about everything that happened. I was eleven when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and nobody had to explain to me why that was important -even though it had little impact on my life.

    My kids, age 12 and 13, remember 9-11 because their parents let them know how significant it was.

  53. The ignorance of blissfully oblivious youth isn’t the problem. The problem is that there are people out there who see Yahoo! Answers as a good resource for filling the gaps in their knowledge of the world around them.

  54. Since he has only been wanted in connection with the 1994 WTC garage bombing and not 9/11, I don’t see why teenagers or anyone else should have his name on the tip of their tongues or why his death is particularly significant, unless you’re in the anti-terrorism business.

    Thinking Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11 and the leader of some terrorist group which has remained extremely dangerous to US citizens as has been reported without basis for the last decade is propaganda and I’m actually proud our teens have seen through this nonsense and ignored these unproved stories.

    And if he’s not wanted for 9/11 then why did we invade Iraq over their failure to hand him over after 9/11? WHY?

  55. I decided to ask my 13yr-old daughter what she knew about Osama Bin Laden before the news was saturated with his death. She knew:

    a) Everyone had been looking for him
    b) He was the leader of Al-Queda
    c) She asked if he was the guy behind the 11th of September attacks.

    She then said that a bunch of kids at her school hadn’t known who he was. She then said that didn’t really surprise her because it’s not like he was in the news very often.

    She’s right. She was four when those planes crashed into the WTC. Osama has been practically invisible since she was five years old. At 13 she’s not been taking in current events for very long; the rhetoric now is all about the war on terror and the war in Afghanistan. Osama has been largely irrelevant; now it’s just ‘terrorists’.

  56. Even worse: many fully grown people can’t tell when teenagers are being sarcastic or otherwise goofing.

  57. ~Doffs hat of cynicism~

    Maybe they know who he is but they want to read more about him?

    ~Dons hat of cynicism~

  58. @John Napsterista: That “many fully grown people can’t tell when teenagers are being sarcastic or otherwise goofing” occurred to me too. That they may genuinely be stupid and ignorant strikes me as a fairly good possibility, though.

    1. Definitely a possibility, though in this case, I’m pretty sure at least the first guy is joking. First, he is, apparently, a married father of a 7-year-old, so I doubt he’s a teenager. Second, he and his friends are prone to tweeting things like “I’m a chino wearing gay boy” or “I want to be a sex slave to 2 bears.” Asking who OBL is wouldn’t seem out of character in that social circle. Finally, the guy is a fan of Firefly and Big Love, a serious gamer, seems to be technologically competent and mocks those who feel that Japan had the tsunami coming to them because of their stance on whaling (and/or because of their hideous square watermelons). So yeah, the guy is obvs. goofing, but not so obvs. as to stop the concern trolls from soiling themselves. I haven’t checked the twit feeds of the others, but I’m pretty certain that at least of few of them weren’t serious about not knowing who OBL is. Suppose someone could always contact them and ask….

  59. I’ve often hung out with and/or had friends who are older than I am (I’m 28 now, mind you, but I have friends in their 30s/40s and in the past 50s/60s).

    Asking a question like “Who is Osama?” would have been my snide way of making my friends feel old.

    I do wonder how many of the 13-17 year olds who are searching “Who is Osama Bin Laden?” are doing so because it’s a question on their homework? I mean, otherwise why would they search for something vaguely relevant when they should be off sexting.

    Lastly, 9-11 was not one of the most significant events in history. Osama Bin Laden is not that important in the grand scheme of things. He’s not even related to any of the wars we’re fighting currently here in America. His death is good for an “America, Fuck yeah!” moment and nothing more.

  60. As soon as I heard the speculation after the Rock tweeted out that something significant had happened I made this to clear any doubt…


    Maybe I should make a second site that says “whoisosama.com” then on the page “9/11”

  61. This is charming news in a way! The largest, most overfunded “anti-terror” propaganda machine has tried to put fear in every living human every second everywhere and use that fear to trod over fundamental human rights. And here are these people who after all that despotism from our own regimes, just go: huh? Problem is, they’d likely be as puzzled about what those rights are…

  62. Presuming at least some of these kids aren’t just having us on, are you telling me none of them asked by their parents or cousins or neighbors were crying at 9/11 memorials?

  63. They are old enough to remember Yahoo as a search engine, and they dont know who Osama was?

  64. oh hey the link also gives the answer to a question asked above.

    Osama bin Laden was six foot five inches tall. That means that I would probably have called him ‘stretch’, ‘bean pole’ or ‘moose’, if I had known him as a teenager.

  65. Oh, one other thing. From the article I linked to:

    “Bin Laden appears to have been an intense, shy and pious youth who married young and spent an inordinate amount of time studying scripture.”

    Let that serve as a loud clear warning to parents. And to us all!

  66. I think I would have the same reaction to things that happened in the 1990s. I’m aware of the events, but sometimes someone older mentions a name and I don’t recognise it.

    I can/could tell you there was
    – War in Bosnia
    – IRA bombings in the UK
    – Kosovo War

    Looking at Wikipedia, I’m aware that these wars happened in my childhood, but didn’t remember them
    – Gulf War
    – Rwandan civil war
    – Chechen War

    The wars blur together. Wars in Eastern Europe always seemed to be on TV (here in the UK), and worried me a lot more than wars in Africa. I don’t remember any names for these events, except relating to the IRA (being the longest and most local “war” the politics of that continued to be in the news for years — also as I had a couple of bomb scares at school when I was 10 or 11).

  67. That’s is the hope and the tragedy of having short lives and even shorter memories.

    How many survivors are left of any event.

    The sky getting filled with cement dust as the towers fell across the street from my apartment and the electricity going out will always be with me, but to anyone who was not there it gets a bit unreal.

    Its the distance in space that the easiest to overcome.

    To all the people who were too young to be affected by the event, it stays unknown.

    They are the ones who are in danger of a repetition.

  68. Jeebus. Not only did my recently-turned 13-year old know who OBL *was* but was the one who came out to tell ME it was on the radio. We talked and while he doesn’t remember 9/11, he has read about it and asked me questions. How sad to find out he’s more aware than the majority of his peers….

  69. If Bush had done his job, these kids wouldn’t have been teenagers, but primary schoolers, and this would be a non-story.

  70. These are:
    A] The people you will rely on to take care of you in your old age
    B] The future cast of Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy II”
    C] …sigh…All of the above

  71. Ok…so they’re “teenagers,” which COULD mean they’re any age between twelve and twenty-one. Bin Laden, to be fair, was a viable concern TEN years ago-either before these children were born or when they were very tiny. Terrorism is hardly a pre-school academic subject. Most people don’t really address world news(even as it directly effects the US)as a serious topic until their Freshman year in college. Maybe rethink this?

  72. Well, at least the kids are looking him up. Sad that the Internet is a better educator than their parents, their teachers…

  73. yes… ignorance is ignorance. But let’s get real here. These kids were age 3-7 when the towers fell. Now 10 years later they are still kids. How informed about world politics were you when you were 13? If Bin Laden had been all over the news in the past few years maybe… but really… he hasn’t been. A mention here and there. They are kids and kids are mostly concerned with how they look and if that chick/dude likes them or not.

  74. Who was Mussolini? I bet a lot of you think you know what he stood for.

    He is the modern equivalent of Stalin, or (h word), or any one man personified by the chorus as the embodiment of evil in the world today.

    I just wonder what the wealthy are going to do now that we don’t have a bigger enemy than them?

  75. Who is the 1/3 of people not in that age group who DON’T know who Osama Bin Laden is?

  76. I was 5 when the Oklahoma City bombing happened. I remember seeing it on TV. I knew who Timothy McVeigh was and he was executed when I was 12, I knew why he was executed. I just don’t understand why teenagers who were 5, 6, or 7 when it happened wouldn’t remember 9/11. I can’t believe that.

  77. If teenagers don’t know who Osama is then somebody dropped the ball somewhere and it’s only half their fault, the oldest they were was 9. I’m guessing they are talking about younger teenagers than that anyway. If they are talking about a 13 year old girl…SHE WAS 3! My dad can’t recall all the details of the kennedy assasination either…

  78. I think this is rather misleading. Saying that 2/3 of the people who googled “Who is Osama bin Laden” were teenagers says nothing about teenagers in particular being vastly uninformed. Who ELSE would not know who bin Laden is? Young children who probably shouldn’t really be on the Internet? Old people who have been fully grown adults for the past 10 years? Almost no one who was over the age of 7 when the twin towers fell wouldn’t know this, so anyone who IS searching this should be 13-20.

    If one wants to make a case for teenage stupidity, it would be much more productive to report how many young people actually Googled this.

  79. re: “Really? In all of history? Not just American history? In American history (as in the United States of- mind you) I could understand, but in the scope of the entirety of human history it’s not really that big of a deal.”

    Of course this is my fault for not being specific enough for every smart ass out there. Yes – one of the most significant events in “American” history (which is the history they teach to the broadest group of students.) Though the event had consequences across the globe.

  80. 9/11 will be remembered as the event which triggered the decline of the American empire. The minute y’all started living in fear and equating vengeance with justice, you were hooped.

    1. and equating vengeance with justice

      I don’t think that started after 9/11. It would be a little more accurate to say “the second y’all switched from economic hegemony to military force…”.

      Or, considering the rest of history, “the minute y’all let your economy get raped…”.

    2. Yeah – because Americans didn’t live in fear during the depression, or WWII, or, I dunno, the entire ~45 year Cold War. I dare say the average person was more scared of the USSR in the 50s, than terrorists in the last 10 years, especially since Atomic war was more real and palpable than a terrorist attack.

      Thanks for the concern, but we’ll be just fine.

      PS – not an empire.

      1. Nope, you didn’t live in fear during any of those periods… you were a strong and hopeful leader nation. You fought back when needed, and you fought fair. People respected the United States.

        Nowadays, not so much. You’re afraid of brown people. You’re afraid of more than 3 ounces of liquid on airplanes. You condone torture. Your country is a remorseless bully to the rest of the world and to it’s own most vulnerable citizens, and you can’t even get ‘invading a non industrialized country’ right.

        Your sun is setting.

        1. I guess it depends what spin you want to put on things. We will be fine, though thanks for the concern.

  81. Holy shit. Kids who don’t know something *look it up*! ON THE INTERNETS! Granted, it’s something their parents should’ve covered, and granted, this should’ve been talked about in school, but holy jebus forbid they should express some curiosity and *look the fucking thing up*.

  82. I guess Osama didn’t make that big of an impression on us after all, thats one good thing about having such dumb teens.

    1. How is ignoring Osama bin Laden and his crackpot relgio-political preachings of the “virtues” of savage violence “dumb”?

      Why are people surprised that teens (of all people) ignored Osama, to the best of their impressive ability to do so? I mean, Osama was always world-class drag, and any fool could see that from day one. Even foolish and inexperienced kids knew that life is too short and sweet to waste by spending time worrying about guys like Osama.

      I for one shall be very pleased to go back to ignoring OBL and all his works, and to never having to hear his name again. The success of his capture serves to bring that happy day closer.

      Yep, President Obama is correct: life is better now.

      And the kids are, as they ever were, alright.

      1. Well canadians should keep there noses out of american’s business, especially when they are misinformed *cite* “success of his capture”- Ugly Canuck.
        hate to break it to you, but he is dead. we shot him. maybe if you were more informed on current events you wouldn’t look so dumb right now.
        i hope you respond, but i doubt your attention span is long enough to.

        1. Now pay attention:

          “Bin laden must be captured dead or alive.”

          heard that before? Get that? “…captured dead or alive.”

          Bin Laden was captured DEAD.

          “To capture” = to take by force: there’s no need for the thing so taken, to be alive when taken.

          And try not to insult others based upon your own ignorance and lack of knowledge – it lacks class.

  83. Guys, come on. These are clearly joke tweets. Ned Hepburn, the person who everyone is retweeting, is a pretty well known online funnyman, who started such seriously minded blogs as fuckyeahsharks.tumblr.com

  84. This both angers and saddens me beyond belief. We have access to more info than at any time in human history and these……MORONS can’t even look the guys name up. Further, WTF our US schools teaching these kids? How to be PC and NOT offend Muslims?

    1. I take it that you think they ought to be taught how to offend Muslims, right?

  85. “He must be captured, dead or alive.”

    Ever heard that before?
    bin Laden got captured dead.

    You don’t accept that usage, I guess.

    1. Anon #161:
      Far more knew about OBL than you were or are aware of, apparently.

      Check out the dates on the court documents provided by good ol’ Cryptome at their OBL archive:


      OBL was very well known to those whose business it is to pay attention to such things, long years before they got lucky on 9-11-01.

    2. What’s your point? How many people knew who Lee Harvey Oswald was before November 22, 1963?

      Until 2001, the failed WTC bombing and the USS Cole where the two main things attributed to him – events that were either far away or had little impact.

  86. “11” isn’t really teen, is it?

    I assume that my parents did chose not to expose me to it – I did have only curated access to the TV, even though we owned one.

    Come to think of it, my father dying slowly from colorectal cancer around that time, might also have skewed my interest in outside things.

    I’d say that a more general interest in things beyond entertainment and neighborhood developed around after 14 , with many of my peers not catching up until they were 16. I remember quite well that many read not even the newspaper, much less magazines like Der Spiegel.

    Some other were way before me, of course.

    I’m not at all surprised in these findings.

    Also, as others mentioned before: Young people are actually using yahoo to find out who he was. That’s good thing.

    Also, haven’t we all seen the videos of Americans trying to explain the world to British journalists. Those get usually dismissed as extremes cases – and rigthtfully so.

    It’s much easier to grep for “Who is osama” then for my thoughful tweets like “Whe should not gloat” or “Can we get our troops home now?”

  87. Two months before Bush invaded Iraq, Bush was talking with a group of Iraqi exiles and was surprised to learn there Sunni Arabs and Shiites Arabs and Kurds.

    “I thought they were all Muslim,” Bush is reported to have said.

    When he met with Makiya and two other Iraqis in January, I was told by someone not present, the exiles spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites

  88. What’s worse than not knowing “Who is Osama Bin Laden?” is the laziness of not even Googling his name before announcing to the world what kind of idiot you are on twitter.

    Someone needs to make a web service for filtering knowing ignorance like this. Questions like this are useful filters for knowing who not to hire for any job that involves thinking, decision-making, basic skills because if they can’t master general socially accepted bodies of knowledge like this, then what hope would you have for other social norms of knowledge?

  89. Damn, I shoulda put the word “lucky” in quotes in my last comment. Al-qaeda’s “good luck” is of course our “bad luck” – I only meant to indicate that imho Al-qaeda were/are not very good strategists and/or tacticians.
    They got “lucky”.

    I still can’t figure out what those vicious idiots thought they were trying to accomplish with those attacks.

  90. hey itz vry simple.. teen agers dn knw cos dt twin tower attack ws lyk decade old n most of d kids wer in a age dt wont interest in an attack… all dey gt 2 worry ws bout who had d best bicycle in neighbourhood… rit!!!

  91. Billy Joel needs to update “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, but maybe have someone with amazing musical talent and social relevance to sing it. Like Rebecca Black!

  92. Does everyone here that’s criticizing children know right off the top of their head who Hideki Tojo is?

    If you don’t, go google him.

  93. I’m sorry, how exactly did Yahoo know the age of their searchers? I don’t remember the last time I was asked to fill out a DOB survey before typing in whatever I was looking for in the search bar.

  94. 13-17 Year olds were 3-7 when 9-11 happend so it’s not surprising that the don’t know who he was

  95. I can’t believe people are making the “they were too young to remember it” excuse. I’m too young to remember Hitler, or the Neil Armstrong, or Woodstock.

    The nice thing about a written language is that you don’t have to experience everything yourself to know about it.

  96. Why is it sad? The truth is, 9/11 was not planned by him,
    he was a friend of the Bush family, George Jr. got his first
    business loan from Osama’s Dad, and the Bin Ladens
    and Bushs were very close. Bin Laden is a symbolistic
    scapegoat. He was more of a CPA than a “terrorist”.
    It’s all quite silly, really. But America has to make
    herself better somehow, and the President has
    to get himself re-elected. I am an Independent
    Voter, and I vote!

  97. Many of the people asking this were probably 3 to 5 years old on 9/11. I can’t really hold it against them for not looking up OBL in the interim.

    What were YOU most interested in when you were 9 or 10 years old? The news?

    Yeah, I thought so.

  98. There have been plenty of stories emerging recently about teenagers who were just kids during that time…take the piece on the kids in the classroom while Bush was reading to them. Or the new documentary by a 14-year-old who was still in kindergarten just blocks from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Obviously those who were close to the events are gonna have a reason to be focused on this part of our recent history. But I can understand that a certain portion of American tweens and high schoolers aren’t as familiar with bin Laden and his role. Heck, for years after 9/11 there were plenty of ADULTS who thought it was Saddam Hussein, and not bin Laden, who was responsible for the events of that day (and I’m sure there still are). In any case, I’m proud to have produced a short animated movie with my company, BrainPOP, that is helping teachers explain to even the youngest students exactly what happened that fateful day.

  99. This is sad. I was only EIGHT yet I remember 9-11 and know perfectly well who Osama Bin Laden is. This. Is. PATHETIC.

    It’s all because so many stupid idiots are more concerned about when their nail appointment is and what color hat they sould wear or other stupid crap. It’s idiots like them that make me ashamed to be born in the generation I’m born in.

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