In 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., The Guardian published a letter written by the man behind them: Osama bin Laden. This week it finally removed the letter. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the letter, laced as it is with antisemitic drivel and bigotry, offers grim predictions of present-day reality which lend it an air of unsettling authority and relevance. And it has gone viral in the place U.S. politicians are most desperate to bring under control: Tik Tok.
Bin Laden expounded further about how the oppression of Palestine had to be "revenged," going on to impugn Western imperialism and hegemony in broader terms, before shifting into a justification for killing civilians in his jihad. "The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq," he wrote. "This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us."
While some of bin Laden's judgments would not have been out of place in mainstream American politics of the era — he takes the U.S. to task for not signing the Kyoto Protocol treaty on restricting emission of greenhouse gases, for example — the letter is also interspersed with antisemitic tropes and hate speech. He repeatedly wrote that the country was dominated by Jews who "control your policies, media and economy," elsewhere condemning homosexuality and fornication as "immoral," and accusing the U.S. of spreading AIDS, which he termed a "Satanic American Invention." As for what al-Qaeda wanted, bin Laden said that the U.S. had to renounce its culture of "hypocrisy" and become an Islamic nation.
Welcome all, once again, to the Streisand Effect.
Update: it looks a lot like the main thing that boosted the "letter to America'"s viral spread was a Twitter pundit claiming that it was going viral.
Myself, I'm more partial to letters from America.