The Bin Laden Tapes

Hill, Andrew (2006). The Bin Laden Tapes. Journal for Cultural Research, 10(1) pp. 35–46.



Since the September 11th attacks a series of videos have been broadcast across the globe that feature Osama Bin Laden. These video appearances have confirmed Bin Laden’s continued wellbeing and ability to function as the head of Al Qaeda, in the midst of massive hunt to capture and destroy him. Lacan’s conception of the Imaginary and his commentary on the gaze serve to illuminate the terms in which Bin Laden has used his visual presence in these videos to intimidate his opponents and to continue to participate in the War on Terror. In addition, these video appearances present a gesture of defiance in the face of the strategies of surveillance deployed to achieve a sighting of Bin Laden. The Bush administration’s portrayal of Bin Laden as a figure of profound evil has been fundamental to the Manichean terms in which the administration has sought to configure the War on Terror. Bin Laden’s video appearances have been integral to presenting Bin Laden as such a figure to Western audiences. For these audiences Bin Laden can be said to have come to resemble a type of demon, both in regard to him constituting a figure of supreme evil but also in terms of his ontological status and capacity to appear and disappear seemingly at will. Even if Bin Laden was to be captured or killed, his status amongst his followers as a spiritual figure, and his presence in these videos, mean he possesses the capacity to continue to feature as an influential figure in the War on Terror.

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