Against the backdrop of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, triggered on October 7 after the terrorist group swept through the Hebrew state to sow death (1,200 people were killed), Osama's “Letter to America” Bin Laden has gone viral on social media. “I will never see life and the United States the same way again. If you read it, tell me if you're also going through an existential crisis. In twenty minutes, my opinion on everything I experienced and thought changed,” explains Kiana Leröux, influencer with 1.1 million subscribers, on TikTok. “It’s breathtaking,” says another, for whom the terrorist attacks against the United States are only the result of “the failures of our governments towards other nations.” “This letter helps open our eyes,” she concludes.
The text first appeared in 2002, in Arabic, on a Saudi site once used by al-Qaeda before being translated and distributed by Islamists in Britain. It was a British weekly, The Observer, which published it first on November 24, 2002, before The Guardian followed by putting a copy on its site. Faced with the scale of the phenomenon which resurfaced 20 years later, the British daily deleted it on Wednesday November 15 - it is in fact archived. In this letter, Osama Bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda killed by American special forces in May 2011 in Pakistan, justifies the attacks of September 11, 2011, criticizes and directly threatens the West. That day, the United States suffered a terrorist attack of unprecedented scale, killing nearly 3,000 people. Two planes hijacked by al-Qaeda jihadists hit the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York, before a third crashed into the west wing of the Pentagon in Washington. It is also about the Palestinian population, martyred, writes the author, by the Jews and the West. But how, and why, did this letter resurface?
Tuesday, November 14, it is the New York influencer Lynette Adkin who creates the “trend”. In a video viewed more than a million times, the woman with 180,000 subscribers urges her audience to “stop what they are doing” and “go read the Letter”. “I think I'm having an existential crisis and I need to know if anyone else feels this way,” she adds. The video and his TikTok account have since been deleted.
The next day, Wednesday November 15, the Guardian deleted the text from its site. “The transcript was widely shared on social media without the full context. We therefore decided to remove it and direct readers to the press article which originally contextualized it,” explains the British daily. On November 16, American journalist Yashar Ali, contributor to the Huffington Post and New York Magazine, warned of the scale of the phenomenon. In a viral post on of which what is often described as terrorism can be a legitimate form of resistance to a hostile power.
It was after the publication of this publication that the keyword “Letter to America” became a global trend. Searches associated with the Letter from Osama Bin Laden were not non-existent before social networks took hold of it. But interest in it increased on November 14 before exploding on the 16th, as shown by Google Trends. On On YouTube, the increase is 400%, adds the think tank.
Openly, all the authors of the videos do not justify the terrorist attacks, contrary to numerous comments which abound under the contents. But some users draw a parallel between what the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are currently experiencing and the situation described by Osama Bin Laden twenty-one years earlier. Since October 7, Israel has relentlessly shelled the Gaza Strip. And since Saturday October 27, IDF units have been advancing on the ground there with the aim of “annihilating” Hamas, in the words of the Prime Minister of the Hebrew state, Benjamin Netanyahu. This response, according to Hamas reports, left 11,470 dead, including 4,707 minors.
In the United States, public support for Israel is declining as Israel pursues its military objectives in the Palestinian land language. Recent raids on hospitals, notably that of al-Shifa, and the humanitarian chaos reigning in the blockaded enclave may explain this. According to a poll carried out by Ipsos for the Reuters news agency, 32% of respondents said their country “should support Israel”. A figure down nine points compared to another survey published in mid-October. Around 40% of respondents believe that the United States “should be a neutral mediator”, compared to 27% a month earlier.
Thursday, November 16, the social network, owned by the Chinese group ByteDance, announced that it was deleting these publications in a “proactive and aggressive manner” and that it was investigating “how they arrived on our platform”. “The content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules regarding support for any form of terrorism. The number of videos on TikTok is low and the reporting of their trends on our platform is inaccurate. This phenomenon is not specific to TikTok and has appeared on several platforms and media,” explains the application which has 1.7 billion users worldwide.