The ever-changing narratives surrounding the ritualistic slaying of Osama Bin Laden has spewed up a slew of conundrums. It should also teach publicists valuable lessons about the pitfalls of a contemporary story engine, brand messaging turned cariacature and the conditions of the modern news mill.
Instinctively, a good publicist understands how to engineer a simple brand story. This propels both new and traditional media forward, generating the power of positive word of mouth. If the elevator pitch is too complex, return to the drawing board.
These past principles have been reframed by the lustful media’s desire to break a story. This, allied with a compelling need to be ‘the’ authority’s voice coerces the media to be less concerned about accuracy and truth. Why kill a news thread if the desire is apparent? “Truth? Well OK, but the story is just too good to ignore!”
The Mission to destroy Bin Laden was infused with the spirit of The Searchers and thickly layered with the best bits from Call of Duty, Black Ops and 24. I swear Jack Bauer lead the mission.
The hysteria and frenzied jubilation at the assassination felt heaped with anachronism, steeped in the Second Ammendment’s 1791 bill regarding the right to bear arms. The structure of the heroic journey feeds all our narrative understanding of a Hollywood theme. Unfortunately, outside the US, as each day passes the true facts unpick the heroic “Go get ’em!” venture.
Breaking the news in such dramatic fashion inspired the Times Square triumphalism. Even without the corpse to make a shrine of, Bin Laden will most likely be made into a martyr and his death will surely inspire a generation of mad jihadists.
The requirement to layer a brand narrative with familiar contemporary iconography is burdened with responsibility. The energy and web-feeding frenzy allows certain flaws to be ignored, just as long as momentum is maintained. But keep an eye on the balloon of hype; it tends to to burst spectacularly.
Events of this magnitude will sooner or later be exposed. If the hyper-activity of a story is neither truthful nor translucent, chaos reigns. Added to this problem is the legal representation, whose issues are more often than not counter-productive.
The lessons from BP’s reputation meltdown should not be consigned to the past. America seems to be concerned with broadcasting only to itself, seemingly unaware of the speed at which this had travelled the globe, picking up momentum.
All eyes are now focusing on America’s toxic hubris. For the American people, assassination to appease the dead is merely a means to commit murder by proxy and does not express Statesman-like strength. The US cannot ignore their global responsibility, outside its own audience.
Surely civilzation has moved on from and eye-for-an-eye? Should’t we be concerned with reconciliation rather than bloodlust, with the words of Martin Luther King rather than John Wayne: “For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.”