The Collective Memory of Osama bin Laden’s Death

I remember weeks after May 2, 2011 and all I could hear about on the news was the death of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was the leader of the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, who planned the 9/11 attacks that shook the world. Many rejoiced because the leader of the largest terrorist group against America was put to a halt. I remember sitting in my living room with my mother and we too rejoiced about the news.

Bin Laden was found in a compound with no internet or telephone north of the capital of Pakistan (Islamabad). The raid against him was led by US Special Forces and lasted 40 minutes long. Shockingly no American life was ceased.

Updates came flooding in every day about the account of how it happened and the reproductions of his death. Many of the updates gave information on how he lived or how the raid happened. In the meantime, debates continued to span news outlets. What if Bin Laden could have been captured instead of killed? What will happen to Al-Qaeda now? How will President Obama’s administration proceed after this event? Seven years after the event, we now know that Bin Laden’s death severely hurt Al-Queda as an organization even though it continues to be active to this day.

The military intelligence that was gathered to locate Bin Laden was obtained by the Bush administration. In actuality, the death of Bin-Laden was acted upon and was a defining moment in President Obama’s administration. This topic was relatively discussed by the media and looking back I can see that the coverage of Bin-Laden’s death favored President Obama, even though it was the cumulative work of the two administrations.

Twitter and Facebook were the most prominent social media sites that covered the story. Top themes included conspiracy theories, “humor”, coverage of the story, fear, and the support of the military. Live tweeting, blogging, and pictures exploded as the story developed online. However, the rapid stream of information lead to many faked pictures/videos, conspiracy theory bloggers, and “humorous” jokes that derailed the coverage of the initial topic. Rapid breaking news gave way to unreliable coverage back in 2011, which is still a warning to us that it we too are even more susceptible to the speed of news today than ever before.

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