Book Review – Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World’s Most Wanted Man

Covering Bin Laden: Global Media and the World’s Most Wanted Man edited by Susan Jeffords and Fahed Al-Sumait. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2015. 259 pp, $95 hardcover 978-0-252-03886-0, $30 paperback 978-0-252-08040-1, E-book 978-0-252-09682-2

This review must start with a note of caution: this is not a book about Osama bin Laden. The aim of the editors and authors is not to add another interpretation on what bin Laden and Al Qaeda have been or, in the latter case, currently is. What they do here is take the real and symbolic figure of Osama bin Laden as a critical axis to explore the interplay between politics and media during the Global War on Terror. The result is a kaleidoscope that illuminates how news media represent and re-create reality and how those representations translate into concrete policy action.

As the title reminds us, Osama bin Laden became the world’s most wanted man in the decade from the 9/11 attacks to his capture and killing in Abbottabad (Pakistan) in 2011. Al Qaeda was presented as the paradigm of an entirely new type of terrorism: without parallel in history, and ready to kill as many civilians as they could in the name of some indiscernible millenarian views. Hunting bin Laden became the supreme goal. In pursuit of it, governments reshaped geopolitical relations and domestic politics, and launched wars.

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