TikTokers prompt UK’s Guardian to delete 21-year-old letter by Osama bin Laden


Spokesperson for Guardian says letter taken down to direct readers to news article that ‘contextualised it instead’

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. — Reuters/File
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. — Reuters/File

A famous UK newspaper site made an unusual move Wednesday by deleting a 21-year-old letter written by Osama bin Laden from their site after several TikTokers urged followers to read the al Qaeda leader’s missive.

The Guardian deleted bin Laden’s “Letter to America” as it had gone viral on TikTok after users of the social media platform encouraged their followers to read the letter.

The page now displays a message that says: “This page previously displayed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to the American people,’ as reported in the Observer on Sunday 24 November 2002.

“The document, which was published here on the same day, was removed on 15 November 2023.”

According to TheWrap, a spokesperson for the British paper said: “The transcript published on our website 20 years ago has been widely shared on social media without the full context.

“Therefore we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualised it instead.”

What are people discussing on TikTok? 

Bin Laden’s letter to the American people states that September 11, 2001, happened because of US support of Israel.

“They threw hundreds of thousands of soldiers against us and have formed an alliance with the Israelis to oppress us and occupy our land; that was the reason for our response on the eleventh,” the letter, which can easily be found elsewhere online, reads in part.

According to TheWrap, the “eye-opening” TikTok trend seems to have started with a video posted by Lynnette Adkins, in which she told her nearly 12 million followers: “I need everyone to stop doing what they’re doing right now and go read ‘Letter to America,’ I feel like I’m going through an existential crisis right now.”

Adkins’ video has received responses from other TikTokers, saying, “My eyes have been opened.”

Another user who shared the letter wrote, “We’ve been lied to our entire lives, I remember watching people cheer when Osama was found and killed.”

In one of her many follow-up videos, Adkins says, “TikTok is going to save this generation,” because older people are “programmed to think a certain way.”

As a result, phrases including “Osama letter to America summary,” “a letter to America full text” and “a letter to America explained” were among the trending searches on TikTok.

The anti-Israel letter from Bin Laden has resurfaced at the same time as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refuted claims that his nation is waging war crimes in Gaza despite the martyrdom of over 11,000 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children.

In the month following the Hamas attack and Israel’s military response, there have been clashes between proponents of Israel and Palestine all over the world.

Several celebrities, including former United Nations Goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie, have called for a ceasefire in the region.

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