Getting bin Laden: One Year Later

May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I know it may seem like I’m a little late to the party. The anniversary of bin Laden’s death was on Tuesday, May 1. However, this year, a majority of my writing, studying and reading has focused on this event and the texts that emerged as a result (In communication studies, “texts” can refer to any medium that is studied. For example, with the bin Laden raid/death, texts include the Situation Room photograph above, Obama’s speech the night of, the made-for-television specials, etc.). Whether I want to admit it or not, the truth is that this bin Laden raid, and the political atmosphere of a Post-9/11 U.S. have become a major part of my scholarship.

Specifically, this year I have focused on the above photograph as well as an article written by Schimdle in The New YorkerThere are so many interesting aspects of this event and the ensuing texts. And, unfortunately for my classmates and for Steve, I’ve definitely talked about it a bunch this year, too. Last night, there was a special on Rock Center with Brian Williams about the events leading up to and happening that night. In the special, Williams interviewed key players such as President Obama, Hillary Clinton, VP Biden, as well as others in the photograph.

I enjoyed watching the special, as it at times was like reviewing papers I’d written all year. I also like to look for the different rhetorical constructions that occur as a result. Of course there is the heated debate between Romney and Obama about the raid, in which Romney accuses Obama of politicizing it as a way to help his chances for reelection. Um, duh. I’m guessing anyone in this situation would capitalize on such a huge event. It’s also interesting that there should be a forthcoming full-length feature film in the fall about the raid (I have been accused of conspiracy theory here, since I think it’s highly coincidental that the film will be released right before the elections…). The interesting part of the bin Laden raid, that is also articulated in the Rock Center special, is that it unified our extremely partisan country, if only for a brief moment in time.

To date, my research has focused on how Obama embodies the imperial presidency (even if he doesn’t want to), American exceptionalism, and biopolitics (the politics of life…maybe I’ll write on this later). Here are some of the other things I find interesting, and may research further in the future:

1. The role of Hillary Clinton. Initially when the photograph above was released, Hillary claimed to be stifling a cough. In the interview aired last night, she said she was making the same expression she does when Bill takes her to action movies. It’s easy to understand why Clinton would initially want to claim she was stifling a cough. She has worked so hard to create an image of herself as unemotional and not super feminine. To be the only person at the table showing emotion (and the only woman at the table, at that) would seem to negate the image she’s worked to hard to achieve. In the 2008 campaign, it was über-feminine Palin vs. not-so-feminine Clinton. Unfortunately, whatever image a woman wants to create for herself, she still often ends up on the outskirts. The underlying beliefs are that super feminine women do not make good leaders because they are too emotional and maternal, and super masculine women do not make good leaders because there are masculine men that can do the same job. It seems that until it was admitted that everyone in the room was tense, and that it was silent when the helicopter crashed, Clinton could not admit that her expression was, in fact, a result of shock and fear. Studying her could reveal insights to the roles of women in leadership.

2. What is “real”? It is interesting to note that when Schmidle’s article came out, he explained that one of the advisors described the helicopter crash on the bin Laden compound like “watching the climax of a movie.” Additionally, like I said above, Clinton explained that the expression she was making was the same one she makes at action movies. This semester in my theories of pop culture class, I studied a lot about “the spectacle” in society (Debord, Society of the Spectacle), and how in our postmodern society, images are becoming more important, more “real” than reality. This is easy to argue, as one only has to think about the popularity of Facebook, in which many people find their “reality,” as well as the emphasis on pictures that Facebook has cultivated. In this digital age, when we can take as many pictures as we want until we have one we like, and then still edit that photo until it creates an image of ourselves we want to communicate, images dominate. And, ironically, when discussing the mission to get bin Laden, people compare it to a movie rather than real life. So, what is more real, movies or real life?

With the summer ahead, maybe I’ll look into one of these areas. Or maybe I’ll relax and look closer at them next fall :)

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