Rise of the Deathers: Cataloguing the Emerging Bin Laden Conspiracies

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No major polling organization has yet put forth a definitive accounting of what percentage of Americans believe what President Obama said the other night about how "we" finally got Osama bin Laden. But one thing seems certain: Among the people who don't buy the story, 100 percent of them absolutely, completely, totally don't buy it. The government narrative is more convoluted than the path of Lee Harvey Oswald’s reputed magic bullet, many say. Take your pick: public enemy No. 1 living in luxury a mile from the Pakistani West Point, easily fudged DNA, no pictures of the body (they kill the dude, shoot his wife but say the photographic evidence is too gory for a nation of Friday the 13th viewers), and, of course, the mob-style burial "at sea," the wrapped-up body tossed from an aircraft carrier named after an arch-segregationist who signed the Southern Manifesto protesting the Supreme Court abuse of "judicial power" in Brown v. Board of Education case.

This stuff might bamboozle people like John Cena, the bulkily chested WWE performer who paused beside a steel cage to announce bin Laden's "compromise to a permanent end" and lead his followers in a hearty chorus of "USA! USA!" But it is not slipping by skeptics, i.e. the official conspiratorial sector, now a permanent adjunct to the media. While most in the intrigue-centric wing agree the incident will likely prove to be a political advantage to Obama owing to the reflexive triumphantalism of the American "sheeple," there are three basic takes as to the disposition of bin Laden at the time of his supposed "death."

Bin Laden Was Dead Already
First in on this tack was radio loudmouth Alex Jones, who has been contending for years that Laden's body has been "on ice," frozen like Walt Disney. He has posted numerous videos as evidence, including one recorded by murdered Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto. Also in this mode is the striking contribution found on the reliably bonkers Rense.com, which features a fab faux grindhouse movie poster of a decomposed bin Laden visage along with a picture of Obama with a downtrending ratings chart. The copy reads: "When 'yes I can' stopped working...they dug him up and killed him again! Osama Zombie 6."

Bin Laden is Still Alive
The Taliban says Osama, like Elvis, is still among us and that the Abbottabad raid was a cheap fabrication of a desperate, teetering empire. Bin Laden is therefore still out there, readying a new strike. Joining Cindy Sheehan in this belief are numerous posters scattered about the Internet, including those on Gazette.com out of Colorado Springs, long home to a large number of born-again megachurches. In a pop poll on gazette.com, 31 percent did not believe the government account, with another 11 percent “unsure.” Reuters reported that Yahoo has been tracking a spike in searches for "osama bin laden not dead," "osama bin laden still alive," and "bin laden not dead." Searches were concentrated among men in Oregon, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Indiana, and New Jersey. In Iran, the semi-official Mehr news agency declared, "The death of Osama is a lie," according to Reuters.

Bin Laden Never Mattered
The idea that bin Laden was of no consequence in regard to the 9/11 attacks has long been the main storyline of the numerous 9/11 "truth" groups. Adherents to this school, like Charlie Sheen, believe the awful events nearly ten years ago were either staged or sanctioned by elements of the Bush administration, with the possibly fictive bin Laden's alleged involvement nothing but a cover story.

These are just the earliest returns. Nuances, complications, and endless contradictory details are certain to mount in the next few weeks and months. This is how conspiracy theories work: It's a world where nothing happens by chance and all motives are suspect. Sketchiness (and burials at sea) might be the way of real life, but it leaves plenty of blanks to fill in.

A highly ambient, already often-repeated scenario has bin Laden as a CIA asset, a kind of spectral card to play depending on the prevailing circumstance. For Bush, bin Laden was valuable as a living bogeyman. Obama, in trouble, flipped the script, preferring the bearded caliph-lusting Saudi scion to be dead.

Without doubt there will be many more pieces like "Osama bin Laden's Useful Death" by Paul Craig Roberts, formerly an assistant Treasury secretary and Wall Street Journal editor. Appearing on the libertarian blog Lewrockwell.com, Roberts writes: "As the alleged body has been dumped in the ocean, nothing remains but the word of the US government, which lied about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda connections, about yellowcake, etc...my initial interpretation of the faked bin Laden death was Obama needed closure of the Afghan war and occupation in order to deal with the US budget deficit." Maybe this is right, and maybe not. In a world of spin, who is to say which competing narrative will win out. It is survival of the fittest. It is enough to make one long for Walter Cronkite and that unwavering gaze of mainstream certainty.