I think it is safe to say that newspapers this week have been completely dominated by reports and analysis of the death of Bin Laden (and Kate Middleton shopping in Waitrose). No one has enjoyed this more than the White House Press Office, who have done a fantastic job in keeping control of the story – although a few cracks are starting to show today. Although it is fairly obvious to state that the Bin Laden killing was an operation planned to the most miniscule detail – I must say I didn’t quite realise the outreach of this planning. It seems fairly clear to me that, perhaps not before the event, but certainly within moments of it the White House PR Team were put on full alert and were immediately devising the best way to present the news to the public.
Decision One was easy: Obama would present the news alone on Live TV. This was not the militaries’ success…this was not the Allies success…this was Obama’s success. It was the announcement that made America forget their divisions – healthcare bills, broken Guantanamo promises and poor economic results were forgotten as America revelled in their revenge and Obama’s success. One of the first things revealed to the press was the image of Obama watching as the operation took place, orchestrating the moment American’s have been waiting a decade for. This was Obama’s victory and it was the announcement that kick-started the ‘Campaign to Re-Elect to Barak Obama’.
However, it was the PR that followed the announcement that really took my notice. The propaganda machine immediately kicked in. If you are going to ‘murder’ a world leader, you better make sure the world hates him. And that’s where the White House PR machine comes in. Bin Laden was immediately painted as the hate figure. Reports from the White House included: Bin Laden hid behind his wife (later stated she jumped in front of him) and Bin Laden shot at the troops (later stated he was unarmed). Both these reports aimed to make this not seem like an assassination of revenge, but the attempted capture of an evil criminal.
Over the last couple of days these reports have started to unravel and truths have been revealed. However, the impact of this has been blunted by the nicely timed trip by Obama – to Ground Zero, the site of Bin Laden’s biggest atrocity. Obama’s trip to New York ensures that the stories of 9/11 victims have filled the paper and Bin Laden’s ‘evil persona’ is at the forefront of all stories – clouding over the fact that all was not as we were told. It has also allowed Obama to walk through the crowds like a heroic leader coming to tell of his success at war.
The whole story has really been quite the coup for the Obama administration. They have controlled the story from word go, they have made sure that the press has focussed on the aspects they want whilst hiding the more contentious points. The Bin Laden Assassination should be all future governments model on how to PR the assassination of a global leader and ensure the press and public stay onside.