The resurgence of Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America” on social media app TikTok has sparked curiosity and discussion among the new generation, two decades after the 9/11 attacks. Some users are drawing parallels between the terrorist’s justification for the attack and current events in the Israel-Hamas conflict. The letter also points out how US support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a violation of international law and contributes to the oppression of Palestinians.
TikTok has a user base of over 136.5 million and has become a platform for celebrities and brands to create viral moments. It is also a space where individuals can voice their opinions and perspectives on issues they care about, including foreign policy.
Many videos on TikTok promote the letter and encourage viewers to read it and share their thoughts with their followers. The videos have garnered tens of thousands of views, with some creators encouraging their audiences to share the letter on other social platforms. According to Google Trends, searches for the letter began to rise around a week ago.
As a result of the recent uptick in interest in the letter, TikTok said it is “proactively and aggressively” removing videos that promote it. The company has also blocked the hashtag #lettertoamerica so that users cannot search for it on the platform.
The resurgence of the bin Laden letter has raised concerns about how some users are using the app to spread propaganda and incite violence. But others argue that the letters are a reminder of the horrific terrorist attacks that happened in September 2001 and how those attacks shaped the world’s view on terrorism and geopolitics.
Melody Barnes, executive director of the Karsh Institute for Democracy at UVA, said that the 9/11 attacks changed how politicians approached foreign policy. They became more focused on the threat of terrorism and the need to protect the nation from potential attacks. Barnes, who was working in Congress on the morning of the terrorist attacks, remembered hearing a far-off explosion and feeling her office building shake.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks were an eye-opening experience for many Americans and had a profound impact on the global view of the United States, Barnes said. In addition to bringing the threat of terrorism into prominence, the attacks brought up the issue of asymmetrical warfare by superpowers such as China and Russia.
As the Israel-Hamas war continues, there are renewed calls for a Gaza ceasefire, as well as debates on how the United States should approach the conflict with Hamas. Some are calling for a greater emphasis on diplomacy. In contrast, others say the United States should support Israel to the “hilt,” even if it means sacrificing the lives of innocent civilians in the process. Others argue that if the United States supports Israel to the fullest, it will only bolster hatred against the country.