CNN's love song to Osama

When even the New York Times reviewer can be this critical, CNN must have been seized by the spirit of Leni Riefestahl in its paean to Osama bin Laden.

On the one hand, the producers here are attentive to Mr. bin Laden's skill at media manipulation. On the other, they themselves seem half—seduced by the portrait of the pure—hearted Arab revolutionary that has so captivated parts of the Muslim world. With the heavy rotation of soulful portraits of the soft—voiced prophet of jihad with Super 8—style movies of the warrior on horseback, parts of 'In the Footsteps of bin Laden' could almost double as a recruiting video for Al Qaeda.

Mr. bin Laden's childhood friends express their love and admiration for him, and talk feelingly of his modesty, generosity, loyalty and deep piety. Important historical figures like Prince Turki al—Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, give exclusive interviews, in which they present, without challenge, partial and self—serving versions of history. Similarly, Mr. bin Laden's authorized biographer speaks uncritically of the political justification for killing American civilians on Sept. 11.

Finally, there's something way too credulous about 'In the Footsteps of bin Laden.' The documentary spends almost no time with critics in the Arab world who see Mr. bin Laden as a dangerous fanatic who may have pushed the world to the brink of a global catastrophe. Hasn't Mr. Bergen learned anything in the eventful nine years since he met the terrorist? The documentary's view that Mr. bin Laden's zeal for jihad was corrupted into a murderous, revolutionary ideology by Egyptians like Dr. Ayman al—Zawahiri seems like exactly the kind of thing Saudis like Mr. al—Faisal might tell impressionable visitors.

Ed Lasky   8 23 06

When even the New York Times reviewer can be this critical, CNN must have been seized by the spirit of Leni Riefestahl in its paean to Osama bin Laden.

On the one hand, the producers here are attentive to Mr. bin Laden's skill at media manipulation. On the other, they themselves seem half—seduced by the portrait of the pure—hearted Arab revolutionary that has so captivated parts of the Muslim world. With the heavy rotation of soulful portraits of the soft—voiced prophet of jihad with Super 8—style movies of the warrior on horseback, parts of 'In the Footsteps of bin Laden' could almost double as a recruiting video for Al Qaeda.

Mr. bin Laden's childhood friends express their love and admiration for him, and talk feelingly of his modesty, generosity, loyalty and deep piety. Important historical figures like Prince Turki al—Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, give exclusive interviews, in which they present, without challenge, partial and self—serving versions of history. Similarly, Mr. bin Laden's authorized biographer speaks uncritically of the political justification for killing American civilians on Sept. 11.

Finally, there's something way too credulous about 'In the Footsteps of bin Laden.' The documentary spends almost no time with critics in the Arab world who see Mr. bin Laden as a dangerous fanatic who may have pushed the world to the brink of a global catastrophe. Hasn't Mr. Bergen learned anything in the eventful nine years since he met the terrorist? The documentary's view that Mr. bin Laden's zeal for jihad was corrupted into a murderous, revolutionary ideology by Egyptians like Dr. Ayman al—Zawahiri seems like exactly the kind of thing Saudis like Mr. al—Faisal might tell impressionable visitors.

Ed Lasky   8 23 06