It was the little Reuters story that launched 1,000 winking headlines as the week came to an end. Surely you saw some of them, such as the two that caught Mike Allen's eye for Playbook:
-- N.Y. Post wood: "OSAMA BIN WANKIN'." ... Yesterday's wood of The Daily, the iPad publication that is NYPost's News Corp. sibling: "OSAMA BIN SPANKIN'."
But the actual Reuters story itself -- at least the one I saw in the land of the Beltways -- was nowhere near as interesting, methinks, in comparison with the headlines. Here is a chunk of the short item that ran in the Washington Post:
A stash of pornography was found in the hideout of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. commandos who killed him, current and former U.S. officials said Friday.
The pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on the condition of anonymity. The officials said they were not sure where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it. The officials said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the materials.
Then at the very end, we read:
Three other U.S. officials familiar with evidence gathered during investigations of other Islamist militants said the discovery of pornography is not uncommon in such cases.
So, the assumption -- at least in my head -- is that they are thinking this is similar to the jihadists hitting the strip clubs to ogle evil Western women in the days or weeks before dying martyr's deaths, knowing that in their version of Islam they were about to have their tickets punched for direct entry into heaven.
At the same time, that last paragraph opens a huge door and then refuses to walk through it. What does Islam have to say about pornography? Surely that is an issue in the internet age for Muslim men? I would assume that it is evil.
When doing its own story, the New York Times did manage to work this important subject into the lede and did so in a very easy and logical fashion:
WASHINGTON -- The enormous cache of computer files taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound contained a considerable quantity of pornographic videos, American officials said on Friday, adding a discordant note to the public image of the Islamist militant who long denounced the West for its lax sexual mores.
Then later in the story, the man himself speaks on this issue:
In a 2002 “letter to the American people,” Bin Laden denounced American culture for its exploitation of women’s bodies in dress, advertising and popular culture.
“Your nation exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them,” he wrote. “You plaster your naked daughters across billboards in order to sell a product without any shame. You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire.”
OK, that is the easy half the equation to deliver. Adding that reference probably took two or three clicks on a mouse.
But it doesn't address the big question at the end of the Reuters report, does it? What is this porn stash doing in the hands of Bin Laden and/or his camp of most loyal defenders?
To see a meditation on that, one needs to head over to The Daily Beast, where Asra Q. Nomani heads straight into the issue of male hypocrisy -- but in an editorial essay, not in hard news. Here is how that opens:
Last year, Google ran an analysis of its search queries and concluded Pakistan is the leading nation in sex-related, porn content searches, leading Fox News to dub the nation “Pornistan.” Iran came in third on the overall list, and Egypt was fifth. ...
We don't need Google to tell us Muslims are looking at porn. Pakistan is home to a bustling porn black market, as well as a lucrative business enterprise and tradition of exotic dancing, called mujras. Just last month, a Muslim member of parliament from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party in Indonesia resigned after being caught watching porn on the floor of parliament.
So what is my point? I realize that the porn stash story was, uh, hot and needed to hit the wires as fast as possible.
I also know that many readers were sure to see this as yet another semi-suspicious White House story growing out of the U.S. raid, which has been followed by clashing story lines and more than a few strange corrections. So be it.
But, well, doesn't this story also raise religious questions? How can anyone put out a basic story on this subject without at least one or two lines or maybe even a whole paragraph on how most conservative Muslims view this topic? What is the context?