Late on Thursday night, TikTok opted to remove the hashtag #lettertoamerica from its search functions after videos commenting on Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America” went viral on the platform.
On Thursday morning, a search for #lettertoamerica showed videos with more than 14 million views; by midday, TikTok began to mobilize to block the content along with related hashtags and a handful of hours later, the bulk of the videos were inaccessible outside of some more forceful searching.
The letter, originally published on the one-year anniversary of 9/11, provides heavy criticism of America. Specifically, America’s ongoing support of Israel and the freedom of the Palestinians in Gaza is a heavy focus.
To say the letter is antisemitic is to put things lightly; bin Laden largely attributes American imperialism as well as its foreign interventions to Jewish-funded economic incentives. He writes about “the devastating Jewish control of capital and about a day that would come when it would enslave you.”
The main theme of the videos created revolves around the American youth that saw the letter’s criticism as valid commentary on American foreign policy; many even going so far as to express sentiments that supported the notion that America “deserved” the 9/11 terror attacks.
Some TikTok users said that they saw the document as an awakening to America’s role on the world stage. One popular video showed a creator brushing her hair with the caption, “When you read Osama bin Laden’s letter to America and you realize you’ve been lied to your whole entire life.”
Another video with 100,000 likes showed another user at her kitchen sink with the caption: “Trying to go back to life as normal after reading Osama bin Laden’s ‘Letter to America’ and realizing everything we learned about the Middle East, 9/11, and ‘terrorism’ was a lie.”
The letter doesn’t lay the blame of the Iraq war on the hawkish Bush administration but rather on the “Jewish-controlled” US economy. For this reason, it’s no surprise the letter should resurface and gain popularity once again during a time when antisemitism is flaring across the country.
Any individual who isn’t blinded by nationalistic pride should be able to objectively look back on American foreign policy and provide heavy, heavy criticisms and condemnation, especially in regards to our involvement in the Middle East.
However, there are much better sources and commentary to get you started on such a topic than the letter of a genocidal maniac who is responsible for the murder of thousands of civilians. Maybe none of those are marketable enough for TikTok, though.
Over the past 24 hours, thousands of TikToks (at least) have been posted where people share how they just read Bin Laden’s infamous “Letter to America,” in which he explained why he attacked the United States.
The TikToks are from people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and… pic.twitter.com/EwjiGtFEE3
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 16, 2023