What Arabic news got wrong this week: Condoleezza Rice and Osama bin Laden

Published November 5th, 2015 - 01:30 GMT
Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (FreakingNews.com)
Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (FreakingNews.com)

The Story

Arabic media set out to expose the hidden relations between the US and al-Qaeda — by sharing an image of Condoleezza Rice getting chummy with Osama bin Laden.

Rice, who served as the US Secretary of State under former president George W. Bush, is seen shaking hands with bin Laden. They both have big smiles and an American flag is shown in the background, making it seem like it was taken in the US.

The Blunder

Of course, it's a Photoshop job. And not the greatest one at that. But what started as a joke several years back made it into Arabic headlines, as real news, this week.

The image was created in 2007 for an April Fools' Day Advanced Photoshop Contest on FreakingNews.com.

Eight years later, the photo — described as "newly declassified" — began circulating English public forums in February. We weren't able to find the original picture, so it's still a mystery who was doctored out.

On closer evaluation, the shadows around bin Laden's head don't quite match Rice's. Then there's the height discrepancy: 5-foot-7 Rice is almost as tall as 6-foot-5 bin Laden. It's pretty unlikely a photo of the two of them would ever look like that, even if Rice wore heels. Even if there was a slope in the room.

It took another several months for the photo to begin circulating on Arabic news. 48pulse.com published the photo on Friday with the headline, "The newly released photo shows the alliance between al-Qaeda and the United States." It would also mean that bin Laden is still alive, another US-centric conspiracy already making rounds. 

It may have taken eight years. But considering how many people the photo fooled, it's safe to say Mandrak is the winner of that Photoshop competition. 

By Hayat Norimine

This is the latest installment of a new column at The Loop, looking at what went wrong in the Middle East's headlines every week. 

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