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‘Bin Laden may not exist’: Did Thomas Pynchon give this 9/11 interview to Japan’s Playboy… or not?
08:29 am


Thomas Pynchon
Osama bin Laden

Pynchon & Bin Laden
Novelist Thomas Pynchon has a slightly overstated reputation as a literary recluse. After three ambitious novels between 1963 and 1973—the last of which, Gravity’s Rainbow, has a pretty strong claim as the best and most important U.S. novel written after 1970—Pynchon took a break from publishing new work that lasted 17 years. There are only a handful of existing photographs of Pynchon, and they’re all grainy black-and-white shots from early in his life. Despite living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for many years, not many people know what he looks like.

But he’s no J.D. Salinger. Since 1997 he’s published four novels; measured by number of pages, his post-1997 output must far outstrip the three novels and handful of short stories that established his reputation. He pops up here and there, lending liner notes to Nobody’s Cool, an album by the indie rock band Lotion, or Spiked!, a collection of tunes by Spike Jones, whom Pynchon has cited as a key influence on his work.

Pynchon’s cult of personality is strong enough that the question of his extra-fictional writings is no casual matter. So when a brief piece by Pynchon pops up in, of all places, the Japanese edition of Playboy a few months after 9/11 urging readers to regard Osama bin Laden as a “symbol,” that’s the kind of thing that sets the Pynchon obsessives to speculating. There’s not any obvious reason to believe that the article was faked, save Pynchon’s track record of pranks and the unlikely venue. It’s just barely mysterious enough that you might see it referred to as Pynchon’s “interview about bin Laden”—complete with skeptical quotation marks. Its very existence is a bit of a puzzle.
Japanese Playboy
The item exists, for English readers, in translation only, one executed by the diligent “Naoki” of the Pynchon-L newsgroup. It’s important that the piece is billed as an “interview,” because only that would explain the relatively pedestrian quality of the words. (Try to imagine James Joyce translated into Japanese and back into English again. The original text and the outcome might not be all that similar.) The text does seem tolerably Pynchonian. He remarks that he’s afraid to use the subway; there’s more about anthrax than you would find in a remembrance of 9/11 written today; he says that he can’t trust the New York Times anymore; he discusses the anomic qualities of the CNN newscasters.

Most interesting is his plea to stop taking Osama bin Laden so seriously. It’s one of those insights that’s obviously correct but also functionally useless: we were always going to take Osama bin Laden very seriously. As he says, “Even if the United States succeeds in killing him that would mean that there are still 19 bin Ladens left. Even if there is only one, there are probably many people who would take his place once they kill bin Laden. ... If we look at this from a different point-of-view, we should look at bin Laden as a symbol rather than a man. Bin Laden may not even exist.

Here’s Naoki’s translation of the “interview,” with a few typos corrected:

Most News Is Propaganda. Bin Laden May Not Exist.

All people who live in New York today have been talking about recently is whether they have been to the site of the World Trade Center. This is because it has become a “trendy” topic. Personally, I still cannot find myself wanting to go see the site.

The main thing that has changed in my life-style recently is the fact that I do not ride the subway anymore. Before, I got on the subway wherever I went but today, I never ride the subway in fear of biological weapons. After all, there was the case with the Tokyo Sarin Gas. I believe that the damage that can be caused by the biological weapon called anthrax is increasing and we are in a situation where someone could use biological weapons at any time.

The media station that is consistently giving reports on this terrorist case is CNN. Because everybody watches CNN, it would be safe to say that the news being watched by all of the citizens is the same. However, it is dangerous when people start to believe that what they see is real news.

For the television stations this kind of situation should be a great chance to express their individuality. However, the only thing the newscasters do is read the news in a monotonous voice or when the news comes on during the report, all they do is spit out the words they receive. In any case, they talk with the mere intention of filling up the time they have on air.

The adjective “affect less” best fits the way the newscasters talk. It is a way of expression that has no connection to the human being and no emotional power at all. I deprecate this way of expression. If you listen closely to those words, it doesn’t sound like real news. It sounds more like propaganda.

Talking of propaganda, what changed the most due to the terrorist incident is The New York Times. Until recently, I would wake up an hour early to go buy this newspaper but now, there it isn’t even worth the time to sit down and read it. Even before I place my hips in the seat, I am already finished reading it by flipping through the pages. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there is hardly any useful news. It is mostly propaganda.

The news on how there are more antibiotics to anthrax other than cipro was a little useful, but that kind of useful news has become a rarity. The New York Times is usually known to be the most reliable source of media when doing research on something that happened twenty to thirty years ago. However, that is no longer the case. The most reliable newspaper that is read by educated people today is probably England’s The Guardian. Everyone is reading it on the internet. I also believe that a lot of the information coming out of the White House is also propaganda.

The problem is that common people cannot make a distinction between news and propaganda. On the contrary, the news sent out from Israel is extremely reliable.

In any case, once a war happens, the war for media becomes a great significance and even the newspapers that look decent at first glance, you can no longer trust. About a hundred years ago, the man who started publishing the Daily Mile said the following: “News is something somebody wants to suppress. Everything else is propaganda.”

Therefore, all information that can be obtained without difficult coverage, even though it may be from the White House, you can think of as propaganda.

Bin Laden should be looked upon as a symbol

The United States has always had a tendency to look for an enemy. It is a country that cannot stand not having one. Even for this terrorist incident, it is already determined that the villain behind all of this is bin Laden, but in reality they are saying that because they cannot stand not doing so. I believe that bin Laden is someone’s clown for a rodeo.

Although my thoughts are always paranoid, I believe that I’m the only one who feels this way. It is said that NSA is on a lookout for him but I think that like an onion, new layers will be discovered. No matter how I look at the situation, it doesn’t seem like bin Laden is doing this independently. The only impression that I get is that he is some kind of star actor.

Honestly speaking, we cannot even tell if the face that comes out on television and on the newspapers is his real face. I remember someone saying right after the terrorist incident, “Come on, you want bin Laden? We’ll give you 20 of him.” Even if the United States succeeds in killing him that would mean that there are still 19 bin Ladens left. Even if there is only one, there are probably many people who would take his place once they kill bin Laden.

If we look at this from a different point-of-view, we should look at bin Laden as a symbol rather than a man. Bin Laden may not even exist.

The other day when I was surfing the net, it said that the punishment that suits bin Laden the best is to catch him alive, bring him to a hospital, give him a transexual operation, and send him back to Afghanistan. He would then understand the disservice done to the women in Afghanistan.

We cannot forget that many of bin Laden’s brothers were partners with George Bush Jr. for the purpose of oil ventures in the past. The doctor who is known to be at bin Laden’s side at all times was a member of the group who killed Sadat. When that assassination happened, Egypt became involved and there must have been people who fled to Afghanistan.

What is often said is that it is the United State’s wealth that is the cause of the terrorists’ hatred. I can understand their feelings well. When I see a wealthy person, I instinctively feel anger deep in my stomach. If you think about how Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, it is only natural for them to feel hatred toward the wealthy United States. They have no other choice but to detest them.

Even if the United States stops their support for Israel, I don’t think that everything will become peaceful. However, from their point-of-view this is the origin of all Israel’s mistakes.

On a final note, if I were to vigorously invest in something right now, I would invest in the tobacco industry. After that incident, people who had stopped smoking before have started it again.


On the Pynchon Wiki, two presumably well-informed commenters offer their opinion that the bin Laden piece is authentic. The reasoning of commenter “Bleakhaus” is fairly persuasive.

I for one am inclined to believe its authenticity. It expresses many of Pynchon’s longest- and deepest-held thoughts:

Paranoia - afraid to ride subway.
Extended thoughts on his distrust of news media - mentions CNN in particular (same station that tracked him down at one point).
He suggests that he used to like the New York Times - in fact, he wrote numerous articles for the Times.
Bin Laden as a symbol - 9/11 is treated symbolically in Against the Day.
sense of humor - consistent with Pynchon’s sense of humor in Against the Day.
The Playboy Japan article also quoted John Updike, Thomas Friedman and others. It would be odd that a bogus Pynchon interview would end up mixed in with those legitimate interviews.
Hating the rich - a very strong theme in Against the Day.

Finally, like Pynchon’s Simpsons appearance, the whole thing is just too unusual to be invented. Playboy Japan, of all things?


Obviously, 9/11 is an ideal subject for a writer who plumbed the subject of paranoia so thoroughly in The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity’s Rainbow. What “Bleakhaus” couldn’t have known when he or she wrote this is that, while Against the Day (2006) may touch on 9/11 symbolically, his 2013 book Bleeding Edge deals with it literally—it’s part of the book’s plot.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Osombie’: Trailer for new Osama bin Laden zombie movie
01:53 pm


Osama bin Laden

I had a good little chuckle while watching the trailer for the new zombie horror flick Osombie. You knew something like this was going to happen, right? Will I watch it once it’s been released? Probably not, but I thought I’d share the trailer with you anyways. Enjoy Osombie!

Via io9

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
When Obama met Osama

Brazilian Obama impersonator, Ananias Rodrigues da Silva, posed for some photos with a local São Paulo man named Francisco Helder Braga Fernandes who looks eerily like Osama bin Laden. Apparently folks who live in São Paulo have been begging Frenandes for years to cut his beard because of his striking resemblance to bin Laden. It’s probably a good thing he resisted, because this amusing photo-shoot would not have taken place.

More Osama and Obama palling around after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The maxi-chromatic Bin Laden family, 40 years ago

The Guardian’s recent amalgamation of photos from Osama bin Laden’s life opens with the above absolute visual gem, which the editors caption as follows:

1971: Osama bin Laden (second from right) on a visit to Falun, Sweden. That year 23 members of the wealthy Bin Laden family visited Falun while one of the elder brothers conducted business with Volvo. Osama is remembered from the occasion as a quiet and reserved boy who at 16 didn’t really stand out from the crowd…

Although it’s bounced around the blogosphere for a while, this picture’s still something to behold. Shot four years after the death of construction magnate/patriarch Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden’s accidental death by plane crash, the photo highlights the bright and brilliant fashion sense of a typical rich and cosmopolitan Saudi family on tour in early ‘70s Europe. Osama—the 17th of Mohammed’s 54 kids from 22 wives—peers out in seemingly pure velour and a comparatively subdued yellow-green and Carolina blue combo.

Of course, perhaps the most laden irony on a trip surrounding business with Volvo is the nearly obscured presence of what seems to be a sick pink Caddy.

Thanks to timmmiii…
...and also to metasonix, who spotted what I thought might have been a Caddy as actually a ‘67 Chrysler Imperial…

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Aging of Osama bin Laden
The Undersea World of Osama bin Laden

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Un-American: Pathetic GOP tries to divide American people over Osama kill

They spelled “cuntry” wrong!

Did you read about Sarah Palin’s utterly shameless tweet today?
TPM quipped:

It’s unclear why she thinks photos of bin Laden’s corpse will scare suicidal terrorists.

Who says she’s capable of thinking at all? Certainly I’ve seen no public evidence that Mrs. Palin is able to engage in critical thinking. But who cares about Sarah Palin anyway? I don’t and I’m bored with writing about her, but her tweet is one of the lamer, dumber examples of a Republican lemon-face trying oh so obviously and desperately to spin the killing of the most wanted terrorist in history against President Obama.

Sarah Palin: The incredible shrinking woman. I will admit that watching her flounder for attention now that the bloom is off and the public is starting to tune her out has been kinda fun to watch…

Irish comedy genius Graham Linehan, speaking certainly with MY full approval, tweeted the following to his 94,000+ Twitter followers:

#Nailed it.

Someone who follows him rejoined “Show us your tits first” and I think this is about where the level of discourse around the Republicans should be, which is to say, pointing at them and laughing.

But where was I? Oh yeah:

Jealous much, Republican’ts?

Of course they are—they can barely stand it—and it’s such a delightful farce to watch these craven shits lashing out like the angry losers they truly are. Even some die-hard Fox News viewers are (probably) starting to suspect what everyone else has known all along: THESE PEOPLE ARE SCURRILOUS FUCKS.

How many times does it take being exposed to the obviously insincere Eric Cantor, for instance, before even a complete idiot would intuit “This fuckin’ guy doesn’t believe a damned word he’s saying. He’s lying through his capped teeth.”

But anyway, back to the whole killing Osama bin Laden thing. The single stupidest, lowest IQ conservative conspiracy theory came from—ya don’t say—batshit crazy racist cat lady Pamela Geller, she of the brain-damaged Atlas Shrugs blog. (Read it if you dare, but as you do, consider the fact that this complete LUNATIC is a frequent commentator on Fox News! As if drivel like THIS IDIOCY has any merit or is in any way worthy of respect or discussion? Seriously Roger Ailes? Seriously??? Pamela Geller believes any damned thing she wants to believe, as long as it fits into her twisted prejudices and irrational foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of Obama, Democrats and Muslims. It would be pointless for me to give her insipid, dimwit conspiracy theories any space here since she’s so mean-spirited, repulsive and beneath contempt. I mean… yuck!).

Steve M., writing at my new favorite political bookmark, No More Mister Nice Blog had this to say about the myriad shameful, embarrassing ways the Republicans are comporting themselves. I think he makes a powerful case here for who America’s real enemies are:

Republicans are responding to this the way they respond to everything: by seeking to divide America and undermine Democrats and liberals. They do this for the same reason the scorpion stings the frog in the fable: it’s their nature. They will continue trying to divide America until we wake up and realize that they hate America—or at least they hate any America in which we don’t turn over all the power to them. They’ll undermine and weaken that pluralistic America until we finally recognize their disloyalty and marginalize the dividers.

We should have expected them to try to deny Barack Obama credit for the fact that bin Laden was located and killed on his watch, and to try to shift the credit to George W. Bush. We should have expected them to use the incident to reopen the debate about torture.

But there’s more. Fox Nation, right-wing bloggers, and others are currently braying about this story from Britain’s Daily Mail:

Obama took SIXTEEN HOURS to make up his mind about Bin Laden mission

Barack Obama kept military commanders hanging by declaring he would ‘sleep on it’ before taking 16 hours to give the go-ahead to raid Bin Laden’s compound….

Really? The mission was successful, and this is the straw they grasp at? A delay of less than a day?

Let me put that in context. It took 1,306 DAYS for George W. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld for his sheer inability (or willful refusal) to cope with the chaos of Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, and for his stubborn insistence on a level of troop strength inadequate to quell the chaos and restore order—that’s 1,306 DAYS from the first reports of looting in Iraq (April 12, 2003) through the worst of the insurgency and to the day (November 8, 2006) Rumsfeld stepped down.

(Or perhaps, like Maureen Dowd, you’d like to count it down from Tora Bora: “A pigheaded Donald Rumsfeld, overly obsessed with a light footprint, didn’t have the forces needed at Tora Bora to capture Osama after the invasion of Afghanistan.” In that case, it’s 1,787 DAYS from the conclusion of the Battle of Tora Bora, on December 17, 2001, to Rumsfeld’s resignation.)

So who’s the real hesitator?

But that’s not enough divisiveness for Republicans and rightists. Bloggers, led (as Little Green Footballs notes) by the grotesque Pam Geller, are advancing anonymously sourced reports from shady rumor-purveyors that the bin Laden mission happened over Obama’s objections, in a “military coup” of sorts, and took place only because CIA director Leon Panetta gave the OK without waiting for Obama’s approval.

Maybe this scurrilous nonsense is coming from people at the far margins of the right. Or maybe it’s not—maybe it’s being injected into the debate by people close to the centers of mainstream Republican power, because they can’t bear to have a country that’s not divided, with powerful Democrats widely despised and mistrusted. In any event, the nonsense is being regurgitated at such sites as CNN contributor Erick Erickson’s RedState and the well-connected Pajamas Media. It’s part of the mainstream of Republican commentary. It’s a disgrace from a disgraceful party.

Well put, brother. Amen to that.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Obama’s Death March


As we prepare to go back to war in Afghanistan, voices of dissent are ringing loud across the country and the Internet. Michael Moore:

Following President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday of a short-term troop surge in Afghanistan, an emotional Michael Moore told CNN’s Larry King, “I feel very bad for him.”

“I feel even worse for our troops,” Moore went on, blinking back tears. “And I feel a real sadness for the parents of those soldiers.of ours over the next eighteen months who will not come back home.”

“Our own CIA says there’s less than a hundred al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” Moore explained. “What are we doing in Afghanistan? This is absolutely insane. ... We have been in this war for twice as long now as the US was in World War II. ... We’re going to have 100,000 troops there to find these killers—who aren’t even there!”

And, even more to the point, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY):

The Bush administration permitted the world’s most notorious terrorist mastermind to escape because it needed additional justification to invade Iraq, according to a Democratic lawmaker from New York.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) leveled the allegation during an interview with MSNBC host David Shuster on Monday afternoon.

“Look what happened with regard to our invasion into Afghanistan, how we apparently intentionally let bin Laden get away,” he said. “How we intentionally did not follow the Taliban and al-Qaeda as they were escaping. That was done by the previous administration because they knew very well that if they would capture al-Qaeda, there would be no justification for an invasion in Iraq.”

“They deliberately let Osama bin Laden get away?” asked an incredulous Shuster. “They deliberately let the head of al-Qaeda get away right after he, right after the 9/11 attacks? You really believe that?”

“Yes, I do,” Hinchey replied. “There’s no question about that. The leader of the military operation in the United States called back our military, called them back from going after the head of al-Qaeda because there was a sense that they didn’t want to capture him.”

Time will tell how much longer America can keep this up. Hard to play World Police when you can’t pay your cops. Bad, bad times indeed.

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment