While the establishment media was busy parroting President Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s supposed assassination, reporting the unsubstantiated claims as if they were unquestionable facts, much of the so-called "alternative" press was far more cautious – and accurate, it turns out. But more importantly, with the new official storyline indicating that bin Laden was in fact unarmed, bigger and much more important questions are beginning to emerge.
In terms of coverage, it turns out that the skeptical approach proved far superior in terms of getting it right. Countless mainstream sources were so confident in Obama’s word that they reported many of the claims as fact without even attributing them to the President.
But the official White House narrative has been changed so many times in recent days that now it’s almost unrecognizable. There wasn’t even a fire fight; yet this was one of the crucial elements of the original story that justified the assassination of a person the government painted as the most valuable source of information on the planet – the leader of al-Qaeda. And in reporting the statements as fact, the establishment press has officially been left with egg all over its face again.
"[Bin Laden] was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in," said terror czar John Brennan. Similarly, Obama said that "after a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body." The next day, however, the White House spokesman admitted bin Laden "was not armed." Trying to save face and justify the killing of an unarmed man, the spokesman added, without elaborating, that "resistance does not require a firearm."
More than a few other important parts of the storyline have been altered, contradicted, or simply exposed as false, too. Everything from which of bin Laden’s sons was supposedly killed to the claim that his wife was killed after being used as a "human shield" – all of it has changed for some reason or another. The transcript after Brennan’s speech was altered to change the name of the dead son. The new and improved narrative now says that not only was bin Laden’s wife not killed, but that she was not used as a human shield.
Originally the White House also suggested top officials watched the raid live through a video feed. Terror czar Brennan, for example, claimed that they "had real-time visibility into the progress of the operation." CIA boss Leon Panetta later exposed that claim as false in an interview with PBS, saying: "There was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes that we really didn't know just exactly what was going on."
That means the "photo op" of Obama and other officials intently "watching" the operation in the "Situation Room" was almost certainly staged for the press. And almost every media outlet that ran the picture used inaccurate captions parroting the White House claims.
And there’s more. The night of the raid, one administration official told reporters that a helicopter was lost due to mechanical failure. During that same briefing, another administration official said, "We didn't say it was mechanical." Now they claim the crash had something to do with the temperature at bin Laden’s supposed compound.
A poorly photo-shopped image of a dead bin Laden embarrassed a large swath of the world press and several Senators, too. Shortly after newspapers and television stations around the globe ran the image, it was exposed as a shoddy forgery that had been circulating for years. Now Obama said he "decided" not to release any pictures – or any other evidence that any element of the story is true, for that matter.
And then there’s the burial issue. The Obama administration originally claimed no country would accept the body; so, it was dumped at sea – Mafia style – in accordance with what Obama alleged were Islamic traditions and customs. When prominent Muslim theological leaders repudiated that lie and noted that it was actually a violation of Islamic tenets to bury Osama bin Laden in the ocean, the new line was that the decision was to avoid the creation of a "shrine." That lie fell apart, too, when it was widely reported that bin Laden’s brand of Islam calls for unmarked graves – building any sort of shrine would have been blasphemous. So far, no new excuses have been concocted for allegedly feeding the body to the fish.
After the numerous discrepancies and falsehoods in the storyline became painfully obvious, the Associated Press, USA Today, Fox News and other outlets slowly and begrudgingly started to report it. "From the first moments, a good number of the details about bin Laden's killing, on points large and small, have been wrong," admitted a Fox reporter in one of the more candid acknowledgements to appear in the mainstream press.