- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

The Osama brand name is on everything but laundry detergent these days. Canny entrepreneurs have put the face or name of Osama bin Laden on dozens of items that play upon American hatred of the terrorist with diabolical humor.
Framed by a rifle sight or cartoon bull's-eye, the bin Laden visage adorns T-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, computer mouse pads, key chains and bumper stickers. There is Osama underwear, toilet tissue, pinatas, golf balls, dart boards, Christmas ornaments, decals, beer steins, tote bags, teddy bears and posters, all trimmed with the clever commercial poesy of mass production:
Osama can run but he can't hide. Osama: wanted dead or alive. Osama is a big fat doodiehead.

These and many more can be found at www.osamayo mamma.com, one of many Web sites peddling "patriotic and Osama bashing items," along with a "Dissin' Osama" message board and Osama-insulting electronic greeting cards, among other things.
Then again, the discerning consumer might want to visit www.yomammaosama.com, where the motto is "combating terrorism through patriotism and capitalism" and 10 percent of the profits go to a New York firefighter's charity.
This is no new phenomenon.
Products of every persuasion became reality within days of the September 11 attacks. California-based Impact Products' "Osama toilet paper" went into production Sept. 13, selling 10,000 rolls at $10 each within three weeks.
Since then, at least four other companies also manufacture Osama-themed tissue, featuring such key phrases as "wipe out bin Laden" or "Ex-Terrorist Commando Wipes," sold through the Internet, local vendors or at smaller gift and specialty stores.
A month after the attacks, close to 50 trademark ideas featuring the comedic or anti-bin Laden theme were filed with the federal government. The phenomenon has become so pervasive, in fact, that it has been chronicled by Forbes and Time magazines, ABC, CNN, the BBC and at least a dozen major newspapers.
But it is a tricky business.
The terrorist attacks have prompted "every type of commercial behavior," said ethics analyst Kirk Hanson of Santa Clara University, Calif. Some, he said, "seek to make a buck off others' misfortunes."
But historians and psychologists also contend that pairing horrific entities with pithy phrases on usable objects is one way to come to terms with both the unknown, fear and tragedy itself.
In years past, both the Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein have been featured on toilet products. During World War II, the face of Hitler could be found on toy punching bags while pinball machines featured such themes as "Trap the Jap."
"Our products provide an imaginative and focused way for Americans to show their patriotic support for our men and women in uniform," notes the yomamaosama Web site, which also adds, "We remind Americans that hatred by stereotype is a terrorist trait."
Entrepreneurs must protect the current "surge of patriotism," Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer told the San Jose Mercury News. "If it turns to commercialism, I think it will turn itself off."
All is not anti-Osama, however.
Elsewhere in the world, Osama bin Laden appears on novelty items and wearables, but in a flattering light. Chocolates, posters, bumper stickers, posters and even electronic mobile phone graphics in Pakistan, Thailand and other locales feature heroic images of the terrorist, complete with silver sword, AK-47 machine guns and rockets.
"Osama is very good for one side of the business," noted one Pakistani vendor, who said his customers were forgoing magazines and books to buy pro-Osama fare.
Sales of such things have been so brisk in Cambodia that government officials banned citizens from wearing, buying or selling Osama T-shirts in early November.
"We will not allow our people to wear clothes with bin Laden's picture," said an official at the time. "Wearing these T-shirts seems to encourage terrorists. This is contrary to the government's anti-terrorism law."
But the Osama brand has mutated into yet another form this week. The folks at Oregon-based athletic wear manufacturer Nike have been plagued by trademark pirates in Pakistan and Afghanistan who have manufactured T-shirts with the Nike athletic logo, an image of bin Laden and the slogan "The great holy warrior of Islam."
"We find it highly offensive," Nike spokesman Kirk Stewart said on Tuesday. "This is a difficult situation we hope the local authorities can resolve."
The shirts, meanwhile, continue to be sold in Pakistani marketplaces for $2 each, along with a line of posters and calendars featuring a bin Laden photo and the phrase, "Look out, United States, Osama is coming."
The genesis of these items is hard to trace, however.
"The Osama shirts were ordered by someone in Afghanistan. Whom, we do not know," one vendor told ABC news. "We are not political people."

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