Civil Liberties

Puppets of the Terrorist Conspiracy

Egypt investigates a felt puppet.


Egyptian authorities are investigating absurd charges that a Vodafone commercial featuring a felt puppet contains coded terrorist messages:

Bail me out, Big Bird.

Appearing on a television show on Tahrir channel on Tuesday after the prosecution referred the case for investigation, [activist Ahmed Spider] dissects the ad, deducing terrorist plots in almost every word and shot of the humorous commercial.

First, Spider says that the opening scene, which shows a cactus plant with Christmas decorations, is an implicit threat.

Spider says that using the spiny cactus instead of the Christmas tree is a threat of violence, symbolized by a Christmas ball on the cactus, which he says looks like a bomb. He adds that the fact that the cactus has four branches similar to the four-finger salute taken up by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, means that the Muslim Brotherhood are behind the message.

Spider proceeds to crack the code of the remainder of the conversation, interpreting Christmas turkeys and the search for the old phone line as evidence of terrorist attacks and the work of secret agents and foreign intelligence.

He interprets [the puppet] Abla Fahita" mention of her friend "Mama Toutou" to be a coded reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. When Fahita retells Mama Toutou's ordeal of her set of artificial teeth freezing from the cold, he says that this is a reference to the freezing of the Muslim Brotherhood's assets.

The Web is filled with this sort of dubious deconstruction—claims that a Batman movie includes veiled references to the coming Sandy Hook and Aurora massacres, or that Lady Gaga videos are filled with signs of Illuminati mind control. But Mr. Spider, whose past glories include accusing the Freemasons of being behind the demonstrations at Tahrir Square, managed to inspire an official inquiry, complete with a representative of the company coming to court to answer the charges.

Pass the oatmeal, Osama.

I wish I could report that America's authorities would never dabble in this sort of paranoid reading of popular culture. Alas, I know better than that.

Elsewhere in Reason: The Al Qaeda ties of Sesame Street's Bert.

[Via Sarah Carr.]