Rob Kimmel

Coney Island Bin Laden

Coney Island shooting gallery target, 2004

Reflecting on the 9/11 attacks, six years later, can seem masochistic or manipulative. It's perhaps more interesting, or more useful, to look back at our initial reactions.

In 2004, the paper targets at the Coney Island shooting gallery featured a hand-drawn Osama Bin Laden. The game operators thought I was a little crazy for wanting to buy a copy before it was shot up, but I had to have it. I don't want to crush it by analyzing it, or demean it by calling it "folk art." It's pure image-making: from the gut and very Brooklyn. I wonder if the booth lost money that season from a jump in target-shooting accuracy?

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Comments [17]
[Inappropriate comment and followup removed.]
Michael Bierut

A Google Image Search for "Bin Laden" is also pretty revealing, though it lacks the succinct visual summary of your example.

It would be interesting to spend some time at the booth and listen to the responses of passersby. Did you get a chance to do that, Rob?
Chris Rugen

A coincidental post by by Satya on Typophile this morning:
Logos for Terrorist Organizations
Who knew they were so into red stars?

Mr. Kimmel,

Please accept my apology for the original comment. Still have strong feelings about the attacks and -- it seems-- was reacting to that, not your article.

So -- more on topic -- saw several of these (or very similar) back in 02-03. Haven't seen many since.

Very Respectfully,
Joe Moran

How can reflecting on one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history be considered masochistic or manipulative? For me, today is a day of contemplation and sorrow for the thousands who were lost, and the thousands more who carry on every day without their loved ones. It should be a day of dignity and grace, not of sensationalism.

—Dedicated to the memory of Scott O'Brien, age 40
Joyce Rutter Kaye

That day was very tragic indeed, and I believe that in some form or fashion, every red-blooded American would like a shot at that cowardly excuse for a man. He not only robbed us of our family and friends, but also of our security and sense of freedom. I know If I passed by that booth, I'd probably pay a few rounds just for the satisfaction.
James George

"How can reflecting on one of the worst tragedies in U.S. history be considered masochistic or manipulative?"

Much like when talking with anyone about politics, or tragedies on American soil, you've kinda missed the point. There is an image attached to that statement of masochism you may have missed.

The image IS masochist, the post isn't asking "is it righteous?". Hatred of his character, whether informed, mis-informed, lead or mis-lead is a whole other issue. It is an interesting image, that has nothing to do with honoring those who perished on September 11th.
Ryan Ruel

Last summer (2006) at the Jersey shore, they still had a dude walking around dressed in a big Bin Laden costume in a paintball booth.

"Last summer at the Jersey shore" should never be a barometer for our culture, mind you...
Gil Roth

Joe and Joyce, I hope you understand my intent was not to comment on 9/11 itself. So many talents have already done that and I have little to add, beyond my own experiences. I am not comfortable with ways many media mark this anniversary. Instead, I thought it could add more to talk about how real people reacted to the attacks and about the STUFF they made, like the Coney Island target.

Chris, I wish I had listened to passersby the afternoon I collected this, but I wasn't in a journalistic frame of mind that afternoon; I was just being *at* Coney Island.

rob kimmel

Well, I guess I find it rather odd that you wouldn't do the research to give published credit to the designer/illustrator who made this drawing of Bin Laden. As her former teacher, I immediately concluded that it was the work of New York illustrator Beth Bartholomew. Am I right?
Borse Bontix

Hmmmm. I'm not sure how you "research" something like this. I asked the guy at the shooting gallery if he had drawn it and he scowled, "no." I asked who had and he shrugged. I figured that was as much information as I was going to get. I (wrongly?) assumed it was done by someone at the booth, not a professional illustrator. Is Ms Bartholomew reading this?
robert kimmel

This gives new meaning to Five Points.

I wonder: What we can learn about our culture by observing that we (apparently) consider it okay to act out a fantasy of murdering someone while on an outing at the amusement park? I'd wager that many of the same people who would gleeflully shoot at this target would also be self-righteously outraged if our enemies burned an effigy of President Bush--or used his image for target practice in an amusement arcade. Of course, President Bush has now (in his pointless war) presided over more deaths than occurred on 9/11. I presume people in Iraq, and elsewhere, shoot at images of Bush every day. Just as we see Bin Laden as the archetype of evil, so do others see Bush and America.

One of the greatest post 9/11 tragedies is that our intial feelings of shock, horror, sadness, etc. got subverted into feelings of hatred, revenge, and blind patriotism. Our leadership has both fostered and preyed upon those feelings and used them as an excuse to act in a way that is wholly despicable. People talk about honoring the memories of those tragically lost on 9/11, but I think our nation's actions speak louder than words. We, as a nation, have not done a very good job of honoring and respecting the lives tragically lost on 9/11. We've squandered those initial feelings by chanelling them into a pointless and endless war.

I do not mean to ignore the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, or in the follow up wars. It is the greatest possible tragedy. My deepest sympathy goes to all who have been directly affected by these tragedies.
Rob Henning

not so much hand drawn, unless there were a lot of very busy and precise carnies after the 9/11 attacks.

in early 2002, i went to a shooting gallery at a carnival in Medford, Massachusetts (just north of Boston) and took aim at a similar Osama star mouth, right down to the helicopter and air plane. still have the shot-out ticket, too, hanging above my desk.

i suspect that a lot of these were cranked out and circulating around midways across America, and they are not unique to Brooklyn (though i wouldn't doubt their originating there).

I've lived in New York for over 25 years and I was devastated on 9/11.

That said, it's been six years since 9/11. In that time we've had almost 300,000 US citizens die in car crashes, and several *million* have died of cancer, and separately, of circulatory conditions.

During the Blitz in London, there was an 9/11 equivalent every week or so for nine months. We dealt.

But we used 9/11 to dismantle all the things about America that made it great -- now we're the country of war and torture in the face of much of the world.

Get over it, already. Take the energy you're wasting, and use it to fight against drunk drivers, for better health care, against this stupid war that has already killed a hundred times as many innocents as died in 9/11!
Tom Ritchford

bin Laden? I THOUGHT IT WAS CASTRO! Plus, that plane looks way more like a MIG than a 767. And what's the helicopter for?

Haha, great observation, UxUy!!

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