Why is Bert in the picture?

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Posted by Ahem on October 12, 2001 at 02:53:16:

Sesame Street's Bert Joins Bin Laden on Placards
Updated: Thu, Oct 11 11:33 AM EDT
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By Bernhard Warner, European Internet Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - A satirical image of a beloved children's television icon, Bert, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, has made a bizarre appearance at Muslim rallies in Asia.

The image of the unlikely duo -- the "Sesame Street" television program character and the suspected mastermind of the September 11 hijack attacks in the United States -- has been splashed across spoof Internet sites over the past month.

The banana-shaped muppet mysteriously made the jump from the virtual world to the real world to appear on bin Laden placards at anti-American Muslim rallies in Bangladesh in the past week.

The posters showing a tiny Bert tucked between two images of bin Laden were held by seemingly unsuspecting demonstrators at rallies on October 5 and 9.

"Someone came to us with many prints of this poster and handed them to us for sale," a trader in Dhaka said.

"He said he got it from the Internet and thought it would be liked by anti-U.S. demonstrators," the trader said. "We did not ask for his name."

On Thursday, some 500 Muslim radicals from Bangladesh's Khelafat Movement protested against U.S. military strikes on Afghanistan. Several carried the poster with Bert alongside bin Laden.

Bert is easy to miss at first glance.

A poster with a montage of bin Laden photos shows the Saudi-born dissident in one holding a microphone and in another wearing military fatigues and sitting beside a propped-up Kalashnikov rifle.

Bert, wearing a menacing open-mouthed expression, appears between two of the images. Another image of bin Laden shows him clutching a bottle containing what appears to be whiskey.

The posters were photographed by news organizations including Reuters, and distributed to newspapers and news sites around the world. Photos of the protest placards have been posted on scores of humor and news Web sites after circulating around the globe via e-mail.

Astonished Internet users first noticed the appearance of Bert on Wednesday morning. By Thursday, it had become a raging debate on the Internet.

"Bert working with bin Laden?" reads a headline on Swedish Web site www.lindqvist.com. A debate follows on the site as conspiracy theorists try to figure out how the spoof photo made it onto the streets of Bangladesh.

Sesame Workshop, the non-profit company based in New York that oversees licensing of "Sesame Street" products, said it was exploring all legal options to stop unauthorized use of its property.

"We're outraged that our characters would be used in this unfortunate and distasteful manner. This is not at all humorous," a spokesman said.


Part of the mystery can be traced to California.

A San Francisco artist, Dino Ignacio, started a conspiratorial spoof site in 1998 called "Bert is Evil," in which Bert is inserted into famous historical photos.

He has appeared alongside Adolf Hitler and among a crowd in Dallas as John F. Kennedy's motorcade passes.

Ignacio put a statement on his site, www.fractalcow.com, on Wednesday denying he was the creator of the Bert and bin Laden image.

"I just wanted to say I had nothing do to with this!" the statement reads. "This image has been e-mailed to me countless times since September 11. Yesterday a lot of you alerted me to a picture of a Taliban propaganda poster with Bert!"

"Reality is imitating the Web!" the statement continues. "I am honestly freaked out!"

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