View Full Version : ‘Baghdad Bob’ has legions of fans

05-05-03, 05:09 PM
May 05, 2003

‘Baghdad Bob’ has legions of fans

By Michael McCarthy
USA Today

President Bush called him “my man” and told NBC’s Tom Brokaw recently that he used to pop out of meetings just to watch his “unbelievable” press briefings on TV.
The president has company as a fan of the reality-defying proclamations by now-missing Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, 63, Saddam Hussein’s information minister. The beret-topped “disinformation minister,” dubbed “Baghdad Bob” and “Comical Ali,” has become a pop-culture hit and inspired a cottage industry online.

Web entrepreneurs are hawking everything from talking dolls to aprons with the spinmeister’s sound bites, such as:

• “God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of the Iraqis.”

• “There are no American infidels in Baghdad! Never!” — spoken as U.S. tanks rumbled by a few yards away.

As the situation in Iraq moves from war to rebuilding, consumers are snapping up souvenirs of Operation Iraqi Freedom. A search of auction site eBay on Friday found 6,217 Iraq-related items, from Baghdad Bob T-shirts and Iraqi dinar bank notes to knockoffs of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s famous playing cards featuring Iraq’s most-wanted fugitives.

The instant Baghdad Bob and other merchandise are examples of the “drive-by commerce” trend of Web entrepreneurs rushing to cash in on news events before consumers move on, says Robert Thompson, professor of media and pop culture at Syracuse University. “You throw this stuff up on a Web site and either make a quick killing — or get killed,” he says.

He says Bob “is on top of the kitsch heap with ‘Big Mouth Billy Bass’, “ the singing fish of infomercial fame.

The Iraq flack may have a future as a media personality. An Arab TV news channel, Arabiya TV, has said it wants to hire him as a “commentator.” Ryanair, a low-cost Irish airline, is using his mug in ads that take shots at rival EasyJet.

Among Web entrepreneurs cashing in on Bob:

• Herobuilders.com. The Connecticut toymaker has sold more than 4,000 Iraqi Dis-Information Minister dolls in talking ($35.95) and non-talking ($24.95) versions. The talking 12-inch doll offers several sound bites. In three weeks, it bumped the Babbling Osama as the site’s best seller, says owner Emil Vicale. Coming: a doll of French President Jacques Chirac.

• WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com. The original cult site has attracted 95 million hits in three weeks, says co-founder Jim Jonas, who started it as a goof with five e-mail buddies. The site has an extensive listing of their hero’s best sayings and sells mugs, shirts and other gear. The No. 1 seller is a $14.99 coffee mug vowing: “No American will ever pour coffee into this mug! Never!” Tea versions for British and Australian coalition partners are also available. Another hot item: a $21.99 barbecue apron with the “roast their stomachs” quote.

• Tshirtstudio.com. This British e-tailer offers T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads with Bob’s face and a cartoon “bubble” featuring one of seven of his gems (or buyers can put their own words in his mouth). In 10 days, the site sold 2,000 T-shirts, proprietor Howard West says. The top seller is Sahhaf’s muddled: “We will kill them all ... most of them.”

As for Sahhaf, he disappeared on April 9 as U.S.-led forces took over Baghdad. Early reports had him committing suicide — but that may have been just one more stab at disinformation. Most recently, he’s been reported to be trying to arrange a surrender to U.S. troops to gain protection.

Jonas hopes Sahhaf escapes to Syria and takes up the propaganda microphone for the Middle East’s other Baathist regime. “We should probably go out and buy WeLoveTheSyrianInformationMinister.com,” he says. “Just in case.”



05-05-03, 06:17 PM
This site is pretty fun. This is one of my latest creations.