With the dramatic stroke of a red marker, the “Bibi Bomb” became an instant sensation.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood before world leaders on September 27 at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly, he faced a colossal challenge. Despite the vocal skepticism of those who feel the situation is not as dire as he maintains, Netanyahu has been steadfast in his insistence that Iran is well on its way to stockpiling enough enriched uranium to construct a nuclear bomb.
It was under those circumstances that he addressed the UN.
Observers anticipated a passionate plea from the Israeli leader about the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran. They expected that Netanyahu would detail exactly how close Iran is to obtaining a nuclear weapon. And, as predicted, Netanyahu, who was armed with the facts, duly stated his case.
But it was when the prime minister displayed a caricature of a bomb with a lighted fuse, and drew a bold red line on the graphic in order to impart upon his audience – and the world – the gravity of the Iranian threat, that he made his mark.
The simple-looking drawing generated an immediate response. Netanyahu was simultaneously extolled by supporters and derided by critics.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon called it “an unforgettable speech that delivered its message.”
“Everyone is talking about it,” he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad mocked Netanyahu, calling the picture “childish and primitive” and intellectually insulting to the world leaders in attendance.
Members of the news media debated the use of the cartoon-like drawing, which drew sarcastic comparisons to the type of bomb one might expect to see used as part of the legendary feud between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner of Looney Tunes lore.
I would suggest that the prime minister’s use of the bomb graphic was a brilliantly designed and extremely well-executed public relations plan.
The objective of a successful p.r. effort is to get your message out. You have something you wish to convey to the public and you endeavor to find the most effective way to disseminate it. The underlying goal is to leave the public with a lasting impression of what it is you have to communicate.
Netanyahu did exactly that. On a day when many world leaders addressed the UN General Assembly, it was Netanyahu’s speech that stole the show and generated the most attention in the media and around the world.
Americans woke up the morning after Netanyahu’s address to a barrage of media coverage concerning his remarks and, more particularly, the use of his red marker and the bomb illustration.
The image of “Bibi’s Bomb” was prominently featured above the fold on the front page of many major American newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. It was the topic of radio talk shows and TV news roundtables. The Twittersphere and other social media outlets were abuzz with references to Netanyahu’s speech and his bomb graphic.
The bomb cartoon may have been the subject of many jokes, but it also helped propel the debate about a nuclear Iran to the forefront and into the hearts and minds of Americans.
As far as Netanyahu is concerned, his visual aid was a resounding success because his demonstration led to an international dialogue about red lines on Iran.
“Hundreds of millions of people got my message,” he proclaimed on Israeli TV.
Netanyahu defended the use of the drawing and insisted that it enabled him to effectively communicate his message. He said the use of the bomb graphic was carefully contemplated as he sought to simplify an extremely complex issue so that a wide range of people could fully grasp his point.
Netanyahu’s inner circle deliberated for several days about the merits of using the drawing in order to facilitate an understanding of the Iran situation. In collaboration with the prime minister, they concluded that using the cartoon would help highlight the salient points Netanyahu wanted to transmit to the world.
In an environment such as the UN General Assembly, where world leaders are competing for attention, utilizing a visual aid is theoretically a clever way to stand out and capture much-coveted headlines.