I would have written this earlier on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks, but I was busy looking at actors’ reels all day. — JNS

Osama bin Laden and his cohorts launched the first ultra-low budget indie war. They demonstrated the Moneyball of war a year before the Oakland Athletics demonstrated Moneyball in baseball.

For the price of finding and training a small crew of fanatical acolytes to hijack and pilot four commercial jetliners, the al-Qaeda attacks produced as many casualties and physical destruction as the Empire of Japan — with a fleet of aircraft carriers, bombers, and submarines — inflicted on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The 2011 movie Moneyball tells us the story of how Billy Beane’s under-financed 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball team — whose players kept on getting raided by teams with bigger budgets, to hire away what in the movie biz we’d call A-list players — was able to produce an unprecedented series of 20 unbroken wins by hiring players not by their star reputations but by what hits they could produce on the playing field.

This may have been a genius move in baseball but it’s business as usual to indie filmmakers, who find innovative way after innovative way to make movies on a shoestring budget by concentrating on putting story and performance on the screen rather than explosions, car crashes, and CGI-driven special effects headlined by stars who get “paid-or-played” millions of bucks regardless of whether the movies they headline ever make a profit.

Indie Warmaker Osama bin Laden
Indie Warmaker Osama bin Laden

So in the same way that Billy Beane showed that the under-financed Oakland Athletics could be competitive on the baseball diamond with rich teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and the 2007 movie Paranormal Activity showed that a movie made for $11,500 could produce box-office revenues of $283,000,000, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda showed that a microbudget raid could produce the results only previously achieved by imperial attacks.

In the eleven years since the 9/11 attacks Republicans have chided Democrats for regarding 9/11 as a criminal matter rather than a war.

They’re both wrong. It’s not traditional war. It wasn’t a crime like a bank robbery.

The truth is, al-Qaeda rewrote the rules of engagement forever after.

They made a major war possible for the price of a low-budget movie.

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