The Political Capital of 9/11
The Political Capital of 9/11
The Bush administration never hesitated to exploit the general publicâ€™s anxieties that arose after the traumatic events of
Testifying on Capitol Hill exactly 53 weeks later, Donald Rumsfeld did not miss a beat when a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee questioned the need for the
Senator Mark Dayton: â€œWhat is it compelling us now to make a precipitous decision and take precipitous actions?â€
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: â€œWhatâ€™s different? Whatâ€™s different is 3,000 people were killed.â€
As a practical matter, it was almost beside the point that allegations linking
Former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack got enormous media exposure in late 2002 for his book â€œThe Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.â€ Pollackâ€™s book promotion tour often seemed more like a war promotion tour. During a typical CNN appearance, Pollack explained why he had come to see a â€œmassive invasionâ€ of
Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, with the London-based Independent newspaper, was on the mark when he wrote: â€œ
But at psychological levels, the Bush team was able to manipulate post-9/11 emotions well beyond the phantom of Iraqi involvement in that crime against humanity. The dramatic changes in political climate after 9/11 included a drastic upward spike in an attitude -- fervently stoked by the likes of Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the president -- that our military should be willing to attack potential enemies before they might try to attack us. Few politicians or pundits were willing to confront the reality that this was a formula for perpetual war, and for the creation of vast numbers of new foes who would see a reciprocal logic in embracing such a credo themselves.
One of the great media cliches of the last two years is that 9/11 â€œchanged everything.â€ The portentous idea soon became a truism for news outlets nationwide. But the shock of September 11 could not endure. And the events of that horrific day -- while abruptly tilting the political landscape and media discourse -- did not transform the lives of most Americans. Despite all the genuine anguish and the overwhelming news coverage, daily life gradually went back to an approximation of normal.
Some changes are obvious. Worries about terrorism have become routine. Out of necessity, stepped-up security measures are in effect at airports. Unnecessarily, and ominously, the USA Patriot Act is chipping away at civil liberties. Yet the basic concerns of
The nationâ€™s current economic picture includes the familiar scourges of unemployment, job insecurity, eroding pension benefits and a wildly exorbitant healthcare system that endangers huge numbers of people who are uninsured or underinsured. Two years after 9/11, the power of money is undiminished -- notwithstanding every platitude that bounced around the media echo chamber in the wake of September 11.
During the last months of 2001, many media powerhouses heralded the arrival of humanistic values for the country. Typically, the December issue of O -- â€œThe Oprah Magazineâ€ -- was largely devoted to the cover story â€œWe Are Family.â€ In the lead-off essay, Oprah Winfrey served up a heaping portion of sweet pabulum. â€œOur vision of family has been expanded,â€ she wrote. â€œFrom the ashes of the
From the vantage point of the present day, the late-2001 claims about a new national altruism invite disbelief if not derision. No amount of media spin about â€œthe family of
As measured by poll numbers, President Bushâ€™s fall from popular grace this year has brought him back to about where he was just before 9/11. That decline runs parallel with slumping myths about the transcendent aftermath of September 11. Subsequent events have brought sobering realities into focus.
Recent news about Halliburton and Bechtel cashing in on the occupation of
After September 11, while many thousands of people grieved the sudden loss of their loved ones, a steady downpour of politically driven sentimentality kept blurring the
In a cauldron of media alchemy, the human suffering of 9/11 became propaganda gold. Sorrow turned into political capital.
The human process of mourning is intimate and often at a loss for words; journalists and politicians tend to be neither. Grief borders on the ineffable. News coverage gravitates toward cliches and facile images.
In tandem with the message that September 11 â€œchanged everythingâ€ came an emboldened insistence on the
Displayed by many as an expression of sorrow and solidarity with the September 11 victims, the American flag was promptly overlaid on the missiles bound for
Network correspondents routinely joined in upbeat assessments of the U.S.-led assault on
Two years ago, W.H. Audenâ€™s mournful poem â€œ
The concluding lines of the next verse received less notice during the terrible autumn of 2001. But we now have more reason to consider their meaning: â€œThose to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.â€
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy based in