Saturday, 10 September 2011

The myths of 9/11

Not only is the tenth anniversary of 9/11 being absurdly over-hyped, but two big myths are still being propagated - that 9/11 changed the world and that we're now all scared stiff of terrorists.

The attacks on the Twin Towers caused appalling carnage and lasting shock and trauma. But what changed the world wasn't that atrocity but the increased violence and destruction unleashed by the British and American governments, using 9/11 as a convenient excuse.

The obliteration of the World Trade Center was a grotesque criminal act that justified a huge worldwide hunt for those responsible. What it didn't justify was declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and causing well over a million innocent deaths that had nothing whatever to do with 9/11. It also didn't justify systematic torture and imprisonment in the name of fighting terrorism.

The other thing that changed the world was of course the global economic crisis caused by a wave of collapsing banks - and the cost of fighting all those wars (at least $2000 billion in the USA). But reckless banking didn't begin on 9/11.

The second myth is that we're now all scared stiff of terrorists. I don't think so. Our chances of being involved in a terrorist attack are still so minute we're more likely to be killed in a car crash. Personally I'm far more nervous of the actions of the British government, which seems indifferent to increasing unemployment, homelessness, poverty, ill-health and soaring living costs. Now that's a real threat.

Why give a few deranged terrorists, wherever they may be hiding, far more importance than they deserve?


  1. The tenth anniversary is of course, as overhyped as we knew it would be. The problem is that while we focus on the still spectacular, truly iconic pictures of the towers falling, we'll never be able to see it as part of a whole cycle of terrorism.
    A continuum that includes American funding of the IRA in the 1970's-80's too.

  2. Macy - A cycle of terrorism that isn't going to be broken by endless American bombing missions. Quite the contrary I would think. And American funding of the IRA was equally unsuccessful. In the end it was peaceful negotiations that moved things forward.

  3. I think it's quite good to be reminded of 9/11 at this stage, so we can think about how we are still reacting to what started that day.

    Didn't you think at the time that the world would never be the same? That was my main thought.

    Bush's reaction was just as much of a disaster, in a different way. He was just a puny man. He threw away America's reputation and moral authority in chasing his own stupid little ideas.

    Of course you can never identify one specific cause for the way world events develop.

  4. At last! I have been thinking this over the last weeks and no one else seems to be saying it. I completely agree with you Nick. And another thing...!!!! Why do people want to watch the moments when those planes hit, and the poor people jumping to their deaths, over and over again. It seems to be on TV far too often, it's grotesque...rant over!
    (Don't get me started on the government!)

  5. 9/11 left a Death Imprint, and wanting to watch it over and over is a natural reaction, a sort of repetition compulsion (as it's called in psychological parlance). Truly a human impulse, and for many, especially those of us who have always lived in NYC and continue to do so, a way of confronting it. I think remembering in big fashion isn't unhealthy, nor is it out of line. Individuals, and large groups, should be memorializing it in whatever way they can. And 10 years isn't a very long time after the fact--to me it seems like yesterday.


    1. I HATE LOATHE AND DESPISE the media in its relentless and heartless pursuit of rack and ruin for ratings, the strange delight in in the news readers' faces, over people's misery. Disgusting. Weirdly enough, the media doesn't speak for most people, certainly not for me! And not for anyone I know, including those directly involved in 9/11 recovery work, and those who lost loved ones. I used to think lambasting "the media" as a single entity was conspiracy theory-ish. Now I rail against "it" as often as possible.

    2. I still haven't made sense in my own mind of the political/military response(s) in the aftermath. I just don't know what I think about all that.

    3. I agree: the terrorists haven't won--we all go about our business as we always have.

    I guess in the end I think we need to separate out the still-genuine response, ten years later, to this awful event, and the phony baloney media/political response. People should be allowed to remember; remembering isn't whining nor does it represent stagnation; it's a natural way to connect with personal and collective history.

    Very complex.

  6. Couldn't agree more, although I will add that it would help enormously if people of all religions would throw away their bloody 'sacred' books!
    Anyway, cool blog!

  7. Jenny - Remind us of 9/11, sure, but Jeez, the pages and pages of coverage in the papers, looking for ever more extraordinary angles on it. I think my main reaction at the time was simply being utterly stunned at the scale of the attack and the casualties. I didn't think of anything as dramatic as it changing the world.

    Suburbia - Thanks, and it's good to know someone thinks the same way as me! I do agree about the morbid fascination with the planes hitting the towers. Never mind us, do the still-grieving relatives want to see that image over and over again?

  8. Leah - Wow, thanks for that detailed response! Sure, people should remember 9/11 and not try to pretend it never happened or trivialise it. But the cranked-up media disaster-fest is creepy in its obsessiveness. To many journos it's still a sexy story rather than a dreadful human tragedy. What we should be thinking about now is not so much 9/11 as all the grieving relatives and the 20,000 first responders with serious illnesses. What help are they getting?

    Tony - Don't get me started on religion! I've got a lot of time for Buddhism but not the fetishising of sacred books that causes so much unnecessary conflict. Religion as self-development, fine. Religion as social control, catastrophic.

  9. There is something peculiarly American about thinking an attack on our soil changed the world. Other countries deal with war and suicide bombings and atrocities that are almost unspeakable on a daily basis. I'm not saying it wasn't a big deal, but the aftermath, which includes an unwinnable war that we continue to engage in is a far bigger deal.

  10. Secret Agent - Absolutely, other countries go through even more horrendous experiences but they don't get so precious about it, they just get on with life. Afghanistan? An unwinnable war indeed.

  11. We here in India are not scared stiff or morbid about it. We keep having bombs going off every other day. We are simply disgusted with the establishment and are showing our disgust in many ways. The root cause of the problems here is vote bank politics.

  12. Ramana - Yes, unfortunately you're used to such things. And would you say that the bomb attacks in Mumbai changed the world? I wouldn't have thought so.

    Hadn't come across the concept of vote bank politics. It sounds very similar to the system here, where people persistently vote for Unionists or Republicans rather than someone with an attractive set of policies.

  13. two skyscrapers falling down in the middle of Manhattan most certainly changed our world here. How could it not? And why compare one suffering to another? And one reaction to another? It's so weird and honestly insulting to hear all the take-down of the American experience. Why is that fair game?

  14. to clarify: most of us in NYC don't go around afraid of terrorists. But that doesn't mean our world wasn't changed.

  15. secret agent woman, other countries that experience war on a daily basis are also traumatized. So why wouldn't we be? My husband grew up in war-torn Lebanon and then was a first responder at 9/11. He is always deeply offended when people suggest NY-ers are whining and over-reacting to September 11. Do you see? He has experienced both types of traumatic event, and he would never ever suggest that one group had no right ro react. And quite frankly, he should know! I am ranting, but I find this quite ungenerous.

  16. I got very fed up with all this nonsense, and if anyone cares or has the nerve to read my blog response, feel free. I can honestly say I have never been pushed to this limit in any of my bloggy experiences over the last few years, so I suppose you can say you have the honor of having done it finally.

    I do hope you will stop to consider just how offensive some of what you say is.

  17. Hey, Leah, I'm really sorry you feel I'm being so offensive (obviously I can't answer for all the other commentators who have angered you). It seems to me my post was actually fairly mild. I suggested that all the constant replaying of 9/11 is obsessive, certainly, but I haven't made any of the other abusive comments you list on your blog.

    I have no ill-feelings towards Americans as a whole (after all, most of my blogmates are American), but I'm extremely critical of the American government, which I feel is stirring up trouble all over the world with its reckless military adventures.

    I'm certainly not comparing one person's suffering to another. Trauma is trauma, whatever causes it. I don't doubt that many New Yorkers and Americans generally have been deeply traumatised by 9/11. I've specifically referred to the still-grieving relatives and the 20,000 first responders who now have serious illnesses.

    I'm sure there's a whole lot of rabid anti-American abuse going on, but I can't see that my post falls into that category.

  18. After reading these comments, I wasn't sure I wanted to comment myself. However, I think a lot of what people are reacting to here is the belief that most of our so-called leaders and many of our population had that the US, by virtue of strength and geography, was unassailable.

    I think that this idea was and is false,as the tragic events of 9/11 and the aftermath, which many are living with today, shows.

    I agree with Leah and other commenters who hate the constant media hype. Unfortunately, tragedy is fodder for the "tabloid" mentality which purports to be news today.

    As a citizen, I feel a debt to commemorate with humility and dignity, the sacrifices made by
    firefighters, and other first responders, as well as other people, in New York, and Pennsylvania. Many have been left to cope with unimaginable loss as well as ongoing physical and psychological issues. We owe them respect and gratitude as well as care and help for their ensuing problems and those of family members.

    That said, the tragedy and fruits of destruction born of our years in Iraq and Afghanistan will be with us for years to come. I don't think Bush was right to put us there; nor has Obama been right in keeping us there. Too many lives and resources have been lost, not only for the US and our allies but for Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

    Were we right to pursue Bin Laden? Yes. Do I celebrate his demise? No. I look upon what he did as horrendous. His life was one of extremism and evil. We have plenty of extreme people in this country who should learn that there is danger in any extremism. Sadly, the lesson falls unheeded and it is the average citizen who eventually bears the consequences.

  19. e - I can't fault any of that. I think you're right that people thought the USA was all-powerful and impregnable and discovered with a shock that it wasn't.

    Those shots of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, which are still so painful to so many, are playing over and over on TV. Why do the media so enjoy wallowing in tragedy?

    Indeed, it's hard to comprehend the appalling loss that many of those involved are still coming to terms with. Leah despairs of those who deny the reality of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The fact is it's very real and very distressing.

    Extremism of all kinds is a thoroughly destructive force, and there's far too much of it in the world.

  20. September 11th still breaks my heart. I know a lot of folks who say it doesn't mean anything to them and they hate what it's become. I guess I see it sort of like Christmas--you don't have to buy into the Christmas hype, but can remember and observe the day in a way that's meaningful for you.

    Also, it makes me sad because it was such a missed opportunity for America to lead the world in saying "enough"--no more of this war and bloodshed and terror--and take some leadership in promoting unity.

    There was a moment of global solidarity, of empathy, after 9/11 and it turned into the fake war on terror and two real wars. That makes me sad.

  21. Interesting discussion.
    I think it is perfectly valid for New Yorkers, Americans and the world to commemmorate the appalling attacks. Sure, there may be too much hype, but it was a pivotal historical moment.
    It's a shame that the response was so badly-handled by the US govt of the time - balancing the poor preparation for such an attack on America in the first place.
    We still have not got to the bottom of the failures that eased the way for the attacks - the Cassandras who warned in advance have since been marginalised for speaking inconvenient truths.
    In response to Leah's point - while the hype industry does not appeal to me nor the media (and let's be honest, often personal) hierarchy of suffering (Americans, Europeans and antipodeans - massive attention: rest of the world - ore cheerful on the telly) - to characterise American sadness and anger as whingeing or special pleasing is unfair.
    Anyway - you've already seen my own response to the anniversary at my own blog Nick - so you know I have no moral high ground on which to stand whatsoever.

  22. Liz - I like the comparison with Christmas. You can mark the anniversary in your own way without buying into the hype. And how true that it was a lost chance to promote global unity rather than yet more conflict and carnage.

    Blackwater - True, there hasn't been enough focus on the underlying causes of 9/11, just lots of disastrous war-mongering. And as you say, to dismiss all that grief as mere whingeing or special pleading is ridiculous.

  23. My comment to you vapourized Nick. grrr, but I did a post of my own with link to you.

  24. www - Funny, I seldom have any problem with comments. Maybe your erratic internet connection in Newfoundland? I do agree with the conclusions on your post about the American government's idiotic behaviour since 9/11. A bull in a china shop is the phrase that comes to mind.

  25. Well done, nick! Brave of you to say what so many of us are thinking.

  26. Liz - Thanks. The official US government line isn't the only one in town. But I hope I haven't fallen out permanently with Leah. She's a very lovely person.