Archive | September, 2011

Happy 9/11

11 Sep

On this week’s Any Questions Simon Jenkins was widely berated for claiming that every year we- the West – celebrate the ubiquitous 9/11. This of course, was a repulsive assertion, why would anybody celebrate the deaths of three thousand people in appalling circumstances? But a peremptory examination of the week’s news stories and TV schedules certainly attests to the preoccupation, nay obsession with, the events of ten years ago. Like the victims of World War II concentration camps, the Twin Towers dead are held up as often as possible as symbols of freedom threatened, whose deaths are wrapped in rhetoric of bravery and war, when in actual fact they were simply victims of a terrible, if highly organised, criminal act.

There was no war before the West asserted it so by responding to the battle cries of al quaeda with what can only have been the group’s desired response: a call to war. While these people could have been remembered simply, and respectfully, as lost brothers, sisters and mothers, they have been made unwilling martyrs to the subsequent military action and attacks on civil liberties, so justified by the threat to ‘our way of living’ that 9/11 is popularly held to be.

In referring to the ‘celebration’ of the fateful day’s events, it is quite clear that Jenkins does not refer to the actual deaths or destruction caused by the hijackers, but to the response and the surrounding ideals- much more potent in America- of the day. Like the idealised ‘Blitz spirit’ of London during World War Two, post-9/11 America is portrayed as a nation brought together by grief and determination to beat the causes of this terror. What is not so widely reported, but which is quietly promoted, is the fear that intertwined the experience of Americans after these attacks. Noone talked about the increase of crime under cover of Blitz darkness, and while Islamophobia is discussed by some media and governments it is always secondary to the dominating discourse of 9/11, which is to fight the enemy. And in fighting, casualties like men feared for the sole reason of an Arab appearance, are accepted as necessary evils.


The news this week has become an orgy of voyeuristic and satisfied disgust at the sadness and destruction wreaked ten years ago. We exhume the bodies of the buried with endless tales from their bereaved relatives and bloodthirsty inspections into thus unexplored corners of their demises. Earlier this week BBC One aired ‘The Twins of TheTwin Towers,’ a show whose concept was, unbelievably, just as awful and tacky as its title suggested. Exploring the ‘untold story of the twins who lost their other half’ on 9/11, this programme managed to identify an angle of loss within the great drama of September 2001 that was a dream in terms of PR and clever wordplay. Much like Channel 4’s increasingly gratuitous titles for endless programmes about the unfortunate and disfigured, the BBC took on a sensitive, tragic subject and gave it an exciting spin.

The paradox of beating ‘the terrorists’ with a war on terror, is that it is this very rhetoric and these very actions that feed our perceived threats to democracy. This is not to doubt that certain groups do seek to destroy Western democratic structures, but to doubt whether they would actually be a threat if we chose to ignore them, or at least not to enhance their profile, thence power, with extensive coverage and red alert prioritisation.

The huge shebang of this ten year anniversary – with much the same level of coverage as would befit the anniversary of a royal death or wedding – serves to drudge up barely buried feelings of fear and loathing, as well as sadness. We are sucked in by the sheer awfulness of the tragedy and made to re-think positions on subsequent wars and laws that, when inspected so closely to the grieving mothers interviewed on page two, can easily begin to lose their bad taste.

Rather than having a black party and ogling the tears of the directly affected, surely it would be wiser to let people grieve in peace and quiet. Not to forget the dead, but also not to use the anniversary of their deaths as an excuse to fill news pages and bulletins with the same greedy, sensationalistic stories that tell us nothing new, and which serve to glamourise what are, ultimately sad and unexciting deaths, genocidal or otherwise.