The Spectacle of 9/11, the “Mother of All Events”

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The Internet Archive has released “The 9/11 Television News Archive” over 3,000 hours of news footage from 9-11 through 9-16-2001 from all major worldwide news outlets. Considering that most people experienced 9-11 through television, rather than in person, it seems like a monument to how people experience history–mediated in real-time, rather than directly or through reflective, after-the-fact accounts.

Now, with 10 years of hindsight, do we know what 9-11 was? The beginning of the end of the American century? The end of the American Empire? Comparing the state of the US in 2011 with 2000, this certainly appears to be the case. On the other hand, Arab governments throughout the Middle East are collapsing.

Was it the start of a war? Or a battle in a war already underway? Who won? Are we still fighting? Who are the casualties? Where is the battlefield?

Or are those “television” questions, the kind of questions that pre-suppose a sense of unity among the viewers? The scale of television on 9-11 was the scale of the whole world, 6 billion. On that scale television, in real-time and without pre-planning, told a story in which everyone in the world was either a victim or a criminal. (But the same person could be either depending on the broadcast.)

If you were an American, watching American TV, you were a victim. This was happening to you. And it felt that way, or at least it felt that it should feel that way. But now, in retrospect, was that right? Did it happen to you? Or were you swept up in its wake?

Have you recovered?


See also: The Spirit Of Terrorism by Jean Baudrillard

Related posts:

  1. Of Course Fox News is Biased, Jon, but It Doesn’t Matter
  2. Osama bin Laden is dead. Now what?
  3. Codebreaking: Do You Think This Girl is Beautiful?
  4. All The News That’s Fit to Compartmentalize
  5. The Next Generation of Media: The Fool

8 Responses to The Spectacle of 9/11, the “Mother of All Events”

  1. operator says:

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    George Santayana

    It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom, freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

    Verordnung des Reichspräsidenten zum Schutz von Volk und Staat

  2. V.V. says:

    Watching the first tower collapse onto itself, erupting into a cloud of dust, I said stupidly,
    “That can’t happen.” I didn’t feel like a victim that day, I felt like a target. Victim-ness, or a sense
    that the other guys were winning, didn’t come until our citizens were abused in airports in the name of fairness because we wouldn’t want to profile anyone. That’s when America’s legal protections
    turned into a suicide pact.

    As long as a few dozen bad guys can stand our world on its ear, causing us to squander precious resources patting down grandmothers and little girls, killing countless hours of productivity as we are demeaned for the acts of others, the bad guys will have the upper hand. When I saw the picture of the little girl getting touched intimately, uselessly, tragically, it showed how clueless we’ve become. Then I felt like a victim because humiliating law abiding citizens just can’t happen, but it did.

    When we have a good attack of common sense, the bad guys will resume their special place in hell.
    Until then, leaders who care more that they are not blamed for the next attack than they do about abusing innocent people, will continue their assault on us. Terrorists can’t kill America. Only Americans can do that.

  3. MarcusB says:

    At the time, my only concern was getting home in time to catch Beast Wars on Fox Kids.

    Now? I guess I’ve grown up expecting that anything that involves bureaucracy is too complicated to understand. Including income tax, etc.

  4. Guy Fox says:

    If you were an American, watching American TV, you were a victim. This was happening to you. And it felt that way, or at least it felt that it should feel that way.

    Yes, it was an affirmation of (American) vanity. 50% as many Americans died as Bosniaks did in Srebrenica six years earlier, and only about 0.5% as many as in Rwanda seven years earlier. There doesn’t seem to be any universal metric for tragedy or malevolence, but the response to this particular event does seem out of proportion. …any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind… indeed. (Baudrillard can stick his greve des evenements so far up his…)

    And reading the Baurdrillard piece, it struck me how rough it’s gotta be for American posties. All the standard bearers are constantly pissing on your doorstep, aren’t they? Good thing it’s just a passport, right?

  5. thelastcpa says:

    “On the other hand, Arab governments throughout the Middle East are collapsing.”

    Interestingly, most of the revolutions this year can be traced to googlemaps, twitter, etc. Sure is cheaper than a military invasion.

  6. motard en colere says:

    I saw a really funny comment on an internet forum the other day. Someone was asking about how a certain motorcycle was. Out of nowhere, someone comes in and responds “I used to have one of those back in the 90’s. But that was before 9/11, and everything has changed since.”

  7. jaime omar yassin says:

    Analysis of the spectacle of the media spectacle of 9-11 is now pedantic, boring and unoriginal. Centrally, leaves out two very important ideas:

    1) That many people experienced 9-11 visually through television, but still experienced it emotionally because they had personal ties to people or the city of New York. Its no small number; extrapolate out the family/friend ties of 6-8 million people, I’ll wager it gives you close to one hundred million people or more who experienced it this way, or nearly one third of Americans.

    2) Commentary about the spectacle is part of the spectacle.

  8. Euan says:

    I’m not an American, and I realize this is a late reply to this post. But I do remember watching the news, at first I just assumed it was a movie.

    However, as to your question, I think we’re looking at it from an odd perspective. I feel like we see things like 9/11 happening like it’s written in our history books in primary school. Things are not as simple as those books make them out to be. But more importantly, concepts like war, peace, battlefield, empire, and even casualties aren’t the same concepts we learned in school and/or video games any more (maybe they never were, but that’s a whole different point).