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?