Yesterday the blog The Last Psychiatrist, which I’ve recommended before, reposted something he wrote soon after 9/11. The post brings home the point that for most of us, “9/11” names not so much an attack or a disaster as a media spectacle, one with a very specific message:
According to the TV, the real events of 9/11 happened not on the 95th floor, but on the ground floor. I’ve been looking in the wrong place.
People tell me that this coverage isn’t about the terrorists, it’s about the aftermath, the victims; that there are other shows about the terrorists.
Separating shows this way fosters a separation between the cause and the effect; we are focusing only on the effect, because it is very hard for us to get our heads around the cause. In doing this we are repackaging this event into a natural disaster. Something that we have no power over, no way to prevent, but something that must by necessity bring us together in our grief and our loss, and something that we must get past. No sense in describing why earthquakes happen, so let’s delve into the victims’ stories.
He also suggests that the kind of helplessness inculcated by this media specter was exactly what allowed the attacks to happen in the first place:
They say the hijackers were armed only with box cutters. If that’s true, that tells me a lot about how they perceive Americans: they expected no resistance. Not even from the pilots. Would they have brought boxcutters to El-Al or Aeroflot hijacking?
There’s a lot in the post that might seem questionable in retrospect, and he admits as much. Still, I thought it was worth pointing out.