Friday, June 17, 2016

If the Press Covered 9/11 the Way It Has Covered Orlando

A hypothetical fictional montage:*

From the New York Daily News front page 9/12/01:
An image of one of the planes going into the World Trade Center.  Headline: "Thanks American Airline Industry"

From the New York Times Editorial Board 9/13/01:
While the motivations of the 9/11 hijackers remain unclear, one thing is beyond doubt: they were the product of a culture of hate, that peculiar soil of the United States, which xenophobia and violence have watered for centuries.  While some, like former vice-president Al Gore, have tried the face the twenty-first century with cosmopolitan optimism, George W. Bush and his coterie have instead projected a Texan swagger that has alienated international allies and enraged many of those who seek opportunity but are denied this opportunity due to the petty bigotry of American immigration law.  The cultural imperialist chickens of Coca Cola, cries of "freedom," and nationalistic propaganda like Hot Shots! Part Deux have, as it were, come home to roost.
That fact that Mr. Bush quoted from the Psalms in his recent address to the nation reveals a theocratic zeal that both threatens the First Amendment and fuels acts of terror.  The history of the United States is a long tale of those using the name of religion to terrorize, murder, and pillage.  Invoking religious scripture in this context no doubt triggers more violence in the future and feeds into the broader culture of religious intolerance that helped bring the towers down.
For years now, Republicans have waged war on the fabric of American society, thereby creating the breeding ground for terror.  Mr. Bush's controversy-stained election sent the equivalent of a 767 into America's constitutional norms.  The right-wing agenda of tax-cuts for the rich and more subsidies for Big Oil has created an atmosphere of economic inequality, in which terrorists thrive.  The terrorist attack of earlier this week is only an explicit vision of that broader nativist reactionary crusade.
The thousands who died on September 11 were victims of a terrorist attack.  But they also need to be remembered as casualties of a society where hate has deep roots. 

A partial transcript of a September 13 CNN evening interview with John Ashcroft, in which the anchor absolutely grills the Attorney General:
Anchor: Mr. Ashcroft, how can you say you want to prosecute these terrorists?  I mean, how many times have you been to New York City for a reason other than a professional obligation?
JA: I've, uh, I've been there a few times.
Anchor:  A few times.  Nearly three thousand people died in the Twin Towers, and you've only been to NYC a few times?  And now you purport to talk about defending the lives of New Yorkers!?
JA: My job as attorney general is to defend the lives of all Americans.
Anchor: But isn't there a sick irony in the fact that you're here talking about defending all Americans when, as far as I can tell, you've never even worn an I-Love-New-York t-shirt?
JA:  Wha--what?  How do you know that?
Anchor: We had a team of researchers comb through every picture taken of you in the past year.  No t-shirt or sweatshirt or anything.
JA: Well, look, we've been coordinating with local law enforcement to identify...
Anchor: Hey, let's not get off-topic here.  Do you deny not having worn an I-Love-New-York t-shirt?
JA: I don't think I ever owned that kind of shirt, no.
Anchor: So I just kind of find it funny that you're someone who never expressed that much affection for New York and now, with the attacks of September 11, you're suddenly lamenting the loss of human life.  I mean, why should the members of the New York community trust you to defend them?
*Again, this is purely hypothetical fiction.  Neither the New York Daily News nor the New York Times published anything like this after 9/11.  Nor did CNN run any interviews like this.  The fact that these organizations did not run anything like this is kind of the point.  For the record, here is the actual front page of the Daily News on September 12.

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