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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Remembering 9/11: Must-Reads From The Web

Ryan Faughnder |
September 9, 2011 | 1:56 p.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

WTC memorial construction site in 2010 (Davidshoe via Wikipedia Commons)
WTC memorial construction site in 2010 (Davidshoe via Wikipedia Commons)
One indicator of the significance of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is the sheer volume of material that has been written about them. Some of the best articles and essays have told vividly personal accounts of that day, exposed companies profiting from the emotion surrounding the tragedy, and mused about how the events shaped how Americans think about themselves and their place in the world. Others have questioned the idea of commemorating the events at all. 

Here are some of the best and most thought-provoking pieces that have emerged in the days leading up to the anniversary, selected by Neon Tommy staff and listed in no particular order.


1. In the New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Brian Stelter examine how media outlets are covering the anniversary, trying to walk the “fine line between commemoration and exploitation.” Audiences and readers may become overwhelmed by the coverage or they may feel squeamish about the potential of ad revenue from the tragedy: 

There are no uniform answers, and media outlets are approaching it differently. Time magazine is running no ads at all. Newsweek and People have sold ads just as they would for any other issue. Cable channels, which are devoting big blocks of their schedules to Sept. 11-related programming, are also largely running commercials as usual. But there exceptions; CNN, for example, is to show a joint HBO-Time special commercial free. In its regular Sunday edition on Sept. 11, The New York Times is publishing a special section that will contain only commemorative ads.

2. It’s impossible to talk about foreign policy now without discussing how much it costs the government, though following the tragedy, this seemed to be an afterthought to some. Joseph E. Stiglitz revisits the way the U.S. financed it’s two wars after 9/11:

Even if Bush could be forgiven for taking America, and much of the rest of the world, to war on false pretenses, and for misrepresenting the cost of the venture, there is no excuse for how he chose to finance it. His was the first war in history paid for entirely on credit. As America went into battle, with deficits already soaring from his 2001 tax cut, Bush decided to plunge ahead with yet another round of tax "relief" for the wealthy.

3. MSNBC looks into the U.S.’s record of trying suspected terrorists in court. The numbers look good, the report says, but there are still questions about our counterterrorism efficacy:

The conviction rate is about the same as for drug dealers or bank robbers, with one key difference: The goal is to stop terrorists before they attack, not punish them afterward.

4. Christopher Hitchens, one of the most prominent public intellectuals who supported both of the U.S. wars that began in the early 2000s, comes back, full-force, to his most compelling points about the evil behind the 9/11 terrorist groups and terrorism in general:

I feel no need to show off or to think of something novel to say. Moreover, many of the attempts to introduce "complexity" into the picture strike me as half-baked obfuscations or distractions. These range from the irredeemably paranoid and contemptible efforts to pin responsibility for the attacks onto the Bush administration or the Jews, to the sometimes wearisome but not necessarily untrue insistence that Islamic peoples have suffered oppression. 

5. The Village Voice highlights the people who have profited from remembrances of the tragedy:

The September 11, 2001 attacks have been a symbol of many things and many causes, but like the lavish, flag-draped rebuilding of the site, it has also been a vehicle for enrichment. From corporations to politicians to government officials to nonprofits to the security industry to publishers to the health industry (not to mention the incidents of outright fraud over the years), many people have found ways to profit from one of the nation's biggest disasters. 9/11 has created an economy all its own.

6. Tom Engelhardt rejects the idea of the ceremony surrounding the 9/11 anniversary, arguing that the remembrances have harmed our nation’s consciousness and our place in the world:

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were in every sense abusive, horrific acts.  And the saddest thing is that the victims of those suicidal monstrosities have been misused here ever since under the guise of pious remembrance.  This country has become dependent on the dead of 9/11 -- who have no way of defending themselves against how they have been used -- as an all-purpose explanation for our own goodness and the horrors we’ve visited on others, for the many towers-worth of dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere whose blood is on our hands.

7. The Washington Post looks back on the last decade and sees no reason to expect the U.S.’s perpetually state of international conflict to end. War is the new "normal," since 9/11:

Today, radical religious ideologies, new technologies and cheap, powerful weapons have catapulted the world into “a period of persistent conflict,” according to the Pentagon’s last major assessment of global security. “No one should harbor the illusion that the developed world can win this conflict in the near future,” the document concludes.

By this logic, America’s wars are unending and any talk of peace is quixotic or naive. The new view of war and peace has brought about far-reaching changes in agencies such as the CIA, which is increasingly shifting its focus from gathering intelligence to targeting and killing terrorists. Within the military the shift has reshaped Army bases, spurred the creation of new commands and changed what it means to be a warrior.

8. David Remnick, in a New Yorker essay, takes a look at the surge in the Bush administration’s assertions that it was right all along about the its wars abroad:

The publication of Dick Cheney’s memoirs is the latest instance of Bush Administration veterans serenely insisting that they “got it right,” that the explosion of popular discontent that began in Tunisia last December and spread through the region is the direct result of the American-led invasion and the occupation of Iraq. This is as dubious as it is self-serving. In fact, the Arab Spring was not inspired by the wondrous vision of post-Saddam Iraq. Nor was it the result of Western actions or manipulations; its credibility depended upon the fact that it was unambiguously indigenous and self-propelled.

9. 9/11 retrospectives have inspired a wealth of beautiful descriptive writing, and in no instance is that truer than in the Boston Globe’s series on the unnoticed voices who, in vivid detail, tell their memories of that day. Part Three tells the story of the people who were there at Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass.:

In all those hours in the cramped cockpit, Dubie soaked up a lot of lessons about marriage, fatherhood, and farming, taking them back every week to his sugar woods in northern Vermont.

Before reaching the tarmac, Dubie sees the administrative assistant for the chief pilot’s office. “Flight 11’s been hijacked,’’ she tells him. He follows her to the office, where the phone rings. It is Peggy Ogonowski, a friend, American flight attendant, and John’s wife. She has tried to log in from home to see if he is on 11, but the computer system keeps blocking her out.

10. Rhett Miller, the lead singer and songwriter of the band Old 97s, was in NYC when the planes hit the towers. He bought a diary immediately, and the Atlantic recently published selections from it. His story highlights the enormity of the event and its mundane aspects:

I call my mom. She suggests we leave town immediately. I tell her she’s overreacting. For some stupid reason, I am thinking about our favorite local deli, Café World. How all the hubbub is going to make them sell out of sandwiches.

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