Thursday, September 15, 2011

NATIONAL MEMORY: 9/11

After a week of media saturation around the tenth year anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center I’ve been aware that something didn’t feel right. As I thought about it, I recognized that actually several things were bothering me about the way the media was using this emotionally charged anniversary.

First, was the sense that reminders of this disaster were being used for propaganda by the media to re-open the wounds and direct the pain of Americans against “the enemy” that caused this pain. I remember having a very similar reaction at my Grandmother’s funeral. For years I’d been feeling swindled at funeral services but that was the first time it emerged to consciousness. The minister was using grandma’s funeral as a chance to sell his agenda to people who wouldn’t normally be his audience. It didn’t seem to be bothering anyone else, but then they were desensitized to this approach just as I’d been. Is the American public desensitized to efforts to stir up an intended reaction for an ulterior purpose or are we just naturally na├»ve?

One of the best ways to package propaganda is to wrap it in gold and present it as sacred and thus above question. The World Trade Center attack and the two planes that were involved in other attacks that same day were certainly victims of a terrible and tragic attack. Of that there is no question. The idea that it was not a military engagement but an attack on innocent civilians was at the core of the outrage. However, the preferred interpretation of and reaction to such an event is often slipped in secretly along with the facts. When people are emotional they are not analyzing the logic of an interpretation.

It could be argued that the war that ensued as a supposed act of revenge has killed many more innocent civilians than were killed in the 9/11 attacks. One can’t help but wonder about the motives in making a tragedy into a weapon of war. Who is it really serving?

Another issue concerns me. Is America so sacred and special that we should expect to be divinely protected from the tragedies that befall other nations? I’ve often suspected that such naivete would one day cause us to fall victim to reality. We are taught that we wear the white hats and those who don’t like us wear black hats. It’s a simplistic adolescent belief and the powers that be use it for their own ends. I’m suggesting that the victims of 9/11 were twice victimized. Once by the conspirators that crashed the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and second by those in power in their own country who use their tragedy as a political tool. Some, more cynical than I actually believe that the tragedy was secretly engineered within our own government. I’m more inclined to believe that it happened because the agencies that should have been protecting us were too smug to take mounting evidence seriously and that they were also victims of the belief that America is invincible.

America’s greatest weakness is to hide its weaknesses from itself. Group consciousness frequently seems more primitive than individual consciousness. Groups on the whole operate at a lower moral standard than individuals and often the individual members accept attitudes and behaviors on a national level that would be considered criminal on an individual level. Modern warfare is a good example. Dropping bombs on civilians is acceptable and at the same time we often go to great links to save a premature infant. Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said about the horror of his political purges, “the death of one man is a tragedy but the death of thousands is a statistic.” The euphemistic military terms intended to deliberately remove the emotional impact of destruction and death are effectively based on the same principle. Here is a list of common examples:

  •  "Take Out" - Destroy
  •  "Wet Work" - Assassination
  •  "Area Denial Munitions" - Land Mines
  •  "Physical Persuasion/Tough Questioning" - Torture
  •  "Operational Exhaustion" - Shell Shock
  •  "Department of Defense" - Department of War
  •  "Neutralize" - Kill
  •  "Collateral Damage" - Civilian Deaths
  •  "Target of Opportunity" - Assassination
  •  "Regime Change" - Overthrowing of a government
  •  "Shock and Awe" - Blitzkrieg
  •  "Surgical Strike" - The use of guided munitions
  •  "Caught in cross-fire" - Innocents shot dead by soldiers
  •  "Ethnic Cleansing" - Genocide
  •  "Protective Custody" - Imprisonment without charge or trial
  •  "Generous Offer" - Demand for Surrender
  •  "Incursion" - Attacking with heavy metal
  •  "Air Campaign" - Bombing
  •  "Friendly Fire" - Death caused to one's own troops
  •  "Prohibiting Transactions" - Economic embargo
  •  "Soft targets" - humans
  •  "All out strategic exchange" - Nuclear War
  •  "Open up on" - Fire upon with all available weaponry
  •  "Frag" - Kill a friendly soldier (now extended to enemies as well)
  •  "Greenbacking" - Hiring mercenaries
  •  "Monitoring" - Eavesdropping, spying
  •  "Conventional weapon" - Non-nuclear weaponry
  •  "Clean bomb" - Neutron bomb, only kills people leaving infrastructure intact
  •  "Nerve agent" - Poison gas
  •  "Strategic movement to the rear" - Retreat
  •  "Pacify" - Lay waste to, destroy
  •  "Pre-emptive strike" - Surprise attack
  •  "Second strike capability" - Ability to retaliate with nuclear weaponry

It is emotion that motivates humans. To enhance the emotional impact of an event or remove its emotional impact is the most powerful of political tools.