Sept. 11 Recalled: Too Much Who, Not Much Why
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on Thursday, September 5, 2002 in the Toronto
11 Recalled: Too Much Who, Not Much Why
THE 102 minutes of horror between the crash of the first 767 into the North
Tower and its ultimate collapse are the most documented moments in history. Some
150 books are out there. Newspapers and magazines have produced special issues
and are now turning out one-year-after editions and sections. Countless Web sites
have sprung up. Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and others have recorded
songs. Zillions of hours have been broadcast.
Since Sept. 11, I have seen the planes slam into the World Trade Center hundreds
of times, tracked the flailing victims falling from the upper floors, watched
the towers collapse from above, below, Brooklyn and beyond, witnessed the horror
over and over again — and still hyperventilate or sob at the sights.
Just when I think I've seen every bit of video there could possibly be — as compiled
in, say, HBO's In Memoriam: New York City, 9/11 (airing here Wednesday
on Life and the Independent Film Channel) — more footage turns up. For example,
CNN has already aired America Remembers, in which its news crews turned
their cameras on themselves as they covered the event, while, on Sunday, CBC Newsworld
will run 9/11 — Stories From The City which shows New Yorkers shooting
the evacuations of their homes and offices as the tragedy unfolded.
All this information. So little enlightenment.
We're barely into the first anniversary wallow which peaks next Wednesday. There
are concerts and commemorations, widows and orphans, survivors and heroes, faces
and places of Sept. 11. Lots of whos and whats and whens and wheres — but precious
few whys. Considering how everything was supposed to have changed as a result,
it's instructive to examine what is missing from the 100-plus hours of planned
coverage rather than what is scheduled. Here's what you won't see:
Ads: Major advertisers are balking at hawking their wares on Wednesday. Media
buyers claim that commercials will seem crass and uncaring. Perhaps. But how about
a tasteful minute of silence or sponsorship, with the money going to improving
foreign news coverage on the U.S. networks? Instead, the loss of some $50 million
in revenue will, in the long run, likely hurt news coverage. How does that help
prevent another Sept. 11?
An examination of civil liberties: Where did they go? Both in Canada and south
of the border, far too many people were subjected to detention with no due process.
When a Human Right Watch report recently came out on the subject, most media ignored
The hunt for Osama bin Laden: Uh, is it on? Are he and his henchmen dead or alive?
Is Al Qaeda still wealthy and healthy as some reports suggest? Aside from a Newsworld
documentary last night, there is virtually no mention of this subject on the airwaves.
The prisoners: What's going on at Guantanamo Bay? Have the Al Qaeda captives slipped
down the memory hole of history?
George W. Bush: Will any mainstream media outlet have the brass bits to examine
the president's record before, after and around Sept. 11? Or will they continue
to tiptoe around his administration's stunning ineptitude for fear of seeming
Ground Zero: Yes, there will be many memorials and remembrances. CNN has already
aired and re-aired its Sixteen Acres, a look at the future of the site.
But has anybody examined what poisons, toxins and carcinogens might have been
in that dust and the smoke? Will thousands more New Yorkers die as a result?
Fallen heroes: Did rescue workers die because the New York Fire Department had
defective communications equipment? The New York Times recently reported on the
subject. But few other media outlets have picked up on the issue, preferring instead
the heart-wrenching tales of heroism and sacrifice. Why?
Afghanistan: So, how are the newly liberated people faring? Are the women there
really better off? Has peace, law, order and good government been restored? Or
have the people been bombed back to the Stone Age? Last week, Newsweek
told of war crimes possibly committed under the aegis of U.S. troops but no other
media have dwelt on the matter. Does nobody care?
"The public has lost interest," CBS' Dan Rather told TV Guide (U.S.) last
week. "They'd much rather hear about the Robert Blake murder case or what is happening
on Wall Street. A feeling is creeping back in that if you lead (the newscast with
international news), you die."
From what we won't see this week and next, it seems that if you lead anything
but poignant, patriotic and superficial, you die.
Which, all things considered, does not bode well for the future.
Antonia Zerbisias' column appears every Thursday in the Toronto Star. She can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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