Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2019/ Thoughts About Thoughts About 9/11

Thoughts About Thoughts About 9/11

I have been reading a bunch of blog posts today about 9/11, and that got me thinking about the event and our reactions to it. There is no good reason to be writing about the anniversary today -- the 20th anniversary is not for two years. But I am feeling old and melancholy, so you get to suffer.

Speaking of feeling old: few if any of the kids in university now have any recollection of 9/11. Like the assassination of JFK for my generation, 9/11 was a formative event they did not experience personally. Many of the kids entering first year were not even born by Sept 11 2001, but most of them lived under its shadow.

For ten years you could not attend a public lecture without the subject coming up. It was all we could talk about, especially when the US instigated invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in retaliation. Then in 2007 all we could talk about was Obama. Now all we can talk about is Trump. I do not know whether this has always been the case, but it feels that there is always some cultural touchstone that is obligated to come to mind. Other candidates might include: Reaganomics, Thatcherism, the aforementioned JFK, and the Vietnam War. I really did not start noticing this trend until 9/11, however.

When people write about their 9/11 experiences they always write about watching the second plane hitting the second tower. (Thankfully, I personally was not near a TV that day and did not see the footage until I watched Farenheit 9/11 several years later.) That image of the plane crashing could not have been scripted better. Everybody was glued to their TVs after the first plane crash, and then everybody saw the second one.

Speaking of excellent scripting, could there have been a more dramatic special effect than those towers collapsing? It was out of a Hollywood movie. It was incredible, in multiple senses of that word. The entire situation strains credibility. I don't think I am a Truther, but there is no plausible explanation for what happened that day. Having two planes crash into two different floors, then having two towers collapse in exactly the same way? Having a third tower that was not hit collapse in that same way a few hours later? Meanwhile, as far as I know we have not seen any copycat attacks. Has our security improved that much? I was going to write that no other towers fell the ways the Twin Towers did, but that is not the case. But most of those towers had structural flaws that were well-understood, and it appears the World Trade Center did not. An incredible number of things had to go wrong all at once for a tower to collapse the way it did, and two (three!) different towers all happened to collapse in the same way on the same day. Yes, these collapses are correlated, but they are still weird and implausible.

On the other hand, if you try to find out whether 9/11 had any conspiratorial elements you get hip-deep in the crazy, which is why I am not spending too much effort trying to separate speculations from fact. But false flag operations exist, and we know (from CIA overthrows of governments, if nothing else) that the USA will do some ruthless things to accomplish its policy goals. I do not know if we will ever understand what happened and how, but sooner or later the history will be put together, and I bet it will contain some uncomfortable surprises.

Certainly, cultural connotations of the word "terrorism" changed after 9/11. It became trendy to label anything disagreeable as "terrorist", which is why peaceful environmentalist groups are thought of as potential terrorist threats. Sometimes I cringe about this, because I participated in an informal (?) environmentalist group in high school we (I?) dubbed the "Eco Terrorists". To be fair, I was stupid and enjoyed saying shocking things out of context, but I am surprised that no authority figure stopped us from using this terminology. Somebody (maybe RCMP somebodies) would surely have intervened if we (I?) had been so foolish post 9/11.

(It is worth noting, of course, that many of the actual terrorists in the world are about as old as I was in high school -- in their late teens or twenties. It is also worth noting that this is the exact age that militaries target when recruiting soldiers to patriotically kill other people. That is more reason to intervene when stupid contextless kids start a club called the "Eco-terrorists.")

Maybe because we are all obsessed about Trump now, the emotional weight of 9/11 seems to have diminished. Airport security theatre has finally been reduced. I do not think we have "gotten over it" and I am not sure those of us who were scarred by the attacks ever will. But they do not dominate our consciousnesses the way they once did.