A Modest Proposal
Plea to the media during the next 9/11 anniversary
lu?s carlos rodr?guez
I remember it like it was yesterday. I awoke to the sound of my roommates gasps, screams, and ?Luis Carlos get the %$ up!? I stumbled out of bed, bumped the little toe on my left foot on my desk, crashed into my bedroom door, and, in my best injured and sluggish bipedal ability, managed to walk into the den. Nursing my toe, my eyes focused on the big screen TV and then saw the horrible looped montage of two smoldering buildings crumbling to the ground.
Published on LatinoLA: September 5, 2003
?What the hell?s going on?? I asked my reality TV-addicted brethren with whom I live. Not removing their fixed gaze from its all too familiar position, they replied: ?The world is over,? and ?New York is getting bombed!?
I turned back to the TV and saw what I now knew were the Twin Towers collapse. ?All those people,? I thought. ?This is horrible.? After I fully awoke however, one of the first thoughts that came to me was ?My God, he?s getting reelected!?
Everyone knows that being a president in a time of war is almost like a blessing in disguise, as far as popularity and approval ratings are concerned. Almost every president, with the arguable exception of Nixon, profited from his war-time status. Bush was no exception. As the United States prepared itself for an unprecedented unending phantom war, media outlets everywhere began to report on Bush?s rising popularity and consequential approval rating.
Soon after the war on terrorism began the allegedly fair and balanced Fox News reported the president?s popularity at 72 percent. After the official ending to the US War in Iraq, the Chicago Tribune reported how Bush?s landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln while in the co-pilot's seat of an S-3B Viking jet (as ironic as it seemed) augmented his unchallenged popularity (May 6th 2003). By then, it became clear to me that the Bush administration had developed a knack for using the world, vis a vis the media, as a stage for Oval Office popularity.
With the second anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaching, I wonder how the Bush administration will again utilize the horrific acts of that dark day in American, and indeed world history for its political advantage. After the so-called War on Terrorism, Afghanistan, and Iraq, will Bush once again use Sep 11th as a tool with which to advance the right-wing political agenda? Will he reflect on the tragedy of that day as a way to disavow his negligence of the everyday problems this country now faces: the stagnant economy, 48 states with huge deficits, growing unemployment, 40 million without health care, a progressing global anti-Americanism? What will be the role of the media in all of this?
After the Twin Towers, imbedded reporters, and mid-sea flight landings, I shudder to think of what we will and will not see/hear/read on September 11, 2003. How many times will we see the Twin Towers fall again, as unemployment and gasoline prices continue to rise invisibly? How many times will we hear speeches and commentary justifying the War on Terrorism and Iraq, while millions continue on their silent, daily struggle without healthcare? How many times will we read about the well-noted bravery of the fire and police departments in New York City, as most States across the country write and pass legislation that reduces funding for education and social programs?
In short, how many times will the Bush administration focus on the global-external as a way to ignore its inability to control the local-internal? And what will be the media?s role in this charade?
It almost seems trite to say (or type, rather) that the media has a public responsibility to report, as objectively as possible, the news of the day, week, and year and not participate in sensationalism and/or blind patriotism. The reason this statement seems trite however, is precisely because this philosophy has become pass?. What happened to critical journalistic reporting? Did the Tet Offensive teach us nothing? As Eric Zorn so solemnly stated in the Tribune article mentioned above, ?So much for the cynical distortion that has become conventional wisdom in many circles. So much for the myth of the ?liberal media.?? [sic]
I hope that when September 11 visits us next Thursday, we greet it not solely with glum memorials, patriotism, and a national point of view, but also with lively discussion circles, critical reflection, and a global perspective. Maybe we can?t expect the Bush administration to encourage and/or participate in the latter but I do hope that our media outlets can help provide a forum with which we can balance some of the former.
lu?s carlos rodr?guez:
lu?s carlos rodr?guez is a Doctoral Student in the Program in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org