Communist Party USA

  To mark twenty years since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, recent media have been saturated with commemorations, recollections, and reflections. “9/11 changed everything” is a common refrain, with the event serving to divide recent history to “before” and “after.” Much is made of the large number of people who were not old enough to remember the horror and fear of that day, seen as a defining moment of a generation. The trauma of loss experienced by so many individuals is a focus, along with the persistent health problems that first responders are still experiencing two decades on. Mostly, these reflections zero in the emotional, personal, and individual. James Poniewozik, a New York Times television critic, reviews this year’s coverage and finds that the documentaries this year are very much like the coverage produced at the ten-year mark: There are wrenching interviews with survivors and with those whose loved ones died; uplifting stories of rescues and agonizing stories of those who perished in the attempt; footage of the conflagration, chaos and shock, as seen on morning newscasts and in the ash-blanketed streets; images of the first responders and volunteers digging through wreckage. That critic asks, “Is 9/11 a day or is it an era?” and laments the lack of films that look beyond the day. Among those that do, the best is Spike Lee’s four-part documentary NYC Epicenters: 9/11 2021½, which combines individual New Yorkers’ experiences with criticism of government messaging from George W. Bush to Donald Trump (here called “President Agent Orange”). But even that documentary treats 9/11 as a beginning point and doesn’t open the question of what came before.   What 9/11 unleashed It’s easy to feel the “before” and “after” of 9/11 for those who remember it. It did seem to “change everything,” setting off consequences that had a profound impact, well beyond the initial losses of life. Almost immediately Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, with Representative Barbara Lee casting the sole no vote. Almost a million people died as a direct result of the forever wars launched in 9/11’s wake by the Bush/Cheney administration. In October 2001, the U.S. passed the USA Patriot Act, giving government broad powers of surveillance and detention. Furthermore, Islamophobia spiked immediately. Four incidents of anti-Muslim violence were reported in the four months before 9/11; in the four months after, 96 such incidents were reported. After 9/11, Islamophobia became a guiding principle of official policy (Nguyen 2005), with an immediate round-up and detention of 1,200 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian men; FBI visits to 11,000 more; and a registration system requiring men from certain countries to register with the government — almost 300,000. Surveillance of the Muslim population has spiked, especially in New York City, where the Police Department has spent more than $3 billion since 2006 on license-plate readers, facial recognition software, mobile surveillance vans that have X-ray capabilities, etc. “Flying while Muslim” became a difficult, sometimes humiliating, experience. 9/11 ushered in the era of internet-propelled conspiracy theories, starting with the 9/11 “Truthers,” whose film Loose Change was the internet’s first viral video. Even Spike Lee’s documentary about 9/11 originally gave credence to these theories. In the years after, this path merged with Islamophobia in the “Birther” conspiracy and the Islamophobic violence set off years after 9/11 by Donald Trump. We need to step back and ask: Is the way that the story is usually told, concentrating on the events of the day as experienced by individuals, the best way to understand 9/11? Why do some details get included in the…

Read full article on Communist Party USA:
“9/11 changed everything” — except U.S. foreign policy