Mon Sep 11, 2006
uhg. Today is September 11th, 5 years later.
I talked to a reporter a couple days ago on the subject of 9/11. I'm sort of wishing I hadn't - It's just kind of queasy to not know what kind of story he's writing, whether it will be inane.. a shallow tribute to a horrifying day that killed my brother, and of course have deeply affected family and his friends.. I basically ranted on the phone for about an hour to the reporter, he probably thought I was a little crazy, just a laundry list of boilerplate stuff, I've forgotten how to even talk about it - I think I've absorbed so many other peoples ideas about it that I have to think abit to know what my genuine feelings are. It's been awhile. I had to think hard to remember that it really was the concept of reconciliation that I wanted people to embrace in response to 9/11.
Could we have responded in a way to 9/11 that would truely change the world for the long term by backing up the values that we say we stand for for?. We have felt the senselessness of war and terrorism to know what death like this does to a family, whatever we call it, whomever is comitting it. Is there any other way? Are 'We' right and 'They' are always wrong? If we believe in the concept of America, why are we looking the other way when the CIA places stories in foreign (and domestic) press, we are engaging in torture and secret prisions, lies to get to war (not too many wars have been started without a pack of lies as justification), spying on people who care enough about their country to get involved in organizations opposing our countries policies (uh, like, a real functioning democracy?)
It has been non-US people who have talked to me about their experience of visiiting the US and feeling something.. very revolutionary about the mixing of ideas and lifestyles, cultures, something that has affected a change in culture of the world and something to be admired (I say this, but I'm sick of this boosterism because so many other places in the world do seem so much more civilized) But, if we go the way of the fundementalists (the american kind or the islamic kind or the new age kind or the jewish kind or the intelectual kind or...) well you know where I'm going.
I visited a holocaust memorial the other day - I was stuck by a phrase used in the writing on it where it attributed the rise of the Nazi's to the German public's 'massive indifference.' I think this is strange because it invites us to not engage the times, ask the questions 'WHY' were they massively indifferent? I was also thinking about 9/11 memorials in general, and the memorialization of tragic days like this, how they are crafted to serve a purpose - establish victimhood. History is written by the victors, and I'm very afraid that people who feel themselves justified in victimhood tend not to look at the whole context. They 'Hated our Freedom.' I'm afraid that the nationalistic flag waving and the 'remember the alamo' aspect of 9/11 will be a whitewash for future generations to think in very simplistic ways, that it really is become the zeitgiest that our government says it it. I'm afraid that the tide has turned in the Iraq war, and that the people want the troops home, NOT because they have turned anti-war on principle, or they've figured out that unilateral U.S. policy is morally wrong as well as making us less safe in the long run, but really merely because they don't like losing. If it was going great, most people would be happy to believe in the nationalist myth. The Pentagon and the whole defense apparatus would be happy to have us believe lies, just as long as the captains of the military industrial arms industry are rotating in and out of the Pentagon and Congress works together to approve pork-barrel military spending (i'm talking about useless multibillion dollar projects not caring for our soldiers), and the whole corrupt system that supposedly is keeping us all safe and sound with their missles (how many thousands of nuclear intercontinental missles do we have?), our missles that can shoot down their missles (Star Wars, SDI or whatever they are calling it these days), all this stuff is going to make us less safe than if we would have just sat down and gone the path of not just non-proliferation. We invoke the fear of the other, but hello there isn't anyone left out there to fight us and our $480 billion dollar defense (more than that when you add in the payments on debt of past military debt and the VA hospitals). China spends how much on their defense? I read that they don't even have a navy big enough to invade Taiwan.. yes, a big army, but with low tech weapons. Instead of competing with the US militarily they've put their money back into the country.
This day comes and goes every year, and although I should be busy writing opinion-editorials and doing something that matters to at least contradict whatever utter bullshit is being churned out, or to at least get the satisfaction of getting my own bullshit out, I just can't do it.. I'm.. just.. tired of it. Truth be told I hate the consiousness of 9/11 that I have - the aspects of thinking through all the opinions about the resulting war on terror leaves me shellshocked, and hoping that I am not obsessed with this day and addicted to the pain, addicted to attention. I have said before that it is a bittersweet knowledge - bitter in that I have felt grief and felt like my heart has weighed 1000 pounds and sweet in that I have met people who have felt the same way and a strange peace that is at it's core a spiritual feeling I think.
The thing is we all die. Some peope die in nursing homes, some people die in car crashes or cancer or disease or falling down the stairs, or murdered. Hopefully we'll die a peaceful death after a long life in which there are many friends and family. But the fact is we all die, and we all will attend many funerals of people we know. And it won't make sense at all.
Here's what I think: more Americans need a giant helping of death. I mean to be familiar with it in the normal everyday human way, because we all die. Deal with it in an honest way, not like an video game or wry black comedy way, but the humanity. Does your new car matter, now that you know you are going to die? How about that Xbox? All the trivial ways that we treat each other.. We may as well do something with this information and work for something that matters, and that thing that matters is helping other people. Even if you were the last person on the planet talking about reconciliation or disarmament because it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do.
I want to remember my brother separate from the images on TV and the narrative of the War-On-Terror and the politics and the pundits, the war-machine, the do-gooders, the liars, the public relations spin machine infected reality. I want to remember my brother, but my unquiet mind dredges up a picture of George Bush with a little limp flag in his hand at some 9/11 'rememberance' ceremony with a nationalist war overtones and his name scrolling by on the big videoscreen along with the other 3000 victims.
But in the end, I guess I'm just pissed off.
That's why I'll be getting lost today, out into nature, listen to some birds chirp and hopefully the sun will be out and warm my body. and hopefully I won't even see any bumpersitcker platitudes, nor hopefully indulge in it - it's so easy for me to fall back on that as a topic of conversation. It's a ruse that takes me away from where I want to be..
I'll let myself remember my brother in a way hopefully that has nothing to do with everything that has come after his death. I'm going to start by being.. nice to people (ahem). Like he was to me, genuine when I feel myself growing more and more cynical. I just haven't been feeling so full of compassion lately, but I'm goign to try. Damnit. Kind of like how when Mom says 'put a smile on your face and that's how you'll feel.' These things that Mom tells me are basically true.
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media framing of 9/11
A reporter called my younger brother, and being a grad-school smartie, he wrote an exchange with a reporter looking for a 9/11 angle on the subject of 'episodic vrs. thematic framing'.. (it's in reverse order so read from the bottom up).
-----Original Message----- From: xxxx, Anne [mailto:xxxx] Sent: Fri 9/8/2006 3:54 PM To: xxxx, Ryan M (UMC-Student) Subject: RE: Newspaper Interview Request -- Sept. 11 5th anniversary
I really appreciated your response. It provoked in me one of those painful but treasured moments of clarity. What you wrote of is something I live with everyday. Reporters constantly battle that exact conflict, and as you've experienced, often lose. I chafe under the restrictions of my profession, but I respect the regulations that create the episodic vs. thematic because if they didn't exist, we'd all turn into talking heads.
Unfortunately, that restriction often leaves us at the mercy of liars, left with little more to battle them than reporting what people think. Everyday I wish I could find the opening, the skill to enter into a world of ultimate truth that I am convinced great reporters do. Though I've heard many veteran reporters say it only comes once in a lifetime.
I hope you don't think I am just making excuses. I feel embarrassed because my interview request was based in laziness, in a lack of time to devote to brainstorming and an inability to come up with one of the millions of ideas that you wrote of. I still am fighting to find something that isn't a man-on-the-street piece or a repetition of the same "episodic framing."
I have half an hour to come up with something.
I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm putting your email up in my cubicle as a daily reminder of my true responsibility as a journalist.
Thanks for everything. Annie
-----Original Message----- From: xxxx, Ryan M (UMC-Student) [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Friday, September 08, 2006 12:33 AM To: Nelson, Anne Subject: RE: Newspaper Interview Request -- Sept. 11 5th anniversary
Thanks for getting in touch. I've already turned down a few reporters who have asked the same question, even one who is a friend. The reason is that I've been burned too many times by journalists with the best of intentions.
Stories such as this too often focus on the personal/private while tending to leave out the political/public issues we should all be discussing and debating. Perhaps you are familiar with Shanto Iyengar's categorization of episodic and thematic framing. An episodic frame narrows in on a specific individual or event, leaving out the broader context, steering attention away from public solutions. A story drawing on an interview with me about my brother's death, my activism, and how these five years have passed for me will almost inevitably turn out episodic. James Jasper writes: "What Iyengar called "episodic framing" makes views less likely to blame public officials, or to hold them responsible for a solution." This is the ritualized news story. Thematic framing, on the other hand, highlights broader trends along with political context, steering attention toward root causes, public policy, and social responsibility. I've granted interviews too many times to too many reporters who assure me that the story will not be about ME, MY brother, MY activism, or MY life, but about the political context in which this all takes place, challenging the dominant order, only to feel disappointed, and at times exploited, when the story comes out.
Even when the individual reporter intends to write a thematic article, it is difficult to actually pull it off when the article grows from such a personal seed. And even if that wonderful thematic article is written, the only parts that get past the editor's desk are the episodic aspects which we all know sell newspapers while safely skirting the debates that threaten dominant/elite interpretations of events. I appreciate your interest in writing this story, but I am going to say no for now. If you want to write something that opens people's eyes, I urge you to approach your anniversary story from a different angle that doesn't lend itself to an episodic frame. How about looking at some of the instances of terrorism that our government supports or implements five years after our phony war on terrorism started? And/or terrorism our government has conducted in the past which we have refused to apologize for or even acknowledge five years after 9/11? There are a million articles you and other journalists could be writing related to the anniversary that would be better than a story about me.
Excuse the long essay. If I thought that you were just out to take advantage of me, to get the money-shot and go, then I would have simply told you no. But I think you truly want to write something that fosters social justice, so I beg you to do just that. If you come up with a different approach, I would love to hear your idea and would consider granting an interview, but only if I can be sure that the story will not be framed as you have described it below. I don't mean to be ornery, I just don't want to be disappointed again.
To answer your second question, I don't know of anyone else living in Mid-Missouri who were directly affected by 9/11. For what it's worth, [xxxx], who lost their son in New York, live in SW Missouri.
-----Original Message----- From: xxxx, Anne [mailto:xxxx] Sent: Thu 9/7/2006 4:29 PM To: email@example.com; xxxx, Ryan M (UMC-Student) Subject: Newspaper Interview Request -- Sept. 11 5th anniversary
My name is [xxx]. I am a reporter for the [xxxx] Daily Tribune. I was wondering if you would be up for an interview with me for a Sept. 11th anniversary article? I would like to interview you on the loss of your brother[xxxx], your activism after his death and in general how these five years have passed for you.
I was also wondering if you knew anyone else who lives in the mid-Missouri area that has a personal connection to Sept. 11 like you?
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