I can’t help but groan now at the mention of 9/11. I know that sounds awful and heartless, but it’s an uncontrollable involuntary reaction. I just sigh and roll my eyes. It’s not because I don’t care about what happened or about those who died. Far from it. I groan because I tire of the same old discourse that surrounds the events on the anniversary, without fail.
It has become quite predictable, really, as it’s always the same thing. Conspiracy theories plague the internet and media, peppered with ideas about the secret involvement of the US government, perhaps fuelled by Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, a well-known, and actually very believable, documentary about the ‘real story’ behind the events. More recent BBC3 programme ‘9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip’ took a slightly different approach, following a group of conspiracy theorists relishing in such ideas as they visit New York to uncover the ‘truth’.
Then there’s all the ‘politician speak’, which is unbearable at the best of times. Never failing to disappoint, however, their language reaches new heights of insufferableness during this time of year. Politicians from right to left have it out, the former congratulating themselves on a job well done for keeping the threat of global terror at bay, while the latter accuses them of the exact opposite, slamming them for all the irreparable damage done to the world in other ways.
Of course, we can’t forget the absolute must-have during this time of year: the possible, definite threat of another attack, which this year got bumped up to ‘credible’ since it’s been ten whole years, and everyone knows terrorists are the sentimental type. But I can’t pass judgement on such things; I don’t pay it enough thought to express an opinion, though it is something I have noticed as an appearing trend each year. At least the media can bet on having something to report every September if times are slow.
And it’s the last point there which I think is noteworthy. Every year we can rely on the media to deliver a plethora of avenues through which to recall the events of that day, from documentaries, radio programmes, debate shows, news articles, and so on. The list is pretty extensive, clogging up most, if not all, mainstream media channels. This is not to suggest we shouldn’t take time to commemorate the lives that were lost during 9/11; we should, because such remembrance can have sobering effects and is a reminder of what we take for granted, whether it’s our families, friends, loved ones or liberty. However, I do take issue with the way in which the media chooses to fling 9/11 in our faces every year with such crudity masked as sombre reflection.
Take, for example, BBC 1’s ‘The Twins of the Twin Towers’, broadcast on September 6th at 10.35pm. This documentary told the story of a group of twins who lost their sibling counterparts during the events of 9/11. Undeniably, their stories were actually quite beautifully delivered, not focusing too heavily on the obvious tear-arousing tactics of other programmes and giving the viewer insight into the characters’ lives as they dealt with, and continue to deal with, the fallout. Seemingly harmless, the problem for me is two-fold. Firstly, the programme’s premise feels superficial based around what I view, perhaps a little cynically, as a gimmick (twin towers, twin people – geddit?). Secondly, the way it is presented suggests this group has endured increased, elevated suffering, purely because they belong to this exclusive group where the pain is so much harder to bear, because the rest of us can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to lose a twin. While it is made clear that this is not an attempt to take away from other people’s suffering, it immediately goes ahead and does that anyway. This is indicative of the 9/11 trend where everyone has a story to tell, but while each one is poignant in its own right, it is so clogged up amongst the tide that it just gets lost. Having said that, I did enjoy the programme and sympathised with those involved (but not empathised, since I’m not a twin and I’m not capable of truly understanding), but I was still unable to shake off my feelings of numbness.
Having pondered this, I came to the following conclusion: 9/11 stories sell, by which I mean there will always be a guaranteed audience, with each story feeling like a competition of suffering. All one has to do is look at all the magnitude of cultural references to 9/11 there have been (so much so there is a full page dedicated to it on Wikipedia) to see how the media have taken their opportunity to exploit the events for profit or viewings. The 2010 film, ‘My Name is Khan’, is a perfect example of how tenuous the angles can be; a story of an Indian born autistic Muslim man, turned citizen of America, who has to deal with sudden post-9/11 hatred and prejudice, so makes a long, arduous, highly romanticised journey to tell the US president that he is not a terrorist.
As mentioned, I do think we need to remember the events to remind ourselves of those lost and to be grateful of our own good fortunes, so therefore such narratives are necessary. But if the point is to remember those innocent lives, I can’t understand how the constant bombardment of programmes which continually show scenes of destruction helps anyone, which leads me to think, it probably wasn’t ever about that anyway. Imagery such as the slow-motion demise of the towers and close-ups of dusty, terrified faces are prevalent, their once powerful impact now used for entertainment value, like a well-worn Hollywood movie. I just wonder whether we will reach a time when the world can mourn the loss of those who were killed without a gimmick to facilitate the process.
And most importantly, I wonder when my mum will get her birthday back; she hasn’t been able to celebrate in ten years. I think her story needs to be told. Speaking of, I need to go get her a present. First my birthday was taken over by the Royal Wedding in April, now this. Will the tragedy never end..?
Photo Credits: The Twins of the Twin Towers, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
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