Tuesday, September 19, 2006

9/11 Rhetoric

In the wake of September 11, 2001, several of my friends who followed broadcast news noted how quickly the rhetoric surrounding the events escalated as they unfolded.

As the day progressed, the attacks went from being something like "the largest terrorist attack on American soil since Oklahoma City" to something "the largest foreign attack on America since Pearl Harbor" to something like "the worst disaster in the history of the world." These aren't exact quotes; I'm just trying to give examples of the nature of the tone.

Well, that was five years ago, and I think in the midst of an attack we can be forgiven a bit of hyperbole. One function of time is that it gives us greater room to place events within a context after their immediate emotional impact has subsided.

So this blurb over at IMDB.COM interested me. It seems American Airlines is protesting a scene in an upcoming miniseries called The Path to 9/11. Apparently one scene implies American was lax in its security procedures when the security lapse apparently took place at U.S. Airways.

If I had a business, I'd certainly want to make that same correction. Nothing wrong with that. What made me sigh was the rhetoric in the statement:

The American statement concluded: "That the film directly contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission is troubling. That it defames dedicated public officials is tragic. But the fact that it misleads millions of people about the most tragic and consequential event in recent history is disgraceful."

The most tragic and consequential event in recent history....

Yeah, I know, the words "tragic," "consequential," and "recent" are all ambiguous enough that this phrase is at least defensible from any parsing, but really, what does it say about us and our psyche?

I suppose I could hammer this point by inviting a list of events more "consequential" than 9/11 or, possibly, even one of those more tragic. But why does tragedy have to be a contest these days? Why do we have to be more put upon and victimized than our neighbors? Why is there no room for us to recognize that being able to recognize the suffering of others does not diminish our own?


Doug said...

Great comments, Ken. I have always bristled at the many takes on the phrase "the world changed on 9/11" given that it didn't change at all, it just bled onto US soil for the first time. It's always tempting to equate or substitute ourselves in place of everyone else.

BlackLineFish said...

tragic and consequential...

Obviously we overstate the importance of things that occur within our life times, especially the most recent. This occurs in popular culture to a great extent (a list of the top 100 musicians of all time will invariably include The White Stripes).

Good thoughts.