We sift through the glut of 10th-anniversary coverage, so you don't have to.
- By Cara Parks
Cara Parks is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Prior to that she was the World editor at the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of Bard College and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and has written for The New Republic, Interview, Radar, and Publishers Weekly, among others.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States witnessed acts of profound selflessness, touching solidarity, and welcome civic-mindedness. But the ensuing years also saw examples of political gamesmanship, crass commercialism, and oblivious self-promotion. And it was only two weeks after 9/11 that President George W. Bush exhorted Americans to "get down to Disney World in Florida." Reactions to trauma will always be a mixed bag, and so it remains 10 years later. And on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we’ve pulled together some of the more forehead-slap-inducing remembrances.
In the months and years following 9/11, the event became an occasion for political opportunism. For example, what better way to gin up support for New York’s special election, which happens to fall on Sept. 13 of this year, than by reminding voters of that little mosque brouhaha the city was dragged through in 2010? Republican congressional candidate Bob Turner went so far as to include images of the Twin Towers burning in this ad:
And what would the day be without a counter-demonstration to balance out those cranks arguing that 9/11 should be commemorated as a day of "charity" and "service"? Blogger and activist Pamela Geller, author of the book Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance, is planning a "Freedom Rally" in lower Manhattan on Sunday to counteract attempts by President Obama to "whitewash" the anniversary by focusing on anything other than what Geller perceives as a clash of civilizations. "We must show the jihadists we are unbowed in the defense of freedom," she told Worldnetdaily.com.
And as with any U.S. national event these days, there’s the fine line between healthy entrepreneurism and rank commercialism to be stumbled over repeatedly. To mark the anniversary, what better than the "Memorial Commemorative Merlot" from Long Island Winery Lieb Family Cellars. The winery is planning to donate some of the proceeds from the wine — priced at $19.11 — to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. (The winery offers another memorial wine, September Mission Merlot, for $9.11, donating a portion of the proceeds to September Mission.)
If you’re not a wine enthusiast, how about a commemorative 9/11 Limited Edition 10 Year Anniversary Badge ($75.00), or the more reasonably priced 9/11 Twin Towers 10 Year Anniversary Coin for only $10.00? For the kids, there’s a 9/11 coloring book that includes not only images of the Twin Towers burning, but also one of a Navy SEAL shooting Osama bin Laden.
It was inevitable that television coverage of the anniversary would quickly reach a fever pitch, but the insistence on every single show squeezing in a segment on 9/11 seems to be stretching the bounds of tasteful coverage. Suze Orman, a personal finance guru and motivational speaker, is planning on making her 9/11 remembrance comments during the same episode in which she advises callers on whether or not they can afford "Christian Louboutin shoes, [and] a Mini Cooper." Dr. Drew, America’s favorite celebrity rehabber, has moved to CNN’s HLN, where he will be conducting his own 9/11 special on bereaved families, while Animal Planet jumps in with a special report on animals helping people to heal after the attacks.
As Brian Lowry lamented in Variety: "Rather than dozens of different specials, what about a handful, cross-promoted and simulcast by media congloms?
Barring that, some of the entertainment channels could easily have passed the buck to their news divisions without anyone raising an eyebrow. No one will think less of A&E or Animal Planet for sitting out the Sept. 11 anniversary. Instead, networks with no logical connection to the story have piled on, defensively or opportunistically. Either way, it’s unnecessary."
Television does not have a monopoly on questionable anniversary coverage. In print, celebrity magazines scored a coup with the "revelation" that starlet Gwyneth Paltrow inadvertently saved a woman’s life by delaying the fan during her commute to the World Trade Center. And from tales of divorce to fashion shows interrupted the line between reflection and navel gazing grows perilously fine.
Speaking of which, there’s Joe Scarborough, ex-Republican congressman and current talk show host, who created a musical tribute to 9/11 (and America, in general) titled "Reason To Believe." The video, a pastiche of soldiers hugging loved ones, prayer, and American flags, accompanies Scarborough’s country song, which asks, "What would you guess/’bout a stranger’s caress/that reminds me of what we used to be/at the end of the hour/when I’m drained of all power/I’ll still find a reason to believe." If that doesn’t sum it all up, we don’t know what will.