Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Praise of C-SPAN

Yesterday’s prediction of oversaturated media coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 came true this morning with a vengeance.  However, I realized that I was less annoyed by the fact that just about every news source was on site at Ground Zero as by their presence being reinforced with no end of babble, filling “vacant” time with an abundance of opinions, few of which were informed and most of which were self-serving.  After all, media is a business (even at the BBC as I quickly realized);  and business is about competing for audience share rather than about the solemnity of the occasion.  So it was that I found that C-SPAN was the only feed willing to recognize that an unadorned approximation to being there was all that mattered.  This amounted to the video equivalent of standing in the crowd at Ground Zero.  Anything C-SPAN wanted to say by way of explanation (or promotion) appeared as text at the bottom of the screen.  I am sure that just about every other channel would have written this off as the moral equivalent of dead air, but for me it was a sign of respect.  I realize that the corollary of this observation is that respect no longer signifies in the media business, but is this new to any of us?

By way of afterthought, however, I feel that the San Francisco Chronicle deserves to be acknowledged for putting any acts of remembrance today into perspective.  Right in the middle of the Books section of today's paper are two reviews, one on either side, of books that deserve to be read, because we cannot remember 9/11 without also remembering the dark consequences that ensued in the ways in which our government chose to react.  Each of these books provides an uncompromising examination of those consequences.  The first is a collection edited by Alia Malek entitled Patriot Acts:  Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice, whose review appears under the headline "Freedom denied."  The second is Jay Feldman's pursuit of a broader context in his book Manufacturing Hysteria:  A History of Scapegoating, Surveillance, and Secrecy in Modern America.

9/11 is not just a story of what happened in our country on that day.  The more important story is what happened to us through our reaction to what happened.  These books dare to tell at least pieces of that story when the consciousness industry would prefer that we just ignore what they are trying to say.

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