Monday, September 10, 2012

TV sucks

It seems to me there could be an excellent documentary made about 9/11. If I made it, I'd call it "Causes and Effects" or something. Let's place it in historical context. What is Al Qaeda, what attacks did it previously carry out? Who was Osama Bin Laden and who were the mujahideen? Who is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? How did the escalation of the war on terror change Al Qaeda? How has it warped our relations with Pakistan? Who were the hijackers? What is the history of airplane hijacking and how did our system for responding to it make the attacks successful? What role did Islam play? What is the history of suicide attacks and their relation to religion? (kamikaze pilots, Hezbollah, Tamil Tigers, Hamas, IRA) How did the truther movement come about and what is its cultural impact? What already-existing political goals became easier to achieve thanks to the attacks? (Iraq war, Patriot Act) How did 9/11 change airport security, how did it change how airline passengers react to saboteurs, and which of these changes are efficacious? What impact did 9/11 have on art, music, literature, and film? What about the impact on news media culture? (U.S. media voluntary self-censorship, Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera) What about torture, rendition, and the further privatization of the military?

There are all sorts of additional curiosities like the subset of liberals who had been clamoring for intervention in Afghanistan - on the basis of women's rights - who then suddenly shifted to being opposed to intervention. Or the fact that we switched sides in Afghanistan, playing the role that the Soviet Union once played there. Or how we combined the war on drugs with the war on terror, deliberately destroying the crops of poppy farmers.

I have to judge the zillion documentaries playing on TV yesterday all nearly identical, and in that light, all terrible. Not only did they barely scratch the surface, they played like a voyeuristic True Crime special, for people who already know the barest details of the story to relive them and evoke the emotions we felt on that day. I don't deny the power of that emotion and significance of the change in how we viewed the world, but the superficiality of these T.V. specials banks on viewer's lack of curiosity. Maybe most others wouldn't watch a tedious ten-part academic exercise, but I do think most of us are capable of recollecting 9/11 as something more than a cheap thrill. I think the American people are being underestimated.