Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America
Onnesha Roychoudhuri talks with Susan Faludi about her new book, The Terror Dream. I’m just going to indulge my instinct to quote liberally from this interview, but I urge you to read the whole article yourself—and join in the rambunctious commenting.
From Roychoudhuri’s introduction:
“Faludi notes that the fixation on feminism began just days after 9/11 — perhaps best encapsulated by the Houston Chronicle headline, “No Place for Feminist Victims in Post 9-11 America”; a seemingly out of place assertion that speaks volumes about the American fixation on a clear-cut vision of victim and hero, otherwise known as female and male. Indeed, while the bulk of the World Trade Center victims were male, it is the pictures of the woman being comforted by a fireman that we saw in the newspapers. And it was, as New York Magazine put it in a headline, the stay-at-home widows — preferably pregnant at the time of the attacks, those “Perfect Virgins of Grief” that America’s attention turned to.”
And from the Q&A:
“OR: One of the poignant things that you write about is our leadership’s preoccupation with image after 9/11. There’s a docudrama created of depicting Bush’s valor after 9/11, Rove invites top movie and TV execs to a hotel to discuss the event, Peggy Noonan is comparing Bush to Superman. What do you make of all these narratives?
“SF: It was as though what mattered to our political and media culture was not what we did but how we appeared as we were doing it. Instead of actual efforts to improve security, instead of actual strategies, military and investigative that might bring the perpetrators to justice, we seemed as a culture to be embarked on this prolonged effort to cast and produce 9/11 The Movie, the sequel where we emerge triumphant and super-inflated and muscular.
“There were a number of meetings right in the weeks after 9/11 with those in the film industry — meetings at a time when you would like to believe that our government officials had bigger things on their minds than seeing if Hollywood would cobble together a film about American heroism based on the splicing of old Westerns (which is what they ended up doing).“You would think that Bush and his cabinet would have better things to do than make themselves available for hours on end to be photographed by Vanity Fair. In his editorial note accompanying the cover story photo essay of Bush and his cabinet members, even editor in chief Graydon Carter wondered why they were so accommodating and he concluded, in this 21st century era of culture, that image is more important than anything else. There was little irony. He was basically proud that Vanity Fair was seen as the scene of image making.”
And incidently, if you are like me in bemoaning the loss of investigative journalism to print media budget slashing, political intimidation, advertiser-slavery, or just plain laziness—let Onnesha Roychoudhuri show you how its done.
Not only is her interview with Susan Faludi extensive, sharp, and fascinating, but Roychoudhuri turned out an amazing piece at Truthdig awhile back headlined “Inside the Data Mine,” which went about his deep into our country’s telecommunications net as possible. Her investigation is exhaustive—covering “political clout,” insider trading, conspicuous mergers and diminishing choice for consumers, spying data mining deals (i.e., phone companies letting the goverment listen to you), and more. At the same time, Roychoudhuri’s writing is clear and direct. She doesn’t let the information weigh heavy, but rather moves you through with discovery, revelation, and fascinating facts.
I’ve become a fan of her work, and I’ll certainly keep my eye out for more. We all might do well to encourage this kind of journalism anywhere we find it.
This blog entry is cross-posted at Isak.