I think like most Americans old enough to remember 9/11, I remember it almost moment by moment, as clear as if it had happened yesterday. Which makes it strange to think that it’s been ten years now — I remember it more clearly than a lot of news events that happened in the past year or so.
This got me to thinking this morning about the visuals of the event, and it dawned on me that really, back then, we had nowhere near the ubiquitous video and personal communications technologies that we take for granted now. What would our memories of 9/11 look and feel like had there been ten thousand people in and around lower Manhattan and the Pentagon that morning with 10+MP DSLRs or HD video cameras?
A far, far more interesting question in that vein: how might the day have been different had there been a dozen or more cameraphones on each of the hijacked planes, recording (and perhaps live webcasting) the actions of the hijackers as events unfolded? Given some of the weird things recovered from the four planes afterward, some of these cameras would have undoubtedly survived intact, at least intact enough for the data to have been retrieved later. (Never mind that today’s better phones would have given the passengers a more immediate awareness of what was going on and some ability to coordinate with each other and the ground - which means we might have had two more Flight 93s, given that that flight’s passengers were motivated to act by the knowledge of what had already happened to the other three planes.)
This in turn led to a few other thoughts of what is different now and what has happened since then:
- Social media, video/photo sharing sites: Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Ustream, etc. have all come into being since 2001. Imagine too how different 9/11 would have been had people in the towers been tweeting or Facebooking what was going on inside, or sending pictures and video to the web. Or how many more people might have escaped from the upper floors had there been some way to learn from survivors and communicate to those still trapped the fact that there was still one stairwell intact through the impact zone. And how much less “Truther” bullshit there would be with near-holographic imagery and narrative of the entire sequence of events.
- “Trutherism” and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theorizing: I used to be interested in conspiracy theory stuff (it was fascinating as aberrant psychology), but before 2001 I had never seen it as widespread and accepted as a tool for looking at the world. And I don’t mean merely the ‘Loose Change’ variety concerned with 9/11 itself — look at how the American left has embraced the notion that behind every event (and especially every action of the Bush Administration) there is at work a sinister conspiracy involving their ideological enemies. It’s not simply mainstream, it has become the very water in which most leftists seem to swim. And yes, this kind of paranoia has afflicted the American right to some degree (witness “Birtherism” and some of the wilder ”seekrit Obama” notions), but nowhere near the degree it has with the left, to whom every GOP policy proposal is a dastardly plan to enslave America to corporations and the super-rich, every gathering of three or more liberty-minded citizens is a Koch-funded astroturfed racist/fascist Tea-Klanner lynchmob, every mention of faith by a conservative is proof they are Taliban-like theocrats who want to oppress women and turn America into a continent-spanning evangelical megachurch, every natural disaster is instigated and deliberately exacerbated by cruel and sadistic Republicans (especially George Bush), and every Republican caught with his pants down (figuratively or literally) is part of a baroque and sinister “culture of corruption” involving Opus Dei, “The Family”, secret gay associations and S&M clubs, child sex rings, Dick Cheney, the John Birch Society, or (somehow) all of the above.
- Getting news from the internet rather than traditional outlets: I don’t think I’d ever heard of a blog until 9/11, when I came across a link to Instapundit that day on some discussion forum or other – probably Free Republic (which hadn’t yet become unreadable). Indeed, it’s hard to remember just what I read on the internet before blogs came along. Sure, there was Drudge, and there were sites for the mainstream news outlets (CNN, Fox, the networks, major papers), but 9/11 was unquestionably the catalyst for blogs specifically and for what has come to be known nowadays as citizen journalism.
Of course, the explosion of alternative news sites might have been less…um…explosive, had Old Media done a better job of reporting on the events the 9/11 set in motion over the following years. It wasn’t merely that new sources of information suddenly became available, it was that the information they provided (especially in the form of fact-checking and alternative analyses/opinions) shone a megawatt-class spotlight on the failings previously illuminated by the Lewinsky affair and other Clinton-era scandals and the 2000 election fiasco: the Old Media could no longer be trusted to tell the truth about anything, or to present a sober, reasonable interpretation or analysis of the facts. And the longer and more vigorously Old Media pretended that this was not the case (ignoring bloggers, deriding them as ‘writing in their pajamas’, etc.), the more their attempts to continue steering narratives and selectively reporting facts undermined their influence and public trust.
- Security theater: do I really need to rant about TSA, which wouldn’t exist and whose moronic and ineffectual antics we wouldn’t have to endure were it not for 9/11?
- Islam in public awareness: before 9/11, I doubt one American in a thousand gave Islam or the cultures under its domination any thought beyond the violent and incomprehensible goings-on in the Middle East as shown on the nightly news. Now we have in our shared vocabulary terms like jihad, jizya, taqqiya, burqa, hijab, halal, haram, imam, fatwa, Shia, Sunni, wahhabism, and kuffar, and in our common awareness concepts such as honor killings, female genital mutilation, suicide martyrdom, dhimmitude, 72 virgins, “islamophobia”, and worldwide caliphate. Ordinary Americans know a lot more about Islam today than they ever have…but what they have learned is unflattering, to say the least.
There is also a greater attention paid and credibility given to the claims and goals of radical Islamists and Islamic terror organizations. When these people claim they want to kill non-Muslims around the world, take down the Great Satan, establish a global caliphate, or sing the other perennial favorites from the jihadist hit parade, people take them seriously. If such are really the goals of Islamic radicals, they really screwed the pooch by tipping their hand with 9/11 — now everyone (except elected officials, the media, and the left) is on to them.
- Israel in public awareness: I’ve always been positively disposed towards Israel in some degree, even before I was politically aware. Since 9/11, though, it seems we have been discussing Israel a lot more, and Israel itself has been under a rapidly growing threat despite the concessions it has made in pursuit of a peace agreement, all while more Americans more vocally and more deeply express their support for the country. (On the flip side, a vocal minority in academia and the activist left seems increasingly willing to unfairly criticize or demonize Israel for its every action, and more generally to revive both the ’genteel’ and crude forms of antisemitism which had been consigned to the historical garbage pile following WWII — something I never thought I’d see.) While some denominations of evangelical Christians (for example) have long supported Israel for reasons rooted in their faith, after 9/11 there seems to have emerged a more general sense of Israel as a front-line ally in the same fight that was suddenly brought to our own shores.
- The corrosion of the multicultural left: I started seeing this with that ugly rant a few days after by Sunera Thobani — I knew something like that was coming, it was utterly predictable that we would be made the villains and the perpetrators would be turned into the victims or even heroes. I was merely surprised that it took 3-4 days.
Whether they would admit it or not, those pushing bogus ”multiculturalism” and its parallel concepts are in retreat. The new awareness of other cultures brought on by 9/11, and the access to more and less-filtered information on other cultures, has undermined the “noble savage” foundations on which these philosophies are based — no, America is not an irremediably evil entity deserving of all this and more, and no, all other non-Western cultures are not uniformly peaceful and enlightened and therefore superior precisely because they are non-Western, non-capitalist, non-technological, non-industrial, or non-[fill in the boogeyman].
The more shrill and offensive people like Thobani and Churchill became, the less credibility they had beyond their hard-core devotees, the more they turned people off to the ideas they were trying to peddle, and the more apparent it became that their gratuitously offensive ”critiques” had probably amounted all along to little more than juvenile “shock the bourgeois” gimmickry aimed at generating followers, funds, and fame. And as the left continued to criticize America and the West for its treatment of minorities and women and such while blatantly ignoring the atrocities committed routinely in and by the nations and cultures and worldview we have been fighting the past ten years, it became clear that for all their impressively incomprehensible academic language and posturing, they’re merely self-loathing hypocrites with serious envy issues towards that which they claim to most abhor.
There’s a lot more in that vein, and I may add more later, but other responsibilities are calling. Suffice to say, the past ten years would have been vastly different without 9/11, and an attack like that would have turned out very differently had it happened today rather than in 2001.