|You can probably remember a few years ago when professional wrestling was incredibly popular (I mean the WWE and NWA-TNA style wrestling, not the fake college stuff). Back then wrestling was becoming a prime time phenomenon, with a new emphasis on soap opera storylines, extreme violence, and plenty of T & A thrown in for good measure. During that time the WWF (now known as the WWE) was getting a lot of criticism, sparked in part by a death or two caused by children acting out what they saw (exactly where their parents were each week remains a mystery). |
Anyways, at some point during that time period ESPN did an hour-long piece looking into the controversy. It was an incredibly one-sided bit of interviews which criticised the wrestling industry for its excesses. But ESPN failed to disclose something to its viewers, namely that ABC and ESPN are both owned by Disney. You may be thinking, "So what?" Well, at the time WWE Raw and WCW Monday Nitro were giving ABC's Monday Night Football one hell of a run for its money in both ratings and advertising dollars. In other words, ESPN's one-sided "journalism" probably had little to do with informing you and a lot to do with trying to piss you off in order to revive Monday Night Football's falling ratings.
That's what journalism has become in this country. Don't get me wrong, ESPN isn't exactly a bastion of journalistic prowess. So let's take things a little closer to home. General Electric, for example, owns NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC, which makes up a lot of the nightly news that we see in this country. General Electric also happens to do a lot of work with industrial systems, aircraft engines, power systems, plastics, transportation systems, and the like. General Electric is making a lot of money off the current occupation in Iraq. You cannot separate those things from each other. General Electric has a tremendous financial interest in our military remaining in Iraq. So why is it that we should trust what General Electric-owned news outlets have to say about the war in Iraq? These networks have a vested financial interest in colouring the news in ways that will increase its bottom line. Is that paranoid? Perhaps a bit. But money, not love, is what makes the world go 'round.
I say all that to say this: in the past four years, the news media in this country has failed us time and time again. Since September 11 a combination of a many things, including blind patriotism, careerism, and sheer greed, has sidetracked the corporate news industry from doing its job. Though the tide has been turning in the past year or so, it is still rare that we hear alternative voices from outside the U.S. news bubble. It's one reason that I find blogs, foreign news, and alternative media sources so important. When news is propaganda, we owe it to ourselves to turn elsewhere in finding out what's going on in the world.
On the anniversary of 9/11, I feel it's important, more than ever, not to be self-absorbed Americans. Was it terrible that 3,000 people lost their lives four years ago? Absolutely. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to what goes on in other countries every day, whether it be in Africa or the Middle East. The news media here rarely gives us those voices. But those are the voices we need to hear.
Riverbend from Baghdad Burning is one of my favourite bloggers. She's a 20-something woman from Iraq living in Baghdad. Her voice is desperately needed in this country to help us cut through the bullshit and remember that we are killing real people, innocent people, in Iraq every day. Our tax dollars are on the bombs and bullets killing Iraqis. And we should remember that every single day.
The following is Riverbend's take on the anniversary of September 11:
“What is it?” I asked, looking at the screen. The images were chaotic. It was a big city, there was smoke or dust and people running across the screen, some screaming, others crying and the rest with astounded looks on their faces. They looked slightly like E., my brother, as he stood staring at the television, gaping. There was someone speaking in the background- in English- and there was a voiceover in Arabic. I can’t remember what was being said; the images on the tv screen are all I remember. Confusion. Havoc.
And then they showed it again. The Twin Towers- New York… a small something came flying out of the side of the screen and it crashed into one of them. I gasped audibly and E. just shook his head, “That’s nothing… wait…” I made my way towards the couch while keeping my eyes locked on the television. There was some more chaos, shocked expressions, another plane and the towers- they began to crumble. They began to fall. They disappeared into an enormous fog of smoke and dust.
I sucked in my breath and I couldn’t exhale that moment. I just sat there- paralyzed-watching the screen. A part of me was saying, “It’s a joke. It’s Hollywood.” But it was just too real. The fear was too genuine. The incoherent voices in the background were too tinged with confusion and terror.
The silence in the living room was broken with the clatter of the remote control on the floor. It had slipped out of E.’s fingers and I jumped nervously, watching the batteries from the remote roll away on the ground.
“But… who? How? What was it? A plane? How???”
E. shook his head and looked at me in awe. We continued watching the television, looking for answers to dozens of questions. Within the hour we had learned that it wasn’t some horrid mistake or miscalculation. It was intentional. It was a major act of terror.
Al-Qaeda was just a vague name back then. Iraqis were concerned with their own problems and fears. We were coping with the sanctions and the fact that life seemed to stand still every few years for an American air raid. We didn’t have the problem of Muslim fundamentalists- that was a concern for neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
I remember almost immediately, Western media began conjecturing on which Islamic group it could have been. I remember hoping it wasn’t Muslims or Arabs. I remember feeling that way not just because of the thousands of victims, but because I sensed that we’d suffer in Iraq. We’d be made to suffer for something we weren’t responsible for.
E. looked at me wide-eyed that day and asked the inevitable question, “How long do you think before they bomb us?”
“But it wasn’t us. It can’t be us…” I rationalized.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s all they need.”
And it was true. It began with Afghanistan and then it was Iraq. We began preparing for it almost immediately. The price of the dollar rose as people began stocking up on flour, rice, sugar and other commodities.
For several weeks it was all anyone could talk about. We discussed it in schools and universities. We talked about it in work places and restaurants. The attitudes differed. There was never joy or happiness, but in several cases there was a sort of grim satisfaction. Some Iraqis believed that America had brought this upon itself. This is what you get when you meddle in world affairs. This is what you get when starve populations. This is what you get when you give unabashed support to occupying countries like Israel, and corrupt tyrants like the Saudi royals.
Most Iraqis, though, felt pity. The images for the next weeks of Americans running in terror, of the frantic searches under the rubble for relatives and friends left us shaking our heads in empathy. The destruction was all too familiar. The reports of Americans fearing the sound of airplanes had us nodding our heads with understanding and a sort of familiarity- you’d want to reach out to one of them and say, “It’s ok- the fear eventually subsides. We know how it is- your government does this (to us) every few years.”
It has been four years today. How does it feel four years later?
For the 3,000 victims in America, more than 100,000 have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands of others are being detained for interrogation and torture. Our homes have been raided, our cities are constantly being bombed and Iraq has fallen back decades, and for several years to come we will suffer under the influence of the extremism we didn't know prior to the war.
As I write this, Tel Afar, a small place north of Mosul, is being bombed. Dozens of people are going to be buried under their homes in the dead of the night. Their water and electricity have been cut off for days. It doesn’t seem to matter much though because they don’t live in a wonderful skyscraper in a glamorous city. They are, quite simply, farmers and herders not worth a second thought.
Four years later and the War on Terror (or is it the War of Terror?) has been won:
Al-Qaeda – 3,000
America – 100,000+