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Islamic Terrorism and the Attack of September 11

“I am scared because I don’t exactly know and understand the complex world problems that would cause people to direct their hatred toward America” (Mary Coleman, New York Times News Service 9/14) Even during the initial shock of September 11 that swelled my patriotism, even amidst the solemn mood of heroism that stirred my respect for the victims, their families, the New York City workers, and in spite of a sudden admiration for the media and for our leaders in government for their strength, resolve and composure, something in me knew that after the dust and debris had settled that this would be the essential question we would be left to wrestle with.

This question posed by Mary Coleman just days after the attack, probably out of a self-proclaimed naïveté regarding world affairs, is the question more sophisticated analysts are feeling obligated to ask after the initial jolt. Lawrence O’Donnell, an MSNBC political analyst, put it this way a few months after the attack: He said that we have come out of what could be described as a national wake and that now we “need to ask the cold hard questions.” He suggested we conduct a seminar in this country “to tell us who we are fighting” and to understand “what is their expression of religious belief” and said that if we had known the consequences of some of our foreign policy actions, perhaps we would re-evaluate (MSNBC, September 30, 2001). The issues that are being stirred in our national consciousness are essentially those of the insider/outsider problem, issues first defined in a scholarly way in the field of Religious Studies. It was either William James, the 19th century psychologist, or philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, who said, “I have no wish to obscure the…

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…e Trade Center. I now have made it my policy to be 15 minutes late everywhere.” The questioned assumptions start small like this person’s semi-humorous comment, but in time they ripple out to broader concerns that can redirect the course of a life.

Works Cited

Doniger, Wendy. The Implied Spider: Politics

A Critical Study of Media Reaction to September 11

September 11, 2001: A DAY OF INFAMY. So it was vehemently proclaimed in Time Magazine¹s special issue dedicated to one of the most tragic events in American History and arguably one of the most brutal acts of terrorism to date. America, in the spasms of a few hours, has become a changed country. Perhaps in an attempt to understand this change and come to grips with the ensuing crisis, more and more people are turning to the media for answers. Now more than ever, the media, namely television, radio, newspapers, and the internet, have become the most powerful tools in disseminating information relevant to this event. This is a truth we cannot escape.

It would of course be naïve to say that this information is always reliable and accurate. Beneath the surface there may be underlying messages which can serve to manipulate the public. We as individuals need to be aware of this reality. We need to be discerning with the information we take in, be able to critically analyze it, and eventually make intelligent and informed judgements. Hence, to do a critical study of media culture with reference to the events transpiring after the September 11 attack, we need Cultural Studies.

Cultural Studies gives us the methods for analyzing the media. It gives us the pedagogical tools necessary to critically interpret the media. It enables us to read cultural text ³against the grain² by deconstructing it. In other words, it allows us to decode the encoded messages. An example of an encoded message could be the ubiquitous NBC Peacock icon which has changed its rainbow colored wings to red, white and blue. Prior to this change, the constant presence of the logo at the bottom of the screen had made it almost invisible …

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…ake a quick buck² by flaunting the flag on everything from a pin to clothing to various other patriotic paraphernalia. In many such cases the flag serves as a spectacle. Many billboards across town are an entire picture of the flag with no caption, thus creating a polysemic visual image evoking endless emotions and feelings in the viewer.

From a cultural studies point of view, if one is to derive a ³lesson² from all of this, it would be that we need to be educated in media literacy so that we can discern and discriminate between good media and bad. We should not be so naïve as to blindly accept the subliminal or even sometimes overt messages conveyed through media. Instead, we need to critically decipher media messages and understand their overwhelming impact on our culture. Only then will we be empowered to make intelligent and informed judgements.

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