So, the best thing about 9/11 is that I get to wake up in the morning, check Facebook, and immediately know that I have no need to get on Facebook for the rest of the day.
This year I'm engaging in a sort of passive experiment. I'm going to count the number of times I see 9/11 referred to on Facebook. I'm going to count the number of times I hear 9/11 referred to by people in the real world. The score, as of 9 AM, is 4-0. To be fair, I haven't checked Facebook since about ten after seven.
It's sad, too. I actually started reading Fred Clark's bit on 9/11 and briefly felt bad that I was being so damn cynical about the whole thing. I still remember how I felt on that day and for the few weeks afterwards. I still remember realizing that 9/11 was my generation's JFK assassination or Pearl Harbor. Those were moments of shock and dread that crystallized a nation and lived forever on in the memories of those who witnessed them.
Instead, though, 9/11 has become my generation's USS Maine: an event hyped up beyond all proportions and used to justify expansionist foreign adventures.
The worst thing about the conflation of the 9/11 generation and the Facebook generation is that the entire act of remembrance is insipid and disposable. People will change their profile pics to an American flag, put up a status that says, "Never forget," and then won't talk about it again for another 364 days.
The only people who will talk about it between now and next September 11th will be politicians and pundits using it as a mere talking point that can mean anything and everything they want it to mean. This is possible precisely because 9/11 has become a cheap, insipid, disposable memory, suitable only for Facebook and Twitter and quickly supplanted by the true currency of the Internet: cat videos. We haven't invested any real cultural meaning in 9/11, we've simply always been told that we can't forget 9/11. Memory held for its own sake, without meaning or context or purpose is simply a memory that can be manipulated and added to any narrative anyone cares to choose.
Charlie Pierce, as usual, puts it best:
According to the good folks at Public Policy Polling — and why they asked this question, I never will know — 15 percent of registered Republicans in Ohio think Willard Romney deserves more credit for killing Osama bin Laden than does the president. Another 47 percent aren't really sure who does. In North Carolina, 29 percent of them give the credit to Romney while a whopping 56 percent of them find it too difficult to answer the question of whether the credit should go to the guy who actually gave the order, or to the guy who forgot to mention the troops in his acceptance speech not long ago.
Happy 9/11, America!
If we needed any more evidence that the atrocities perpetrated by Osama bin Laden 11 years ago have been transformed into simply another mudball in our national political mudfight, that poll pretty much seals the deal for you. It's more than ignorance. It's more than being misinformed. (I don't know of a single commentator, not even the wingiest of wingnut public-access trolls, who's credited Romney with being involved in the raid into Pakistan.) This is simple reflexive tribalism — Democrat bad, Republican, good. Also, too.
It's strange how on 9/11 the words, "Never forget," really mean, "I don't remember."
The parallels here are both false and correct. There was no foul play whatsoever in the explosion of the USS Maine, whereas there was most definitely foul play on 9/11. However, much like the USS Maine was used as a flimsy justification for an already desired attack on Spain and pumped up by a government and media working in concert, it's not exactly unfair to say that Iraq was the government and media working in concert to hype up an already desired attack against a nation that had fuck-all to do with 9/11.
The lesson, as always, is that everything old is new again and the American people are easily led around by the nose.