FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Media Politics of 9/11

by NORMAN SOLOMON

For 30 months, 9/11 was a huge political blessing for George W. Bush. This week, the media halo fell off.

Within the space of a few days, culminating with his testimony to the Sept. 11 commission Wednesday afternoon, former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke did serious damage to a public-relations scam that the White House has been running for two and a half years.

We may forget just how badly President Bush was doing until Sept. 11, 2001. That morning, a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer story told of dire political straits; his negative rating among the nation’s crucial independent swing voters stood at 53 percent, according to the latest survey by nonpartisan pollster John Zogby.

On Sept. 12, Bush’s media stature and poll numbers were soaring. Suddenly, news outlets all over the country boosted the president as a great leader, sometimes likening him to FDR. For many months, the overall media coverage of President Bush was reverential.

With intimidation in the air, all but a few mainstream journalists tamped down criticisms and lacquered on adulation. A kind of war-mentality sheen covered public surfaces. Guided by Bush’s top strategist Karl Rove, the administration strived to exploit the tragedy of 9/11 at every turn.

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, as the extent of prewar lies forced the Bush administration into a defensive crouch, reliance on images and rhetoric about Sept. 11 was more important than ever. For the Bush team, frequent invocation of 9/11 seemed dependable as a fortified version of patriotism — the last, and most promising, refuge of scoundrels.

The anger that we’re now hearing from the White House is the sound of an administration being hoisted by its own 9/11 petard.

The Bush estate has bet the political farm on 9/11. True, the focus of initial TV commercials on Sept. 11 imagery can always be adjusted later. But the Bush-Cheney campaign must remain inseparably tied to 9/11. The Republican Party’s national convention was scheduled unusually late on the calendar in Manhattan — until early September — to indelibly link the Bush-Cheney ticket to Sept. 11.

Hitting the USS Bush at the time of the spring equinox, the current media gale has not been all that harsh. But the media upheaval is striking because of its contrast with the very favorable political climate that the Bush political vessel has been able to create and navigate in relation to 9/11 until this spring.

Bush’s prior media problems with Iraq war policy are helping to compound his 9/11 media debacle of recent days. Now, with Clarke recounting the administration’s fixation on Iraq in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, there’s extra public outrage about the new firsthand evidence that Bush was eager to pursue his discredited Iraq obsession even while the World Trade Center was on fire.

For the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration, the parallels and negative synergies between Iraq and 9/11 issues include the common thread of extreme dishonesty. On Monday — while a typical Wall Street Journal editorial sputtered that the Sept. 11 commission had been hijacked “to provide a vehicle to embarrass the Bush administration” — the same newspaper’s front page was featuring a lead article about Sept. 11 events politely headlined “Government Accounts of 9/11 Reveal Gaps, Inconsistencies.” Based on the article’s meticulous reporting, a less circumspect headline could have been: “Bush, Cheney and Top Aides Now Tangled Up in 9/11 Deceptions.”

This week, news departments that were slow on the uptake quickly found themselves out of step. Monday, while the Washington Post front-paged a major substantive article about Clarke’s charges, the New York Times buried its coverage of the subject on a back page. (The anemic Times article carried the byline of Judith Miller, who rendered invaluable prewar service to the Bush administration by reporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — based on anonymous sourcing. Miller’s source turned out to be the Pentagon’s favorite handpicked Iraqi exile “leader,” Ahmed Chalabi.) After badly lagging behind the Post, on Tuesday the Times played catch-up on the Clarke story.

Whether the Bush campaign can regain control of 9/11 as a political football remains to be seen. We should never forget that real people died on that day, and real people are still dying in Iraq because of depraved political games in Washington.

People in positions of enormous power are never more dangerous than when they see their power seriously threatened. The counterattacks on Clarke have only just begun. And during the next several months, the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration is sure to reach into its very large bag of media tricks.

NORMAN SOLOMON is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in San Francisco. He is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You. (Context Books, 2003).

 

 

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail