I was only four when the 9/11 attacks happened, so I have zero recognition of that date. However, my father was a retired homicide detective, who was at the U.S. Capitol on 9/11. He was there doing arsenic training. The chemical was being sent through the mail to various government officials, so the FBI was teaching him and others how to identify the chemical. I learned about 9/11 from my mother. She told me how terrified she’d been when the telephone lines had been too jammed for her to get through to my father. My mother had to wait for hours before she knew if my father was okay or not.
United Airlines Flight 93, which had been hijacked by terrorists on 9/11, never hit the U.S. Capitol. Courageous passengers revolted against the terrorists and crashed the plane into a field, killing themselves and the terrorists onboard the flight. As a result of these brave men and women’s actions, my father and many others’ lives were saved at the U.S. Capitol on 9/11.
I came into this class thinking that all of the government’s actions after 9/11 were necessary because these measures were protecting the American people. I considered limitations on the First Amendment to be okay because this was done in order to keep America safe from domestic and foreign threats. I thought that people should be willing to give up their personal liberties for the greater good of the majority. Agreeing to these terms was being patriotic, and any form of resistance to these procedures was being undemocratic.
I extended my line of thinking into journalism, where I thought that certain censorship was acceptable. I didn’t believe that journalists should be able to publish anything they wanted, especially articles that would put America at risk. I regarded going along with the government’s actions against the War on Terror was being a good citizen. I pictured a Muslim person every time I heard the word “terror.”
I won’t lie. I still hold many of the ideas I came into class having. I have been taught by my family, my schools, my media and my government for 19 years what I stated in the preceding paragraphs. These words have been drilled into my head, and I don’t think that I can unlearn them. However, this class, reading Journalism after September 11 and various OnCourse articles made me aware of other perspectives. While I didn’t agree with all of the opinions I heard, I became informed about America’s history and 9/11 through multiple viewpoints.
For example, I learned through some of the OnCourse articles about America’s history that Americans had been guilty of carrying out acts of terror. The U.S. government committed terrorism against Native Americans through the use of the Indian Removal Act. The government forced Native Americans from their land, which directly led to many Native American’s deaths.
“The Jackson administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, and had secured treaties which led to the removal of a slightly larger number. Most members of the five southeastern nations had been relocated west, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to slavery” (Africans in America).
What the U.S. government did to the Native Americans was horrendous and unjustifiable. In high school, I’d been taught about the Indian Removal Act. I knew that Native Americans had been removed from their lands, but my teachers told me that the Act was necessary for America to become a united country. The Indian Removal Act was also never taught in-depth at any of my schools. After I read the online article from PBS, I began to understand the full impact that the Indian Removal Act had on Native Americans. I realized that the Indian Removal Act was actually terrorism, which the U.S. government had enacted. This made me aware that terrorism wasn’t just Muslim extremists blowing up Americans. I’d been uninformed and naive in my views of terrorism.
Through taking this class, I was able to learn more about America’s history, and America’s legacy of racism and terrorism towards others. America considered Native Americans to be others, much like America thought that Muslims were others.
In addition to America’s history, I was informed about the words and actions taken immediately after and years after the 9/11 attacks had occurred. I read articles directly following 9/11, which were written much differently than more recent articles.
Former President George W. Bush said, “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” (Bush, 2001).
Bush gave his speech to the American people directly following 9/11. His speech was a prelude for how America and America’s viewpoint would change after the attacks. Through the use of language of his speech, Bush implied that people who weren’t 100% for America were against America. Bush’s speech implied that Americans should look and acted a certain way, which created an image of what “others” looked like and acted. For Americans, many of whom were uninformed in the Muslim faith, all Muslims people were stereotyped as “others.”
Through my reading of Journalism after September 11, I learned that journalists didn’t question the reasons behind the 9/11 attacks directly following the events. Journalists at the time thought that doing this would’ve been disrespecting to a mourning country.
Instead, almost all of the articles the day after the attacks merely stated that America had been attacked by terrorists. The cover images for the majority of these articles had either images of the Twin Towers up in flames, or the debris where the Twin Towers had once stood. Articles told Americans that they needed to unite as a country, in order to fight against the terrorists. Images that came out after the 9/11 attacks, including the September 11 Photo Project by Michael Feldschuh, focused on the rescue workers, people, and buildings.
Jay Rosen wrote, “Work as a journalist became a specific way of being a patriot” (Rosen, 2011). Journalists only told sob stories or heroic stories about 9/11 because they felt like the events had occurred too recently to analyze the attacks in-depth.
Jay Rosen wrote, “Speaking as a journalist,’ someone entitled to stand outside the political community, had become a morally hazardous act” (Rosen, 2011). Journalists felt like they had a duty as American citizens not to offer any criticism to a newly grieving country.
Journalists took their time before they started to write a more analytical and critical version of the reasons behind 9/11, instead of just focusing on an emotional version. Journalists became to question the U.S. government more, and not just reiterate what the government was telling Americans. Many journalists today have been exceptionally outspoken against the government’s decisions, especially with the recent election of President Donald Trump.
The articles that I read about American history helped me learn that the government has committed terrorism against groups deemed to be “others.” Journalism after 9/11 taught me how the media reported in the direct aftermath of 9/11 and today. As a result, education, citizenship, democracy, journalism and “otherness” all shifted. Laws were passed allowing the government to monitor people, and individuals who resisted this were portrayed as being undemocratic. Journalism began to question the government more, which resulted in people not trusting the media and fake news sources. I realized that journalism today is in a critical period because certain freedoms are being threatened for what is perceived to be the greater good of democracy.
A recent example of people being denied their liberties in order to protect the masses was President’s Trump signing of the Executive Order 13769. The official name of the Executive Order was entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
The Executive Order put a restriction on people from certain countries entering America. Carol Morello, a journalist, wrote, “President Trump signed an order Friday to suspend admission of all refugees for 120 days while a new system is put in place to tighten vetting for those from predominantly Muslim countries and give preference to religious minorities” (Morello, 2017).
The people affected by the Executive Order were from countries with large Muslim populations, which many Americans considered to be “others.” The effects of the 9/11 attacks have continued to have an impact on the legislation the U.S. government created, even 16 years later.
Africans in America. (1998.) Indian Removal: 1814-1858. Retrieved from PBS Online http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2959.html.
Bush, G. W. (2001.) Address to a joint session of Congress and the American people. Retrieved from https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html.
Morello, C. (2017, January 27). Trump signs order temporarily halting admission of refugees, promises priority for Christians. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-approves-extreme-vetting-of-refugees-promises-priority-for-christians/2017/01/27/007021a2-e4c7-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumprefugees-810pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.0db9feaabe28.
Rosen, J. (2011.) The Trauma of September 11. In Allan, S. & Zelizer, B. (Eds.), Journalism after September 11 (pp. 42). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.