One Nation, Under CCTV

By skepticlawyer

I forgot to put one of these up last week (as in, a chit-chat thread), which meant that the previous week’s Saturday chit-chat thread got rather long and out of hand. Bear with me, I am trying to get into the habit…

Since this weekend is the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, rather than do a separate, specialist post, I’d like to invite our regulars to put a link up highlighting a piece of writing or imagery that they think is a quality response to or commentary on the events of that day. I’ve included one of mine with this post (one of Banksy’s inspired pieces of public-spirited graffiti), for the simple reason that I lived in London before 9/11, and can thus remember when Britain wasn’t one nation, under CCTV.

If the piece you wish to highlight is an example of your writing, please don’t let false modesty inhibit you. I would much rather a collection of material that people consider good by their own lights than second hand stuff written by others.

If nothing else, that has the merit of candour.

 

21 Comments

  1. Movius
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    All that surveillance certainly helped during the recent riots…

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-09/sept-11-eyewitness-shares-new-photos/2877090 The last picture in this article certainly gives a good example of the scale of the destruction.

    One thing that will always stick in my mind is hearing the news of the first plane hitting the first tower, then the second, and then the first collapse on the internet. After which I told my family to find a TV channel that was covering it live, (which was only channel 10 at this point.)

    I then watched most of this sequence play out again “live” on television. Ten were still in the habit of showing their “live” TV in Adelaide on a half hour delay from EST. It’s not hard to see how some people could twist this experience into bizarre conspiracy theories.

  2. Posted September 10, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    The very first thing I ever wrote on the internet. I wrote about it because it was the 12th of Sep and I couldn’t think of anything else.

  3. kvd
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] thanks for that; it’s quite accurate for the time. I remember starting to think maybe two or three years after the event how we had willingly ceded our freedom to people who promised to keep us safe, but all they really did was tighten their control of our daily lives.

    I also remember at the time of the attacks being shocked by my two (late teen) sons’ violent reactions – “ragheads” is the word I particularly remember, and trying to balance that against the absolute relief I had felt when my older (idolised) brother missed the last conscription lottery for the Vietnam war.

  4. Posted September 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been waiting to see what Banksy’s had to say, if anything, about the London riots in August. Perhaps actual street violence, and real ordinary people looting and behaving badly is a bit much for his romantic anarchist vision of tasteful, proper disorder?
    All I’ve got is this one from May which I find very, very blackly funny in hindsight.

  5. Posted September 10, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Crumbs, Liam, talk about an image made extraordinary by subsequent events!

  6. Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    By the looks of it, he’d be in favour. Stokes Croft was a genuine riot that happened shortly before the big London ones (Tesco’s opened a local store directly opposite an anarchist squat I think was the story) and soon after the black-bloc occupation of Trafalgar Square following the mainstream March for the Alternative protest (so mainstream even *I* was there).

    The radical left is trying to paint this as an extended version of what happened in Greece with the British proletariat rising up against their capitalist masters. If the Stoke rioters get treated in court like the London ones, they’ll be needing all the money he can raise for them.

  7. Posted September 11, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    I remember being shocked. I also remember giving a paper at a discussion group in Canberra circa 1993 and someone asked, now the Cold War was over, which would be the next challenge: I said “Islam, because it is the other universal civilisation”.

    I have been doing a lot of reading about Islam and Islamic history since. The more I read, the more nuanced my understanding of Islam becomes.

    In all the too-ing and fro-ing about Afghanistan and Iraq, it is worth mentioning there have been no repeats against the US. In that sense, Dubya’s war (now Obama’s war) has been successful.

    It is also worth remembering that, when people talk about Iraq “being a failure”, Iraq is now about as internally violent as Pakistan and for much the same reasons, is not an active military threat to its neighbours, is not subsidising the Palestine-Israel conflict, the “Arab spring” was precisely the knock-on reaction the original strategy hoped for while al-Qaeda managed to be so vicious against fellow Muslims in Iraq that it lost standing massively among ordinary Muslims. So, in strategic terms, mostly a win.

    Afghanistan is a less happy story, though al-Qaeda were denied their safe haven there.

    The jihadi theorist who commented “we destroy two buildings, they destroy two countries” and opined this was not a winning jihadi strategy may have been expressing the strategic reality at its most brutally simple.

    I also tend to be a little more sanguine about our civil liberties issues, given there is a long history of swinging pendulums in these matters. Legislative (over)reaction is typically followed by a swing back. And, really, compared to past such, pretty mild. There has been nothing even remotely equivalent of FDR’s internment of the Japanese-Americans for example, or even Woodrow Wilson’s “Red Scare”. The one exception has been torture, but I have already expressed my views on that.

    As for Muslims in the West generally, the really big problem is in Europe and that has almost nothing to do with 9/11: it is a strictly home-grown clusterfuck, brought to you by the same clever fools who brought us the Euro (whose potential collapse could be a much bigger disaster).

  8. Posted September 11, 2011 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    [email protected] One friend’s more notable experience on the day after was watching a group of Muslim men in inner Melbourne cheerfully talking about what a great thing the attack was: such experiences, and scenes of crowds of Muslims in various places cheering the news, probably did not help.

    Yet I am struck by how limited the anti-Muslim reaction was, particularly in the US, compared to past episodes (e.g. anti-Catholic riots in England). Or even contemporary ones, the murder of Theo van Gogh saw mosques and schools being firebombed in nice peaceful Netherlands.

  9. Mel
    Posted September 11, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo:

    In all the too-ing and fro-ing about Afghanistan and Iraq, it is worth mentioning there have been no repeats against the US. In that sense, Dubya’s war (now Obama’s war) has been successful.

    It is also worth remembering that, when people talk about Iraq “being a failure”, Iraq is now about as internally violent as Pakistan and for much the same reasons, is not an active military threat to its neighbours, is not subsidising the Palestine-Israel conflict, the “Arab spring” was precisely the knock-on reaction the original strategy hoped for while al-Qaeda managed to be so vicious against fellow Muslims in Iraq that it lost standing massively among ordinary Muslims. So, in strategic terms, mostly a win.

    Afghanistan is a less happy story, though al-Qaeda were denied their safe haven there.

    It would have been at least one hundred million times cheaper, more effective and safer to simply leave the Greater Middle East (from Libya to Pakistan) to stew in its own juices. It is also bizarre to say the so-called Arab Spring owes anything to the Iraq/Afghanistan intervention. Clearly the “Arab Spring” was an internal reaction to brutal dictatorships, most of which suckle on the teat of American taxpayer.

  10. Posted September 11, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Mel, I’ve added blockquotes to your comment so it’s clear who’s saying what 😉 Hope you don’t mind.

    I must admit I’m a non-interventionist on the post-9/11 wars, particularly on Iraq; DEM often calls the latter ‘George Bush’s Vanity War’ and I’m inclined to agree with her. Part of my non-interventionism is on traditional libertarian grounds (it costs the intervening countries a fortune in blood and treasure), but also partly because I really, really struggle to raise even a skerrick of sympathy for the ‘Greater Middle East’. There is a part of me that thinks that the best argument for coming up with alternative energy sources/going nuclear/etc is not the environmental benefits, but so that everyone can join me in ignoring the Middle East.

    Lorenzo’s comment @9 (the partying and celebration) fed into a piece I wrote for the SMH in October, 2001. It’s archived in an attractive format on this Singaporean site:

    http://www.thinkcentre.org/article.cfm?ArticleID=1126

    By way of background, when I was researching my first novel, one of the most persistent details to emerge was accounts (and often photographs) of various Eastern European populations cheering as either the invading Germans or their local collaborators or both in concert machine-gunned Jews into ditches. The reaction was common enough, I think, to be considered pervasive.

    Cheering at the slaughter of one’s enemies has a long and remarkably undistinguished pedigree.

    [Edited to add: Lorenzo, could you pop a linky to what you consider to be the pick of your posts on torture in this thread? I’d like to have it in the same place as Adrien’s and Liam’s links].

  11. Chris Bond
    Posted September 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I was working in the US ten years ago, in a global engineering company with its HQ in the north-west suburbs of Chicago. We were at the beginning of an ordinary day when the first utterly mystifying reports began to spread through the building, and soon we were grouped around PCs watching on the (primitive) net, as the tragedies unfolded. Rumours spread like wild-fire, particularly that Chicago would be next: we heard that terrified occupants of the Sears Tower and John Hancock building, the Amoco tower, and other high buildings down-town, were evacuating (probably some literally).

    And then the skies fell eerily quiet. The offices were within 5 miles of O’Hare Airport: my home was 10,000 feet under one of the regular landing flight-paths: and so the lack of any noise from planes then, and for the next few days, was extraordinary and unsettling.

    On the day I remember discussions with American colleagues. Unusually for Americans, many of them were well-traveled, it was and is part of the job. Many had married ‘aliens’ they had met while on a months-long posting somewhere else on the planet. And yet they had no comprehension that anyone could possibly hate them that much. And I remember saying to them, yes, it’s truly awful: but thank the gods that the terrorists hadn’t gone for a dirty bomb in the middle of a major city, thank the gods that it’ll ‘only’ cost 3000 American lives to wake you guys up to the real meaning of terrorism (I have to admit that American support of the IRA in the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland may have slightly diluted my sympathy for the US).

    Oh, and I remember as details came out of the ‘box-cutter’ knives the hijackers used, and I asked what the heck they were, and how on earth such items could be allowed on American planes… and it turned out that, before 9/11, Americans were allowed to carry on board knives with blades up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) long… to say that I was astonished, was putting it mildly!

  12. Posted September 13, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    [email protected] This is my most comprehensive discussion of the torture issue.

    [email protected] The Arab Spring has not only been against US-supported dictators. That the current head of the Arab League is the Iraqi Foreign Minister (a Kurd) helped isolate Qaddafi, for example. Iraq moved from dictatorship to a country where elections are competitive and matter, right in the heart of Araby. Yes, I think the example matters.

    [email protected] Alas, the Greater Middle East has so much of the oil, which makes it matter while we continue to use the stuff so much. Also, lack of a forceful US response to 9/11 would have been a double (or even triple) victory: make the West seem weak and feel weak to itself.

  13. Patrick
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I agree strongly with both of Lorenzo’s [email protected], especially re 9-11. I’m actually sure that SL agrees with that too 😉

  14. Mel
    Posted September 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo @13:

    Iraq is a clusterfuck, if anything it would have have an insipired a “better the devil you know than the one you don’t” reluctance to do anything. The so-called democracy now in place is unlikely to last.

    “Alas, the Greater Middle East has so much of the oil, which makes it matter while we continue to use the stuff so much.”

    Oil is worth nothing unless you sell it. We don’t need to meddle in the domestic affairs of Upper Bongo in order to get them to sell us bongo nuts. Countries trade with other countries, even those they hate, mistrust or fear, because it enriches them. As a trained economist, I’m sure you’ve heard of comparative advantage.

    “Also, lack of a forceful US response to 9/11 would have been a double (or even triple) victory: make the West seem weak and feel weak to itself.”

    Umm, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. The US’s “forceful response” in Afghanistan has resulted in in it and its allies being drawn into a war that cannot be won.

    It would be far better to simply pull out of the Middle East thus depriving the anti-West militants of oxygen.

    Meanwhile the costs of the Iraq and Aghanistan misadventures continue to mount.

    Paddy:

    ” I’m actually sure that SL agrees with that too.”

    No Paddy, read @11 again sans the Guinness.

  15. Posted September 15, 2011 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    [email protected] Actually, Iraqi Kurdistan is quite successful. Iraq really should be three countries, not one, but the Brits made that mistake in 1919-20 and undoing it was (understandably) a step too far for the US. For the rest, it is much less of a disaster than people seem to think. And al-Qaeda’s murderousness against ordinary Muslims undermined it quite successfully.

    Yes, folk will sell us the oil, but if one country became too dominant in the region, things could get uncomfortable.

    I am sceptical about how much jihadi terror is a result of Western foreign policy, especially since so much of it is directly to fellow Muslims. Also, the existence of Israel means “the West” is there regardless of our foreign policy.

    I certainly think you can argue all these cases either way, I just do not think any particular strategy is “obvious” in the way people often seem to think.

  16. Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Of course, if you want a “war” by the US federal government that has been a hugely more expensive failure, you could try this one.

  17. Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Except, of course, it turns out that measuring success has a problem there too.

  18. Patrick
    Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    All of which pales into comparison besides the war on drugs.. 🙁

  19. Posted September 15, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    On the more positive note, despite all the angsting about Iraq and Afghanistan, the remaining superpower throwing its military weight around has coincided with a dramatic drop in battlefield deaths globally.

  20. Posted September 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Yes, the war on drugs is a mess, and I think it’s probably right to call it a racist mess (not a label I’m fond of using, because leftist overuse of loaded terms like that has worn them out rather). The war on drugs impacts so disproportionately on African-Americans that it’s necessary to think about it in terms of a bunch of lawmakers passing a bill designed to ensure that 25% of the male African-American population (and a goodly chunk of the females, too) has a stretch in gaol at some point in their lives. Truly appalling.

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