Selling 9/11

9-11-2001 was a terrible day in our nations history. It left a scar in the hearts of millions and changed the landscape of NYC forever. No one who lives (or lived) in NYC can look at the Manhattan skyline without remembering the events of that day. Neither will those affected by the other two planes involved in the attacks, who’s visual reminders are minimal. Anyone that lost friends or family, regardless of where they reside, will be constantly reminded of that day by the absence of their loved ones. I was in Rochester, NY attending college when the attacks took place but I will never forget turning on the television just moments before the first tower collapsed. Everyone has a personal and unique reason for remembering that day. Do we really need media and retail outlets constantly reminding us to never forget? The unfortunate truth is that selling 9/11 has turned into a massive industry.

Coverage of 9-11-2001 sells newspapers, magazines, and television. Media outlets have spent the last 10 years capitalizing on one of the darkest moments the world has ever witnessed. The 10th anniversary of the attacks were no different. One of the earliest exploitations occurred as corporations sponsored commercial free programming. Wait — Commercial free? Exclusive advertiser programming is more like it. Sure there weren’t the usual commercial breaks but the majority of commercial free 9/11 programming was literred with advertisements for it’s sponsor(s). Corporations reminded us they are not above exploiting the events of 9-11-2001 to gain an advertising spot. News outlets spent the days leading up to 9/11 replaying video of the planes hitting the towers. The towers falling. People jumping from the buildings to escape the intense fires burning within. Do we need to bury this footage? No. Do we need to force everyone to relive that day for the sake of higher ratings? (Re)shock television? Absolutely not. I’ve become desensitized to the images of the planes hitting the buildings and even to those of the towers falling but there is no way I can watch footage of people jumping from the upper floors of the towers without cringing. What’s more — vivid descriptions of what happened when bodies hit the ground and sound bytes of Impact? How can media outlets see value in harping on these horrible occurrences of that tragic day? This isn’t remembering. This isn’t honoring. It’s just disgusting exploitation. There is nothing tasteful or even remotely appropriate about it.

Retailers are also actively exploiting the events of 9-11-2001. If you can print 9-11-2001, 9-11, 9/11, Never Forget, We will never forget, or any combination of the aforementioned on something, you can buy it. Street vendors are stuffed full of “memorabilia”. Wine cellars are producing 9/11 wines. There’s almost no end to how retailers will monetize the attacks. Steven Colbert, in his typical satirical manner, said: “If Americans can exploit the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to make a quick buck, it’s like hitting the terrorists with economic Jujitsu.” Now if only the proceeds of these sales did more than pad pockets. Where do the proceeds go? Not to the healthcare of 9/11 first responders. Not to the memorial ceremonies at ground zero, where this might have been the last year to shine floodlights from the towers footprints due to a lack of funding. In fact only a minute percentage of the 9/11 memorabilia sold even contributes to a 9/11 charity and of those products that do it’s usually an extremely low percentage of the total sale (usually 6-10%).

9-11-2001 was not the start of a new industry. It was the worst attack perpetrated on American soil since our country won it’s independence. We’re not going to forget the events of that day because media coverage ends or retailers stop selling memorabilia. The attacks of 9-11-2001 will be forever remembered because they were tragic and historic events. Events that forever changed the worlds view of security. The realization that being on home soil does not guarantee safety or protections from foreign attacks — that it doesn’t take fancy weaponry to carry out an attack — that civilians are not safe from attack. The only thing we would forget is the multimillion dollar industry created out of the ashes of that faithful day. Now more than ever, It’s time to put the morality back in 9/11.

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3 Responses to Selling 9/11

  1. Well said! I think you’re totally spot-on. Although in the realm of news coverage, I think it’s really hard to walk that line between giving an event like 9/11 an appropriate level of remembrance and exploiting it. I think most coverage was exploitation; but some of it was pretty moving, like the documentary CBS aired, especially the way they tied it to the health of first responders and the real tragedy of that now. The retail stuff is all pretty disgusting. I can’t believe there is such a thing as 9/11 wine! Anyways, great points. Now where can I get my “now more than ever” bumper sticker?

    • I think comments made by several journalists clearly cross the line of decency. Although dated now, Glenn Beck, for instance, spoke out strongly against the families of 9/11 victims: “you know it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families? Took me about a year.”…”And when I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up!’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining. And we did our best for them.” Of course Glenn is the easiest of targets but I could fill an entire piece with inappropriate comments made by Journalists or questionable pieces. Shock-news at it’s best (worst).