08 September 2006

Things To Remember

A suggestion for a project for someone with the tools and time to get it done.

In all the brouhaha regarding the Clintonista anger over their depiction in ABC's The Path to 9/11, there's one party that seems to be getting a pass and shouldn't.

The Clinton Administration was terrible with regards to taking the threat posed by Islamic Fascism and the use of terror to intimidate governments and people worldwide seriously. They haven't convincingly disputed their unease at fighting back against terror as anything but isolated law enforcement actions. That continues to be the preferred path advocated by the Democratic Party. That in of itself is damning enough without scenes of 'fake but accurate' drama.

But I'm not interested in all of that, if the docudrama gets shown as is or in a chopped up form, or pulled completely, I won't be watching cause it rehashes things that don't require dramatization to remain fresh and raw in my mind.

When the question gets asked, "Why didn't we take the threat more seriously, sooner?". Remember what was important in the summer of 2001, Gary Condit and sharks. The media is as responsible for shaping the public perception that terror was something that happened in far off places as the government was.

I don't recall the nightly news doing a whole bunch of 'connecting the dots' stories throughout the 90s. The interesting project I'd like to see get done would be to follow the coverage of the coverage of the many terror attacks that happened against ourselves and our allies throughout the 90s.

I'm working on the assumption that those events rarely resonated beyond a day or two, and for the most part probably were utterly forgotten as far as the ABC, CBS or NBC nightly newscasts were concerned. I could also guess that the total minutes of coverage devoted to the OJ Simpson murder trial, just in 1995 on the various network newscasts probably outnumbers the total terror coverage spanning the entire decade by a considerable amount.

I'd pick 4 events to focus on the first WTC attack, Khobar towers, the three embassy bombings, and the attack on USS Cole. We know that all of these attacks were acts of war, and all should have got the attention of the administration, the media, and the populace. I'd like to see traced through the nightly newscasts, how much attention was paid to these attacks and for how long, and what other events deemed more important pushed these off the broadcasts. I'd love to see the producers of the newscasts interviewed, grilled even, over the editorial decisions they made back then, and see what their excuses are. The media seems so intent on demanding that politicians should have known better, but I don't see a lot of self-reflection. The print media shouldn't get a pass either, the NYT and WaPo weren't exactly known for their commitment to attacking the threat posed by Islamic terror head on and with a passion. If anything, the print media was always quick to search for 'root causes' of terror attacks and find a twist in the story that would blame the West for the desperation felt by these poor, poor folks, and not the nihilistic fascists themselves committing the acts of terror.

The response these attacks received, the fact that they weren't an issue in the 2000 election is path enough to lead to the 11th of September, 2001.

But, don't suggest for a moment that it was only the Clinton administration that didn't take the war on terror seriously. The Clinton administration was driven by polls, they were always ready to do what was popular, fighting terror in the context of a war and not as a legal matter was not popular. Of course, in the 90s big media had a much larger share of the total media pie, so they are also part of the problem along with the populations of western nations that chose to ignore the looming threat. Ultimately though, true leaders lead. Pres. Clinton was the President of the United States, if he really took terror as seriously as he would have people believe now, then he could have, should have, spoke directly to citizens and made the case for military action anywhere and everywhere to prevent the very real threat of terror at home. He didn't, his administration's preferred path was cruise missles, law enforcement, and useless treaties along ballroom dancing with despots and dictators.

We all saw on a beautiful Tuesday morning what that lead to.

But we watched OJ, and ignored Khobar towers. We were more worried about stained blue dresses from the Gap than we were about hundreds dead and thousands injured on or near our embassies. An attack directly on a US warship was just another small band of crazies, "Move along people, there's nothing to see here". We were all (or at least most of us, some sounded an alarm, but they were most likely called alarmists back then) Officer Barbrady back then. Nobody gets a pass.

1 comment:

Pastor_Jeff said...


I saw this post when you put it up Friday, but busy-ness kept me from responding then.

I think this is one of the best things you've ever done. This is an absolutely spot-on insight. There's plenty of blame to go around for not taking the threat seriously, but the media will never of course point to themselves and the problems of the news cycle and the need to follow the meme of the week.

I could also guess that the total minutes of coverage devoted to the OJ Simpson murder trial, just in 1995 on the various network newscasts probably outnumbers the total terror coverage spanning the entire decade by a considerable amount.

I know we get the media we deserve, but that kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Thanks for sharing this.