This week marks the fourth anniversary of the joint terrorist attacks on the United States. I remember the concern I had for the victims of the attacks, which turned into outrage when President Bush announced our own terrorist attacks on Iraq.
Currently, I’m feeling pretty indifferent toward the war on Iraq. I find myself more interested in news that they unraveled the chimpanzee’s DNA or the fact that the artist previously known as Puff Daddy has shortened his name to simply "Diddy."
Unfortunately, I think my sentiments aren’t uncommon.
In four years, why did my feelings change so radically? How can I describe myself as indifferent, when every week hundreds of Americans and Iraqis are dying? It sounds so cliche, but I blame it on the media.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, many people thought that it would be a short victory. In some ways, it was. Our initial mission, to perform a Democratic coup over Saddam Hussein’s reign, was accomplished by Christmas 2003. However, the American casualties in Iraq before Hussein’s capture were not what they are today. Many Americans ignore the statistics and the fact that we are still at war. Is this ignorance intentional, or is it the fault of patriotic overkill perpetuated by the media?
Perhaps it is because the statistics detail lives as a number. The rally-around-the-flag patriotism still has a stronghold in both politics and the media. This is best witnessed by the 2004 presidential political campaign on both sides. Kerry, the so-called liberal candidate, ran as the war-veteran candidate who voted for the war against terrorism. Bush ran as the family-values candidate who was winning the war against terrorism. As we all know, to be against the war on terrorism is to be against America.
Although the war on terrorism is often compared to the conflict in Vietnam, the current trends are a total reversal of the media treatment and anti-war attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s.
Television news was still a novelty during the Vietnam War, and for the first time, viewers were witnessing coffins of soldiers being brought home, not to mention images of wrongdoings by American soldiers in Vietnam. Protestors used the footage as fodder for mobilizing their own "troops," and everyday people were concerned with the events of the war.
Fast-forward 40 years to the current time. The mainstream American television media made a choice during our current situation not to show footage of American or Iraqi deaths. We only hear about the deaths of Americans, and when nearly 1,000 Iraqis died in a "stampede," it isn’t headline news.
Selective news coverage makes it easy to be ambivalent toward the atrocities in Iraq. Yeah, there’s still a war going on, but you need to dig deep into the newspaper to find daily information on the issues.
Fox News is enjoying massive popularity, sometimes beating more mainstream outlets like CNN and MSNBC. Progressive magazines such as The Nation or Mother Jones are much harder to find than conservative outlets like National Review.
Dissent is still labeled as treasonous by right-wingers, but protestors are harder to find today than they were four years ago.
It works both ways: although conservatives seemingly control the media, the progressives are apparently happy with the status quo. Americans see the coverage of the war as repetitive, which is no surprise after four years of continuous exposure.
It is also no longer cool or trendy to be politically involved against the war, whether it is because of disillusionment after the 2004 election or because of an utter lack of interest. All hope is not lost though.
Statistics on all sides show the dwindling popularity of the war on terrorism. It is now less popular to be against the war than for it. It seems a little late to start protesting the war now. However, the massive pickets and demonstrations against the Vietnam War took place during the escalation, 20 years after initial aid was sent to the French from the United States. Hopefully, the war won’t last that long.
It is the four-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and it’s hard to believe the transformation in the media from the Clinton-bashing, anti-political era to the current pro-President, pro-war times.
The times are calling for a refocus to active political movements. It would be a welcome change from the current acceptance of the war, four years after it started. I just hope that another celebrity doesn’t change his name, pulling all of our attention from the importance of dissenting patriotism.