More Reflecting on 9-11- why we need "stupid" pop culture

by Jason Gross

15 September 2006


To follow-up a previous post, I can across a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi called Americans in Denial About 9-11, which argues that not only haven’t we figured out what the root cause of it but that it also did nothing to change American society.  While the first point is worth repeating and definitely not a closed case (“they hate our freedom”??), the second point is dead wrong.
Did September 11th really leave us unscathed as Taibbi thinks?  Ask comedian Paul Mooney.  “Everyone’s black now.  Don’t believe it?  Go to an airport.”  Or consider the success of TV series “24” which is pinned around stories of terrorists.  Or consider that at this moment, Bush’s fear-mongering and purposeful confusion of Bin-Laden and Hussein is being rewarded by a (hopefully temporary) uptick in his approval ratings.  Basically, his scare tactics seems to be working: “stick with us or the boogeyman’s gonna get ya.” 

Though I’m sure Taibbi doesn’t mean to, his own musings about 9-11 and how it didn’t manage to wipe out idiotic pop culture plays right into Bush’s plans, which is to keep us all afraid.  Taibbi thinks it’s a bad sign that we still have ridiculous reality shows, which means that he was he hoping that an attack would wake up this country (to what?) back in 2001.  But it’s interesting to remember that a fellow Rolling Stone staffer didn’t agree with him back then.  On a CMJ panel not long after September 11th, RS editor Joe Levy said that after watching CNN ceaselessly during that time, he was relieved when watching the crawling headlines on the bottom of the screen, there re-appeared the usual pile of trashy celebrity news.  Levy said that he breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that- things were slowing getting back to normal.

So who’s right?  Is it Taibbi grieving that we’re no better off than before Sept. 11th in terms of pop culture and our priorities or Levy who cheers the same indomitable spirit?  While I can sympathize a little with Taibbi (the only reality show I can watch is the Apprentice ‘cause the Donald is such a funny asshole), I’d have to agree with Levy in the end.  Love it or hate it, we need pop culture.  It’s a good diversion because we’d go nuts if we were always gripped with fear over terrorism.  Also, believe it or not, sometimes pop culture is good stuff.  I’ve argued enough about music here but even on the tube, there’s few who will deny the quality of the Sopranos or the Wire and even on regular network TV, there’s good shows like “the Office,” “Lost” and “My Name is Earl,” all of which I wouldn’t want to give up.

Ultimately, what I think Taibbi is hoping for is that we as Americans (soapbox time, folks) became more aware of the world around us and more politically savvy instead of a bunch of drones who believe White House press releases (you know, like much of the media now).  I think that’s commendable but a major part of the problem is that we don’t have any leadership in either of the two parties that would inspire such a sea change.  Even we did “wake up,” who’s to say that we still couldn’t have pop culture, icky reality shows and all?  It’s our right as Yanks, goddamnit.

And as I unfortunately predicted, as one disaster anniversary replaces another, the tragedy of New Orleans is already being forgotten again, only waiting to be dusted off next August when the next anniversary comes around again…

We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work. We are a wholly independent, women-owned, small company. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing, challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. PopMatters needs your help to keep publishing. Thank you.

//Mixed media

NYFF 2017: 'Mudbound'

// Notes from the Road

"Dee Rees’ churning and melodramatic epic follows two families in 1940s Mississippi, one black and one white, and the wars they fight abroad and at home.

READ the article