Responsibility in Crisis: Knowledge Politics and Global Publics

Uncertainties and Events

26-Cohen: 9/11/2001 has provided extraordinary views of, and texts on, loss, mourning, and remembrance, producing an almost everyday expertise on the arts and politics of trauma and memory. There is the possibility that the richness of these rituals and exercises could overwhelm understandings of historical memory, memorials, commemorations, unfolding on different temporicities, for example on silences and trauma, on the importance of what cannot be said or seen, on the power of fiction and rumor. [21]

In American media, politics, and conversation, the mantra "since 9/11" would sometimes seem to have the effect of erasing the history of 9/10/2001Page  80 and everything that came before.

27-Kennedy: For discussion of the extent and nature of media attention regarding 9/11, see the conference entitled "Relentless Searchlight: Terrorism, Media and the Public Life" organized by the American Political Science Association Political Communications Section and the Shorenstein Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government on August 28, 2002, reported in <http://www.apsanet.org/~polcomm/events_2.htm>.

28-Patterson: A preoccupation with temporality pervaded the U.S. response to the events of September 11. In their many speeches and appearances in the days and weeks which followed, both Bush and Giuliani sought to establish shared timetables in their efforts to lead and unite the American people. From Bush's repeated insistence on the coexistence of Americans' feelings of sadness and anger to Giuliani's September 22, 2001 announcement on Saturday Night Live that it was okay to laugh again, top government officials offered remarkably specific scripts of recovery to the U.S. public. As the authors of the position paper note, "remembrance and vengeance work on different schedules," and these schedules also vary quite considerably from individual to individual. But frequently, and at many levels of society, adherence to the government's proscribed emotional timetables was equated with a newly requisite patriotism. As professor of media and popular culture Robert Thompson noted, "Both Giuliani and President Bush kept saying we've got to get back to normal...so the idea of laughing at a sitcom or watching a WWF event became tantamount to a patriotic act.'" [22] A slew of articles and news stories reveal the national concern with the idea of "laughing again," as if national consensus was necessary to determine individuals' behavior. [23] Commenting on the atmosphere of censorship, Tony Norman, a columnist of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette stated, "I look forward to the day we'll be able to make fun of the president again without being charged with sedition." [24] Bush also proscribed the appropriate moments for Americans to go back to work, resume normal lives, and even to go shopping.

Issues of time and consensus were also, of course, extensively debated during the fiasco of failed UN negotiations and the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The investigations were cut short by the United States' rush to war in defiance of the majority of world opinion. Perhaps it is neither new nor surprising that in times of crisis there is a pressure to conform to dominantPage  81 opinion, but the tendency toward micromanagement, increased surveillance, and violence in the top echelons of U.S. government have certainly pervaded our society and affected international relations in disturbing new ways.