UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Nightmare Images

9/11 changed America. Before we were relatively secure. The Soviet Union was no more. We were the one remaining military superpower. We were the untouchables. Then the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center crumbled to the ground and in an instant we went from cheerful and confident to angry and afraid.

Now the indelible image in our minds is not the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or the American flag. It is a shot of bodies tumbling past a window or billowing smoke and flames shooting up from the spot where one of the passenger jets hit one of the towers.

And so it became payback time. Since 9/11 we have provided the world with images of our own making. There is, for example, the image of the American flag being draped over a statue of Saddam Hussein in the heart of Baghdad, the image of the Iraqi National Museum being stripped of its treasures while American troops guard oil wells, the images of Iraqi and Afghani children maimed by our bombs, and the images of gaunt and terrified prisoners of war at our Guantánamo Bay military base in Cuba.

“I can recognize the conditions that prisoners are being kept in at the US camp at Guantánamo base,” wrote Terry Waite in Counterpunch, “because I have been there. Not to Cuba’s Camp X-Ray, but to the darkened cell in Beirut that I occupied for five years.”

Here, on the mainland, courtesy of our government there are other post 9/11 images as well. There are for example, the images of: Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warning people “to watch what they say, watch what they do,” police arresting immigrants and searching their homes, anti-war demonstrators being arrested and beaten, politicians wrapping themselves in the flag and charging those who disagree with them with being unpatriotic, and the Attorney General justifying holding immigrants in jail indefinitely even though they have no known link to terrorist organizations and have not been charged with a crime.

From the standpoint of human rights, none of these pictures are pretty. What they portend for the future, furthermore, is the most compelling question of our time and the central issue of a 9 AM to 5 PM conference on Saturday, May 3. The title of the conference, organized by the University of Massachusetts Human Rights Working Group and discussed in detail elsewhere in this edition of The Mass Media, is: War on Terrorism or Attack on Human Rights? Civil liberties, homeland security, and democracy in the post 9/11 world. The conference will take place in the Ryan Lounge on the 3rd floor of McCormack and is free and open to the public.

By Paul Cantor