On eve of 9/11, what story is the media telling?
Media imagery can play a profound role in shaping the cultural memory of an event like 9/11, and some media experts worry that coverage could veer too far toward mythmaking.
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Ten years ago, the images of 9/11 led to a rush to enlist in the armed forces, notes Bernard Luskin, CEO of Touro University Worldwide.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures A Day of Remembrance: Honoring 9/11
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It also became a rallying cry for patriotism. “It has become a symbol for American unity and resolve. That can be partially attributed to the news media's depiction of the event as the 'Attack on America,' " says Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, director of communication studies at Widener University in Chester, Pa.
At their best, these themes unite us, with stories of heroism and survival speaking “to the best in all of us,” says Richard Levick, CEO of Levick Strategic Communications.
But while 9/11 is certainly about these emotions, it it about more than that, as well, media analysts say. The broader tapestry of 9/11's history includes allegations of torture, abridged civil liberties, and controversial foreign-policy decisions. Truthful coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a crucial starting point, says Steven Raymer, professor of journalism at Indiana University in Bloomington, in an e-mail.
Much of the reporting he dubs as “PG” and a “myth.” Myths can help viewers find some semblance of sense amid confusion, but they are misleading. "They dehumanize our enemy, our opponents, and the many thousand of innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire,” he adds.
There are exceptions, he says, calling the Afghanistan war documentary "Restrepo," recently shown on the National Geographic Channel, “as visual reporting at its finest. We see why soldiers fight, how fear works, and how soldiers must be motivated to, at times, dehumanize their enemies in order to accomplish their mission. This is not the stuff of the evening news, but it's real.”
It is not so much what America will see on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 that concerns him, he adds, as what they will not.
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