Government incompetence contributed to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001 and is even more responsible for deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. The Bush administration was well aware of the intelligence suggesting an imminent attack on American targets. Likewise, there were plenty of warning signs in January and February that should have led to, among other steps, a mobilization of testing and contact tracing capabilities in the U.S. The variance in responses to these events can easily be explained by the opportunities presented to those in power, and the differences in those most affected.
The events of 9/11 resulted in the deaths of just under 3,000 Americans. However, the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon represented not only an attack on America, but particularly, a major economic center and a military headquarters. Within days, intelligence forces had already begun laying the seeds for the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and continued their response in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. The resulting reality was that for nearly my entire life, the U.S. has been at war, one that has cost over $5 trillion and the lives of 500,000 individuals in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including approximately 250,000 civilians and 7,000 Americans.
Today, nearly 200,000 Americans are now dead from COVID-19. In fact, over just the four days of the Republican National Convention, over 3,600 Americans—more than lost their lives on September 11—succumbed to the virus. Despite many more lives lost, our government has had much less of an appetite to respond to the death of its own citizens than it claimed to have in the leadup to the “War on Terror.”
None of this should be particularly surprising.
The pandemic is not causing devastation to the heart of the U.S. economic and military power center. Instead, those bearing the brunt of the burden are Black, Latino and from low-income communities. This is a continuation of longstanding domestic policies— including investing in racist police forces, while defunding schools, community centers and public transportation—that have brutalized these communities. In fact, one of the most unnerving parts of the past few months is how normal the daily death toll has become.
But the average American is not responsible for the passivity with which hundreds of preventable deaths each day have been treated. With eviction moratoriums expiring, millions of people unemployed and without health insurance, there is no relief in sight for those that need it most. With no additional stimulus checks, there is no choice but for many to risk their lives to go back to work. We are experiencing so many crises simultaneously that communities simply cannot comprehend the toll of it all and our leaders are failing to act—that is, unless it affects our economy. The cruelty is the point.
We couldn’t have reached this seemingly incomprehensible point without corporate media helping us get there. Remember CBS CEO Les Moonves’ quote about Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. It’s okay if you don’t; he’s been out of the news since he had to resign because of sexual misconduct. Anyways, regarding Trump’s candidacy in 2016, he said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” I have a suspicion that other television networks might have had similar feelings. Now look at where we’re at.
By centering on the role of the corporate media that values property over people, it’s easy to understand how the fission in responses regarding 9/11 and the coronavirus have been created.
The media aided the calls for war in the days and months after 9/11 by blindly following the lies of the Bush Administration, justifying military action that had no connection to the attacks. Yet now, when we’re actually faced with interconnected crises, there’s no attempt to shine a light on them.
Instead, the media has largely chosen to focus their efforts on negatively influencing the discourse surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests. An abundance of peaceful protests have somehow been manufactured into a narrative about rioters and looters by selectively covering events. They have convinced Americans to care more about property damage than they do people’s lives.
Corporate (media included) affection for actual human lives lost each day is as fraudulent as those who whine “All Lives Matter.” At least in the process we’ve been shown how much of a charade the calls to “never forget” have always been.