If the Coronavirus has taught us anything–and it’s teaching us more every day–it’s that this country overreacted the fuck out of 9/11, and that all the people on the far-right were hypocritical fascists-in-waiting when they took the opportunity to turn the US even more into a crypto-fascist police state. Some of us already knew that, even understood it as it was unfolding and wrote a best-selling book¹ on the subject–can I be a TV pundit now?
I was in Boston, Massachusetts on 9/11/2001. I wrote all about my experience here, but one thing I vividly remember is the horrifically offended looks I got from people when I wondered whether fewer people might have actually died on that day. My thinking was: after 3,000 deaths at 9am in the east coast, everybody stayed at home. Way less traffic accidents, way less violent crime, etc. I was half-joking, trying to provide a different perspective, trying to push back against the sacredness & seriousness that I already knew was going to be weaponized against innocent people in foreign countries and dissidents at home.
But at least I was only joking.
It’s a hell of a thing to see people now, when every day sees another 9/11-sized number of deaths, argue that it isn’t so bad, that it isn’t worth changing our lives over.
South Dakota governor Kristi Noemsh told Fox News the other day, “I believe in our freedoms and liberties. What I’ve seen across the country is so many people give up their liberties for just a little bit of security, and they don’t have to do that.”
That’s fucking weird, because I remember being told back in 2001 by every politician, news media personality, and op-ed columnists that, actually, we did have to give up our liberties for a little bit of security, and we didn’t have any goddamn choice in the matter and anyone who disagreed was a terrorist-sympathizer who hated America.
Every day isn’t just 9/11 because of the number of deaths. It’s the way the news keep hitting. Nothing is allowed to remain stable. Every day is unsettling. I remember watching the news on 9/11 with a mix of–I hate to use this phrase, shock and awe.² I remember saying “holy shit” a lot. During this pandemic, I’ve been doing that every day for six weeks straight.
Even if you are able to gradually adjust to the present reality–isolation, home-schooling, working-from-home, grocery store trips that resemble apocalyptic films–some yahoo just comes along to disrupt it. It’s almost like they hate our unity more than anything else. US citizens working together to help save lives might be, in the eyes of right-wing politicians/media, the scariest thing of all.
Now that I think about it, maybe these two right-wing philosophies–terrorist attack means give up your freedoms, virus attack means don’t give up your freedoms–aren’t as contradictory as they seem at first. The target of the anger from governors and “protesters” isn’t the virus, it’s the liberal politicians who instituted them. And in the sense that, in the wake of 9/11, these people didn’t see any difference between terrorists and liberals, then people like Kristi Noemsh are just attacking the same people they’ve always attacked, and fighting the same war they’ve always been fighting. And their change of tactics, or philosophy, isn’t any more hypocritical than a country deciding to feed a country’s people one day and them bomb them the next. Because everything is about power, and power comes from victory. And even if they aren’t always winning, it still feels like I’m always losing.
¹ On the Small Press Distribution best-sellers list, four years after it came out, but my claim still has more validity to it than the ‘Rona benefits of hydochloroquioxiticrobertquine or whatever the fuck it is.
² Partly because it reminds me of the US military strategy in Iraq (which worked out as well as I thought it would–seriously, can I get a job pundit-ing?), but also because it reminds me of that Simon Reynolds glam rock book from a few years back. I wasn’t a fan. Sorry, Simon.