Flapping Flags, Weeping Eagles, and Burning Towers, Oh My!
Facebook, the Magnification of Mass Hysteria, and 9/11 Memorialism
By Barton Cockey
After the 2016 election, I abandoned Facebook because of the viciousness of comments from the left. The “Trump is literally Hitler” hysteria was rampant. Someone posted a photo of a wall on which a vandal had spray-painted “TRUMP” with a swastika replacing the “T”. This graffito was held up as evidence that Trump supporters were Nazis. When I ventured a comment that since Nazism is about as popular as bubonic plague, the mysterious wall-sprayer was more likely a Trump-hater than a Trump-booster, I received a barrage of remarkably abusive messages from people I had never heard of.
With our new book, The Sacred Fury, coming out in October, I thought there might be some benefit in reconnecting with Zuckerworld for promotional purposes. The experience has been mildly illuminating. What stands out behind the flickering screenplay of cute animal videos and personal snapshots is a background of mass manipulation. Lefties are uncritically recycling anti-gun and Trump-Russia propaganda, while righties are circulating more conservative memes. No big surprise there.
Yesterday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks provided an opportunity for manipulation of the patriotic subset of Facebook addicts, who sent one another pictures of flags and eagles and burning towers. Being of a contrary nature, I am put off by patriotic displays. People are at their worst when caught up in a cause bigger than themselves. Gratuitous celebration of a past injury looks to me like a prelude to some future atrocity. Remember “Remember the Maine!”? Nothing appeals as much to our sense of righteousness as the combination of a slaughter of innocent Americans and an opportunity to rush our armed forces to the aid of suffering foreigners, whether they be Cubans or Syrians. No one I know personally is fabricating the tear-jerking images that so many people are sharing, but somebodyis, and the overwhelming number of them makes me wonder whether we are not being set up for another military misadventure in the Levant.
The horrifying events of 9/11 became the ostensible reason for our fiscally ruinous and militarily inconclusive invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the creation of yet another unnecessary federal agency with the un-American name of Department of Homeland Security. Air travel became more demeaning. All of these responses did more harm to the United States than the original attack did. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden issued a denial and a condemnation of the attacks—hardly the usual action of a successful terrorist. Was he really behind the attack? Or was it a black operation by the Deep State or the work of Israeli agents? I doubt that we’ll ever know. Anyone who has seen controlled demolitions or tried to collapse anything containing a steel framework would have to suspend his critical faculties to find the official explanation entirely satisfactory. On the other hand, the conspiracy theories offer plots that seem too complicated to work. The only part of the whole mess that becomes clear in retrospect is that the U.S government made all the wrong responses, including admitting even more Muslims to our own country even as our military cut a swathe of destruction through the Muslim world.
Will we learn anything from 9/11, other than how to send one another patriotic pictures? I wouldn’t bet on it.