James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Posts Tagged ‘World Trade Center’

My 9/11 story

Posted by James McPherson on September 11, 2016

9-11

On Sept. 11, 2001, the first day of a new school year at Whitworth, I was getting ready to teach my first freshman seminar about media & society when the attacks came. Whitworth gave faculty the option of cancelling classes, but I decided that having an afternoon forum for discussion would be good for my freshmen and me.
Like most Americans, I spent the morning following the events of 9/11 on both television and my computer. Yet I remained strangely unmoved — perhaps partly because of my former training and experience as a reporter, but even more, I think, because of the unreality of it all.
Part of my brain just couldn’t process the pictures of a jetliner full of people slamming into a massive tower full of people, let alone the pictures of those two giant towers crumbling to the ground. And maybe the numbness of shock explains my relative lack of emotion.
Yet as a media scholar I suspect that part of my brain recognized what people at the scene kept saying: “It’s like something out of a movie.” Yet in the movies, we had often seen the sound and visuals “done better” than what live television had to offer — more “realistic”-looking explosions, from multiple angles, with music helping tell our brains how to feel.
So, though I am not proud of the fact, on that morning I couldn’t seem to make myself feel the emotions that I thought I should. Frustrated with the media coverage and myself, I walked outside into a beautiful fall day, though a door near which an American flag already flew at half staff. At the base of the flag were bright yellow flowers, planted to greet returning students and their parents. And there, a bee flitted among the blossoms. I stood and watched that lone bee, a tiny creature unaware of the events that would forever change all of our lives, doing what it was born to do.
“Well,” I thought. “Life goes on.” And then, standing there alone in the middle of campus, away from the media deluge and 3,000 miles away from New York or Washington, D.C., I began to cry.
Those tears weren’t the last I shed tears related to 9/11 — those came a little while ago when I read this story aloud to my wife. Insects play a role in Adam Langer’s story, too, and my wife and I have outlived a couple of dogs that looked like the author’s.
We all are witnesses to things we cannot fathom. And sometimes inexplicably, life goes on.

Posted in Education, History, Media literacy, Personal, Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Freedom Tower goes way of freedom, making room for Chinese

Posted by James McPherson on March 28, 2009

Remember that “Freedom Tower” being built in New York where the World Trade Center once stood? It’s still going up, but don’t call it that. You wouldn’t want to confuse the Chinese tenants.

After a slow start, the building is now about one-eleventh of the way toward its eventual 108-story height. But the Port Authority, which owns the land, has announced that the name of the structure will be “One World Trade Center.” Is that to remind us that there will be “one” tall building where there used to be two?

Also announced was the first tenant of the tower: a Chinese corporation that will occupy more than five floors of the new building after it is completed in 2013. Somehow that seems appropriate.

After all, the Bush/Cheney administration lied us into an unending war in Iraq, and kept warning us about Iran, but continued warm relations with the equally nasty Saudi kingdom–where most of the 9/11 hijackers and money actually originated.

Then, to “get back” at the terrorists even as the economy was headed toward a cliff, Bush told us to “go shopping.” That was a great boost for the Chinese, who produce most of the stuff we buy. In the meantime, the administration (aided, of course, by gutless and clueless of Congress) spent the next few years doing all it could to strip us of freedom at home.

Now Barack Obama tells us the fate of the world rests in Afghanistan, and maybe we ought to worry about those crazy drug lords on our southern border. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first overseas trip was to China, the nation that will be–if it hasn’t already–the one that replaces us at the top of the heap in terms of world power.

Clinton went to plead with the Chinese to please, please, please don’t let us go bankrupt. Hey, soon perhaps freedom will return: After all, in the words written by Kris Kristofferson and famously sung by another Texan, Janis Joplin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

You can hear the full song below, by both artists:

Posted in History, Music, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What a concept: woman to have input on women’s education in Saudi Arabia

Posted by James McPherson on February 14, 2009

Saudi King Abdullah has appointed a woman to the nation’s council of ministers for the country. Noor Al-Fayez will serve as deputy director for women’s education in Saudi Arabia, probably because there was no less-valued position on the council.

The appointment is a good sign, I suppose. Now she’ll just have to hope her husband is willing to drive her to work, so she can perform her new duties. But maybe there’s no reason for her to actually show up at the office, since as the State Department reports, under the traditional Saudi interpretation of Islamic law, men and women are not allowed to attend public events together, and are segregated in the workplace (pretty much like Democrats and Republicans in our Congress).

The United States won’t formally complain about any of that that, of course, because Saudi Arabia’s hold on the world’s largest oil reserves guarantees handholding on the part of American presidents. Despite our long series of misadventures in Iraq, the eye-gouging nation of Saudi Arabia also was the home country of 15 of the hijackers who killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11 .

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Two days in ‘the Greatest City in the World’

Posted by James McPherson on January 11, 2009

Since 9/11, every episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman” has started with a reference to that slogan, “the Greatest City in the World.” I’m not sure I buy that–“greatest” is one of those phrases so common to advertising because it’s impossible to quantify–but New York is a very cool place.

Students are already picking up some interesting insights from their time here–check out their “Media Impact” blog, linked under “Students and Friends” at the right side of this page. (I’d embed the link, but the hostel computer system isn’t very link-friendly.)

We have the weekend off, and some of us spent most of yesterday at the Met after a walk across Central Park. Others made a quick visit there, then went on to Staten Island, Brooklyn, West Point and/or Times Square. We also had snow that remains on the ground today–though nothing compared to what we left in Spokane.

Today some of us are hitting the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero. Then for the rest of the week it’s back to work, meeting with media leaders. Tomorrow we’ll visit with The Onion and Channel 13, where Bill Moyers does his show.

Posted in Education, History, Journalism, Personal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blind “love,” blind justice, and Bush’s shoe bomber

Posted by James McPherson on December 14, 2008

As far as we still have to go in this country in terms of equal rights for women and criminal justice, CNN today offers another reminder that things are worse elsewhere.

An Iranian stalker blinded his love object with acid, then “offered” to marry her after he disfigured her. The victim has now convinced an Islamic court that her attacker should face truth “eye-for-an-eye” justice, being blinded with acid himself.

Of all the troubling things about this particular case, perhaps the most disturbing is this line from the victim, recalling her thoughts when she realized that she was about to be attacked: “At that moment, I saw in my mind the face of two sisters who years ago had the same thing happen to them. I thought, ‘Oh, my God–acid.'”

The story also notes that Iran is one of only two countries in the world where “eye-gouging” is considered appropriate punishment. The other is the birthplace of most of the 9/11 World Trade Center attackers, and perhaps the world largest funder of Islamic terrorism–and our biggest ally in the region–Saudi Arabia.

After literally holding hands with the Saudis (some of whom have plenty of reasons for being upset, themselves), George W. Bush is fortunate that people (a journalist, interestingly) are throwing only shoes at him.

Thursday update: Bush obviously isn’t the only one beholden to the Saudis–CNN reports that Bill Clinton is, too, to the tune of perhaps $25 million.

Posted in History, Journalism, Legal issues, Politics, Religion, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

“W” and “An American Carol”: losers left and right

Posted by James McPherson on October 11, 2008

Two politically oriented films have been released just before the election. One has an obvious liberal bias, the other an obvious conservative bias. Interestingly, these are entertainment films, not documentaries along the lines of “Farenheit 9/11” or the equally slanted ABC miniseries “The Path to 9/11“–which means their success will be determined as much by box office dollars as by political influence.

Oliver Stone, who has done some very good films (“Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Wall Street,” “World Trade Center“) and some bad history (“JFK” and “Nixon“), tells Maxim that his latest film, “W,” is being released this month not to influence the election but “because Bush is still around.” He also questions his potential influence: “I did three Vietnam movies, and what good did they do? People still lined up in support of the Iraq War. People don’t remember. It shows you the futility of what we do.”

The other film is largely an attack on Michael Moore, the creator of “Farenheit 9/11” and “Sicko.” The new film, “An American Carol,” is produced by another well-known filmmaker, David Zucker (“Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun,” from back in the day when we thought O.J. Simpson was funny). Zucker, who in 2004 produced anti-John Kerry ads, and who in an interview with the neoconservative Weekly Standard compares Barack Obama to “a really clever virus who adapts”–says he hopes his film will persuade people to vote against Obama.

That seems unlikely. In fact, neither film is doing particularly well, despite the unpopularity of President George W. Bush or the heavy promotion on Fox News for “An American Carol.”

Early reviews of “W” from Variety (an “unusual and inescapably interesting” movie that “feels like a rough draft of a film it might behoove him to remake in 10 or 15 years”) and Hollywood Reporter (“a bold but imperfect film about an imperfect man”) are obviously mixed. And it seems to me late-night TV hosts have skewered the president pretty thoroughly. Besides, watching the real Bush flounder is bad enough–and no longer particularly funny, considering the state of the nation thanks to the Iraq War and the economy.

Of course conservatives quickly and ludicrously complained that liberal bias and “ticket fraud” (?!) were keeping “An American Carol” from doing well, but judging by the preview, I suspect that the primary problem is the combination of unsubtle political commentary combined with even less subtle juvenile slapstick humor. It is notable that the filmmakers refused to release the film for critics, usually a sure sign that the filmmakers know they have a dud on their hands (though in this case they spun it as a defense against liberally biased critics).

It’s difficult to imagine whom “An American Carol” is trying to reach. After all, most of the college-age males that the preview seems to want to engage likely will turn to something equally goofy, but which also offers the prospect of nudity.

Young people look for Adam Sandler and David Spade, not Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper, and for Angelina Jolie rather than her father, Jon Voight. And even moviegoers who like Kevin Farley, the film’s star, want to laugh with their lovable losers, not at those losers, and they want to see their heroes win in the end. That doesn’t happen here. Instead–ironic spoiler alert–the end of the film apparently has the character intending to do a new, more accurate version of “JFK.”

Older audiences need a stronger reason to go watch a film than do older audiences, and I can’t see Farley being such a reason. The film is broadly obvious–and therefore uninspiring–in its intent, and apparently lazy in execution. And anyone who wants to see Bill O’Reilly acting stupid can do so five nights a week on television; there is little reason to pay 8 or 10 bucks to do so.

This won’t be an election turned by film fiction, or even by based-on-a-true-story depictions offered in movies (or in political ads, for that matter). The fact that soon perhaps no one will be able to afford to go the movies, anyway (though escapist entertainment films were popular during Depression), will play a much bigger role in the probably election of Barack Obama. By then you’ll probably be able to check out both of these films on video.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Warku-go-’round: A 20-part history of Bush’s War

Posted by James McPherson on September 28, 2008

Here is the complete 20-part series chronicling the history of George W. Bush’s Iraq War, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history.

—————

Axis of evil

For sake of definition

Can’t beat the devil

—————

God’s soldiers attack

Saudi pilots slam towers

Time to hit Iraq

—————

They ripped out our heart

We must avenge them all

Chickenhawks are thrilled

_______

 Three thousand were killed

Nine-eleven is the call

We win at Wal-Mart

———

Yes, we must attack

We can’t find bin Laden’s cave

So we’ll bomb Iraq

_______

Bray it long and loud

Bush’s war will protect us

From a mushroom cloud

_______

Why attack Saddam?

Weapons of mass destruction

None there? We’ll be damned

_______

Please world wish us well

And God bless America

Killing infidels

_______

Flags throughout the land

Jingoistic fervor reigns

Don a black armband

_______

Let’s not be out-Foxed

Lapel flags in great demand

How about those Sox?

_______

Don’t count on the press

To learn what’s fact or fiction

The real truth? Just guess

_______

Soldiers bravely toil

Thousands come home draped with flags

From their war for oil

_______

 God save George the King

Chinese car magnets for troops

Who don’t mean a thing

_______

War is hell, he said

As if he had ever been

Your kids go instead

_______

Shake bittersweet Rice

From a sheltered brittle Bush

Harvest has its price

_______

Watch for terrorists

Those who’d offer civil rights

Must be communists

_______

They’ve not hit again

Three-fourths as good as Clinton

Check back in oh-ten

_______

Now the country’s broke

Try to change the rationale

Use mirrors and smoke

_______

Go to war we can

If we must we must, they say

What about Iran?

_______

Politicians’ game

Spin the bottle or the truth

Ending up the same

_______

 

 

Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Warku #6

Posted by James McPherson on September 14, 2008

This is the sixth of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1, #2, #3#4 and #5.

_________

Bray it long and loud

Bush’s war will protect us

From a mushroom cloud

_______

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Warku #4

Posted by James McPherson on September 12, 2008

This is the fourth of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1#2 and #3

——-

They ripped out our heart

Nine-eleven is the call

We win at Wal-Mart

——-

Posted in History, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Warku #3 (9/11 reminder)

Posted by James McPherson on September 11, 2008

This is the third of a series related to Bush’s war, perhaps the most astoundingly stupid presidential event in American history. Also see Warku #1 and #2.

_________

Three thousand were killed

We must avenge them all

Chickenhawks are thrilled

_______

 

Posted in History, Poetry, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »