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Wasn't this the plot about 33% of 90s action movies?
Look, I'm not trying to be controversial, I'm not doing this to increase the Raider's number of hits. If I wanted to do the latter, I'd have written this article years ago when the wounds were fresher, the flags more prevalent, the Michael Moore documentaries alleging George W. Bush was the 20th hijacker still in the theatres. But on the 10th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, it's perfect time to do a proper review of the event. Frankly, I think our "new Pearl Harbor" (as described in the Dungeons & Dragons fanzine the Project for a New American Century) it's overrated, more so than Forrest Gump, Sports Night and Shakespeare in Love combined. Everything about it is tiresome and been done before. This review proposes 9/11 doesn't deserve annual commemoration any more than the Lockerbie bombing, Waco or the Chilean coup (now ridiculously nicknamed "that other 9/11"). If we're going to commemorate it every year, we ought to spend a hell of a lot less time on it. Whatever's worth spending an entire day crying and watching news specials, it's not this.
For one thing, it's been done before, in reality and in fiction. What exactly were the terrorists thinking, choosing a target that was already used for a 1993 bombing and ripping off the fucking execution from the pilot episode of an X-Files spinoff? Talk about unoriginality. Even the conspiracy theorists base their alternate theory on that very same spinoff. A lot of people need to cut Chris Carter a check for ripping off The Lone Gunmen's idea. Moreover, the method is stale. Airplane hijackings happen all the time, as do civilians killed in hijacked or otherwise fucked up airplanes (see the aforementioned Lockerbie bombing). Sure, it can be effective in some cases, but it's not new, nothing revolutionary. Which would perfectly be fine for any other terrorist attack, but the way the American people and media reacted you'd think Atta and al Qaeda invented a lightbulb that ran on children's dreams and could cure cancer by bathing in the light.
Christ, the reaction is more noteworthy than what actually happened, because a large chunk of the country lost their fucking minds. I appreciate how Dennis Miller went from bad comedian to bad comedian/shill for the Republicans and otherwise sane people got drunk on bloodlust for years. An entire movement on the Internet designed to denigrate Islam and complain about the West's decline into the noose of some caliphate nonsense came out of 9/11. Look, I get it, I don't discount it. I'm just saying the flashpoint for these reactions is overrated and not worth the sound, fury and hype ascribed to it. Shit, 24 put together better 9/11 moments than 9/11 itself, like those loose nukes resulting in a mushroom cloud in LA. al Qaeda should've ripped off one of those fantastical plots in a Tom Clancy novel if they really desired to make a splash. Look at The Sum of All Fears! It was about Arab terrorists blowing up the Super Bowl! Now that would've been something, because it'd kill tens of thousands at least and most of them would be rich as fuck football fans and politicians and execs and other fucking bastards. I bet they changed the villain in the movie adaptation solely so it wouldn't make real life look so boring and uninspiring by comparison.
It should've killed a lot more people too to be the terrorist attack to end all terrorist attacks. I remember when estimates were coming in that we had 4000-5000 American and some foreign (but fuck them they're not Americans why should I give a damn Palestinians danced on 9/11) corpses on our hands. At final count, it's less than 3000. Less than 3000! They couldn't even get to that big round number, instead it being 29something. For a coordinated attack that meant to hit four different targets, it's pretty low. Sure, United 93 should've hit the White House or the Capitol building or whatever it would've been in a perfect world, but that doesn't excuse the poor body count. Let the bodies hit the floor, goddamnit! Christ, the Israelis kill way more Palestinians every year since like forever and they're supposed to be a country that doesn't engage in ethnic cleansing and apartheid! They fucked up the fourth plane hijacking and that put a serious dent in the numbers, proving al Qaeda had a lot more room for improvement, and therefore 9/11 had room for improvement. Chechan rebels and the FSB, never known for prioritizing saving innocent people over killing the baddies, are much more impressive bringers of death, destruction and tragedy. To use a Kramer quote out of context, 9/11 was "bush league".
Even the camera angles suck. There is very little in the way of good footage of 9/11, the majority being amateur. Amateur. Amateur's right. This means the quality of video is all over the place, with way too much focus on just the planes hitting the buildings. What about the rest? You're supposed to take coverage, if you want to get good footage of what went down. Even the dumbest of directors knows that, because they're fucked in the editing room if they're missing something they wanted but never got a good shot of. The cinematography is wonky and poorly done, the sound poorly designed...it just wasn't done well. You know why Oliver Stone's World Trade Center was terrible? No, not the sentimental maudlin nonsense or the fact that "two guys trapped" got skinned with a 9/11 backdrop, but it's the source material was beneath a man of his talents. And say what you will about Roland Emmerich, but his disaster movies are a lot more horrifying in their death and destruction and you can't say the special effects aren't good. Emmerich's fatal flaw besides his complete inability to understand science, sometimes to The Core proportions is the characters and how he can never make them sympathetic or enjoyable, from Ferris Bueller in Godzilla to John Cusack in 2012. Which brings me to the hijackers...
They're not characterized that well, though some of that has to do with none of them surviving the attacks, therefore depriving us any postmortem interviews on 60 Minutes or Meet the Press: The Tim Russert Years. The one "survivor" of the terror plot was Osama bin Laden, who for one got killed nearly ten years later after we basically stopped looking for him and his media presence evaporated to nothing but the occasional video, to the point of it being a popular opinion he died years ago and al-Qaeda or the United States propped him up as a remaining threat who didn't actually ever do anything besides record some tapes of dubious origin. I liked a lot of bin Laden's interviews and found he articulated a number of decent points, but pretty much all of those occurred in the late 90s, proving the Clinton era was so much better than the second Bush dynasty. The tapes were always repetitive and one would hope Osama could come up with new material in his years of exile in a Pakistan compound. As for the hijackers, their file photos say it all. They're bland motherfuckers who never smile. Atta, the most recognizable of the attackers besides bin Laden, is a total non-entity. He could've been a fucking Doombot and it wouldn't have mattered. The Seven Dwarves had more defined personalities than the hijackers. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed similarly does nothing for me. Don't even get me started on the characters on the American side. Dick Cheney is a one-dimensional cartoon and they really ought to have replaced the guy portraying Bush years ago. The current guy is a dyslexic dumb fuck capable of conveying two emotions: confusion and stupidity.
He's not even charismatic enough to be the villain in a Die Hard movie, much less act as the ringleader behind 9/11.
There's very little I found compelling about 9/11, and what I did was outweighed by the drawbacks. I admired al Qaeda perpetrated 9/11 with little difficulty, few setbacks and marginal resources. However, their work after 9/11 failed to impress. They're like the band with one great album and in a decade's time they get a "Where Are They Now?" special slotted for a 2 AM airing on VH1. 9/11 would be fine if it was just the first in a series of volleys, but it wasn't. You might even call it the crescendo, presaged by shit like the U.S.S. Cole. After that, they were spent, with the rest of their resources dedicated to non-starter attacks in Great Britain and Spain and then some saber rattling that went nowhere. Bin Laden's dead, the leadership never put together a good successor, their marketing and outreach programs are fucking ridiculous. Every time I hear of another second-in-command blown up in an air strike I think "why even bother appointing someone to that position anymore?". al-Qaeda seems to be best at inspiring others to do shit for them; the majority of insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq receive no backing from them; at best it's token backing. What have you done for us lately, dudes?
Not a whole lot of good art was inspired by 9/11 despite its self-proclaimed status as the most horrific attack on American soil. The aforementioned World Trade Center sucked and so did United 93 (despite critics praising it as an inspiring film where basically nothing fucking happens for most of the running time); 24 may've become a crazy right-wing show as a result of 9/11, but the first season was the best and got its villains from Clinton's NATO excursions and went downhill with fighting cougars and Jack Bauer being a heroin addict whenever it doesn't hurt the plot's momentum. I guess D12/Gorillaz' "911" was a neat song, as were various Immortal Technique tracks, but shit like Toby Keith and that fucking Iced Earth album were goddamn embarrassing. Marvel Comics' 9/11 tribute comics were atrocious and despite my love of Rick Veitch I doubt The Big Lie will be anything special. While I'm on that subject, 9/11 spawned the most annoying strain of conspiracy theorists since the Clinton body count people: truthers. My flirtation with the inside job theory lasted a short time and I regret it to this day, because these people are dolts who don't understand science, logistics and have been responsible for the continued notoriety of wacky nutcase Alex Jones. Truthers alone should dock 9/11 several points.
I guess one can argue the effects of 9/11 have irrevocably changed the country in the creation of a permanent security state and that this is why we ought to praise 9/11 as an important and quality national tragedy. Eh. Later evidence shows Bush and his pals wanted to invade Iraq even without 9/11 and there's always been vestiges of the security state since the end of the Cold War. The only reason we didn't see it was Clinton was a pot smoking hippie fag and the one person in the administration willing to get their hands dirty and spy on Americans was Will Ferrell impersonator Janet Reno. The shit was inevitable so I don't want to ascribe too much credit to a series of overblown air traffic control screwups. Really, you could blame the whole thing on that festering corpse Reagan, for firing all those air traffic control motherfuckers and replacing them with spineless idiots who wouldn't even fight for their right to party. That's precisely the problem: it's all reruns. We went to war later with the people we trained to fight the Soviets and then took another whack at Saddam. Bo-ring! What's next, selling weapons to some rebels in Central America? Going up against Libya (oh wait)? No wonder people flock to see alien invasion movies; at least that shit is new.
I'm not a fan of 9/11, and not in the way you're thinking. The only tragedy is how overblown it is.