Analysis On The Reaction Of U.S. And Arab Press On September 11th
The press plays a very important role in the contemporary world of fast and rapid changes in the political, social, economic and cultural sphere by keeping individuals informed.
More critically, the role of the press is of shaping public opinion on topics of national or international concern as well as defining the agenda of contemporary local and world politics. The public turns to the media, whether it is print, audio or visual, to keep abreast of rapid developments in the world.
To begin with, while going through the reaction of various newspapers on the American and Arab side, one finds certain variables, which can be held constant as well as taken as a basis for distinguishing the post-September 11 analysis.
On the American side, the following variables were noticed: intense patriotism, alarmism, strengthening of communal bonds, a reasoned and rational analysis and hate reaction.
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On the Arab side, the following variables can be identified: a reasoned and rational analysis, prescriptive notions to deal with the crisis, a blatant anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment and conspiracy theories.
A brief elucidation of the major variables will make the analysis of the reaction more clear. Intense patriotism implies an emotional outburst of love for the American heartland after the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon.
Alarmism signifies the concern of some authors to the vulnerability of the United States to more attacks and thus, the overwhelming concern to do whatever is necessary to ensure that such attacks do not take place in the future.
Strengthening of communal bonds testifies to the United States regaining a sense of communal solidarity and how it is important in consolidating nations.
A reasoned and rational analysis, which can also be found in the Arab press, calls for taking social, political and economic remedies by the foremost political and military power, that is, the United States to remove grievances harboured against it by peoples of the Third World.
Hate reaction is also to be found in certain pieces of the American press, mainly directed against the Muslims and the Arab world for wreaking havoc on the American heartland.
As far as the variables for the Arab press are concerned, a reasoned and rational analysis is defined above, as it is included in both sides.
The other important variables identified are as follows: prescriptive notions to deal with the crisis, which call upon the United States to adopt necessary strategies to deal with the post-9/11 world.
The difference between a reasoned and rational analysis and prescriptive notions is that the former describes while the latter prescribes. A blatant anti-US and anti-Israel sentiment can be discerned in the Arab press, whereby the Israeli atrocities are condemned and a failure on the part of the US to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue is recognised.
Conspiracy theories are the most interesting aspect of the Arab press as the 9/11 incident is considered to be a work of Mossad in collaboration with their American intelligence partners.
The American Press
An analysis of the two American newspapers and one magazine highlights the various variables identified and explained above. Intense patriotism can be clearly identified in Newsweek as well as other newspapers.
Newsweek lays emphasis on the fact that American flags have become the hottest selling single item after the tragedy and quotes Marian Kerrisk, a manager of a local store in San Francisco, “We figured people would be coming in for batteries and emergency supplies.
It turned out they wanted flags. ” Moreover, Nat Storey of Alabama went to a tattoo parlour and had a full-colour American flag burned into his left forearm, along with the slogan THESE COLOURS DON’T RUN.
Alarmism can be discerned in the article of seasoned New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman. He argues on the need to have states supporting the United States in the Middle East by presenting them with stark choices, that is, between terrorism and the United States itself.
Friedman quotes a personal observation to prove his point. He states, “ As I restlessly awake early yesterday…my ear somehow latched onto a statement made by the U.S. Transportation Secretary about the new precautions that would be out in place at U.S. airports…There will be no more curbside check-in, he said.
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I suddenly imagined a group of terrorists somewhere here in the Middle East, sipping coffee, also watching CNN and laughing hysterically: Hey boss, did you hear that? We just blew up Wall Street and the Pentagon and their response is no more curbside check-in?”
The alarmist tendency of Friedman is so severe that he mistakes the World Trade Centre for Wall Street. Moreover, Friedman correlates September 11 with the Third World war by arguing that there is a long, long war ahead.
Robert Putnam, the famous American social scientist and author of the classic work, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community in a piece in the New York Times calls for building a durable community in the United States in the wake of September 11 and says that “effort must be made now to ensure that resurgence of community involvement continues, through blood donations, contributions to victims and their families, and attendance at places of worship”.
A reasoned and rational analysis is employed by Anthony Lewis of the New York Times by calling on the United States and its leaders to have a more nuanced view of the world.
According to Anthony Lewis, “Winning the military struggle against Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors…. will not end the threat of terrorism against the United States.
That will require, in the long run, something more difficult than military action: a profound effort by America and the West to ease the poverty and misery of the developing world.”
Hate reaction can be typified in some editorials of USA Today. One editorial stated, “Watching last Tuesday’s events brought me to the brink of tears, the depths of despair and the height of anger.
But seeing children in the Middle East celebrating and cheering the fall of the World Trade Centre and the collapse of a portion of the Pentagon-all the while wearing Nike shirts and signs of American consumerism-put a fire…”
The Arab Press
Most articles in the Arab press reviewed call for a reasoned and rational approach on the part of the United States toward the tragedy. Quoting Hosni Mubarak in an article in the Gulf News, Mohamed Mashmoushi calls for a reasoned and rational approach and states.
“…Mubarak urged the U.S. to realise that without solving the world’s ill-fated crisis-mainly the historic one of the Middle East-fighting today’s generation of terrorists will only lead to another generation of probably more fundamental terrorists”.
Prescriptive notions are also prevalent in a number of articles in the Arab press. According to Osama El-Sherif, Editor in Chief, of the Star, “As a great nation whose principles and way of life remains the envy of millions on the planet, it can take the lead and guide the world to a better future. But to do that, it needs first to listen and understand”.
A blatant anti-American and anti-Israel stand as well as conspiracy theory implying an American and Israeli hand in the September 11 tragedy forms an interesting part of the Arab press.
According to Diaa Rishwan, “The skills and capabilities required for organising and executing such attacks suggest the involvement of parties that enjoy a great deal of power within America’s main security and military institutions.
Some Islamist elements, however, may have been employed to give the operation an Islamist twist and thus justify subsequent accusations.”.
Salah Montasser echoes on the same lines and questions the prowess of Al-Qaeda to perpetrate such an attack on American soil. Salah questions the organising ability of non-state actors to perform such tasks arguing that Arabs and Palestinians in the United States do not have the ability to work through sophisticated and advanced technology and computers.
Moreover, he argues that if they were planning for such an event, it could not have gone unnoticed as the Arabs in the United States are under the watch list of intelligence agencies.
Implying an implicit American hand, Salah states, “Those who piloted the planes were perfectly familiar with their routes and targets, perfectly coordinated and able to fly at low altitudes among high-rise buildings, which suggests that they are insiders.
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The fact that the operation was conducted so precisely and on such a large scale, also implies that it was carried out by Americans”.
Socioeconomic Position and resultant Analysis
The socio-economic position of the three Arab newspapers selected for analysis concerned Al Ahram, which is an Egyptian newspaper, Gulf Times, which is a UAE newspaper and The Star, which is a Jordanian newspaper.
The socioeconomic position of these three countries differs in the sense that the UAE is the most developed amongst them in terms of per capita income and GNP. However, all three of these countries are well supported by the United States and are thus well off than most of the countries in the Third World.
In my opinion, the mood of all the three Arab newspapers reflected themes, which can be classified as anti-American while the American press showed signs of immense patriotism, since it was the country, which was attacked.
Socio-economic considerations have to be differed in the main from religious and political convictions. And, it must be remembered that it has been the most affluent and literate, which have been the citadel of change rather than the most deprived and downtrodden.
Analysis of the Arab newspapers certainly points towards the fact that there were lesser calls for a moderate Islam. Instead, the reaction was more towards the negative effects of American hegemony and the resultant chaos in world politics was more adduced to American policies in the world, rather than placing the blame at Osama Bin Laden.
Since the identity of the Muslim world was at stake at that particular time, with a “clash of civilisations” theme being aired, Islamic identity considerations took precedence over socio-economic considerations in uniting the Arab press to forge a more militant and aggressive posture towards the policies of the United States and Israel.
- Kenneth Auchinloss, A Nation United. Newsweek, September 24, 2001, p. 18.
- Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs;World War III. New York Times (online edition), September 13, 2001.
- Robert Putnam, A Better Society in a Time of War. New York Times (online edition), October 19, 2001.
- Anthony Lewis, Abroad at Home; The Inescapable World. New York Times (online edition), October 20, 2001.
- September 11 attacks bring out greatest, noblest in Ameica. USA Today. September 19, 2001.
- Mohamed Mashmoushi, Reasons behind an atrocity like this. Gulf News (online edition), October 7, 2001.
- Osama El-Sherif, The End of Geography? Attack on America portends the exodus of seclusion. The Star (online edition), September 27-October 3, 2001.
- Diaa Rashwan, A War over resources. Al Ahram Weekly (online edition), September 20-26, 2001.
- Salah Montaser, An Inside Job? Al Alhram Weekly (online edition), September 13-19, 2001.