On the anniversary of 9/11

For me, 9/11 will always be a time of tremendous fear, stifling conformism, forced patriotism, and vicious nationalism. Which is why I’ve always found the claim that Trump represents a new authoritarianism, even fascism, to be so fanciful and false. There was a moment in the recent memory of this country when dissent really was stifled, when opposition really was suppressed, when the military and police were sanctified and sacralized, when the Constitution was called into question (not a suicide pact, you know), when the two-party system was turned into a one-party state, when the entire nation was aroused and compelled and coerced to rally behind the dear leader, when questioning the nation-state’s commitment to violence and war provoked the most shameless heresy hunts. When intellectuals and journalists and academics dutifully—and shamefully—performed their parts in the Gleichschaltung of the moment, instructing the unreconstructed among us to understand that we were living in a new age when all the old truths no longer held. Thankfully, the intensity of that moment didn’t last too long—the fiasco in Iraq did it in—though we’re still living with its consequences today. But, yeah, when I hear about the unprecedented authoritarianism of Trump, I think to myself: either you weren’t around after 9/11 or you were part of the problem.


  1. cd west September 11, 2017 at 12:35 pm | #


  2. Chris Morlock September 11, 2017 at 12:48 pm | #

    The result of the “patriotism” of 9/11 was endless foreign war and a revival of the worst kind of pork-barrel, military industrial complex spending since the cold war. In fact it basically took the place of the cold war, yet has been far less successful in general. The US is in 7 wars that most can’t even name, and we continue to spend money on this folly in record amounts. Trump gained so many points for pointing this out, yet his actions are totally the opposite of his campaign position. He continues the grand tradition of both right and left writing blank checks for anything involving endless and meaningless war.

    I remember Phil Donahue being fired over being anti-war, and I remember the endless purges in the news media against anyone that would speak out about the inevitable failure of the venture. The criticism wasn’t even coming from far Left anti-war hippies, most of it was coming from those sick and tired of endless interventionism. Remember the huge political capital Obama gained from coming out against the war?

    So the last two presidents, Obama and Trump, both gained huge votes for denouncing this silliness, yet both reneged and strengthened the offensive. Polls show American’s are overwhelmingly anti-interventionism yet the establishment continues to get its way with no end in sight. You can’t blame crazy 9/11 conspiracy theorists for thinking that it was some kind of godsend for the war mongers, neatly packaged.

  3. Sanjay September 11, 2017 at 1:38 pm | #

    I get Professor Robin’s continual mantra that Trumpism isn’t new in America and by and large I agree — hey, I remember Reagan’s anti-intellectualism and the post-9/11 enforced consensus too. But I also think there’s a huge global populist thing going on — India is led by a genocidaire that the world treats as normal, Europe is torn up by populists, Aung San Suu Kyi has gone from noble heroine to apologist for genocide. So you could take a different perspective under which Trumpism is nothing special not because of its historical precedents in America but because of its being of a piece with something happening globally. And bizarrely I think the intersection of those two things of which the Trump administration is a more of less unremarkable part, _do_ make it remarkable and unusual.

  4. fosforos17 September 11, 2017 at 1:51 pm | #

    All you say about the consequences of “9/11” is unquestionably true. What you should have added, though, is that absolutely nothing in the major events of that day nor of its aftermath was in any way coincidental.

  5. Rolf Wiegand September 11, 2017 at 2:08 pm | #

    “Follow the money,” Deep Throat advised. I recalled Dick Cheney, then Vice-President of the US.
    I viewed the DVD about 911 being an ‘inside job’.
    And I read Corey’s comments on the 16th year of war.
    And I say:

  6. Rolf Wiegand September 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm | #

    @Sanjay: An important observation. Valid and, perhaps, true.
    But not an excuse for the murder of 2,600 civilians.

    • LFC September 11, 2017 at 2:58 pm | #

      The second line of the above comment is a non sequitur, and your view that 9/11 was an “inside job” (whatever that means exactly) is delusional. Just thought I’d say that for the record, since apparently no else here can be bothered to do so (at least as of yet).

      • Rolf Wiegand September 11, 2017 at 4:00 pm | #

        Delusional? Perhaps.
        I find it almost impossible to believe that Americans would do that to Americans.
        But then I remember that Americans:
        1) Spread radioactive material over Boston suburbs in 1946-47 to learn what it did;
        2) Exposed uninformed American soldiers to an atom bomb explosion to see what it did to them;
        3) Insisted Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone gunman” in the Kennedy assassination;
        4) Despite being a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, instituted rendition to deliver prisoners into the hands of torturers;
        5) Successfully waged “ethnic cleansing”/extermination of the native inhabitants of southern North America; deployed Agent Orange (with associated lies to American veterans afterward); fire-bombed Dresden; and so on.
        I believe the removal of the ideological “glasses” we’re all taught as children to wear speeds the process of determining the truth about things our country has done.
        Think of how much money American military industries have made in the last 16 years from the endless “War on Terror”. Not to mention the stifling of civilian dissent. Reason enough?
        Involved in 16 wars simultaneously? That’s gotta be some sort of record, don’t you think? Do we get a gold star for that?

        • Glenn September 11, 2017 at 5:11 pm | #

          “I find it almost impossible to believe that Americans would do that to Americans.”

          That says more about you—and most Americans—than their murderous psychopathic ruling class.

          • johnhieronymus September 12, 2017 at 3:33 pm | #

            Yeah Glenn, I also find it hard to believe that our dysfunctional ruling elite could possibly be so suddenly efficient and together to perpetrate such an act and for there to be no evidence, leaks etc. Perhaps the National Security State was intentionally not paying attention, probably they were just blinded by their own incompetence and hubris.

  7. jonnybutter September 11, 2017 at 3:49 pm | #

    What’s different now is not our ruling regime but a new restiveness in the ‘natives’ – the shopping public! The apathy carefully cultured by our political duopoly won’t hold below some critical mass anymore.

    Also contributing is a small but relatively potent group of technocrats who are genuinely alarmed that their ‘betters’ are allowing the US to – as Corey memorably put it – ‘come undone’. The Bruce Bartletts of the world.

    I think the false idea that authoritarianism is new follows naturally from what came before: people who’d been embowered in a lush obliviousness necessarily don’t have historical memory. So some of them are catching up – they think it’s new because *they* only just noticed. I know a lot of people like that. They don’t know anything about anything. Many fall for a bunch of crap, like Rolf above. Think of the difference between our media situation now compared to 2001. Very different!

    Also, not even an American can ignore Trump, try as we will. W Bush was so incompetent I feel I need a new word just for him. But he was not particularly stupid as politicians go, nor was he demented like Trump apparently is (and Reagan was).

    I think an opening from the Left has played a key role, obvious though this is to say, in the form of Sanders and the millions of ppl he has mobilized. Kudos to the many many people who were mobilized on the Left in 2002 – nonetheless, there still was no space in the US for a truly *broad* Left back then, and there is now.

    If CR is talking about ultra-careerist academics, pundits, etc. well…of course *they* are full of shit. That’s their job!

    • Rolf Wiegand September 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm | #

      Is there a tinge of personal pride in your comments disclosing you’ve seen through the miasma of materialism that clouds the minds of so many Americans regarding incorporation of an historical perspective into their understanding of what’s going on?
      No matter. The “wad” would tell you America has always been touted as a place for “new beginnings”, and if we’re into new beginnings, what the heck do we need history for? Right?
      But for a growing number of us, umteenth time through the movie is time enough to see through it — and speak up!
      Re Bruce Bartlett: http://billmoyers.com/story/im-not-democrat/
      “Bunch of crap”? Read more history, Jonny, especially American history. Howard Zinn might be a place to start, but there are many others who expose what’s been unspoken, hidden. Bless them.
      And if you think there’s space now for “a truly ‘broad’ Left” as demonstrated by the tsunami of support (I was among them) that lifted Bernie Sanders from ‘also ran’ to ‘leader of the campaign dialogue’, I think The Duck and his fans have something more to show/teach you.

  8. Donald September 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm | #

    This is exactly right. It was a weird bizarre time and yes, there was a much more widespread authoritarian fascist atmosphere then, one that extended to include a great many so called lefties who thought it was their duty to police the boundaries of what could be said. You were not, for instance, supposed to link 9/11 with any aspect of US foreign policy– to say that our actions might have motivated hatred of us was seen as a sign of moral idiocy.

  9. Jimmy Reefercake (@JimmyReefercake) September 12, 2017 at 7:41 am | #

    me too

  10. Roquentin September 13, 2017 at 7:56 am | #

    I agree. Someone posted this line in the DSA Dank Meme Stash that “Trump is just the hood ornament on our car ride to hell” and I think that’s probably the best metaphor for his presidency yet.

    Most liberals went in for the Iraq War hook, line, and sinker. I’m old enough to remember it pretty well. Even in my reactionary, libertarian high school days I was opposed to the Iraq War. I’ll fess up to supporting the invasion of Afghanistan at the time, which came first and at least seemed to be tied to the 9/11 attack in a concrete way, but Iraq just seemed like a really bad idea. Even then, I couldn’t see the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam. I suppose even then I was starting to see the holes in the ideology which still held me in its sway.

  11. Billikin September 16, 2017 at 4:20 pm | #

    Sorry, I don’t know who says that there is a new authoritarianism with Trump, but Obama was not particularly authoritarian. Trump’s style of authoritarianism is a throw-back to chimpanzee or orangutan alpha male bluster. As for Trump and fascism, it is hard not to get the impression that Trump is a Mussolini wannabee. Trump certainly understands das Führerprinzip. He demands personal loyalty and even got supporters at political rallies to swear loyalty to him. And what about his ongoing rallies as President? Imitatio Hitleri?

  12. EB September 28, 2017 at 6:44 pm | #

    Do you not understand that people who have just experienced a huge threat that is totally new to them respond by circling the wagons?

  13. Esmé October 3, 2017 at 9:04 pm | #

    “Further, the process of transformation,
    even if it brings revolutionary change, is
    likely to be a long one, absent some
    catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a
    new Pearl Harbor. ”

    -from page 51 of Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century
    A Report of The Project for the New American Century
    September 2000 ( http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/pdf/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf )

    This is a direct quote from the Cheney/Rumsfeld commissioned report. The major objectives and goals listed in the 2000 report are pretty much our reality today.

  14. Howie B October 5, 2017 at 12:15 pm | #

    Dear Corey:

    After some thought, here is a response to your claim that Trump’s authoritarianism is anything new. Trump represents a further gain for authoritarianism in America, as did Bush (the dumber) and Reagan. Whether conservatism is just a dressed up fascism, anywhere there is an absolute power, whether or not like fire it is a dangerous necessity in some way, conservatism can always mutate into fascism, even if it is not fascism to begin with.

    Thanks for bearing witness to our epoch


  15. Krishan Bhattacharya October 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm | #

    I was around after 9/11. I don’t recall any stifling conformism or heresy hunts. What are you even referring to, Corey?

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