Why Art Failed Us After 9/11

Trying to make sense of senselessness


A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the dust from that horrible day has mostly settled, literally if not quite figuratively. Builders are rushing madly to complete construction of the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center, a giant middle finger flipped in the face of Al Qaeda and other wannabe slayers of modernity. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama signed the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act, which is designed to provide medical and mental-health treatments to first responders and survivors of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. 

Osama bin Laden, the moneybags and mastermind behind it all, is dead, shot to death in what must be the grimmest-looking million-dollar compound in all of Pakistan. He is now resting comfortably on the floor of the Indian Ocean, the senselessness of his grand scheme plainly evident. How the 9/11 attacks might have led to a minimizing of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world or helped to reestablish a jihadist Caliphate is beyond comprehending. As the anti-authoritarian character of the Arab Spring suggests, Al Qaeda and its brand of Islamism was the weak horse all along; the group's most successful act of violence merely delayed its trip to the glue factory of history. 

In New York the subway again rumbles under the scene of carnage, and up on the street traffic bustles all around the Ground Zero site as if it's just another construction zone. In the rest of the United States, the warm feelings for the Big Apple long ago cooled back to their chilly pre-9/11 temperature. In Europe and elsewhere around the globe, the memorable phrase of empathy used by the French paper Le Monde—"Nous sommes tous Américains"—is on nobody's lips after a decade of elective war and equally elective financial crisis, much of it instigated and underwritten by the U.S. government. The "new normal," a phrase invoked constantly after the attacks to signify a world forever at threat-level orange, is looking more and more like the old normal. The Department of Homeland Security's Life Savers–inspired risk rainbow has been replaced by a two-flavor advisory system ("elevated" and "imminent") that commands even less respect and deference than the Department of Agriculture's recently decommissioned food pyramid.

If we are getting over 9/11 in ways big and small, it's not because we have worked through the pain and the terror and the anger but simply because we are forgetting it ever happened in the first place. Within another decade at most, we will walk by 9/11 memorials the same way we stroll by the World War I cenotaphs installed in town squares across the country. Catharsis be damned; this is probably the way we always get over trauma. Repression and historical amnesia are among the most powerful tools God or evolution has handed us. "Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,/Shovel them under and let me work—/I am the grass; I cover all," goes Carl Sandburg's haunting poem about our inability, our unwillingness to remember. "Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:/What place is this?/Where are we now?"

Yet something still catches in our collective throat like the cloud of concrete ash and human soot that scarred the lungs of policemen and firefighters and school kids and office workers and restaurant help that day in lower Manhattan. There is still a need for memorializing, for processing an event into the familiar, contained, and ultimately comforting forms of art—poetry, music, novels, video, and other media of creative expression—to help us deal with an irrational, cruel world. If we can make art, however dark and sad, from the worst that befalls us, we can withstand anything. This is one of art's great promises.

But art generated in response to 9/11 has been almost completely unsatisfying so far, despite game efforts by such creative geniuses as Bruce Springsteen and Don DeLillo. Too much of it has sought to replace the scene of violence and loss with superficial if heartfelt emotionalism or the pre-existing obsessions of the artist, a psychic flight to more manageable terrain. The senselessness of this heinous act has exceeded our ability to tame it into shape.

Among the first pieces of 9/11 art were two would-be rock anthems, Neil Young's "Let's Roll" and Paul McCartney's "Freedom," both of which failed to elicit much response from the still-in-shock audiences most likely to be receptive. (Despite being featured during the October 2001 "Concert for New York" and the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show, "Freedom" suffered the dual indignities of failing to chart at all in the U.K. and reaching no higher than No. 61 in Romania.) Like most headline-driven compositions, the songs suffer from a feeling of haste and a lack of reflection. Macca's "Freedom" is fully representative of the tuneless balladeering he has regrettably perfected during the last 25 or 30 years, and the banal lyrics don't help the song go down any easier: "You talkin' about Freedom/We're talkin' about Freedom/I will fight, for the right/To live in Freedom."

"Let's Roll" was immediately (and unfavorably) compared to Young's 1970 protest song "Ohio," written after the shooting of students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. The earlier song captured the anger and commitment to change not simply of the younger generation but of everyone tired of street violence perpetrated by protesters and police alike: "What if you knew her/And found her dead on the ground/How can you run when you know?" "Let's Roll," which took its inspiration from the rallying cry of one of the passengers who wrestled with hijackers on United Flight 93, trades in moral absolutes over a slow, grinding guitar that never really finds its groove musically. "No time for indecision/We've got to make a move," declares the song's protagonist. "You've got to turn on evil,/When it's coming after you,/You've gotta face it down,/And when it tries to hide,/You've gotta go in after it." As the song was being released, Young voiced his enthusiasm for a total war against Islam and for the PATRIOT Act, telling the audience at a liberal People for the American Way banquet honoring him with a "Spirit of Liberty" award that "to protect our freedoms it seems we're going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time."

However heartfelt those sentiments, within a few years Young had reversed course and become an outspoken if clichéd critic of the new security state, even calling for the removal of President George W. Bush. His 2006 album Living With War features tracks with titles such as "Let's Impeach the President" and obligatory anti-capitalist tunes such as "The Restless Consumer." There is no reason to doubt Young's conviction in either his pro–PATRIOT Act or anti-Bush phases, but his facility in jumping from one position to the other underscores the shallowness of the emotionalism expressed in "Let's Roll." (Young's truly memorable performance after 9/11 was of John Lennon's "Imagine" at the September 21, 2001, "Tribute to Heroes" benefit concert, where his nasal, cracking, almost child-like falsetto paired movingly with that song's lyrics about a world beyond politics.)

Other 9/11 pieces suffered from a lack of emotional, analytical, or artistic distinction, but few managed the feat as thoroughly as Amiri Baraka's 2002 poem "Somebody Blew Up America," most remembered for its anti-Israel truther lines: "Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion. And cracking they sides at the notion/…Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/To stay home that day/Why did Sharon stay away?"

Baraka, a self-described "poet warrior," was named poet laureate of New Jersey around the time that he debuted what he called his "provocatively poetic inquiry (in a few lines of the poem) about who knew beforehand about the New York City World Trade Center bombings in 2001." (Then-Gov. Jim McGreevy, not otherwise known for good judgment, eliminated the laureate position altogether in 2003.) But the rest of the poem by Baraka, once fêted by critics at The Village Voice, The New York Times, and elsewhere for Obie-winning protest plays such as Dutchman (1964), is beyond awful. "Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for," runs one stanza. "Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth/Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza." In a manner reminiscent of Ward Churchill's notorious reference to the people slain in the towers as "Little Eichmanns," Baraka wrote, "Who live on Wall Street/The first plantation"? Like all truthers, Baraka is just asking questions—questions that have one set of answers from those tethered to reality and a very different set from those living in a fantasyland of conspiracist fear mongering.

At least two major artists took their best swings at 9/11-themed works. In the summer of 2002, Bruce Springsteen released The Rising, a concept album that garnered critical praise and fast early sales, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album's tracks, some of which were written before 9/11, stand in sharp contrast to Springsteen's legendary, indelible work in the 1970s and '80s. While his reputation-making songs were filled with memorable characters out of a rock 'n' roll version of Damon Runyon—Crazy Janey, Jimmy the Saint, Rosalita, Mary Queen of Arkansas—The Rising is filled with abstract songs about generic loss.

Springsteen made his bones in Asbury Park, a New Jersey beach town only about 60 miles down the waterline from lower Manhattan, and his main residence remains in nearby  Rumson, New Jersey, an upscale enclave whose wealth is intimately tied to the business that used to be conducted in the World Trade Center. But his 9/11 effort might as well have been scripted a million miles away. While promoting the record, Springsteen made much of the fact that he had done "reporting" for it, that he had spoken on the phone with the spouses of some of the 9/11 dead. As reason's Brian Doherty observed in 2002, "That was a sweet and touching gesture. But as 'reporting' it didn't add much to the new album, unless [Springsteen] required corroboration to know that normal people's homes have coffee cups on the counter, shirts in the closet, and pictures on the nightstand. That's the closest this record gets to specific details."

Far from rendering a detailed portrait of a specific event happening in a particular time and place, Doherty convincingly argued, Springsteen "comes on like an old blowhard who has something important to tell us about huge abstractions like Faith and Hope." Which helps explain why the songs on the album, the singer's most commercially successful original work since the late '80s, have yet to join his canon of classics.

Novelist Don DeLillo's 9/11 book, Falling Man (2007), suffers from a similar lack of engagement. The title comes from Associated Press photographer Richard Drew's terrifying image of a man leaping to his death from one of the World Trade Center towers; clad in what looks like business casual, the man seems composed as he plunges headfirst to the pavement far below. Arguably the most important American novelist of the last 40 years, DeLillo follows a 39-year-old lawyer who escapes death in the attacks and then vaguely resumes his unsettled and unsatisfying life with his son and estranged wife before, in the sort of odd twist readers have come to expect from DeLillo, becoming a globe-trotting professional poker player. Throughout the book, the man's wife encounters a performance artist who re-enacts the pose of the falling man and whose presence adds an otherworldly cast to the story.

While the compact novel displays DeLillo's brilliance with words ("It was not a street anymore, but a world, a time and space of falling ash and near night," the book begins), the plain truth is that after his early description of the 9/11 attacks themselves, there is something intensely blasé about the tale. Part of it is surely the reader's overwhelming sense of authorial anticlimax; this is not the book to which his entire career and history seemed to be building. DeLillo's oeuvre is rich with depictions of terroristic violence, the forces that underwrite it, and the minds of those who commit it. Novels such as Players (1977), Mao II (1991), and his 1988 study of Lee Harvey Oswald, Libra, revolve in large part around terrorist cells; Mao II even features a character staring at the twin towers with an eye toward detonation. Yet Falling Man, despite including a hijacker as an important character, never really enters the mind of either perpetrator or victim in a compelling way. The book remains very much about DeLillo's ongoing and long-range obsessions with subterranean forces and institutions rather than the events of 9/11.

For DeLillo, a more important threat than terrorism per se is the rise of global capitalism, which he claimed in late 2001 was "driving unmindfully toward a landscape of consumer-robots and social instability, with the chance of self-determination probably diminishing for most people in most countries." Never mind data from organizations such as Freedom House that reflects growth in representative government and expanding rights over the last 40 or so years (or that the most repressive countries are those which most restrict economic choice of resident "consumer-robots"). In DeLillo, terrorism's effects are always secondary to what caused it. His first post-9/11 novel was Cosmopolis, which was released in 2003 but set in 2000 as the tech bubble was bursting, laying waste to a decade DeLillo says had "one theme, and the name of the theme was money." It is this theme and the terrorism he believes it inspires that help explain the removed quality of his 9/11 book. In a 2003 interview with the Los Angeles Times, DeLillo averred that terrorism "is outside the absorption machinery.…In Prague recently, a young man set himself on fire. Thirty-five years ago, another young man did the same thing, protesting the incursion of Soviet tanks into Prague. This kid did it to protest the excesses of capitalism. In 35 years, this is the terrible symmetry that's taken place. I don't think that's absorbable."

There is something deeply grotesque in equating a response to Soviet tanks rolling into an already repressive country with capital rolling into a free, democratically ruled Czech Republic. But DeLillo is at least partly right about terrorism and the limits of our "absorption machinery," though not in the way he thinks. Both the logic of terrorism and the violence it creates are relatively easy to understand in geopolitical terms. Terrorist organizations, whether the Tamil Tigers, the Weather Underground, the Bader-Meinhof Gang, or the Irish Republican Army, have intelligible (if often indefensible) grievances and demands. Their members and supporters are motivated by feelings of anger and hopelessness. Even the violence to which they resort is rather easily "absorbed" into everyday life. 

Terrorism, broadly defined, has been revealed to be less an existential threat to civilization as we know it and more a sporadic sort of ultimately impotent violence. Terrorism is not cancer but herpes, a chronic condition that gives rise to painful, periodic breakouts. As documented by Ohio State's John Mueller and other political scientists, global conflicts involving 1,000 or more deaths a year have been declining at least since the early 1990s. As the once-unthinkable prospect of a semi-democratic Middle East gets tantalizingly closer in our headlights, terrorism's hold on the public imagination and (one hopes) on government policy will fade. As Mueller points out in his 2006 book Overblown, the number of Americans killed by terrorists has been about the same as have died from allergic reactions to peanuts. Ironically, the monumentally outsized death toll of 9/11 may have helped us recognize the rarity of terroristic murder.

Yet DeLillo is right that the sheer audacity, raw carnage, and wholesale destruction of 9/11 continue to elude attempts at psychic digestion, including art inspired by the catastrophe, which for the most part has failed to capture, much less hold, our attention. Especially to the extent that it seeks to explain or make sense of the event. 

The most arresting 9/11 art moves in precisely the other direction. It doesn't seek to explain the larger context of the event in any sort of argumentative, thesis-driven way. (As with the arguing over the will after a funeral, that can always come later.) Far more important, these acts of memorialization give us the ability to sit next to the corpses, to the rubble of human lives and aspirations, to grieve not from a distance but to make a final connection with those whose hearts, hopes, and dreams were atomized on 9/11.

Some of these memorials are more found art than consciously composed work. To walk through lower Manhattan in the weeks immediately following the attacks was to be inundated by hastily created and xeroxed handbills featuring the names and faces of missing victims and contact information for relatives who surely knew they would never see their loved ones again. Every square inch of New York seemed papered with the notices, snapping sharply in the wind against whatever they were stapled or taped to, or blowing across sidewalks and gutters of every street and avenue. Plumes of documents—office memos, medical records, personal correspondence—blown up by the attacks settled silently for weeks and even months across the New York metro area like snow upon graves. The "Portraits of Grief" series in The New York Times, comprising 200-word profiles of each individual killed in the attacks, remains a stunning achievement that would cause the hardest heart to dissolve into tears. ("Deanna L. Galante," reads one representative entry, "was six weeks away from going on maternity leave. 'She was already like a second mom to my 12-year-old,' said her sister, Tina. 'They were always doing their hair and nails.'?") The series started without a specific structure in place and ran every day in the paper for four months.

Two consciously artistic gestures stand out, one of them ephemeral and the other highly praised. In December 2001, Elton John performed a "Live by Request" concert on the A&E cable channel, in which fans could call in and ask the one-time Captain Fantastic to perform their favorite tunes. Like McCartney, Young, and Springsteen, John has seen far better days, both as an artist and as a seller of merchandise. No act dominated the '70s charts like Sir Elton, that rare pop star whose commercial success was surpassed only by his interest in pushing the envelope musically. Since that long-ago heyday, he has survived a sham marriage, cut-out bins full of regrettable albums, hair plugs gone bad, multiple addictions and near-bankruptcies, the almost total loss of one of the most memorable voices in rock, and worse. He soldiers on, touring well past middle age, fat, bald, off-key, and generally happy.

A woman called in to John's concert and explained that her husband was a first responder who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. She said that his favorite song was John's 1972 hit "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going to Be a Long Long Time)." There John was at the piano looking uncomfortably from the side like Marlon Brando tickling the ivories in The Island of Dr. Moreau, wheezing his way through a song that all of us had heard a million times before, including unintentional and intentional parody versions by the likes of William Shatner, Chris Elliott, and Stewie from Family Guy. The song's scant lyrics can be charitably described as sub-literate ("Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids…and there's no one there to raise them if you did") yet in John's croaky reading they managed to capture a profound sense of isolation, fear, and loss eerily resonant with the moment: "I miss the Earth so much, I miss my wife/It's lonely out in space/On such a timeless flight/…Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone." John was sweating profusely, his voice cracking on virtually every note, high and low. The song hushed the crowd, giving all who heard it four minutes of intense communion with the dead.

I've searched for that particular performance online but haven't been able to locate it. The other brilliant meditation on 9/11 suffered no such fate. The 2008 documentary Man on Wire is readily available for sale online and can be streamed at sites such as Netflix and Amazon. The deserving winner of an Academy Award, James Marsh's film retells the story of the French aerialist Philippe Petit, who in 1974 strung a cable between the Twin Towers and spent the better part of an hour performing 1,300 feet above a sparse but rapidly growing audience in lower Manhattan before being taken into custody. No moving footage of the actual performance remains, so the narrative is told through period stills, newsreels, interviews, and dramatic reconstructions. As with 9/11, we know how the story ends, yet the tension throughout the film is almost unbearable.

Time and again, Petit's grand, longplanned conspiracy almost fails to come together, and yet when he finally takes to the air, all those struggles melt away into a celebration of man's outer limits of possibility as Petit literally dances on thin air. The tight-rope walker and his confederates, along with everyone from the comically accented and mustachioed cop who arrests Petit after the act to newscasters from the '70s, meditate in real time and in retrospect on how they knew they were participating in something that would never happen again—that could never happen again. New, tighter security measures would see to that, but also because Petit had crossed over into international celebrity. The world of all those involved was irrevocably changed.

The brilliance of the movie is that it allows us to visit the World Trade Center and linger there for as long as we wish, while never pretending to forget the gaping hole that will always be there no matter what physically replaces the destroyed buildings. The film is no exercise in feel-good nostalgia; it doesn't allow us to escape the utter destruction of 9/11 so as much as it compels us to face a moment in time that can never be revised. It is what it is, to quote a phrase that became ubiquitous after 9/11. Throughout Man on Wire, all the people involved in Petit's plot—an immensely complicated and lucky conspiracy of joie de vivre that almost perfectly mirrors the dark-hearted death plot of 9/11—break down in tears as they recall the precise moment when the tightrope walker stepped out into the void between the North and South Towers. Decades later, they are rendered mute by memory, overwhelmed by the recollection of a moment when the unthinkable became reality, if only briefly.

It is in those unstoppable, unabsorbable tears that art honors the dead of 9/11, because it allows us to remember a day we all wish to forget. Here art offers not a refuge from reality but an entry back into it. "Two years, ten years," writes Sandburg, "and the passengers ask the conductor, What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work." The most powerful art of 9/11 refuses to let that happen by refusing to insist that we must make sense out of a senseless act.  

Nick Gillespie (gillespie@reason.com) is the editor in chief of reason.com and reason.tv.

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  1. The CIty in the Sea

    Edgar Allen Poe

    Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
    In a strange city lying alone
    Far down within the dim West,
    Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
    Have gone to their eternal rest.
    There shrines and palaces and towers
    (Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
    Resemble nothing that is ours.
    Around, by lifting winds forgot,
    Resignedly beneath the sky
    The melancholy waters lie…


  2. Art didn’t fail us after 9/11, rock did. And who expected as much as we even got in support of going after the jihadists by rockers?

    Rock music has lost its energy and its focus, and those things were lost well before 2001.

    1. Spot on Bill . . . after the Kennedy assassination, The Beatles were there to lift a nation’s spirits. Not to mention the rest of the British Invasion crowd. Rock died sometime in the late 90’s with the whole Creed-182 shit, and it has never recovered.

      1. *barf*

        1. *barf* on Cliche Fail

          1. I’m really surprised that you didn’t mention how Dylan was the voice of America’s youth, or how he had his finger on the pulse of the counterculture.

      2. was one of the best albums of the 90’s. Along with RT’s Mock Tudor. The 182 shit is not to be mentioned. You might disagree but you might have an underpowered hi-fi system. Or maybe you lack an LP record player…ho ho ho.

      3. I’m hoping this is all cyclical… but, yeah, when was the last time you heard of a hard-rock band making waves in pop culture? That didn’t have a hit album/song until after 2010?

        The only thing passing for popular rock these days are super-polished acts like Imagine Dragons or Maroon 5, and folkish-disco alternative darlings like Walk The Moon and fun. And the chew-em-up-and-spit-em-out radio treatment doesn’t help, either. Did anyone even know that Foster The People (the alt-radio darlings of 2011) put their second album out last year? I rest my case.

        1. Bands like Muse may disagree, but yes, rock has generally declined in popularity in recent years.

    2. For what it’s worth, the one rock song that fairly accurately captured my post-9/11 attitude is Spoon’s “Don’t Make Me A Target.” Oddly enough, it didn’t come out until 2007.

      1. I wish there would’ve been more 9/11-reaction songs like Jackyl’s “Open Invitation”. But the majority of them were maudlin, somber easy-listening pablum.

    3. I always liked “When the President Talks to God” by Bright Eyes when I was growing up but then again I was 18.

    4. You’re nuts. Bands like Foo Fighters and Volbeat rock as hard as ever.

  3. The senselessness of this heinous act has exceeded our ability to tame it into shape.

    Its more like a refusal by the cultural gatekeepers to come to grips with the actual motivations behind the attack have crippled our artistic/cultural response.

    The response to the attack became politicized too quickly, and it was shoved into the memory hole too soon, to allow the kind of widespread cultural processing that Gillespie is looking for.

    As for me, I know too much history to get too worked up about 9/11, anymore. I’m more aggravated that we botched our response, than I am that we got stung by the scorpion. Its what they do, after all, but we should have done better.

  4. How popular are rock songs saying “We asked for it!” actually going to be?

    Personally, I’d rather entertainers steer clear rather than perpetuate the false meme that “They hate us for our freedom.” That, unfortunately, is the only 9/11-related theme that would be successful in popular media.

    1. “Grope, Wiretap and Worship the Homeland.”

  5. I am so fucking happy that someone has finally put “Freedom” in it’s fucking place.


    1. Unfortunately, Nick praised John Lennon’s horrid “Imagine”. Every time I hear the lyrics about “imagine no possessions”, I imagine Yoko Ono not having any possessions and living in destitution.

      1. I always imagine some bum living under a bridge listening to that song. “No possessions? That’s pretty easy to imagine.”

  6. The comic book industry had tributes and special issues: Heroes, A Moment of Silence, Emergency Response, Spider Man #36, the 2 exceptional 9-1-1 anthologies.
    (should be noted that Rick Veitch’s new time travel/truther comic The Big Lie is out soon)

    Apologue by James Morrow saw a variety of giant monsters come to the aid of the city.

  7. And you tell me
    Over and over and over again, my friend
    Ah, you don’t believe
    We’re on the eve
    of destruction.

  8. the lone gunmen knew
    exactly why the planes crashed
    cherry blossoms fall

  9. the bombs planted low
    waiting for the signal flame
    building seven fell

    (Had to make sure the truther contingent wasn’t left out. LOL.)

  10. Freedom isn’t free
    It costs folks like you and me
    And if we don’t all chip in
    We’ll never pay that bill
    Freedom isn’t free
    No, there’s a hefty fuckin’ fee.
    And if you don’t throw in your buck ‘o five
    Who will?

      1. Oh yeah…Team America actually got it.

      2. Oh yeah…Team America actually got it.

  11. Isn’t the government building WTC 1, and isn’t that why it’s been so damned slow to build, unlike that other WTC replacement building?

    I’m closest to R C Dean’s sentiment in all of this, I suppose — I generally experience rage and disillusionment at the fact that my country has been dying for the last 150 years, overshadowing my reactions to 9/11. Although 9/11 angered me for years, I’m thinking bin Laden achieved his goal at least partiall, and at that I feel intense sadness and regret — his act hastened the destruction of the Republic.

    1. That ridiculous. Osama didn’t “hasten” anything. He became shark food and his organization a withering discredited shell of what it once was. The US response to the attacks opened up the Arab Spring which has resulted in less dictators and more chance that liberty will spread through the region.

      There are plenty of things to fault about the US response, but I completely disagree that Bin Laden was successful at anything other than discrediting extreme Islamists and making our air travel more of a pain in the ass.

      1. The US response to the attacks opened up the Arab Spring

        No it didn’t.

        Hell, our biofuels subsidy policy has more to do with the Arab Spring than the invasion of Iraq does.

        1. So it was just a coincidence that after Saddam was pulled out of his hole and the Taliban had to go run and hide that Lebanon kicked out the Syrians, Qball gave up his nuke and chemical weapons, and Iranians started protesting en masse along with Yemenis and several other nations?

          Just so happened that way, yeah?

          1. Nothing that happened in Tunisia or Egypt or Bahrain had anything to do with the US response to 9/11.

            And those events are the “Arab Spring”.

            Qaddafi’s 180 on terror and WMD was in direct response to the Iraq invasion, so that particular success can in fact properly be credited to our policy. I’ll give you that one. The Libyan uprising, however, had nothing to do with Qaddafi’s WMD policy and was instead a copycat response to events in Tunisia and Egypt.

            Yemen has been in a state of civil unrest since well before 9/11.

            1. I’m not going to claim that the US response to 9/11 was the “impetus” by any means for what was clearly growing unrest in the region that existed prior to 9/11. But I’m also not willing to say that it had “absolutely no influence” either. The removal of what was easily the biggest thug on the block had to have some influence in speeding up the downfall of other lesser thugs.

              Again, I’m not saying it was “the reason” but I think it’s incorrect to say it had “no influence”. It wasn’t just a coincidence with Qball, and certainly even less so in Lebanon. The others mentioned were less influenced by our actions but I disagree that there was “none”.

  12. How can you top this?

    This is the greatest possible work of art in the entire cosmos.

    -Karlheinz Stockhausen

    ‘What has happened is – now you all have to turn your brains around – the greatest work of art there has ever been. That minds could achieve something in one act, which we in music cannot even dream of, that people rehearse like crazy for ten years, totally fanatically for one concert, and then die. This is the greatest possible work of art in the entire cosmos. Imagine what happened there. There are people who are so concentrated on one performance, and then 5000 people are chased into the Afterlife, in one moment. This I could not do. Compared to this, we are nothing as composers… Imagine this, that I could create a work of art now and you all were not only surprised, but you would fall down immediately, you would be dead and you would be reborn, because it is simply too insane. Some artists also try to cross the boundaries of what could ever be possible or imagined, to wake us up, to open another world for us.’

    Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hamburg, September 2001.

    Unfortunately, he had to walk it back and totally disavow the statement. IIRC, some of his fellow artists were calling for Stockhausen’s involuntary commitment.

    1. I chased old Karl into the Afterlife. Sorry it took me so long, dudes.

    2. I have to say, I almost agree in a way. He should have stuck to his guns. Art is not bound by morality. Thought I doubt that the perpetrators of 911 thought of what they were doing as art.
      I wish it had been art.

      1. Considering all the BS flung in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 I thought Stockhausen had the most interesting take on it.

        Stockhausen was denounced by his “peers”, not just as “wrong” but as having no right to hold, much less express, such an opinion with some calling for his involuntary commitment.Nobody likes an art critic it seems.

    3. ….about Nagasaki.

      1. Wonder what he thought about Nagasaki Dresden

  13. So just how much time and effort is the proper amount to be spent on past events? Why are we required to dwell on something to nothing can be done about anymore? Why do we need to require people to stop and think about what happened when they walk past an historical marker? Do we really need the world’s greatest band/author/artist to make the world’s greatest song/book/art so that we’ll all remember forever?

    I would hope that people are more capable of moving on with life. The only use for events in the past is to teach a lesson on avoidance. Most of the time the real lesson to be learned is that life can be cruel and sometimes bad things happen.

  14. You didn’t include probably the most popular and moving post 9/11 piece of art:

    I’m proud to be an American

    I could sing that all day.

    1. U-S-A!

      Make sure you pump your fist when you do this.

      1. What if one hand is clutching a plastic pint glass of watery beer and the other is full of nachos?

        1. If you’re not wearing one of those beer hats with the crazy straws then you are doing it wrong.

        2. Also, what’s with the nachos? This is Merica – hot dogs or GTFO.

    2. I’m a quasi-minarchistic republican and an unabridged absolutist in my judgment of acceptability in law.

      “The flag still stands for freedom” is the only part of that song that isn’t at least largely wishful thinking.

      “Where at least I know I’m are free [to such a degree as shall be determined by the oligarchy of the mobs of self-enslavement]” would have been a better line. I weep for the United States.

      1. Well, it’s good enough for Sean Hannityand he’s a…. good American.

        1. You’ve outed yourself as a sock puppet. Try harder next time. 😉

  15. (Young’s truly memorable performance after 9/11 was of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the September 21, 2001, “Tribute to Heroes” benefit concert, where his nasal, cracking, almost child-like falsetto paired movingly with that song’s lyrics about a world beyond politics.)

    Shit, I thought that was Ethel Merman performing that.

    1. i thought the article was great, but Imagine is one of the most overrated songs ever, and few songs are more cloyingly insipid while being given credit as profound.

      not to mention that the 20th century proved that w.o religion, people can be just as rapacious and murderous…

      1. John Lennon himself was pretty overrated. Anytime a peacenik, socialist or environmentalist spouts social activism and doesn’t skinny up with a substantial portion of his millionaire lucre to salt the mine, he is to be viewed with suspicion and ambivilance.

        1. i have this sneaking suspicion that, at least to an extent, john lennon was fucking with liberals. iow, he was smart enough to realize much of what he spouted was complete shit.

          just a theory, but it makes me feel better so i’ll stick with it as a POSSIBILITY 🙂

          1. His last Rolling Stone interview indicates he might have been the greatest troll ever.

            1. I mean, just listen to “Revolution”.

          2. Dylan too, milked cash from pock faced liberal shitbirds for decades. Anyone who knew him said he and Grossman were tight and shrewd when a buck was involved, and believed little of the shit he was peddling.

            1. Fans would always ask Joan Baez when Bob Dylan was coming to a sit-in or a rally. Joan told them: “Bob never comes to these things.”

  16. Once upon a time, popular singers could write a song like this one, about issues they thought were worthwhile some thought:

    Come round by my side and I’ll sing you a song.
    I’ll sing it so softly, it’ll do no one wrong.
    On Birmingham Sunday the blood ran like wine,
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
    That cold autumn morning no eyes saw the sun,
    And Addie Mae Collins, her number was one.
    In an old Baptist church there was no need to run.
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom,
    The clouds they were dark and the autumn wind blew,
    And Denise McNair brought the number to two.
    The falcon of death was a creature they knew,
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom,
    The church it was crowded, and no one could see
    That Cynthia Wesley’s dark number was three.
    Her prayers and her feelings would shame you and me.
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
    Young Carol Robertson entered the door
    And the number her killers had given was four.
    She asked for a blessing but asked for no more,
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
    On Birmingham Sunday a noise shook the ground.
    And people all over the earth turned around.
    For no one recalled a more cowardly sound.
    And the choir kept singing of Freedom.
    The men in the forest they once asked of me,
    How many black berries grow in the Blue Sea.
    I asked them right back with a tear in my eye.
    How many dark ships in the forest?
    A Sunday has come a Sunday has gone.
    And I can’t do much more than to sing you a song.
    I’ll sing it so softly, it’ll do no one wrong.
    And the choir keeps singing of Freedom.

    But when it comes to the people in the World Trade Center, they’re just collateral damage, I guess.

        1. Let’s just erect statues of Beavis and Butthead at Ground Zero and leave it at that.

          1. Er, Er, you said erect, Er, Er.

  17. It seemed that there was some agreement that the dead would have faces. The victims and perps would have faces. But the act itself would be shrouded.
    See this poem for the union workers at the restaurant at the top: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16596

  18. One reason for the “art fail” is that many decided to airbrush the WTC out of the media. For example, they re-did the first Spider-Man movie to remove the Twin Towers (even though that part of the movie was set pre-2001). They have also NEVER re-run the Simpsons episide where they go to Manhattan and visit the Twin Towers. Instead we get sanitized crap and jingoism. The only good “art” that explicitly includes the WTC were Spike Lee’s excellent movie “The 25th Hour” and the video for Ryan Adam’s “I still love you New York (filmed in August 2001)”.

    1. And part of that defiant acceptance that also would have been great is for the government to NOT have fucked up the reconstruction on the site — that way, perhaps, the buildings would have been finished within a few very short years instead of the 10-year clusterfuck it’s been so far.

      I hope it gets finished soon, and it’ll finally be there again.

      1. Agreed, 100%

  19. All together now, boys and girls, repeat after me: Ideology makes bad art. Very few people have tried to make art for art’s sake about 9/11. Instead, they have subsumed their art under their ideology or what they think their art should say. So all the 9/11 art is crap.

    This is also why Rand wrote shitty novels, BTW.

    1. Rage Against the Machine were imo one of the greatest rock acts ever, and god knows they were inspired by ideology – a stupid ideology, but ideology nonetheless

      They proved yet again, that all you need are three chords, a guitar, and the truth

      and the truth is optional.

      you just GOTTA ROCK!!!

      1. I just lost a whole lot of respect for you. Maybe cops shouldn’t write about music the same way musicians shouldn’t write about politics.

        1. i was a musician long before i was a cop and still am a musician. music matters to me…

          that aint a bona fides thang, it’s just a thang.

          arguing about art is of course completely subjective and leads to stupidity, but fine… imo, RATM were one of the greatest rock bands ever.

      2. RATM sucks shit.

        1. i disagree. and what a fun argument. i also , as a guitarist, have massive respect for tom morello.

          1. Morello’s smug and pretentious douchbaggery outstrips any talent he may possess.

            You sir, need better idols.

            1. you sir, need better arguments

              saying i have massive respect for morello as a guitar player =/= having him as an idol.

              1. Not at all. I’m saying that his complete failure as a thinking man, combined with his repugnant persona, overshadows any good that he may have ever done as a musician.

                Put simply, you’re arguing that none of the actions taken by John Wayne Gacy undercut whatever artistic talent he had.

                1. no, i’m arguing the point you seemed to miss.

                  i said i have massive respect for him as a guitar player.

                  that says NOTHING about my respect, or lack thereof for his ideology or alleged douchebaggery.

                  i have massive respect for michael moore as a director. he’s incredibly talented. he’s still a douchebag. but as a creator of propaganda, he’s awesome

                  1. Oh, for fuck’s sake….

                    Ted Bundy was an intelligent, charming man and a snappy dresser.
                    Idi Amin was wonderful dancer; very light on his feet for man of his size.
                    Michael Bay is a very successful film director.

                    Notice a pattern?

                    I get your painfully obvious point dunphy: that Morello is a talented guitarist, depsite his ideological and personal flaws. I don’t share that view.

                    1. these are stupid points. ted bundy first and foremost was a serial killer.

                      that was how we DEFINE him, and his acts defined himself as thus.

                      morello is first and foremost a guitarist, so the other shit is tangential.

                      it’s really not a difficult point to grok…

                      also, some people are so reflexively ideological (like you) that if a guy is such an ideological moron, they could never give him credit for something unrelated, like music.

                      i see leftists do this all the time. these are people who can swoon over algore but not even admit romney is an attractive man.

                      stuff like that.

                      *i* think morello is a great guitarist, and MORESO that RATM was a great band.

                      the music stands on its own

                2. I have no idea what artistic talents John Wayne Gacy had, but such as they were his vile activities would have no bearing on his artistic talent.
                  Almost all musicians have naive and idiotic leftist political views. If that is going to be how you judge art, you are going to have a hard time finding much that is acceptable. Appreciating art isn’t about balancing goods, it is about whether the art is worthwhile or not. If Hitler had been a good painter, I would give him credit for that. If my favorite musician turned out to be a child rapist, I would still listen.

                  1. Almost all musicians have naive and idiotic leftist political views.

                    No argument there. As long as they don’t feel compelled to share those views with the world, I’m fine with their art.

                    Ignorance is bliss, in this case.

                    1. “shut up and sing”

                      it’s kind of like the whole dixie chicks thing. i thoroughly enjoyed the dixie chix/toby keith battle, and they got exactly what they deserved, plus they got to be even more self righteous and play the victims

              2. As a guitarist, I fucking despise Tom Morello. I don’t doubt that he could actually play his instrument if he wanted to, but he seems content to cover his ass with a bevy of effects and make a bunch of horrid noise where a few emotive notes would be superior.

                Not hating on your preferences dunphy; it’s just that Morello never struck me as a very “musical” guitarist, and my disdain for him is probably augmented by RATM’s lefty bullshit.

                1. that’s fair enough. i kind of come from a school where guitarists who weren’t particularly technically proficient (punk guitarists) and also The Edge made up for their lack of technical proficiency with a unique approach.

                  the fact that the edge was so limited in his ability to play guitar licks and etc. (at least in the boy/october/war era), was what drove him to attack his instrument with such a unique approach and led to such interesting sounding music. he also played his effects just like he played the guitar. iow, he treated them as instruments in themselves and set up really cool feedbacky repetitive loops etc. with the digital delay. at the time, it was pretty rare and unique.

                  i also loved the police as a kid and andy summers had a nice minimalist style (no guitar masturbatory solos practically at all) and also impressive use of especially chorus pedal, etc.

                  i’ve just always come from the opposite of the blues (especially the oft-maligned suburbankidplayztheblues) and/or the malmsteen/million notes a second school, and instead from the punk/minimalist/etc. three chords and the truth school.

                  the kids in my school were into journey etc. (and neil schon WAS awesome, in restrospect), but i liked the jam, the buzzcocks, the sex pistols, etc.

                  1. Well, a lack of technical proficiency is not necessarily an inherent fault. A heavy focus on technique and skill vs. emotional weight usually results in shitty, unlistenable music (you mentioned Malmsteen, who is a good example of that, IMO). The opposite is also true for me; if a musician has a dearth of harmonic knowledge, I’ll probably find it boring.

                    I do believe interesting chords and phrasings have more emotive possibility than any pedalboard or textural approach. My background is pretty firmly rooted in blues and jazz too, so my biases tend toward those styles and their outgrowths.

                    1. And I, too, find it distasteful when some lily-white suburuban character affects a Southern drawl and plays the same 3 overwrought notes for 10 minutes. I love the blues when it’s genuine; when it isn’t, it’s no better than the bottom of the pop music barrel.

                    2. it’s foundational and awesome (for a lot of bands) but also somewhat limiting .

                      i mean its limiting in that IF you learn the blues first and concentrate on it a lot, it’s almost impossible to conceive of the guitar in ways that don’t have the blues in them somewhere.

                      i just don’t see a song like i will follow coming from a guy who was blues based.

                      one of the best ways imo to open your mind and your guitar to new approaches and new sounds is alternative tunings btw. it’s almost like a completely different instrument

                    3. right. and i’m kind of the anti when it comes to blues and jazz. it’s not that i don’t like blues and jazz, it’s just that my punk etc. background kind of is the opposite of the whole blues thing in a # ways.

                      the edge was my defining guitarist when i was learning to play (although i loved the ramones, etc.) and it’s the kind of stuff that made people who were steeped in the blues go WTF?

                      (i realize U2 later played with bb king, but that was later)

                      btw, the documentary It Might Get Loud with Jack White, Jimmy Page, and the Edge is pretty awesome.

                      imnsho one of the reasons U2 started to suck was the edge becoming a real guitarist and thus losing his… wait for it… edge

                      and i am serious

                      bono becoming pretentious as fuck didn’t hurt either.

                    4. The band Dream theater came up with a pretty original piece called “sacrificed sons”, about the attacks on 9/11. it starts out with muslims saying a prayer in some foriegn language, while various news reporters report the attacks on 9/11, shifting from the left ear to the right ear and then to both, then it goes into the actual song, where it enters with a haunting sound that gives one the same feelings we had after the attack, describing the panic one had watching the news and flipping from channel to channel, describing the anxiety felt by those with loved ones working on those towers, and finally describing how the attackers were mislead by the scriptures in the quran. it is progressive metal, so you may not like it.

        2. RAGTM is for angry 14 year olds.

          1. is there ANY other kind?

            1. But we’re angry too!
              Where’s our crappy theme music?

  20. Ideology makes bad art when bad artists try it.

    Goya painted political pictures, so did Picasso. Hemingway wrote ideological novels, so did Dos Passos.

  21. Bruce Springsteen recorded The Rising and nothing else is really required here.

    1. A lot of people apparently loved it. I’ve never even listened to any of it.

      1. I’m just referring to the single. I never even bought the whole album.

        1. Eh. There are at least 2 decent songs on the album. But I have a soft spot for Springsteen that he doesn’t qualitatively deserve.

  22. Blue Man Group performed a piece inspired by 9/11 called “Project 13” as part of their first live tour. Pretty amazing, actually. They play a rather minimalist music composition while the projection screen over the stage shows scraps of paper found downwind of the towers, entirely without commentary. I got pretty teary-eyed the first time I saw it. It’s on their DVD and I highly recommend watching it.

  23. Yeah, at least Pearl Harbor got that movie Pearl Harbor.

    Joking aside, why do we even need a cultural movement to poignantly feed our collective inner grief-troll. Maybe people forget because those events were far away from them, something that happened on tv; a real life Micheal Bay movie played out on CNN. Maybe the Bush/Obama years have instilled in us a cynicism that forbids detailed examination of our emotional responses to tragedy, at least publicly and earnestly.

    Really, in fifty years I think all of the ersatz tough guy Americana bullshit that speckled the cultural landscape in the post 9/11 years will be nothing more than an historical curiosity, and an honest appraisal will be written by those not even born by 9/11.

    Team America will probably be regarded as the piece that most accurately captured the spirit of the times, though.

    1. I should’ve read downstream to here before I made my comment, because I agree with this. Team America, Scott Walker’s The Drift

  24. What the hell do artists know about war anyway? They’re all a bunch of useless sensitive pussies covered in piercings and tattoos (I’m stereotyping).

    1. Kris Kristofferson (whose music is sucky, in my opinion, but that’s just me) was a Vietnam vet. His first song that got significant airplay was one of those old songs about soldiers confronting those long-haired peaceniks. But maybe he wasn’t in combat.

    2. No, you’re thinking of death metal singers…

    3. That’s fucking stupid. Many great artists fought in wars.

      1. Philosophers, too. Socrates and Xenophon for starters.

  25. I nominate Denis Leary’s “Rescue Me” as a better response to 9-11 that any others mentioned

    1. But “Rescue Me” isn’t “high art” crafted by “professional artists”. It is dreck created to entertain stupid people who don’t value “real art”.


    2. I am comfortable with that.

  26. If we can’t handle explicit referecnes to the event, than the best form is allegory. BSG did that very well as did, oddly, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, which I nominate as most misunderstood film of the past decade.

    1. I thought “Signs” had a scene or two that were pretty spot on in regards to the visceral experience of watching 9/11 and its aftermath unfold from a distance.

      1. Too bad Signs is one of the top five worst major releases not directed by Bay. And so insulting to Christians that even a hardcore atheist like me was offended on their behalf.

        1. How is Signs offensive to Christians?

          1. It portrays God as willing to make intercessions in free will, but only in destructive ways. Gibson’s wife has to be crushed by a car to deliver a cryptic prophecy. To have the brother around to hit a creature that traveled intergalactic distances with a baseball bat, his major-league career had to be destroyed. To make sure that their are glasses of water sitting around, the little girl has to do it as a way to sooth her anxiety over her mother dying.

            The God of Signs doesn’t move in mysterious ways, He’s an asshole that tortures people under the guise of helping them.

            1. It’s like A Prayer for Owen Meany, but with aliens instead of a midget.

              1. Irving lost me a reader for years over that grotesquery. It almost reads like a deranged self-parody.

            2. The God of Signs doesn’t move in mysterious ways, He’s an asshole that tortures people under the guise of helping them.

              I think a lot of progressives feel the same way about their fathers.

              1. I think that take is actually fairly Biblically accurate, SugarFree.

                1. Old Testament, maybe. But Gibson is a Christian.

        2. What was number one, Six Sense or a film starring Will Smith?

          1. Sixth Sense

            1. Did they catch you yet?

        3. Come on. Not even in the top 5 worst of HIS films.

          1. It’s basic premise is stunningly stupid. Like trying to eat a hammer level stupid.

            Let’s me you and Fluffy go invade a planet… 70% of its surface is concentrated hydrochloric acid. The inhabitants are 90% hydrochloric acid. They drink the stuff. All plant and animal life is coursing with hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid occasionally falls from the sky for hours on end. Nah, we don’t need a space suit or anything…

            1. I don’t know. The first half of Signs I thought was scary and well done. The scene with the alien’s leg going into the cornfield, the news clip of the alien at the kid’s birthday party, them holing up in their farmhouse: it all set up a very paranoiac, apocalyptic mood.

              It all turned completely to shit, of course, for the reasons you lay out above.

            2. Not disagreeing with any of this, but if you can push past the utter stupidity of the premise, it’s a pretty fucking suspenseful flick, as those types go.

              1. But what is suspense without a payoff? All Signs does is make you ashamed that it was able to fool you for as long as it did. And its groping, nonsensical “profundity.” Gag.

                1. I took it for what it was: a suspenseful alien invasion movie. For all of it’s many faults, Shamalamadingdong handled that with aplomb. All of the ethereal nonsense, I just ignored.

            3. Kind of like the movie Aliens.

          2. I don’t disagree with your assessment, only the ranking. HE has made at least 5 films that were worse. It is quicker to just say that only Unbreakable and Sixth Sense were better, and of those only Unbreakable would get my recommendation.

            1. Unbreakable is his best, but it’s one of those movies I’d like to take apart and put back together.

              Not having seen Last Airbender, I only think The Lady In The Water and The Happening are worse than Signs of his genre films, but I guess if you count the pre-6th Sense movies, you might be on to something…

              1. Don’t forget Stuart Little.
                I am with Gray Ghost though…If the film had broken early enough in the movie and I hadn’t seen the ending, I would have liked Signs as a decent remake of Night of the Triffids. The Village, however, was both boring and stupid throughout.

                1. Day of the Triffids, that is, Day.

                2. His cardinal directorial sin is that he mistakes pace for gravitas. His writing sins are too numerous for anyone to count.

                  I am of two minds which is ultimately the stupider movie, Signs or The Happening. Although the latter is possibly the dumbest title of any work of fiction ever created by humans.

                  1. So, I never saw Signs, but I’m going to take as a given that there’s a plot twist…

                  2. Although the latter is possibly the dumbest title of any work of fiction ever created by humans.

                    Worse than A Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire?


                    1. Both those titles at least source out of the text. “The Happening” sounds like a long lost Electric Prunes demo.

                    2. Think Diana Ross, not the Electric Prunes; personally, I kind of liked I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night, but I hated Diana Ross.

                    3. The Happening” sounds like a long lost Electric Prunes demo.

                      I thought it was gonna be a remake of Peter Seller’s The Party

              2. I liked The Happening. Anthony Quinn looked like he was having fun.

                1. So, Shyamalan also managed to produce a terrible remake that has nothing to do with the original? He sucks.

                  1. Ultimately, if he had stopped after Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I’d say Shyamalan might’ve been the best (new) director of the last 20 years or so.

        4. I thought of Signs about what I thought of the other Shamalan movies I have seen: very well done visually, good suspense, but with a completely stupid plot and script.

    2. Right it could be understood as an critique of ideologies. A nation who is controlled through disinformation. Or a very religious family. The agent who goes out into the real world is blind or ideologically purified.

  27. I’m sure Mr. Leather Jacket doesn’t listen to it, but country music had several 9/11-themed songs to come out. Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You” is still played all the time on country radio stations. Country music is the most popular radio format in the country. And yet to some, it’s not culturally relevant because it’s not something the elites in New York, Los Angeles, etc. listen to. I’m not saying these efforts were of any more or less artistic value than any of the others mentioned. But I’m sure many more people have heard them. Just not the “right” kind of people, I guess.

    1. I don’t like country music or listen to it, so that means it doesn’t matter.

      (I’m serious.)

    2. South Park was so right about that song. blech. Maybe if they played it ONLY on 9/11.

    3. To be fair, that song is fucking terrible.

    4. Not this again. Country music (the kind that is played on the radio) is vapid pop crap. Country is not mentioned for the same reason that Lady Gaga or whatever pop shit is big these days is not mentioned.

      1. I think of it as “southern music”.

  28. If 9/11 had happened in pre-historic times, someone would write an oral poem about how we spent 10 years tracking down Osama bin Laden.

  29. Why Art Failed Us After 9/11

    It didn’t.

    I went to a performance by Michael Gira and Low at the Bowery Ballroom a few weeks after 9/11 that demolishes this premise. Art that attempts to be too literal in its response to anything, to “make sense of the senseless,” is unlikely to be good art. That’s not how art works.

    1. My painting, entitled: Nine Eleven Makes Me Sad, featuring a weeping clown in front of the Towers sold for $17 at the flea market. So you can take your “opinions” about what constitutes “good” art and shove them up your terrorist lovin’ ass!

      1. I’m having flashbacks to a Kids in the Hall sketch now. Thanks, cap l.

      2. I assume it was on black velvet…

        1. I assume it was on black velvet…

          I’m ‘mercan ain’t I?

          Canvas is for commies!

  30. Tom Petty, raising his guitar neck in a vulgar suggestion at the end of “I Won’t Back Down,” in the R&R 9/11 tribute video, was one hell of a work of art, imho. Someone should edit that performance footage to include visuals associated with the later killing of bin Laden. I’ll bet that would provide a real sense of closure for some.

  31. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was played all over the place, but that was actually written back in the 80s. Alan Jackson’s song “Where were you when the world stopped turning” hit #1 on country charts and #28 on the Bilboard Hot 100, and the album it debuted on hit #1 overall when it debuted in 2002. Darryl Worley’s 9/11 rememberance and pro Iraq song “Have You Forgotten” hit #22 overall and the album hit #4 (#1 for both on country charts). I’m not a country music fan, but it’s part of American culture and seems to resonate more that most 9/11 art, and deserved at least a mention in the article.

    1. I don’t think the article discussed country music because it was an article about art…

      1. it is pretty ironic that he completely glosses over the most popular form of music in the country (by some metrics)…

        leftwing, rightwing, or libertarian… hipsters are hipsters and flyover nation doesn’t exist

        unless flyover peeps are being raided by SWAT and their (mongrel) dogs are being shot

    2. Well, when you consider that country music (called “country and western” back then) right along with rhythm and blues was one of the musical forebears of rock ‘n’ roll…

      1. Yes, and a child Gene Krupa banging indiscriminately on pots and pans was one of the musical forebears to jazz…

  32. Maybe someone can put together a video contrasting the number of people killed by bin Laden’s cronies on 9/11 (about 3,000) with the number killed as a result of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars (somewhere around 900,000), backed by Weird Al’s “Dare To Be Stupid”.

    I don’t have any hope that this will put things in perspective for the U-S-A U-S-A crowd, but it would at least be a somewhat accurate representation of the last 10 years of 9/11 and its aftermath.

  33. Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” was played all over the place

    That song got its first resurrection in the Gulf War and has shambled about like a rotting corpse ever since. If I never hear that fucking song again, it won’t disturb me in the slightest.

    My enduring hatred of Seger’s Turn The Page and Garth Brooks’ version of Friends In Low Places date from that period as well.

    1. Friends in Low Places at least reminds me of high school dances and trying to get — whatever the fuck I was trying to get at age 15 from my date. But that was north of Houston. I remember hearing that goddam Brooks & Dunn song five times a day for all of fucking high school. To this day, I would kill either of that duo if given a chance.

      1. AFRTS played Turn The Page and Friends In Low Places once an hour, every hour, for the entire time we were in the Gulf. If I had ever found the idiot who was in charge of AFRTS programming, I would have gone to jail for setting him on fire.

      2. You’re talking “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”?

        I would hire Casey Anthony as a babysitter if my child ever played that.

        I consider myself a fan of country music, but that song is an affront to nature.

        1. Oh yeah. Although, it also made me hate line dancing. So there is that.

    2. Thanks a lot asshole, now “Friends in low places” is playing in my head.

      1. were the whiskey drowns and the beer chases …

  34. Lou Reed’s poem, “Laurie Sadly Listening” is, I think, a good poem on 9/11.

    1. Just realized I saw Laurie Anderson in Boston the Saturday following 9/11. I saw Blue Man Group that day as well.

      1. Laurie Anderson did a great pre-9/11 9/11 song with “O Superman”.

  35. “9/11”














  36. This was pretty good 9/11 art

  37. How the 9/11 attacks might have led to a minimizing of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world or helped to reestablish a jihadist Caliphate is beyond comprehending.

    Does it occur to anyone that these guys- the ones who plan and order the bombings- simply get off on it?

    As I get older I realize more and more that this idea of the human mind as some sort of complex puzzle box is a load of hooey. Humans (in general) really are simple, stupid little creatures.

    You can’t comprehend Bin Laden’s reasoning because there was none.

    1. Do you think bin Laden and his pals were responding to the 9/11 news, saying “Blowed up good, blowed up REAL good?”

    2. I feel the same way. Bin Laden was in many ways a lone wolf and they will always persists. Te response to 9/11 was the real tragedy. The implementation and in many ways legitimization of the Bush Doctrine, a spiritual successor to NSC 68 has solidified the relatively recent marriage between the military industrial complex and mass consumerism created in the 1950’s. We are on a historical arch which envisions a symbiotic relationship between between the vitality and robustness of the “free world” and a globally projected US military power.

  38. The premise itself is false. Commemorating a senseless, random act like 9/11 and all that came after it with a crappy pop tune serves only to cheapen and commercialize whatever dignity the humans involved once had. I’m amazed that ordinarily snarky and cynical libertarians–of all people–would lament the lack of suitably jingoistic, commemorative plaques coins songs.

  39. Its what they do, after all, but we should have done better.

    I recall at the time some politician (google failed to provide) saying how we were going to strike back covertly, how we’d come out of the night and the shadows like Special Ops teams full of Batman clones and strike terror into the hearts of the terrorists. Their bases and assets would just start vanishing, and they’d have no idea who was next. Sounded really awesome.

    Instead we got two big dumbass wars. I like to think we’re still doing the covert stuff, but who knows.

    1. I was hoping for that too. What a disappointment reality turned out to be.

  40. How about Audrey Auld’s “The Word Changed Today”? (Released on the album Garage Sale


    I’m filled with tears
    I don’t know why I cry
    But in a turn of the hand
    Too many people died
    All that I believed in
    Doesn’t seem so sure
    And everything that mattered
    Doesn’t matter anymore

    Cause the world changed today
    The world changed today
    In a message to America
    The world changed forever today

    A monument
    Turned to ash and sand
    They desecrate the very
    Pillars of the land
    Shattered on a weekday
    All the nine-to-fives
    The bitter dust will settle
    On everybody’s lives

    Cause the world changed today
    The world changed today
    In a message to America
    The world changed forever today

    It’s different now
    The shadows hold new fears
    The circle has been broken
    The soldiers fight their tears
    Out across the oceans
    There’s people just like me
    Who pray and cry and wonder why
    They murder to be free

    I’m grieving for
    No-one that I know
    Save for every beating heart
    Every John Doe
    No amount of money
    Could settle this score
    But all the love in all the world
    Could bring the end of war

    Cause the world changed today
    The world changed today
    In a message to America
    The world changed forever today

    The world changed today
    The world changed today
    In a message to America
    The world changed forever today

    In a message to America
    My world changed forever today

  41. Nothing changes on New Year’s day.

  42. There are a lot of unspoken assumptions in this article. Why does an event such as 9/11 “need” to be “processed” by “the culture?” What difference does it make whether artists say or do anything? Is a horror like this somehow incomplete, insufficient, not quite up to par, until there’s been a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie made about it? Are we incapable of comprehending genocide until Jay-Z has rapped it for us? Are we without feelings until Neil Young writes a tender ballad telling us how to feel? Does 9/11 not exist at all until Lady Gaga has put her stamp of approval on it? How much pop cultural regurgitation has to take place before we feel adequately purged? What does all this mean, anyway?

    If you’re that conflicted, read some books about the WTC attacks. Sit down and write your feelings in a diary. Go outside and scream at the sky. Pray. You don’t need Kid Rock or Anderson Cooper to help you.

    1. there is one thing i am 100% certain of. if 3000 people had been killed by a rightwing douchebag spouting neonazi propaganda, etc. hollywood would have gone into overdrive…

      let’s remember these are the same people that rewrote a sum of all fears, replacing the muslim terrorists with neo-nazis.

      and don’t even get me started on ben affleck as jack ryan

      1. hollywood would have gone into overdrive

        So what? They don’t matter.

        1. the point is there, whether hollywood matters or not.

          imo, the fact that of who we were fighting was a big part of it. also, there is the reflexive stance amongst many hollywood types of – america is wrong, first and foremost no matter what unless it’s old hoary now acceptable to laud stuff like WWII (the greatest generation bla bla)

          if we were fighting white nazis, not brown muslims, they would have gone into overdrive.

      2. If only Oliver Stone would make a movie about 9/11 we could all know what really happened.

        1. I’m assuming you’re saying that tongue-in-cheek….


          1. You had to axe?

      3. They would have done a remake of the Valley of Elah.

  43. Art is Art
    Music is Music

    I certainly don’t expect many deep insights from any artists that I know. When I was younger, I could get riled up by Crass, the DKs, or etc etc. But now? I really don’t like politics in my music, unless it is more commentary than preaching.


    1. i have to give the DK’s credit for being TIGHT AS FUCK btw. i was watching some videos of them playing in the studio, and MAN were they fucking tight and frankly… groovy

      you didn’t see that that much from punk acts back in the era. those guys could play!

      jello biafra is annoying as hell (i produced him in concert and thus dealt with him one on one several times) but the politics aside, the DK’s were fucking awesome

  44. I think rock reacted more to George Bush (American Idiot comes to mind) than being interested in offering any real meaningful thoughts about modern Arab militant terrorism and its role in global affairs.

    Rocks prevailing juvenile attitude could be summed up in Chrissy Hynde’s “I hope they win” shout during the Iraq invasion.

    I don’t know if art failed 9/11 but it does say something nothing managed to transcend that moment. Something that even people who don’t pay attention to the arts could remember.

    Although, I wonder, what was the response from the arts community during and after the Great Wars?

    Rock, as a tiny branch of art, and its response (and I agree with most here) was puerile. Springsteen made a decent stab at it and the only reason why I think it worked was because if there was ONE musician people from NYC wanted to hear from it was him.

    That was the best rock had.

    It was weak and the worst among them were all those legends from the 60s. It was like watching Krusty past his prime.

    Beyond that, even John Mellencamp left me empty. I bought his box set and was struck by the seemingly simplistic and hopelessly one-sided political edge; to the point where you could easily refute his assertions.

    He was boring me and I love his music.

    Don’t get me going on their economic theories.

    Last, as a Canadian, I too lament the aimless direction of the United States. It is a major loss to Western civilization to watch it lose complete control and connection to its roots.

    Power derives from the sovereign man. The source of that energy flows from God. The system of governance created under a Republic reflects these simple facts and beliefs.

    Thus, America was born and reached the apex of power. One of the great nations in all of history.


    1. Now Canada takes over. Don’t fuck up.

      1. We won’t let you down!


  45. Is that Jim Carrey in a police uniform?

    1. Treat Williams.

  46. Garrison Keillor is kind of a dork on a lot of things, but he gets it right from time to time.

    The first plane hit the other tower
    Right after I came in
    It left a gaping, firey hole
    Where offices had been.
    We stood and watched in horror
    As we saw the first ones fall.
    Then someone yelled “Get out! Get out!
    They’re trying to kill us all.”

    I grabbed the pictures from my desk
    And joined the flight for life.
    With every step I called the names
    Of my children and my wife.
    And then we heard them coming up
    From several floors below.
    A crowd of fire fighters,
    With their heavy gear in tow.

    Now every time I try to sleep
    I’m haunted by the sound,
    Of firemen pounding up the stairs
    While we were coming down.

    And when we met them on the stairs
    They said we were too slow.
    “Get out! Get out!” they yelled at us –
    “The whole thing’s going to go”
    They didn’t have to tell us twice –
    We’d seen the world on fire.
    We kept on running down the stairs
    While they kept climbing higher.

    Now every time I try to sleep
    I’m haunted by the sound,
    Of firemen pounding up the stairs
    While we were coming down.

    Thank God, we made it to the street;
    We ran through ash and smoke.
    I did not know which way to run –
    I thought that I would choke.

    A fireman took me by the arm
    And pointed me uptown.
    Then “Christ!” I heard him whisper
    As the tower came roaring down

    So, now I go to funerals
    For men I never knew.
    The pipers play Amazing Grace,
    As the coffins come in view.
    They must have seen it coming
    When they turned to face the fire.
    They sent us down to safety,
    Then, they kept on climbing higher

    Now every time I try to sleep
    I’m haunted by the sound,
    Of firemen pounding up the stairs
    While we were coming down.

    No analysis of the causes, but a tribute to the response.

    1. that’s pretty good. i find keillor astoundingly unfunny, but i liked that

    2. That was on Keillor’s show, but is by Tom Paxton.

      1. Ah. Thanks. There was no indication of the author on the page I linked and I recalled it from the initial broadcast.

  47. I think “art” failed on 9-11 because the event itself created an experience more powerful than anything an artist could hope to capture, and that was broadcast to the world live.

    I don’t think that it is possible for an artist to be able to put out a product that is able to capture 1/10th the power and emotion I felt just watching the news coverage.

    This isn’t like Picasso’s paintings trying to convey the horrors of war to a population which wasn’t there.

    Until more people who were alive during 9-11 die off the art community doesn’t stand a chance of generating something which can compete with what people remember for themselves that day.

    1. Exactly. How can any art be more haunting than the image of “The Falling Man?”

  48. long ago i stopped looking to musicians to put things into perspective for me, especially with the majority having a liberal bend…
    if only Hollywood would spend as much time as they do cranking out another Bush bashing, soldier sliming, evil corporation, piece of garbage…

  49. I wouldn’t really endorse Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or Jonathan Safran Foer in general, but I do think in some ways it was a powerful early artistic response to 9/11. In many ways, the story itself avoids a lot of the difficult emotional issues by being narrated by a child, but I believe Safran Foer really did something arresting and powerful by including still images of one of the jumpers from the towers in the book. The child narrator has lost his father in the attack, and he reverses the order of a set of still pictures of a falling man, so that “[w]hen I flipped through them, it looked like the man was floating back up through the sky.”

    It’s not uncheesy, but it’s not unballsy either, and I was sure crying about it when I read it back in 2005.

  50. I think it is similar to Slaughterhouse 5, where a brilliant artist was pushed to his creative limits to make something that speaks to the magnitude of the event. The book was published 25 years after the bombings.

    Gillespie’s discussion on the 9/11 art is apropos, but not as powerful as the intro to that book, which covers the topic more generally.

    1. Great point about Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut wanted to be a scientist, not a writer, and I don’t think his work would be as strong without that long, twisting path that took him from Dresden to the book.

  51. Civilization does not need pop musicians to tell them what happened. It needs philosophers to tell them how it happened.

  52. Hey, the music after 9/11 might suck cock… but we always have WORLD WAR 2 baby!!!

    We’re gonna have to slap the dirty little Jap
    And Uncle Sam’s the guy who can do it
    We’ll skin the streak of yellow from this sneaky little fellow
    And he’ll think a cyclone hit him when he’s thru it
    We’ll take the double crosser to the old woodshed
    We’ll start on his bottom and go to his head
    When we get thru with him he’ll wish that he was dead
    We gotta slap the dirty little Jap

  53. Homicide-Suicide
    Hate heals, you should try it sometime
    Strive for Peace with acts of war
    The beauty of death we all adore
    I have no faith distracting me
    I know why your prayers will never be answered

    God Hates Us All

    Pessimist, Terrorist targeting the next mark
    Global chaos feeding on hysteria

    Man made virus infecting the world
    Self-destruct human time bomb
    What if there is no God would you think the fuckin’ same
    Wasting your life in a leap of blind faith
    Wake the fuck up can’t ignore what I say
    I got my own philosophy

    I hate everyone equally
    You can’t tear that out of me
    No segregation – separation
    Just me in my world of enemies

  54. Not for nuthin’, but who expected- or expects- “art” to succeed or fail for anyone? It’s just another commodity.

  55. The author of this piece has never seen any evidence that bin Waldo had anything to do with 9/11, or that Al Qaeda (a CIA front) had anything to do with 9/11, or that bin Waldo was shot this year, or that he’s at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

    Just another blockhead who apparently believes anything that the lying liars in DC, and their presstitutes in the media, spit into his face.

    It’s one thing to be born ignorant, but you have to work pretty hard to stay stupid.

  56. One of the most poorly written articles I’ve ever read. Good job Nick Gillespie, you are an atrociously cringe-worthy writer.

  57. Those corporations you all love so much won’t allow any real art on their TV stations or radio channels. There were plenty of artistic responses to 9/11, but you won’t find it by flipping through the boob tube.

  58. Spike Lee’s “25th Hour”. Check it out!

  59. “Monday”



    is beautiful and to the point.

  60. To me modern pop songs (even ones supposed to be patriotic) are ruined by the singing voice of those trying to sing them – for example I did not even know that “Born in the USA” was supposed to be a anti American song, as all I heard were the words “born in the USA” followed by sounds rather like a man gargleing with razer blades. And the people who are brought out to sing the Star Spangled Banner (or America the Beautiful) at sporting events sing so badly that I have to make a special effort not to laugh. Still “what do I know” I am the wrong side of 40 and a foreign devil anyway (although I am not alone – after all even the young found the theme song for “Star Trek: Enterprise” which was made up of singing of this sort, to be pathetic).

    On the specific point of art to commemorate 9/11. It is very unfortunate that the artist who sculpted the statues at the Vietnam war memorial in Washington D.C. is no longer alive. He was no Art School graduate, and treated the memory of the men who faught and died trying to prevent the Communist takeover of IndoChina (and the murder of millions of human beings) with proper respect.

  61. How about Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of Two Towers?

  62. we could do much better

  63. Seriously? The only good examples of post 9/11 art are a rock album and a novel? Did it ever occur to you that the reason you couldn’t find anything good was because the news media that covers such things (such as yourself) never looked for it? There is a whole deluge of great art out there if the damn right wing media wasn’t so focused on obsessing over fused girders and fake patriotism. It wasn’t art that failed America, it was your lazy un-researched fake-ass news stories, written only around a controversial headline to trick us into clicking on the ads.

  64. Yo,Yo yo wake up texters, listen in Uncle Sam’s after more boogeymen

    Dubya left Barack in a jam Way over in Afghanistan

    So drop dat i-Phone get a gun

    We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun

    And it’s one, two, three, four What are we fighting for?

    Not freedom or our fellow man Next stop Afghanistan

    And it’s five, six, seven, eight

    Open up those pearly gates cause there ain’t no need to wonder why

    For oil we’re all gonna die.

    Now Come McChrystal let’s move fast

    Your big chance has come at last

    Gotta kill all those towel heads

    Though muslims aint who we should dread

    Our robber barons now they’re the ones

    Who blew the Towers to Kingdom Come.


    Well Come on Wall Street

    Don’t move so slow

    Since 9-1-1 it’s go-go-go.

    There’s plenty money to be made

    Supply both sides with tools of da trade.

    Just hope if they grab a bomb,

    They drop it on Dick Cheney’s lawn

    Well Come on mothers throughout the land

    Send your child to Afghanistan.

    Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,

    Send ’em off before it’s too late.

    Be the first one on your block

    To have your kid come home in a box.

    Wave ba ba ba bye to the bus

    Like Strummer said you’re one of us

    Cold water in your face

    Brings to you back to this awful place

    Wave bye bye yeah wave bye bye

  65. As a visual artist in Australia, 9/11 has had a huge impact on my painting. I can’t answer for people who don’t like art and think it’s a waste of time. But for myself, it began a deeper engagement with life through my art because, though you cannot make sense of something, you still try to, it’s human nature. And an artist will use what they have, purely and simply, to think, feel and express their way to that sense. In 10 years, painting both about how 9/11 affected my country (Aust) and myself, my work, family, and choices in life, it has been very important to process that on the canvas. I think, it also made me examine America as this powerful presence in the world that doesn’t realise its affect on other lands. But from that, I’ve also learnt more about the US, and about myself. And you know, you don’t sell art about 9/11. You stop being sellable to a lot of galleries because it’s not what people want to buy. So mate, you do not engage with 9/11 themes to be popular or rich. The reason I do it is just because that’s how God made me, and how I make sense of this post 9/11 world. How I make sense of of both the civilian and military deaths and injuries done in my name. As an artist, I have an obligation to look at it when it’s not news or pleasant and try and find some humanity in it. Even some light. And I know damn well nobody gives a toss, but occassionally people stop and watch a painting and listen, and that gives these works tremendous personal meaning to me. So I think art has, and does, respond. But nobody is looking for it.

  66. of the Indian Ocean, the senselessness of his grand scheme plainly evident. How the 9/11 attacks might have led to a minimizing of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world or he

  67. mastermind behind it all, is dead, shot to death in what must be

  68. How it Ended by Jay McInerney was pretty good. At least some of the stories.

  69. The problem with modern artists dealing with something like this is they are generally pacifists. They really have no idea how to respond when something this tragic happens. Singing kum-ba-ya seems stupid at times like these.

    The one performance that I am surprised no one mentions is by Sting.

    He was doing a documentary for a live show performed at his house in Italy on 9/11/01. You know what is going to happen, but obviously they don’t. It is interesting to see the reactions of the band and the debate as to whether to carry on with the show.

    They decide to perform “Fragile” and see where it goes from there. That performance still gives me goosebumps and the song works on many levels. It’s respectful, but not ponderous. The reactions of both Sting and the band seem heartfelt.

    Of course, he blows it by continuing on with the show and by the end it’s like nothing ever happened. But that may be as it should be. The ultimate act of defiance is carrying on with life.

    You can find it on YouTube if you care to see it.

  70. Thanks. Mantolama fiyatlar?, s?ve, kat silmesi, mantolama nedir mantolama | | s?ve modelleri |

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