9/11

Remembering 9/11: The End of Civil Liberties, the Orientalist Critique, & Irony; Plus, How Reason Created the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh

|

Throughout this week, we'll be posting old and new Reason material related to the 9/11 attacks.

To see a snapshot of what Reason.com (then called Reason Online) looked like in December 2001, go here.

Reason's December 2001 issue, which hit newsstands in late October, was the first edition featuring the current design of the magazine, which was overseen by Wired's co-founder, Louis Rossetto, who had started reading Reason shortly after its start in 1968. Read a Village Voice interview with Rossetto about the redesign.

The issue was devoted to the effects of the 9/11 attacks on domestic and foreign policy and the whole megillah started with this haunting quote from the architect of the razed World Trade Center:

"The World Trade Center should…because of its importance, become a living representation of man's belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the cooperation of men, and through this cooperation his ability to find greatness."

— World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1987)

The cover story was a series of interviews that asked a "panel of experts" (our regrettable term) on whether civil liberties would be a casuality in the war on terrorism. The consensus? Yup, though not necessarily. In my mind, I remembered the statements being much more fear-filled. In fact, they are mostly refreshingly measured and prescient in describing the continuing and serious low-grade attack on freedom. 

Snippets:

…No liberty is in danger so long as we are willing to preserve it. But I think the biggest danger is to the presumption of innocence. Defensive precautions against terrorism involve, unavoidably, a presumption of guilt. That's tolerable at airport security checks, but the trick will be to keep this approach from infecting all of law enforcement—even in areas that have nothing to do with terrorism.

To judge by the proposed legislation before Congress as I write, that infection is already happening at the Justice Department….

Glenn Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee, and writes for the Web site InstaPundit.com….

In the War on Drugs, many rights-curtailing measures fall disproportionately on members of racial minorities who fit stereotypical "profiles." Likewise, in the stepped-up "War on Terrorism," the most endangered rights will probably be those of ethnic and religious minorities who are targeted not because of individualized suspicion, but only because of stereotypes. The most beleaguered are likely to be Arabic or Islamic individuals who are not American citizens.

Nadine Strossen, a professor at New York Law School, is president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In this era of political correctness where the ordinary practices of today become the crimes of tomorrow, it is dangerous to have that view. Perhaps you may want to trust the government to have access to your innermost views. But what do you suppose will happen when you determine that the government has become too repressive and it must be replaced? What do you suppose will happen to you when governmental officials find out your views before you have had a chance to act upon them?

Paul M. Weyrich is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Free Congress Research and Education Foundation….

In the same issue, Charles Paul Freund wrote about how the 9/11 attacks mooted the Orientalist critique of Western attitudes toward the Middle East and Asia and ushered in a grim need to understand the "Occidentalist critique" that Islamic radicals had toward the West:

Orientalism, the systematic stereotyping and degradation of Easterners that dehumanized them in the eyes of the West, enabled the colonial powers not only to mistreat whole populations, but also, in some of the West's blackest moments, to slaughter them in horrifying numbers. What makes it possible to commandeer passenger planes filled with innocent travelers, including children, and use them as bombs to murder thousands of people in office buildings? It is a systematic stereotyping and degradation of Westerners that dehumanizes them, and makes their death a pious deed for some and a cause for celebration for others. It is Occidentalism.

The phenomenon of Islamic Occidentalism has received almost no attention from the academe, and less from the Orientalist critique. The term exists in academic discourse, but there is not even a consensus about its meaning. To some, it describes the process by which the West flatters itself in positive terms. For others, it is the process by which people of the East, especially the Far East, idealize the West and overlook its flaws. There are few scholars to whom the term suggests a process by which an Easterner might utterly misconceive the West and its citizens, much less do them an injustice….

Occidentalism…becomes quite useful, because the unavoidable fact is that Islamism has proved a failure. Far from establishing a benign, new relationship between rulers and people along traditional theological lines, political Islamism's most notable characteristic is repression. As the author Olivier Roy argued as long ago as 1992, the two models of Islamism from which to choose are the Saudi model of "revenue plus sharia" (the Islamic code of law) and the Sudanese model of "unemployment plus sharia." But Islamists cannot think that way and continue their struggle. Occidentalism provides part of that struggle's continuing justification.

In fact, the Orientalist critique may have played an indirect role as well. Islamism's failure is only the latest in a string of Eastern political failures that now extend over half a century. The East's own scholars have yet to confront this history in a sustained way. Rather, they have engaged in an Orientalist critique of their own, often drawing on the arguments of Western thinkers and blaming their problems on the West. Western scholars might ask themselves to what degree their work is less a critique of Western power than an enabler for Eastern failure.

Read the whole thing here.

Tim Cavanaugh took aim at the grand pronouncement that beyond the ultimately incalculable loss of life,  the 9/11 attacks had killed irony too:

In a 21st century update of the regrettably mistaken maxim that there could be no poetry after Auschwitz, the end-of-irony announcement swept the nation with force and flatulence.

"One good thing could come from this horror: It could spell the end of the age of irony," wrote Roger Rosenblatt, essayist for Time and Jim Lehrer's Newshour. "For some 30 years—roughly as long as the Twin Towers were upright—the good folks in charge of America's intellectual life have insisted that nothing was to be believed in or taken seriously." That self-scolding sentiment was echoed around the country, perhaps second only to the canard that we had been punished for our "isolationism."…

But what Rosenblatt—author of a memoir of attending Harvard during the Vietnam War and the new, fret-filled Rules for Aging—has in mind isn't really a rejection of Juvenalian satire but a scolding of a younger crew that never took generational spokesmen like himself seriously. Note that his chosen time frame of "the last 30 years" coincides neatly with the decline of baby boomer impregnability, as a new cohort has been willing to ignore the nuncios and Kodak moments of the '68ers.

And now those same spoiled little pricks even have their own galvanizing national tragedy, one that in less than two hours reduced not only the Kennedy assassination and Kent State but even Pearl Harbor to relative insignificance. What has vanished from the earth isn't irony or skepticism. It's the ability of the generational priesthood to keep claiming that kids today never had it tough.

More here.

By the end of 2001, whatever national unity was forged in the days immediately after the attacks had been dissolved by The Patriot Act, the invasion of Afghanistan, and more. One of the oddest moments came when National Review's Jonah Goldberg fingered me as in some way responsible for the likes of John Walker Lindh, a.k.a. "the American Taliban," a rich kid from Marin County who had somehow become an Islamic fundamentalist and warrior.

In a piece titled "Freedom Kills" (seriously), Goldberg warned of the specifically "libertarian threat" posed by acknowledging that "Chinese-Menu Culture" (i.e., picking and choosing among various traditions) is easier to engage in than ever. Goldberg notes that the American-turned-Islamic-radical Lindh was the poster child for this phenomenon. But no one dast blame Little Johnny Lindy, averred Goldberg: "The real villains…are to be found elsewhere, and John Walker is a logical consequence of their political agenda. You see, the real enemy isn't…cultural liberalism….It's the cultural libertarianism that is rapidly replacing liberalism as the real threat to America, and the true opposition to conservatism."

From a December 14, 2001 response by me:

While it's undeniably true that politics makes strange bedfellows, I had no reason before this past Wednesday to ever think that I'd find myself rolling in the hay with John Walker, a.k.a. John Lindh, a.k.a. the "Taliban's Frisco Kid" (as one West Coast newspaper waggishly dubbed him).

I owe the unexpected coupling to Jonah Goldberg, perhaps the only reason to skim National Review now that the final Fatima secret has been revealed (well, along with Aloise Buckley Heath's Edgar Allan Poe-like Christmas stories and Mal's similarly gothic cartoons)….

Besides me and Walker, Goldberg also had well-known politico-moral degenerates Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel hitting the sheets. Though [we] have our differences, Goldberg says we all promiscuously espouse "a form of arrogant nihilism" that insists "we should all start believing in absolutely nothing."…

What Goldberg can't acknowledge is that human history has always been a search for such "designer cultures"–what is different today is that, certainly in an American context and increasingly in a global one, larger numbers of people are able to do what only kings and priests once could: Live life on something approaching their own terms. For all sorts of reasons–greater wealth, generally higher levels of education, technological innovation–individuals have gained more of what Nobel economist James Buchanan has described as a right of "exit" from systems that serve them poorly (the Afghan people are among the most recent beneficiaries). Such a right inscribes tolerance and respect and is rightly seen as the crowning triumph of the "Western values" Goldberg and other conservatives claim to be worried about. By all accounts, it was exactly this sort of "decadence" that enraged bin Laden's gang about the U.S.

Believing in tolerance–and in allowing people to pursue and discover their own definition of happiness to the greatest extent possible while maintaining peace–is not believing in "absolutely nothing." True, it does rob conservatives of ex cathedra pronouncements–and recourse to force–when attacking those different than them. (By the same token, they're free to make their case.)

Whatever. Go ask the English sectarians of the 17th century who developed the ideas of tolerance in the first place if freedom from forced systems of belief made them less thoughtful or ardent in their faith. Indeed, it had quite the opposite effect, and their libertarian legacy certainly doesn't underwrite John Walker's extremism–even as it continues to fire up righteous contempt from the Taliban and latter-day conservatives of all stripes.

As a side note, Goldberg, who is a very good sport and one of the most consistently productive writers of this or any other era, has become more libertarianish over the past decade, as Reason's Ronald Bailey noted in this post at Hit & Run.

To read previous entries in Remembering 9/11 and related stories, go here.

NEXT: Reason.tv: Defining the Anti-War Right - Dan McCarthy & The American Conservative Magazine

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. PREEMPTIVE THREADJACK:

    To demonstrate how effectively manages the peoples money!

    Solyndra: Incompetence In Government Or Corruption?

    You have to wonder in the case of this wunderkind that went under.

    The U.S. Department of Energy is one of the largest creditors in the bankruptcy case, pressing to reclaim a $527 million federal loan. Court papers say an intercreditor agreement ranks the federal loan behind a $69 million loan from lenders led by Argonaut.

    That little ditty was buried in the Journal story. Literally one paragraph from the end.

    Why is important? Because your money – $527 million of it – has a subordinate position to $70 million in private equity money.

    Why did the DOE permit this? That’s a good question. There was a restructuring in February, you see, where the deck got “shuffled”……

    You’d have to be mad to not secure your position and allow a private equity firm to get in front of you when you hand someone a half-billion dollars. Unless, of course, the government is corrupt. And we’ve never seen them do something like that before, have we? (Cough-GM-Chrysler-Cough!)

    There’s some question as to who went first and exactly how the restructuring occurred in February that led to this outcome. But this changes nothing; if the firm got the DOE money without a covenant to keep the DOE’s position senior then we’re right back where we started, aren’t we?

    Pick either incompetent or corrupt OBAMA, because from where I sit this looks like your administration bailed out a private equity fund’s bad investment, and I think we the people should know why.

    http://market-ticker.org//akcs-www?post=193715

    Any thoughts Tony?

    1. To demonstrate how effectively Government
      manages the peoples money!

      Crap…that was an important word too!

    2. I am going with corrupt.

    3. Sounds like a scam to me.

    4. As Rand pointed out, often with collectivist statism the distinction between corruption and incompetence is irrelevant.

      They would have made the same stupid investment and lost the people’s money whether they really believed in their green energy crap or whether it was always just a scam.

  2. From the alt-text of the GEICO caveman photo: What kind of radical Islamic fundamentalist reads Reason?

    Technically, it’s “What sort of man reads Playboy?”, not “What kind.” FIFY.

    Yes, I’m the guy who wrote Reflections on Playboy. But that blog?wouldn’t you know it??was really a front for my habit of pretending to be asexual out of spite.

    1. You just want us to read your blog?

      1. Actually, I was sort of apologizing for all the blogwhoring I’ve done here. The first link is a reference point; the second link is the explanation for myself that I want people to read now.

  3. I believe Goldberg and Matt Welch were in Prague at the same time. I wonder if they ever got drunk together . . .

  4. By the end of 2001, whatever national unity was forged in the days immediately after the attacks had been dissolved…

    My recollection was that it took longer than that. Faulty memory on my part, perhaps.

    1. No, I recall all of the national unity happy-talk going on much longer than that. It lasted until the start of the Iraq war, IIRC.

    2. I logged the national unity lasting until November when Teddy started screaming that Afghanistan would be another Vietnam.

  5. If everybody who Goldberg was a dick to is going to keep track and periodically repost it, pretty soon the entire internet will consist of people bitching about Goldberg being a dick.

  6. It is interesting to reflect on the concerns we had in the aftermath of 9/11, versus how things really turned out.

    –Al Qaeda really did turn out to be the bunch of bumbling idiots they had looked like prior to 9/11. In retrospect, the 9/11 attacks were a one-shot lucky strike that didn’t represent the true operational capability of the jihadists. Subsequent attacks have been small in scale and often comically inept (unsuccessful shoe, underwear and backpack bombers, for example).

    –The PATRIOT Act hasn’t resulted in a full-on Orwell. At least, not yet. The biggest impact of the act appears to be the ridiculous number of highly paid national security contractors currently propping up the prices of Northern Virginia houses at insane levels. Unless the TSA crap was part of the PATRIOT Act–I can’t remember now.

    –9/11 resulted in a resumption of the nation-building delusion by both parties, but especially the GOP. Getting bogged down in a two Third World shitholes and then going broke seems to have quelled National Greatness Conservatism. For now.

    –It’s a good question whether the deepening and coarsening of the political divide can be tied entirely back to 9/11 and the resulting military campaigns. The Clinton scandals and 2000 election played their part, but the real heating-up seemed to occur because of the Iraq War.

    –I believe the over-the-top jingoism and flag-waving in the months after 9/11 may have caused long-term damage to the concept of American patriotism. Some folks might consider that a good thing. We’ll see.

    1. I believe the over-the-top jingoism and flag-waving in the months after 9/11 may have caused long-term damage to the concept of American patriotism. Some folks might consider that a good thing. We’ll see.

      That’s a good point, I’m not sure if it has been talked about enough. Some of the most patriotic people I know have recently turned cynical by the shallowness of patriotism the past decade. I wonder if our “America, Fuck Yeah!” attitude has been dealt a fatal blow.

  7. You Rheomite bums at it again? You have Charles Freund praising a phony such as Edward Said, he is really an egyptian like Arafat.

    Edward Said didn’t really live in Eretz Yisrael. He lived in Egypt and was born by chance in Eretz Yisrael because his parents were visiting a relative.

    Incidentally, Rhoemite degenerates have made sure to blame Israel for 9/11 because you say bin Laden did it because he was pissed off about the fakestinians. This is another Arab and Libertarian Rhoemite lie. Bin Laden was really about pissed about Americans being on so-called sacred Saudia land. HERE (excerpt from the link):
    >>>>>>>> A seminal moment in bin Laden’s life came in 1990, when U.S. troops landed on Saudi soil to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.

    Bin Laden tried to dissuade the government from allowing non-Muslim armies into the land where the Prophet Muhammad gave birth to Islam, but the Saudi leadership turned to the United States to protect its vast oil reserves. When bin Laden continued criticizing Riyadh’s close alliance with Washington, he was stripped of Saudi citizenship.

    “I saw radical changes in his personality as he changed from a calm, peaceful and gentle man interested in helping Muslims into a person who believed that he would be able to amass and command an army to liberate Kuwait. It revealed his arrogance and his haughtiness,” Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief, said in an interview with Arab News and MBC television in late 2001.

    “His behavior at that time left no impression that he would become what he has become,” the prince added.(quotation off)

    That Israel: read; Jews did not cause bin Laden and 9/11 has no effect on the Libertarian Rhoemites whose antisemitism is fueled by their own degeneracy just like the Nazis. Also, even if bin Laden did do 9/11 because of us Jews, bin Laden should still be held to blame for it — not us Jews.

    To the dope eaten minds of the Losertarians, such rational thinking does not even matter or is even possible to you creatures.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here.”

    The Jewish Defense League Song

  8. Occidentalism…becomes quite useful, because the unavoidable fact is that Islamism has proved a failure. Far from establishing a benign, new relationship between rulers and people along traditional theological lines, political Islamism’s most notable characteristic is repression.

    Failure? What failure?

    Hopefully after 10 years we can reflect that assessments of cultural success or failure on how “repressive” they seem are quaint and trite. Repressive regimes do have long term viability.

  9. I remember 9/11… I was too hungover to come to school that day… being an anarchist, everyone thought I had something to do with it. I said, “If it’s terrorists, and you know that for a fact, then why would I be a suspect?”

  10. I stopped watching The News Hour years ago. Roger Rosenblatts essay played a significant role in the decision. The man makes me sick to my stomach, but in a nuanced yet profound way.

  11. If it’s terrorists, and you know that for a fact, then why would I be a suspect?”Roger Rosenblatts essay played a significant role in the decision. The man makes me sick to my stomach, but in a nuanced yet profound way.

  12. I stopped watching The News Hour years ago. Roger Rosenblatts essay played a significant role in the decision. The man makes me sick to my stomach, but in a nuanced yet profound way.

    If it’s terrorists, and you know that for a fact, then why would I be a suspect?”Roger Rosenblatts essay played a significant role in the decision. The man makes me sick to my stomach, but in a nuanced yet profound way.

  13. I stopped watching The News Hour years ago. Roger Rosenblatts essay played a significant role in the decision. The man makes me sick to my stomach, but in a nuanced yet profound way.
    Moncler kids Jackets,Moncler Handbags,Moncler Boots,Moncler Accessories,Moncler T Shirts,Moncler Polo Shirts in our shop.If you are a fan of fashion,you may have the trouble that what you can wear in cold winter,not only warm but fashional,Moncler Jackets solve this problem for you with it’s feature,the Moncler Jackets will become your best friend in cold winter. Moncler Jackets sale in our shop.http://www.downuk.net/

  14. I’m not sure if it has been talked about enough. Some of the most patriotic people I know have recently turned cynical by the shallowness of patriotism the past decade,that’s good

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.