9/11 in Real Time, As Reason Saw It

We owe it to the victims to remember that day in all of its horror but also to not be trapped by the past.


Public Domain

Among the very first articles this website published on this day in 2001 was then-Washington Editor Sam MacDonald's "Live from the Capitol Building":

I continued up the street until I came across a construction site. Near Dupont Circle, workers had a small black-and-white television set up on a makeshift table. Most of the people gathered there had already seen the footage over and over. Only one man came upon the scene unaware. He was silent as he watched the jetliner smash into the skyscraper on the tiny screen.

I left that scene and finally found a television bank at a bar off Dupont Circle. It was standing room only as people gaped at the dueling coverage on either end of the bar. People were drinking.

"What happens now?"

"I know a lot of people who work at the Pentagon."

"This is fucking war."

Senior Editor Charles Paul Freund stressed how the mad spectacle of the World Trade Center attack was in a long line of "apocalypse by deed."

Terror fulfills itself through media. That has been its central character ever since 19th century anarchists developed the idea of "propaganda by deed." The basic argument, first offered by an Italian independence fighter named Carlo Pisacane, was that ideas by themselves are disseminated in too weak a manner, and to too few people, to lead to effective action, much less to results.

It is action—deeds that become known and inspire others to struggle—that alone can disseminate an idea effectively, and eventually lead to a desired outcome. Pisacane's was a founding idea of modern political action. Its "peaceful" version—acts of protests designed to attract media attention—has been subsumed into every mass-based activity of the past century or more, from Gandhi-like anti-colonial struggles and civil-rights movements to the "velvet" anti-totalitarian revolutions of Eastern Europe and China.

Of course, the original, bloody version of "propaganda by deed"—terror—exploits its available media to disseminate a double-edged idea: The same deeds that are used to inspire others to action are intended to demoralize the enemy, and to limit his opposition. The enemy is to be left in a state of uncertainty, feeling unsafe and not knowing may happen next. Indeed, effective deeds of terror will leave the enemy uncertain not only about his security, but even about the propriety of his own reactions. The more he responds to terror in kind—by massacre, by torture, by the suspension of law—the more the enemy demoralizes himself. That script has played out repeatedly, from Czarist Russia to mid-century Algeria, and is playing out again now in Israel.

Early the next day, before many details about the perpetrators and their intentions were clear, Jesse Walker offered up counsel that not only built on Freund's insight but was sadly ignored:

This is a time for expert police work. It is a time when the intelligence community can try to make up for its disastrous failure to foresee this assault, by finding the people who did it and bringing them to rapid justice. It is not a time for unfocused, Kaganesque hysteria. In 1986, after a relatively smaller terrorist attack, the U.S. blamed Qaddafy and bombed Libya. The accused mastermind survived, but more faultless civilians were killed than had been slaughtered by the original act of terror. This, writ much larger, is the kind of war Kagan is calling for–except he doesn't even know his target yet.

"A declaration of war would not be pure symbolism," he avers. "It would be a sign of will and determination to see this conflict through to a satisfactory conclusion no matter how long it takes or how difficult the challenge." So it won't merely be a symbol, but will be "a sign"? What ridiculous, muddled thinking is this?

It is the kind of thinking that takes one terrible event and multiplies it. There will be more bombings abroad, and there will be more bombings on American soil. Things are awful, terrible, awful now, and they're only going to get worse.

Via The Wayback Machine, an Internet Archive, you can see what we had on our front page on September 14, 2001.

We live still in the long shadow cast by towers that were demolished over a decade ago and we are slipping into that place so beautifully and horribly described by Carl Sandburg in the poem, "Grass," which imagines passengers on a train surveying World War I battlefields after the war has ended and memories have faded:

Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:

What place is this?

Where are we now?

I am the grass.

Let me work.

There is, of course, solace in forgetting the immediate terror of 9/11 and to have laid to rest the lives shattered on that day. But history and policy are forms of pentimento and long after the causative event has ceased to be remembered, its effects are still with us, especially what was once called GWOT without need for attribution or explanation. Our world is being directed not simply by the hands of dead economists, as Keynes would have it, but dead terrorists. We are less free because we have not come to terms with that.

On September 11, 2011, we released "9/11, The World Trade Center, and New York's Next Skyline."

NEXT: President Trump's First 9/11, Hurricane Irma, Hillary's 'Most Important' Mistake: A.M. Links

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  1. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: nobody at Reason is more mentally and emotionally “trapped by the past” than Nick Gillespie.

    Which actually could very well be the reason why he loves accusing others of this all the time. Psychologists call this phenomenon “projection”.

    1. On the other hand, psychologists have given up on this phenomenon.

    2. He sports 1970s sideburns and a leather jacket. He ain’t hip, that’s for sure.

      1. And even worse than his dumb outdated “look” is the fact that by his own admission, he supports the moralistic Orwellian/Stalinist revision of history and the purging of people from the public square that he personally doesn’t like. And like most lefties, he enjoys tossing off the old racial guilt trip thing when it suits him too.

        1. You sound emotionally trapped in the past. How can we help you?

  2. what we had on our front page on September 14, 2001

    Yeah, let’s take a look…WTF?

    raw punk priestesses like Ani DiFranco

    1. August 1 is not September 14th, though i understand how you might lose track of time when you’re so busy fucking chickens.

      1. The link didn’t work but 1997 is quite unlike 2001 as well.

        1. The link works fine. The “article” was on the reason front page on Sep 14, 2001.

      2. He just watches others fuck his chickens.

    2. Come on SIV. I’m rooting for you here, get it together.

  3. More and more people are at least questioning the “official” story of this event. I went far past just questioning it a long time ago. Far, far more solid evidence of intentional destruction of both original buildings, and the “official” story doesn’t even begin to cover the collapse of building 7. So much more. It’s the usual lie of the non-voluntary government on a massive scale. Just as with Waco, and so much else.

    1. DC can’t even cover up dick pics much less a conspiracy of that size. Simplist explanation is probably correct.

      1. Simplist explanation is probably correct.

        Yeah: the Joos did it.

        How did they do it, you ask? It’s simple – they used their magic. Real all about it on my blog, thejoosdidit.com.

        1. Stoooopid.

          Who was it that got caught dancing on a van’s roof while videotaping the collapse of the twin towers from across the river? How did they know to have camera ready? What happened to them? Were there any explosives in their possession?

      2. It’s going back a ways, but they kept the enormous Manhattan Project under wraps pretty effectively, didn’t they? That in no way proves that “DC” was responsible for what happened on 9/11/2001. But the official conspiracy theory is certainly not the simplest explanation, and the notion that questioning it disrespects the victims makes no sense. The simplest explanation for how three steel-framed buildings collapsed in what looks for all the world like controlled demolition, is that it was controlled demolition.

        From the article:

        Early the next day, before many details about the perpetrators and their intentions were clear,

        They’re still not clear.

        1. they kept the enormous Manhattan Project under wraps pretty effectively

          For a few years, during wartime. I very much doubt it could have been kept secret for 16 years.

          1. Actually, Stalin new about it. Source – Dark Sun, by Richard Rhodes.

            1. Yeah, Russia caught up pretty quickly.

          2. Actually, 9/11 has not been kept secret for 16 years, just ignored by the MSM for 16 years.

        2. The simplest explanation for how three steel-framed buildings collapsed in what looks for all the world like controlled demolition, is that it was controlled demolition.

          Or prolonged exposure to extremely high heat.

          1. Yes, heat considerably higher than that produced by burning jet fuel.

          2. Next you will say that (period) steel in extremely cold water becomes brittle. Titanic sank due to a controlled demolition!

        3. > they kept the enormous Manhattan Project under wraps pretty effectively, didn’t they?

          IIRC, the Manhattan Project had over 30,000 participants, and Not. One. Leak.

          Governrments may not know much, but they sure as hell know how to govern.

        4. > they kept the enormous Manhattan Project under wraps pretty effectively, didn’t they?

          IIRC, the Manhattan Project had over 30,000 participants, and Not. One. Leak.

          Governrments may not know much, but they sure as hell know how to govern.

      3. If you believe the official story, you might also believe Roadrunner cartoons are documentaries. The govt. can’t suspend the laws of physics but they can fool people who want to be fooled.

      4. Bullshit. The government is NOT incompetent. They are very, VERY good at governing. How else could they continue to “sell” such a shitty product when libertarianism has been around (explicitly) for 45 years now?

        The simplest explanation is that the Deep State actors lie, and lie well.

      5. AlmightyJB, you are all wrong! The “simplist” explanation is the one that answers all the questions. The official one doesn’t explain the event and leaves unasked (by MSM) questions.
        Fifty years ago the USS Liberty was attacked by the Israeli air/navy in international waters. Over 200 casualties were suffered after hours of continued fire on a non-combat vessel flying the American flag. It was a long, concerted attempt to sink & kill all. It failed. It left hundreds of witnesses. And an American president was complicit in the attack along with his secretary of navy. All the victims and witnesses from another rescue vessel were threatened by CIA and NCIS with death/life imprisonment if they spoke out.
        You might say: “Bullshit, I never heard of it.” I was there. And I say: “Dumbshit, you are a troll.”

    2. I remember the reports from the morning of 9/11, about how a “small plane” had crashed into the WTC. And how only 2 Air Force jets were on active duty to defend the continental US, and one wasn’t even armed. And how they couldn’t fly past Mach 1 because they might shake someone’s windows. And how the plane in Pennsylvania was pursued and shot down by a military jet, until it wasn’t.

  4. Just heard on the radio that the NY Post’s edition today did not mention 9/11/2001 in the entire newspaper.
    Anyone get the Post and can verify? I find it hard to believe no matter how prog the Post might be.

    1. Yeah, hard to believe they would pass up a chance to moralize.

    2. The NYPost isn’t prog. Do you mean WaPo ?

      1. Do you mean The New York Times? Or The Boston Globe?

    3. Rupert Murdoch hates America.

    4. I’m sure they will mention it if only to relate it to how worse it will be under Trump or what incorrect cloths Melania wore to a memorial

  5. Not a single mention about Islamism. It’s like writing an article about the Civil War and not mentioning slavery. Go fuck yourself Nick!

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