Semati_Imagine_the_terror

Semati_Imagine_the_terror - Television & New Media...

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http://tvn.sagepub.com Television & New Media 2002; 3; 213 Television New Media Mehdi Semati Imagine the Terror http://tvn.sagepub.com The online version of this article can be found at: Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com can be found at: Television & New Media Additional services and information for http://tvn.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts: http://tvn.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: © 2002 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on August 5, 2007 http://tvn.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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Semati / Imagine the Ter or Imagine the Terror Mehdi Semati Eastern Illinois University The monstrosities that took place on September 11 must be condemned unequivocally. There is no apology possible that would excuse the perpe- trators, and we must hope those who still live will be brought to justice. But if we are to prevent such atrocities in the future, we cannot rest with con- demnations and swift verdicts. We must seek a collective understanding of this atrocious act within its political, historical, and popular contexts. At the juncture of these contexts is a tension that I wish to explore here: the tension between the reality of recent political history in the Middle East, where I grew up, and the image of the Middle East in the popular imagination in America. Let me start with Hollywood. Perhaps I seem untoward in advancing a connection between popular imagination and the political realities that contextualized the most egre- gious terrorist attack the United States has ever experienced. But consider: among the most pronounced reactions to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United Sates was the degree to which press and public alike said that the events “looked like a movie.” The images of those airplanes slicing the twin towers of the World Trade Center and their implosion looked too fan- tastic to be real. There are, of course, good reasons that Hollywood images resonate with the horrors of September 11 in the public imagination. New York City has been a favorite disaster site for Hollywood. In contemporary films such as Godzilla , Armageddon , and Deep Impact , Manhattan was the stage for disaster and mayhem. Quite recently in The Siege , major Manhattan landmarks were blown to pieces by a group of Arab terrorists. The image of New York City buildings imploding has enough fictional credibility to have framed the reality of September 11 for many of us. I wish to consider the possibility that the terrorists knew and deployed these cinematic images with frightening efficacy. The “symbolism” involved in their work shows how well they had mastered the power of the image. Is it possible that these terrorists appropriated Hollywood’s disaster block- buster? One critic suggested that the terrorists illustrated they could “out-
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Semati_Imagine_the_terror - Television & New Media...

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