I spent part of the day walking around the West End, killing time. I entered a used book shop -- as always, keeping an eye peeled for Mike Hailwood's road racing book. I noticed that the clerk was riveted to a small TV. He barely noticed me coming or going. I caught a glimpse of the screen and assumed he was watching some low-budget takeoff of the Die Hard movies.
But as I walked back into the street, every pub I passed was packed, and everyone was silently staring at the television. I squeezed into one, and suddenly it dawned on me: this was really happening. Then, the second plane smashed into the second tower. I think I stayed in that pub until the first tower fell. Then, I walked back out into the street, and took the tube back to my sister's house.
Some time in the next few days, I called my mom and, of course, the subject of those terrorist attacks came up. And my mom told me a kind of triste but funny story...
You see, my dad spent all day, every day, staring at the TV in their condo. By the fall of 2001, he was in the last year of his life. He had lost all of his short term memory, so every time a plane flew into a building on TV, for him, it was happening anew. He called her over to watch it, and wondered what the hell was going on, time and time and time and time again.
I don't know if television caused his dementia, but it sure as hell didn't help it.
My initial reaction to the events of 9/11 was that the terrorists had hit two home runs clear out of the park in New York, had scored a solid double in Washinton and a single in PA. An amazing run of luck for four at bats. If they tried it 100 times in 100 parallel universes, the other 99 attempts would have been far less successful.
But, on that day, they won.
And then we showed it over and over again on television. We could have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by leveraging world opinion that, for the first time in decades, briefly swung back into our favor. But instead, the defense budget was doubled, an enormous fortune was wasted on security theater, two wars -- one of which was embarked upon under obviously false pretenses -- drag on in countries that are if anything less stable and more dangerous for their own citizens, and more likely to polarize them against us.
"We will never forget" became a catchphrase. And we won't, because the media will continue to use 9/11 as an excuse to sell advertising and the military-industrial complex will keep using it as an excuse to profit from an ill thought-out and unstrategic 'war on terror.'
I don't know if television caused this dementia, but it sure as hell didn't help it.