Main idea: Libertarians know our government is doing things we think only other governments do. On September 11th those birds came home to roost.
Do you remember 9/11/2001? Where were you when you heard the news?
What was your initial reaction to the event? To the war that followed?
I lectured this week in my Strategic Management class on 9/11. Many of my students were just one and two years old when 9/11 happened so I spent a lot of time connecting the emotions of 9/11 — shock, sadness, grief, fear — to the pandemic and its impact on their generation. They’re the same age we were. Just beginning their lives albeit under this cloud of terror and authoritarianism.
So we can use the Strategic Management framework PESTEL for a deep dive into 9/11 and our “how it changed everything” discussion, if that works for y’all? It’s one I’ve used in writing podcast episodes to talk world building because it gives a pretty good category-based analysis.
P — Political
The political environment before 9/11 was … well, different. We weren’t quite as energetically divided back then. Nationalism was a patriotic hangover. The Clinton era had shaken our faith in the White House (by humanizing the man who occupied it) and left us more than a little bit cynical. We didn’t have the US vs. them mentality anymore, we were riding that fall-of-the-Berlin-wall high that globalism ushered in — we were more alike than we were different.
What were the big political issues? How did you vote? How were you engaged? Were you expected to be?
Immigration got lumped in with national security after 9/11 and our immigration policy became unforgiving and really caused what we’re seeing today at the border. We wanted to keep out the baddies and so you get what we have now.
E — Economic
There were 22 servers on staff at the brewery where Charlie and I worked in 2001 and 18 of us had college degrees. So, the economy wasn’t great. It was a quiet recession, companies not really hiring, customers not really buying. Things were just kind of sluggish. The Dow Jones took a 2k+ hit after 9/11 but it recovered pretty quickly. And the airlines were struggling before 9/11, they’d actually just gotten a billion-dollar bailout approved by congress. So this disaster just made bad things worse. It’s a mishandled industry all around and that hasn’t changed. But they had been trusted with security up till that point and the feds took that over after 9/11. Remember being able to go to the gate to meet your arriving passengers?
S — Social
What did you know about Islam before 9/11? Anything? The racism after 9/11 was awful. Add to that the popular swell of patriotism. Should we talk about the Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith? ::facepalm:: Everywhere there were purity tests — if you’re not with us, you’re against us. And the national anthem came back to sporting events’ TV broadcasts. Remember when they didn’t show it on TV? It became patriotic to do so. Fast forward 17 years and let Colin Kaepernick exercise his patriotic right and the national anthem disappears again from TV. Not because we’re trying to save time for advertisers but because we’re afraid someone will remind us that we’re not all shiny red white and blue over here.
Pre-9/11 patriotism was the Olympics, an orgy of Reagan’s American pride in a post Cold-War reality. Is patriotism blind? Sure. Just read between the lines of the Patriot Act.
T — Technology
Surveillance. Public cameras, phone listening, digital footprints, body searches to get on airplanes. Privacy advocates shouting at the brick wall of fear. Phrases like, “I don’t mind them listening, I’m not doing anything wrong.” Fear motivated a lot of people to accept things we shouldn’t have and technology played right along. Tech companies grew up into government contracts. Military proliferation brough tech into weapons and safety — Kevlar and body armor — and into medical technology for battlefield wounds and prosthetics. But, let’s be honest, is that the kind of tech we want? It’s a sad reality reminder of life after 9/11 that war is big business and the technology developed for battlefield use (even the covert battlefield) seeps into our every day life with positive and negative impacts.
E — Ecological
So I don’t have much for this on 9/11 specifically other than the way NYC was forever changes with the loss of the twin towers. But we did see our world view shift a little from conservation and protection in the Earth Day happy hippies recycle your shit kind of way toward more of an aggressive global warming, doomsday is approaching, we’re to blame for the rising arctic oceans narrative. Fear is an effective motivator and it’s been tried out by everyone with a cause since 9/11. (Bioterrorism: Anthrax attacks in 2001?) Take pandemic as a perfect example. We live with disease. All the time. So what the fuck with this one? Why aren’t we adapting and overcoming unless the perpetuation of fear is the ultimate weapon. Proven by 9/11.
L — Legal
So. Many. Laws. I don’t remember the heavy reliance on government to do anything about everything before 9/11. I remember private industry, local communities, and consumerism being the dominant “leaders” to address whatever minor catastrophes popped up. But after 9/11 it’s like we all turned our faces to the all-powerful feds and decided to surrender whatever we had to if they’d promise to keep us safe. And they made laws. Because that’s what they do.
Then there is the War. You know- that 20-year entanglement in the Middle East. A fruitless endeavor with a price tag of over $2 BILLION, and an even greater cost of THOUSANDS of lives. All that only to recklessly abandon thousands more who relied upon our resources for safety and security. While maybe not our responsibility under normal circumstances, we made it so with our continued presence and engagement in the affairs of Afghanistan.
How did you feel as you watched the end of the shitshow?
What do you think could have been done better?
Do you think the exit would have looked different under a Trump administration?
Did you (how did you) talk to your kids about that moment in our history?
It is hard to imagine that there is now an entire generation of human beings who were not alive on that day. Equally difficult is how we talk to them about those events. How do you describe the feeling of watching people throw their bodies from stories-high buildings because they don’t want to burn alive? How do you verbalize the despair you felt when you saw the buildings fall? You can’t, really.
So what conversations are you having with your kids about 9/11?