Thursday, September 12, 2013

What our betters think we are unfit to see

The Falling Man - Tom Junod - 9/11 Suicide Photograph - Esquire: the most striking thing about the coverage of 9/11 is what the press decided not to show. They decided not to show the people leaping from the burning towers. They argue that it is too traumatic for the viewers and particularly the families of those who chose this path to death. But what is the rationale for not showing us the scenes of celebration in the Arab world that attended the broadcast of the attacks? Why were the scenes of Palestinians on dancing and handing out candy not shown and rebroadcast? The reason is that our betters, these self-styled intellectuals in the press, had decided that Americans could not handle the truth, that they might be incited to aggressive actions in foreign policy or perhaps acts of violence against Arab citizens here.

I think that one unintended and unfortunate consequence of this infantalized picture of the world is that Americans are likely to overestimate the extent of anti-American feeling and al Qaeda sympathies in the Muslim world. Because the information is suppressed it is vaguely and imperfectly known. The fact is that the Palestinians are unusual in their hatred and in their support of terrorism, they are something of an outlier though the whole Arab world is skewed in that direction to some degree. Since the information is made available only fleetingly, people are likely to form the worst impression and assume that the most lurid scenes of public celebration of enormity are typical of the Arab world. There is nothing to be gained from withholding information from people on the grounds, not that it is untrue, but that they would draw from it the wrong conclusions. The idea that some information should be suppressed or should be treated as if we believed the information was wrong or did not exist, is the essence of political correctness and is always a mistake.

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