has been said that new media came of age during our recent wars. In the
1960s, television defined Vietnam. I know that I grew up on Walter Cronkite
and the war on the evening news. CNN brought us around-the-clock
coverage of the Gulf War in 1991. Who can forget the video of "smart bombs"
heading straight into enemy air ducts? It was so "Luke Skywalker." And
finally, the Internet proved invaluable during the recent attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
via the TCP/IP protocol was conceived nearly 40 years ago by the U.S. military
as a way to maintain communications in the event of attacks against the
U.S. By breaking up messages into little packets, the military could route
them around any destruction caused by hostile acts and keep in contact.
On September 11,
2001, the Internet proved itself in a test of its original purpose. When
cell phone service failed in lower Manhattan, emergency crews could still
communicate via e-mail and Instant Messaging. After the attacks, Americans
turned to the Web for the latest information. And although major news sites
were overwhelmed by the response, the Web itself experienced no major slowdown
due to damage to critical fiber optic lines or overuse of those lines by
information seekers. It really worked!
On that fateful
day, we sat transfixed in front of live television images of the Twin Towers
burning, orange and gray against the clear blue sky. Then the Towers seemed
to peel open and slide down like deadly black lilies. Intellectually, we
understood that we were watching thousands die, but it looked like a movie
and we just couldn't believe it.
We felt like the
American GI who, after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese,
remarked, "I didn't even know they were sore at us."
We craved answers,
a framework to make sense of what happened. Yet, after that first day,
the broadcast media offered mostly jingoism and hysteria. FoxNews.com
carries the interactive "War on Terror," while MSNBC borrowed a
Wars theme with its "America Strikes Back" coverage. Their headlines
make it sound as though our country were engaged in a kind of computer
game or fantasy film. When I watch or read the mainstream news, I feel
as if I am listening through a wall with a cup to my ear. I understand
some words, but mostly, I hear buzzy tones, as if the media were broadcasting
through a tissue-covered comb.
It is bad enough
that the attacks seemed so unreal. Does the coverage have to seem that
way too? My patrons and I want analysis of important social and political
issues: Why did this happen? What makes these people so murderously angry
— really? Fortunately for us, in this war we don't have to rely on what
the broadcast media feeds us. We have the Web to turn to for background
information, analysis, and alternative points of view. The Web can help
us satisfy our urge to reach out: to communicate, to remember, and to make
our own sense of this tragedy.
Remember the Day
As the months
pass, the original shock of the events of September 11 fades, especially
for those who live far away from the site of the attacks. You can refresh
your memory of the chronology — and the horror — of the day at these sites.
of Online News Sites, September 11/12, 2001
"The Web has no
memory — unless it is created." And so Norbert Specker, of Zurich, Switzerland's
and interactivepublishing [http://www.interactivepublishing.net/]
has collected screen shots from news sites around the world from those
fateful days. Browse through four at a time or search for particular ones
by publication, country, or time.
Covering the Attacks
View hundreds of
front pages of newspapers as they appeared on the day after the attacks.
provided an extraordinary captured video archive of television news broadcasts
from the period immediately following the attacks. See how China saw the
World Trade Center fires. Watch the video of the plane crash into the second
tower as it looked on Canadian TV.
NPR Coverage Sept. 11 - Oct. 8, 2001
Radio offers this collection of its archived coverage of the attacks
and the aftermath. Listen to essays and analysis, view some images from
the attacks, and post your own opinions on this page.
The New Yorker:
From the Archive
has collected much of the magazine's coverage of the terrorist attacks
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and added a selection of relevant
articles from The New Yorker's archive. My favorite is a "first
reaction" essay by novelist Jonathan Franzen. He captures the conflicting
feelings that I know I felt watching the events on September 11
on television: "Besides the horror and sadness of what you were watching,
you might also have felt a childish disappointment over the disruption
of your day, or a selfish worry about the impact on your finances, or admiration
for an attack so brilliantly conceived and so flawlessly executed, or,
worst of all, an awed appreciation of the visual spectacle it produced."
11, 2001, Victims List
If you want to
really appreciate the enormity of the tragedy, take a look at the hyperlinked
list of victims all on one page. See where loved ones have submitted pictures
and remembrances. If you recognize a name, you can write your own words
of grief or consolation.
of Grief: The New York Times
The New York
Times runs photos and obituaries about attack victims. Kind of makes
you think. If someone summed up your entire life in a couple of paragraphs,
what would they say?
Collections of Attack Links
It's nice to begin
with a specialized directory when you want to search for understanding
of a subject. Dip into these subject portals as a starting point.
Index to the Internet offers this collection of quality resources about
the attacks of September 11. The 17 main topics listed in alphabetical
order are heavy on the A's: Afghanistan, anthrax, Arab-Israeli conflict,
9-11-2001 News and Legal Resources, Information, and Related Services
Sabrina I. Pacifici
of LLRX.com compiles and edits this outstanding collection of attack
links. Click through this portal to military and intelligence information,
survivor resources, and the news from around the world.
The Latest News
In the months
that have followed the attacks, we have all developed bookmarks for our
favorite breaking news. Still, here are some sites that either collate
news from several sources or link to English-language news from world hot
spots, offering a perspective different from what we could get on the evening
magazine collects important news from around the world and collates it
by region in this Web site.
The Open Society
Institute, a private grant-making organization, offers EurasiaNet,
a site devoted to the opening and improvement of the Caucasus and Central
Asia region. Check here for news and analysis from the region.
and distributes diverse news feeds. Read its "Full Coverage," divided into
subject areas, for a variety of reporting perspectives on latest events.
and In Other Magazines
up the news from a variety of daily papers and weekly news and opinion
magazines. It dishes up critical analysis of the quality of reporting,
often pointing out discrepancies in the "facts" that are delivered.
Get the latest
from near the front lines from DAWN, Pakistan's most widely circulated
Each weekday, Ahmed
Ahmed of WBUR in Boston monitors the news from Al Jazeera, the influential
Arabic satellite television network. He translates the stories into English
and passes it on to us though WBUR's "Special Coverage" Web site.
Jay L. Perkins,
associate professor at the school of journalism at Louisiana State University,
has collected this lightly annotated page of links to central and south
Asian English-language news resources.
What is happening?
Why? What can we do about it? Turn to these sites for background information
Directory: World Trade Center, Pentagon Attacks
over 100 of its insightful articles written about the attacks since 9-11.
Browse them in reverse-chronological order.
The War on
Terror: Discovery Channel Special Report
Channel does a great job explaining the "timeline of terror," that
is, what happened in Afghanistan in 1979 to set this whole movement against
the U.S. in motion.
You want incisive
commentary on geopolitical issues? Visit Austin, Texas-based think tank
an offshoot of the Center for Geopolitical Studies, formed at Louisiana
State University in 1994. Read their free "intelligence briefings" on the
site or have them delivered to your e-mail. Alternatively, subscribe to
the site. An $80 annual fee buys you the full and timely text of analysis
by 40 professionals with backgrounds in business, intelligence, journalism,
The venerable British
publication group devoted to describing the world's fighting machines (ships,
planes, etc.) and its military state, brings you this site. Much of its
in-depth analysis is available only to subscribers. Still, there are plenty
of abstracts that can give casual readers good insight to the current military
Kersell collates op-ed essays from around the Web. That's opinion only
— not news. Get your opinion the way you want it (libertarian, etc.) or
from whence you want it (U.S., Canada, the rest of the world).
The New Yorker
The New Yorker,
it seems, has taken on the role of the "loyal opposition," that is, respectfully
offering points of view that may differ from the party in power while meaning
no disloyalty. Turn to the free online version of the magazine every week
to find well-reasoned, exquisitely written alternative points of view.
War on Terrorism
Explore legal perspectives
on terrorism and its punishment through this special FindLaw directory.
Peruse past cases against terrorists, read the legal complaints against
suspected co-conspirators, and hear about the charges brought against hoaxsters.
Hate Us: Voices from Pakistan
of the Village Voice covers the arguments made by the Arab Muslims
as to why they are so angry at the U.S., e.g., the abandonment of Afghanistan
after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in the 1990s, the general lack of
support of Muslim causes by the U.S., and America's support of Israel.
What to Do:
In this except
from the October 15, 2001, issue of Newsweek magazine, writer Fareed
Zakaria makes plain the "disproportionate feelings of grievance directed
at America have to be placed in the overall context of the sense of humiliation,
decline, and despair that sweeps the Arab world." If the West can help
Islam enter modernity in dignity and peace, Zakaria concludes, it will
have "done more than achieved security. It will have changed the world."
Is the Web Enough?
At the recent
Internet Librarian conference in California, one of the best speakers was
Danny Sullivan, the soul behind the valuable Search Engine Watch [http://www.searchenginewatch.com].
He discussed how search engines handled the flood of use they got as the
public turned to the Web for answers on September 11. When they visited
they found what they were looking for, that is, news of the attack. That
is because AltaVista mixes in news with its results automatically. Although
in many ways, AltaVista is a dying search engine (it hasn't refreshed its
Web crawl in at least 6 months), it just happened to be able to deliver
what people needed in the moment.
On the other hand,
the excellent search engine that refreshes itself monthly, does not mix
news into its results. Consequently, it was not prepared to deal with the
tragedy on the day it happened. When the public turned to Google to get
the latest news by typing "World Trade Center" into the Google search box,
their results asked them if they would like to make reservations at the
"Windows on the World" restaurant "with its spectacular view from the 107th
floor of One World Center." Later that day, Google simply posted a message
telling people to go away — it couldn't handle their requests.
As Sullivan spoke,
I remembered the atmosphere at work on September 11. We were a library
staff of zombie corpses, unable to concentrate on anything. We were whacked
out on tragedy. In the weeks that followed, we shared any solid knowledge
that we thought would help, as well as small American flags that the dusky-skinned
among us could display as talismans against neighborly retaliation. (My
buddy Varsha, from India, was confronted twice by menacing strangers asking
her where she was from.) We hugged each other and passed
around humorous, if puerile, Web gems mocking our terrifying attackers.
Whatever had happened, we were united, and we had each other to share our
The November audience
in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium laughed along with Sullivan and marveled
at his revelations about the search engines. Then suddenly, Sullivan stopped.
We leaned forward in our seats, concerned. Seconds passed.
"I'm sorry," he
choked finally. "I've been living in England. Everyone there has been very
nice, but they aren't American. I haven't had a chance to be here and feel
what it is like. I've only had the Web and television. I've felt so cut
And Danny Sullivan