10th Trade Tower Anniversary organized?
September 10, 2011 8:08 AM   Subscribe

As I watch the outpouring of emotion and this week long remembrance of the Twin Towers tragedy, I can’t help but think that this is a well planned marketing campaign of some sort, rather than, a spontaneous reaction to the anniversary of the event. Do any of our readers have information that would indicate that there is some sort of master plan?

TV, newspapers, internet, radio, all are jammed with the subject. It is hard to believe that it simply happened. My skeptical mind tells me that someone (government?) paid someone (large advertising agency?) to organize all those ceremonies to make us feel better about being Americans.
posted by Old Timer to Law & Government (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Tinfoil needs adjustment.

Major broadcasters and news organisations have been planning their 10th anniversary commemorations for a long time. Now, however unseemly it might feel, these organisations have marketing departments and advertisers and a desire to "win" the anniversary in terms of hits, viewers, whatever. That's all the explanation you need.
posted by holgate at 8:19 AM on September 10, 2011 [29 favorites]

Maybe there is a massive conspiracy, maybe not. I'm not going to comment on that, because that really doesn't matter.

Can you imagine the fallout for a company that didn't make a big deal about the 9/11 anniversary? They would be so unAmerican. People would want to boycott them. Fox News would pick them as their whipping boy for the rest of their days. If you don't do something to mark the anniversary, you will severely hurt your business. So, it's spontaneous in a sense...everyone is writing/posting/whatever about 9/11 because if they don't, they're doomed. No one has to tell them that. They're forced by public opinion, not by some sort of governmental organization.

That said, 9/11 affected a lot of people in an extremely profound way. To not note the passing of the anniversary in some way would be pretty tasteless.
posted by phunniemee at 8:22 AM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: It's unlikely that any mefite is going to step forward with evidence supporting a conspiracy to orchestrate a nationwide YayAmerica campaign - If the conspiracy was real, there would likely be very little evidence.

For what it's worth, my cynical mind usually assumes all televised news to be driven by the desire to increase viewership so as to bring in more advertising revenue. Similarly, many websites derive their revenue from advertising, though I'm more inclined to believe the people putting up 9/11 projects online are simply interested in the event on a personal level.

From a media standpoint, I think a huge 10th anniversary rehash of the events and impact of 9/11 is par for the course. 9/11 was a significant event. The major anniversaries of significant events are regularly marked with news coverage, despite it being far from news.
posted by lizzicide at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2011

Best answer: Tinfoil needs adjustment.


The media, book publishers, anyone who produces news or entertainment content, is hugely into anniversaries. You may have noticed a lot of Civil War-related stuff popping up starting last spring. That's because this year is the sesquicennial. If you had a book or documentary about the Civil War to promote, or a Civil War-themed event to advertise, this is the year to do it. Next year, in 2012, it will be all about the War of 1812. Those things are less noticable (if you're not particularly interested in them) because obviously they didn't happen in such recent living memory. 9/11, in contrast, was sort of a big deal to a lot of people, you might recall. But it's the same principle. It's the same way with births and deaths of famous people, founding of cities, anything that happened on a verifiable date. So yeah, there's sort of a master plan...in that our calendar repeats the same dates once every year.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I work at a newspaper. We get the junk kicked out of us on a daily basis for failing to cover silly things like a 4 year old's soccer game or a broken down car in a parking lot. There is no way we're not covering the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

But it didn't simply happen. In-depth coverage never simply happens. We planned the coverage (and yes, the related advertising) ourselves a long time ago.
posted by ladygypsy at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

The master plan is called "lining the pockets of broadcasters." They figure people will watch drama, horror, tragedy and violence, followed by more violence. Its a formula well-followed by Bill Shakespeare, except its cheaper to dig up stock footage than to pay actors.

In other words, the problem is us.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:38 AM on September 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Two things:

1. September 11, 2001 was arguably the most significant national-scope event to happen in the lives of a great many Americans, particularly those born after 1970
2. The media love round numbers as mileposts

It's been 10 years. Of course every media outlet from Auto Trader to the Economist is going to be "jammed with the subject". Do you really not understand how mass media works? There's not some grand unifying theme, where some media cabal said "ok, this is what we're going to do" - every media source does its own thing. And there are many, many media sources. Add them all together, and you get wall-to-wall coverage.
posted by pdb at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

The government doesn't do marketing, it's against the law for them to spend taxpayers money on that. The Congress appropriates the money and does not pass laws authorizing government agencies to spend it on marketing campaigns. Communications, yes, and recruiting in the case of the military, yes, but not marketing.

However, on the part of media organizations, yes absolutely there is marketing involved of the content they produce for the anniversary. It's one of those deals "everyone is covering it, so we have to cover it." I wish the anniversary was over already so this would stop - I remember just fine because I was in DC, and it was horrible and everybody was completely freaked out for a long, long time. It was really nice to get to a point where you didn't think about it constantly.
posted by citron at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2011

Tenth anniversary of a previously unthinkable event that touched the lives, in some way or another, of all Americans? No conspiracy needed.
posted by The Deej at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2011

do you think someone was behind all the coverage of the OJ trial? how about that lost white girl in aruba? how about casey anthony? there's not a lot of diversity in our news. this is no exception.

it's sort of like asking why all the news sources report on black friday. that's not a giant conspiracy, it's just the news story that makes sense that week.
posted by nadawi at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wait, just read the OP again and now I'm not clear if you're even asking about the news coverage or the events themselves, the commemorations planned by cities, organizations, etc. Individuals are also generally really into anniversaries. Think about how much effort people put into celebrating birthdays, or how mad they get if their spouse forgets the day they were married. This is sort of dumb IMHO, and sort of spurred by advertising (buy gifts! spend money!), but also a perfectly logical and natural way of assessing what's happened in your life since "that day." No one's going to plan a ceremony commemorating those who died or did something heroic on 9/11 to take place on, like, 10/3. It would just be out of step with how our society works.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:23 AM on September 10, 2011

I have WQXR on the internet and they are commemorating it as well. I simply refuse to believe they are part of any enormous marketing campaign. It just exceeds my normally quite effective capacity for cynicism. Whatever may be the reality behind some of the public expression of emotion,a d however ill-advised the War on Terror may have been, 9/11 happened and there is no way for there not to be a commemoration.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2011

do you think someone was behind all the coverage of the OJ trial? how about that lost white girl in aruba?
Are you referring to Natalee Holloway? Or Robyn Gardner? Hard to keep track, I know, all those white girls look the same.

In re: 9/11 10th anniversay coverage, it's a given that such an occasion is going to get massive media coverage, just like traffic jams and crowded airports do every year at Thanksgiving. What will be interesting to see is if 9/11 evokes such coverage on, say, the 20th or 50th anniversary. Or will it become a footnote (much like Pearl Harbor Day today) as the population ages and there are less folks around who "remember exactly what they were doing when the second plane hit."
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:38 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

@Oriole Adams this topic and the first article it linked to raise that very question when pointing out the difference between discussing 9/11 with school kids in ~2002 vs. 2011 - the transition from lived to learned experience. I find it truly fascinating, plus it makes me feel old (28 yrs).
posted by cmetom at 10:08 AM on September 10, 2011

The master plan is called "lining the pockets of broadcasters." They figure people will watch drama, horror, tragedy and violence, followed by more violence. Its a formula well-followed by Bill Shakespeare, except its cheaper to dig up stock footage than to pay actors.

In other words, the problem is us.

I'm cynical as fuck when it comes to television, but the above is bullshit.

TV gets its money from selling ads at a price determined in periods called Sweeps, which occur in February, May, July, and November. Getting high ratings in mid-September doesn't get CNN any more money. Indeed, many of the anniversary shows are relatively expensive specials, and are being aired without commercial breaks. That's a net loss, I think you'll find.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:20 AM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

If the feds have cash to spare to pay a "large advertising agency" to coordinate this coverage, I think they've made the best deal of the century! Anyone who thinks that the federal government could direct a media campaign this effectively must not be aware of all the other government plans that have gone so woefully wrong.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

The great thing about the 9/11 anniversary is that the lead-up to it occurs at the end of the summer silly season, when there is little to report on. It fills a void, and is also an easy topic to grease the start of the fall news cycle.

That is all. If you don't like it, turn off your tv, or don't click on the link.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

"My skeptical mind tells me that someone (government?) paid someone (large advertising agency?) to organize all those ceremonies to make us feel better about being Americans."

Know what makes me feel better about being an American? NOT reliving 9/11. Didn't like living it the first time. I'm not the only one who feels that way, and a significant number of Americans are going out of their way to AVOID 9/11 anniversary stuff for a variety of reasons.

So if that's the advertising plan, major fail.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:35 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

At the same time, it's useful to remember that there is a power structure, and the media is part of the power structure. Media and government rely on each other in many ways, and the people in each institution come from similar backgrounds, and have similar personal and professional aspirations. I don't think there is collusion per se, it's more of a situation of groupthink.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2011

Getting high ratings in mid-September doesn't get CNN any more money.

But for networks that might usually be skipped over on the programming guide, it is the equivalent of putting on one's Sunday best. It's a showcase of sorts: you have original drama on drama-centric networks, or documentary exclusives like the National Geographic interview with Bush. Perhaps a net loss, but also a loss-leader: were it a complete write-off, the news networks could have arranged to pool their entire coverage.
posted by holgate at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wondered just why the voice recordings from the planes were conveniently released in the last few days. The authorities have had these for years so why release now?

What on earth do you mean by "conveniently"? Are we planning another invasion of Iraq soon?

According to the AP,
"No dry words on a page [i.e. the long-since released transcripts] can capture that; you really have to hear it," said John Farmer, dean of the Rutgers University School of Law and former senior counsel to the government's 9/11 Commission.

The sound files were posted online Wednesday, just days before the 10th anniversary of the attacks, to accompany a monograph published by the Rutgers University Law Review. The release was first reported by The New York Times.

The monograph was written by Farmer and other investigators working for the 9/11 Commission but was not completed by the time the commission released its final report in 2004.

Farmer and another investigator, Miles Kara, decided to finish the document and add the audio after their draft and the original Federal Aviation Administration recordings were declassified last year.

posted by dhartung at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2011

I'm a 9/11 survivor. I've also spent most of my working career in public relations and media. Truthfully, there is no grand conspiracy. I'm actually somewhat shocked that many of the usually ruthless, shady people I come into contact with through my job are quite sensitive about 9/11. They have been going out of their way to keep their coverage reasonable and respectful. 9/11 is by far the biggest news event, at least in North America, of the last 20 years. The media is covering the anniversary because it is truly newsworthy, not as a cheap ploy to make a buck. As someone that barely made it through that day and the weeks following, I would be the first to cry foul. Yet I'm pleasantly surprised at the way the media is handling this. There is no grand conspiracy.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

TV, newspapers, internet, radio, all are jammed with the subject. It is hard to believe that it simply happened.
It's 10 years since September 11th. What do you expect them to do, ignore the significance of the day? This had a huge, huge impression on millions of Americans. Having lost a family member I can say that it was the single most profound day of my life. I'm not saying that to cause a pity party but you seem to be a bit out of touch with what September 11th meant to a lot of people.

The media is covering the anniversary because it is truly newsworthy.

posted by pintapicasso at 2:01 PM on September 10, 2011

Did it every occur to you that the reason people have anniversaries/rituals is there is a real human need to grieve (or celebrate, depending on the occasion), remember, connect, and heal? That's why we have birthdays, graduations, funerals, wedding anniversaries, etc.

I was in New York on 9/11 and after the first few months of processing everything, I sort of just moved on. I didn't want to think about it much, and I didn't have much of a reason to. About a week ago, I started tuning into the press and coverage about it, and I've found some of it incredibly healing. I've cried, and talked to people, and grieved again-- not just for 9/11 but for everything our country has gone through in 10 years. I mean, I get that it's a little overly sentimental and maudlin sometimes, but it was a pretty big deal for A LOT of people, so I think 10 years is an appropriate time to rehash part of it.
posted by Rocket26 at 2:04 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having witnessed the absolutely insane news media coverage of the death of Michael Jackson I don't understand how similar coverage of 9/11 is hardly surprising...given that 9/11 was, like, actual news.
posted by jnnla at 2:43 PM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

One thing about it, the more rah, rah, rah about 9/11, the easier it is to justify TSA's agenda, non-transparency in government (it's for our national security, don'tchaknow) lots and lots of money dumped into DOD with no oversight, yadda yadda and more yadda.

Many people lost loved ones. All of us lost a good deal of freedom with no gain in safety or security.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:03 PM on September 10, 2011

It's not so surprising if you consider what happens at the end of every year. Particularly the end of every decade! It's like a media blitz to see who can post the most "Top 50 Music Videos of the Year" and "10 Cutest Kitties of 2011" shows and articles.

Combine that desire to commemorate a 10th anniversary with an event that has the emotional impact of 9/11, and you've got yourself an instant recipe for a full-scale national media frenzy.
posted by ErikaB at 5:50 PM on September 10, 2011

In other words, the problem is Rupert Murdoch.
posted by flabdablet at 7:20 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

My skeptical mind tells me that someone (government?) paid someone (large advertising agency?) to organize

You mean your cynical mind. A skeptical mind works more like this:

How many people could be part of a huge, expensive deception that manipulates others, and keep it secret, without it leaking? 5? 7? Probably not much more than that unless for short periods of time. If a proposed conspiracy involves news organisations keeping secrets about being co-ordinated with their competition for some campaign, and no-one noticing and no-one leaking, that looks highly implausible. (Look at Fox News. They do everything they can to deny their affiliation, but it's not even remotely successfully kept secret. Or the NSA - even though details are suppressed with the full force of law, if you want to find out what they do, to some extent you can, and you at least know the NSA exists.)

Therefore, a common rule of thumb: if a conspiracy requires more than 7 people have to keep it secret, it's implausible enough that's it's almost certainly not a conspiracy. The next most likely candidate is something institutional in the system - actors are independently acting in unison because the system encourages that action. Eg, the same way that Big company A need not be in cahoots with Big company B, even though both are paying lobbyists to push political change in the same direction - they simply have a shared reason for doing the same thing, because they are similar enough to benefit from similar things.

Everyone who is celebrating the anniversary already quite clearly has something to gain from it. So a shadow puppet master is an unnecessary postulation. Occam's razor.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:30 PM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I can’t help but think that this is a well planned marketing campaign of some sort, rather than, a spontaneous reaction to the anniversary of the event

To our right-wing media, we're all commodities to be bought and sold to advertisers. And it's easy to cash in people's emotions. Doing so is not as much of a conspiracy, so much as business-as-usual.

The "conspiracy" (if there can be one, as such) is that this tragedy was avoidable and more or less was permitted to happen, so as to give an illegally-installed Texan frat boy and his oil company stooge of a VP the pretext to wage an illegal war on Iraqis and make a play for their natural resources.

The media's role in this larger "conspiracy" began when it participated in the outing of Valerie Plame. She may or may not have been a significant intelligence asset, but the media and the government's larger message to everyone was clear: Step out of line and we'll burn you, whoever you are, by whatever means at our disposal.

It's become expensive to keep killing Iraqis, the public has "war fatigue", so the media now celebrates every 9/11 since by honoring-our-brave-soldiers, showing-flying-flags, and zooming-in-on-tears.

Few in the mainstream media want to have an honest public discourse about the loss of lives, civil rights, money and materiel, because that's bad for business.

People are underwater on their houses, unemployment is rampant, and the country's infrastructure is going to shit. The "conspiracy" is whatever gets people to tune in, and ten is a nice round number, so the media is going with a less morose message this year.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:38 PM on September 10, 2011

My skeptical mind tells me that someone (government?) paid someone (large advertising agency?)

It's unlikely money has exchanged hands. Perhaps think of the relationship between the media and government as more as a "you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours" arrangement.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:59 PM on September 10, 2011

The news reports on stuff it thinks people want to hear about. Yeah, it also keeps them in business. And there's still a huge interest among the audience in 9/11.

But I don't think the coverage is any more a matter of lining pockets than it is for movie studios to release movies based on real-life strategies. Schindler's List was a compelling, important dramatic story, but there's no denying it made profits. And the news feels that there are a lot of compelling, important dramatic stories about 9/11, so I doubt they needed any external motivation to tell them.

But I do wonder if their internal motivation is greater because it took place so close to where a lot of the major media corporations are based, and they're also reminded of it constantly, thus they're more connected emotionally.

As for the notion that news people or the public just likes any big story that has violence and tragedy, I'm sure there was also a lot of hoopla about the moon landing too. But with 9/11, it was a major unexpected shock, and it had a direct effect on countless people.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:48 AM on September 11, 2011

Here's how it went in my office:

(web content affiliates): can you provide 9/11 content for us on X date? Please pitch (seasonal items/September 11-related content) by (days before deadline).

me: ugh. fine, all right, I'll get busy working on that.

That's pretty much the truth across all broadcast, print and web media outlets right now. Sorry it's not cooler/weirder/more evil/Dan Brown-level complicated for you, but nobody has the time/money/inclination to conspire on a nationwide Machiavellian scheme the way you're imagining it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:21 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

TV gets its money from selling ads at a price determined in periods called Sweeps, which occur in February, May, July, and November. Getting high ratings in mid-September doesn't get CNN any more money.

Actually, no. Sweeps are times when the Nielsen company sends out viewing diaries to households.
The numbers are constantly tabulated and used all of the time in the inside media publications. Sales people will use whatever numbers are good.

They are definitely increasing their brand amongst viewers and want to get you hooked on their channel.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:45 AM on September 11, 2011

The bong. Put it down.

Seriously, why is it hard to believe it 'just happened'? It was a big fucking deal at the time, because such an attack was unprecedented in US history. People are well known to attach importance to particular numbers, like10 year anniversaries or other handy round numbers. Our most popular number system is in base 10. And there are lots of publishing channels competing for attention. You don't need to cook up a conspiracy to see why it would be all over the media, and there's nothing remotely sinister about it.

If you find it obnoxious, turn off the TV and read a book or go for a walk. Sitting around cooking up conspiracy theories is unhealthy and unproductive. I personally am happy to see the media pulling out all the stops because it means that we're saying goodbye to the sense of immediate crisis and it's passing away into history, allowing us to get on with out lives and treat it as a sad event of the past instead of an urgent demand of the present. I think within the next year you'll start seeing the budget of homeland security getting shrunk a bit, restrooms being open in train stations, and a slow dismantling of the Garrison America mentality.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:13 PM on September 11, 2011

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