Here it is, folks, my 9/11 tenth anniversary cartoon.
A little over a week ago, I read about this
publicity stunt tribute a large number of Sunday funnies are planning on doing. While I’m sure many of those involved mean well, I couldn’t help but be immediately reminded of this Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon, originally published in late September, 2001. I feel what these newspaper comics are planning might actually be in far poorer taste than Bolling’s joke, since the latter makes a good point about the absurdity of forcing the topic of 9/11 (or any disaster with a high body count) into any and every venue of the cultural consciousness, regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate there, and the former unironically does what the parody did in jest. The idea of gag-a-day strips that are usually about things like goofy talking dogs and Vikings in the Middle Ages suddenly talking about real-world, modern terrorist attacks is about as dignified as trying to shoehorn a miscarriage arc into a bad webcomic about “gamerz” where the punchline is typically violence and/or rape.
Just look at some of these samples. Hagar the Horrible and Beetle Bailey, in particular, look like something out of a modern art museum (while Reply All, like usual, looks like something attached with magnets to a day care center’s refrigerator). If the cartoonists were doing something like using their space to draw caricatures of specific victims of the attack, that’d be swell, but wrapping their characters in the event smacks of shameless, opportunistic self-promotion.
Imagine a day where most newspaper comics are Funky Winkerbean. That’s what’s happening this Sunday.
Anyway, that’s what got the wheels turning which produced the above editorial cartoon, even though the commentary on display is pretty far removed from its inspiration, instead addressing the wider topic of something I’d call “fear profiteering.” Following the World Trade Center attacks, we’ve seen an explosion in industries that buy and sell fear: private, for-profit militaries like Blackwater and corporate propaganda bullhorns like Fox News have enjoyed terrific windfalls from such camera-friendly human misery, and they’re clearly more than happy to exploit them.
Like the Red Menace of the ’50s, the terrorist attacks have been an extremely useful tool for unscrupulous politicians as well. The pointless and unnecessary invasion of Iraq and George W. Bush’s second term arguably could not have happened without them. For Bush, the attacks functioned like his own personal John Hinkley moment, propelling a President whom everyone up to that point knew was a corrupt idiot to sudden, undeserved popularity and dangerous levels of power. This has had a domino effect: like each of the Presidents following Reagan, most of the bad things the current President pushes can probably be traced to the policies and attitudes the Bush Administration was able to advance thanks to this single, early crisis.
So, this cartoon sets out to criticize anyone who exploits 9/11. I chose vampire bats for the metaphor because they have special enzymes in their saliva that prevent blood from clotting. Similarly, I feel it’s in the best interests of organizations and people who live off the reaction to terrorism for that blood to keep on flowin’, so of course they’re going to take every opportunity to remind us of the big, scary boogeymen that are still out there, while at the same time turning what ought to be an occasion for solemn reflection on American foreign policy into a disgusting, orgiastic display of “patriotism” and hocking 9/11-themed versions of their products. Buy the Official Patriot Day Snuggie™! Try new 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Edition Kaboom™!
About the attacks, it’s often said that we should “Never Forget.” This isn’t a bad thing, because we certainly should remember what happened, and whom it happened to. But it’s also important to remember why it happened, and that’s something that’s frequently ignored. This is because the truths about what caused the event are inconvenient to many of those who control the media narrative, and because there isn’t an easy answer to that question. As I said, it’s rooted in the complexities of decades of Western foreign policy, as well as centuries of religious conflict. Most of this is stuff people would still have to learn in the first place before they could start “never forgetting” it.
Remembering 9/11 also doesn’t mean we should come to let the actions of the terrorists dominate our culture and govern every aspect of our lives. Otherwise, we give them what they wanted, and perpetuate the cycle.
As FDR once declared, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”