BY DAN KENNEDY
IN A sad and eloquent essay in Slate on Tuesday, New Yorker drama critic John Lahr, writing from London, compared the Tuesday attacks with Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, and even the death, at birth, of his twin sons, in the " existential sense that life can change on a dime. "
He added: " I feel now like I did then — something has instantly and inexorably changed in American life. And there is no going back. What is being lost ... is — not an innocence (that’s long-lost) — but a sense of containment and invincibility. Fear will now be our daily bread; and hatred has been given new license. I fear the hysteria and the distortion and the violence which will soon be acted out in all quarters. "
The ’90s are over. Welcome to a new decade. Welcome to a new century. The era of disengagement and decadence has ended.
Can the media — accustomed as they have become to celebrity trials and semen-stained dresses — return to the infinitely more difficult task of providing the information a self-governing people need? After years of sex and scandal, of shuttered foreign bureaus, of downsizing and profit-mongering, it’s not going to be easy.
Yet this is a time of crisis, and that crisis is not going to be solved next week, next month, or even next year. We require a media that can report on our frightening new world accurately and thoroughly, neither playing into public hysteria nor serving as a conveyor belt for government propaganda.
In other words, the media, like the rest of us, are going to have to change.
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Dan Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue Date: September 13 - 20, 2001