The legacy of 9/11 on Asia

Today is September 11th. It was 2001, so 20 years have passed. This is the day Korean media called the ‘9/11 terror’ while many international media have called as ‘9/11’ without any fuss.

It is rare for media to call a specific incident by the date. Each media has different characteristics and ideologies, so it is hard to put together the reason why it was called as 9/11, but I think a symbolic notation was needed instead of the word ‘terror’, which has a vague concept.

In other words, the case was rather shocking to all. It was unimaginable even in a Hollywood movie to smash the World Trade Center, the symbol of capitalism, and the Pentagon, the heart of global military might, with hijacked planes.

Moreover, 9/11 was live on air to international audiences like it was scheduled ahead. International civil society literally realised then ‘anything can happen in this world’ when they view an unbelievable scene from the television.

Since then, the world has changed so rapidly that it can be divided into before and after 9/11. After 9/11, world experienced increase of military expenditure, terrorism, anti-Muslim sentiment, racism, and the routinisation of war that have changed not only the perception of people but also their lives.

So, on the occasion  of 9/11, I set aside large discourses like global phenomena today and looked at the changes in my daily life as an example.

What stood out more than anything else was the terminology of the foreign press I worked in. New words such as ‘war on terror’, ‘terror alert’, and ‘axis of evil’ appeared, and military terms such as ‘ground zero’, which refer to nuclear detonation sites, appeared too often in articles unrelated to war. It can be seen that the media reflects reality, but it is undoubtedly an ominous omen of inflating and spreading an otherwise wild armed philosophy. It is very different from before 9/11, when media selected and used the term very carefully.   

To me, the change of ambience in the airport felt enormously different when traveling for a news coverage. I had to suffer hard from stricter body check and immigration processes which treated travelers as potential criminals. After 9/11, I have never been to any airport comfortably.

Even after going through a full-body scanner, I had to go through the metal detector that touches the whole body. In addition, if I carry a liquid over 100g, whether it is water or toothpaste or ointment it would be taken away which never happened before 9/11. After all, it was after 9/11 that my slow habit of arriving at the airport an hour before departure to board an international flight disappeared.

One more thing, the coffee shop atmosphere is not to be missed. It is a conspiracy theory that pops up whenever you sit face to face with people. Before 9/11, conspiracy theories were carried around by a few, and the topic was as simple as ‘Who Killed JFK?’ After 9/11, the topics have also become broader and more sophisticated from Karl Marx to the New World Order as well as the environment, finance and viruses are no exception. 

Needless to say, this explosion of conspiracy theories was fueled by distrust of 9/11. There are still many aspects of 9/11 that the US government has been reluctant to, and the announcement that Osama bin Laden, who was said to be the main culprit of 9/11, was killed and immediately dumped into the sea in 2011, further heightened distrust.

Moreover, after being tortured and abused at the US military base in Guantanamo, those identified as 9/11 perpetrators are still in custody without a court ruling until today, 20 years later. It is a conspiracy theory that grew up with animosity against the media for failing to resolve these suspicions. This is why the social role and responsibility of the media must be fiercely held.

Everyone's experience will be different, but after 9/11, the global civil society is accustomed to uncomfortable changes and is standing in the face of an unknown tomorrow. It is a legacy left behind by 9/11, an era of more lonely and uncertainty.

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