In a 12.31 Salon piece that I initially ignored, Matt Zoller Seitz declares that Osama bin Laden was the aught decade’s most effective showman — a man who understood the power of nightmares better than any horror film director.
“The time between the first impact and the fall of Tower Two was about the length of a Hollywood feature,” Seitz remarks. “Even if one or more of the flights had been significantly delayed prior to takeoff, the most spectacular visuals of 9/11 most likely still would have been staggered and would have occurred within a comparable time frame.
“The message of 9/11 was content. The attack was form. Whoever devised it had the mentality of a suspense film director: Don’t deliver all the whammies at once. Space them out.
“There’s a word for all this. It’s showmanship — the thing we experience, or masochistically hope to experience, each time we go to the movies.
“The image of the burning towers is clarifying symbol, a glyph that unifies the experience of that day — our memory of what it felt like, our sense of what it meant. Say the day’s two numbers, nine and 11, in the presence of any living soul, then ask what they just saw in their heads, and they’ll give the same answer: the towers.
“The attack was its own emblem, its own insignia. It may even have been intended, as certain brazen horror film images are intended, to contaminate once-mundane events: riding in an elevator, climbing stairs, looking at a skyline, watching a plane land. The burning towers were meant to be photographed, written and sung about, sketched and painted, represented in film and video, on cotton T-shirts and black velvet canvasses, in watercolor and needlepoint and Lego. They were meant to persist in living memory and beyond. They are a memento of trauma devised by those who inflicted it.
“Posters that sprung up after 9/11 declared, ‘We Will Never Forget.’ As if there were any alternative.”