The coverage of the disaster in the U.S. on and subsequent to 11 September 2001, on various information channels throughout the world, was extensive. Written, spoken and visual material was produced and broadcast at unprecedented speed by sources ranging from authoritative journalistic channels, to official political spokespersons, to 'unofficial' sources and private persons posting comment on the Web via new Web-based news services, discussion and e-mail lists. The differing speed of response on the Web by the media industry, political and government channels reflected their organizational characteristics and the differing flexibility of reactions to extreme events. This paper traces a timeline of different aspects of news coverage during the week immediately following the disaster, and then over subsequent, more reflective, weeks. The material is used to show how a single dramatic event happening locally reverberates globally, and the impact of the developing global information infrastructure (GII) on these phenomena, geographically, temporally, and sectorally.
Few people within reach of a television or radio will forget where they were as the events unfolded in New York on 11 September 2001. The suicide attacks that destroyed four commercial aircraft, the twin towers of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon, and with them many thousands of human lives, has resulted in media and other reporting of the events and their outcomes possibly amounting to decades of audio-visual material and huge volumes of written coverage. How was such coverage enabled by the various components of the global information infrastructure, encompassing newspapers, periodicals, radio and television, private electronic communications (including mobile phones and e-mail), interactive discussion forums and the Web? Which elements of the global information infrastructure (GII) provided the greatest impact as far as 'news' was concerned and which offered more authoritative 'content'?
The extent to which such material can be sampled, from such a wide range of media, in order to provide a representative overview of key trends, is itself a debatable point. Ignoring the problem of multilingualism, regardless of the media researcher's facility with languages, the most assiduous attention to the traditional (print) and electronic (broadcast and Internet- or Web-based) news sources available in any one country will still miss potentially insightful contributions. A truly objective analysis of 11 September will take years of effort, and will necessitate attention to material produced in many languages and many media formats. The approach taken in this paper has been to monitor news-feed services, online 'new' media Web sites, political sources, mediated international services (such as the BBC Monitoring database at www.bbcmonitoring.com) and to take intensive 'dips' into global newspaper sources at particular dates, for example via the structured newspaper lists such as those provided by Yahoo.
The intensive 'dips' were an attempt to cope with some of the variability of media sources on the Internet. For example, the broad-sheet newspapers in the U.K. (Times, Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and others) have well-maintained and structured archives that are freely available. This makes them an attractive source to study, because they go into considerable depth and detail and represent the broad range of political spectra from left to right, as well as some claiming political independence. However, their readership is significantly less than the more popular 'tabloid' newspapers. In September 2001 the daily circulation figures for major U.K. newspapers were:
Newspaper Daily Circulation Tabloids Sun 3,563,781 Daily Mail 2,478,084 Mirror 2,230,285 The Express 922,549 Daily Star 742,777 Daily Record 595,898 10,533,374 Broad-sheets Daily Telegraph 996,270 Times 701,387 Financial Times 454,191 Guardian 427,172 Independent 211,622 2,790,642
So, only 21% of newspaper purchasing appears to be broad-sheet, and readership may be even less compared to the overall readership of the tabloids. Therefore, if we were looking at the impact of material in the media due purely to exposure to the reader population, rather than the quality of coverage and debate, perhaps we should focus on the popular (tabloid) press. However, there is a problem when using Web-based material because the tabloid newspapers rarely maintain virtual archives. Most have content just for the latest issue and The Daily Express in the U.K. now has a Web presence (www.express.co.uk) that merely shows an image of today's front page with the text "on sale now at your newsagent now" and very few stories from the paper.
On a global level, the depth, timeliness and availability of material on the Web is, to a large extent, much more evident in developed and advanced developing nations. While mediated news sources such as Allafrica (www.allafrica.com) are excellent conduits of African media, and BBC Monitoring (www.bbcmonitoring.co.uk) overcomes many of the problems of accessing material in different languages, there still is a danger that material accessible on the Web is not a fully balanced representation of real availability and access. Nevertheless, the way in which the Web provided hitherto unparalleled access to material is a great strength. Even so, it would be interesting to ascertain how much of the world's population actually 'witnessed' the events in real time, since that could indicate the current state of the digital/information divide.
The ability of the media to deliver accurate and timely news to a global information society is fraught with challenges. There is increasingly a reader/listener expectation for 'instant' news, and the role of the journalist in delivering objective news is therefore one with little time for reflection before delivering that news. Furthermore, delivering the news to multiple cultures and social structures via the Internet requires sensitivities to people with very different perceptions and knowledge. Tumber identifies key stresses in this process, one of which is related to media ownership and the other to the fact that traditional journalists can feel threatened by multiple channels that dilute their dominance of the news channels .
Blumler, however, is more skeptical of the alternative channels replacing conventional journalism, fearing that the large media corporations may be too dominant . Whatever the concerns about ownership and objectivity, the Internet has become a highly flexible channel for news. Havick argues that the Internet for the first time facilitates a many-to-many communication system that (for better or worse) dis-intermediates conventional journalism sources:"The Internet encourages interpretation and editorializing. It promotes like-minded individuals to co-locate and communicate with each other in ways that will have both positive and negative results for society. On the negative side, isolated and fringe extremists will be able to locate other people, hundreds of miles away, who also have malevolent views and goals" .
For those with access to the Internet, quite aside from television, the 'global village' did seem to function in real time following the events of September 11th. Garreau notes that:"At blinding speed it morphed and evolved to meet its users' needs. Suddenly, it was a lifeline for loved ones and a public forum for those who needed a place to yell their cries for vengeance or simply wanted answers" (Garreau, 2001).
The speed and extent of television coverage, and the real-time nature of the Internet communication, also forced organizations to react and communicate in real time. Glasner observed that the demand for information was regarded as massive, quoting John Quarterman, Chief Technology Officer at measurement firm Matrix.Net, as saying the disaster was "the "greatest stress encountered" in the history of the Internet" (Glasner, 2001).
For once, the Web news sites were worried not about attracting people to their content, but rather about how to cope with the huge number of people demanding access to that content. The incredible communications load on media Web sites led to instant decisions to cut graphics in favor of basic content and speed. Glasner noted that CNN cut the graphic content of their site to the minimum and used mirror sites to spread the load. Furthermore, "in addition, a number of ad-hoc mirror sites, such as Scripting.com, sprung up to distribute news reports and photos inaccessible at their original location" (Glasner, 2001).
The real-time global access to unfolding events made possible by the GII also forced organizations with any perceived links to these events to communicate their views in equally real-time, if only to distance themselves rapidly from possible retribution:"American Muslim Political Coordination Council sent out e-mails condemning the attacks. "American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians ... . No political cause could ever be assisted by such immoral acts," the group wrote" (Garreau, 2001).
Conceptualizing the disaster is therefore a challenge. It could be visualized as an earthquake - an unpredictable, tragic, massive initial event with aftershocks of varying magnitude, with the distinct possibility of a major event happening again. Perhaps it can be conceptualized as a predictive model in which the parameters are known, but the interaction of the parameters is assumed to be too irrational? Or the Gaia approach, where a butterfly flapping its wings in New York has an impact throughout the world. Even chaos theory may have some basis for consideration. One of the central concepts of chaos theory is that while it is impossible to exactly predict the state of a system, it is generally quite possible, even easy, to model the overall behavior of a system. It was difficult to predict exactly what each personal, corporate, national reaction is, or would be, yet not too difficult to predict the overall outcome, for within a matter of weeks, life on many areas was readjusting to whatever 'normalcy' is. So, while we still don't know what exactly will happen in the coming months, as military strikes and other events carry on, perhaps yet more terrorist retaliation, we do know that these things are likely to happen and what typical further responses will be.
This paper attempts to draw out some of the key information and information society issues that emerged in the six days subsequent to the disaster, and then reviews the coverage in subsequent weeks up to 16 October. The reporting, interpretation and analysis of the events ebbed and flowed across space and through time. Geographically there was rapid global connectivity whereby people's realities were dramatically changed. For example we were told by a colleague in another institution, that the staff were gathered in a coffee area watching the WTC towers burning and then collapsing. A senior manager, who had been in a meeting, walked over to the crowd, looked at the pictures on the screen, and asked 'What film are you watching?'. Such was the spectacular unreality of the events that massive perceptual adjustments had to be made.
The actual writing of the paper was undertaken in three stages. The immediate events were covered between 13-17 September, the writing going on as they happened. The second block was between 12-16 October. Here the material was used particularly to identify information society issues. The third block was between 16-26 October when we revised material in the light of issues that were still developing. Therefore, the paper has two major sections. The first is more of a timeline, where the events are unfolding and the issues are starting to emerge. The second section aims to distil key GII issues that were by then high on most agendas.
The Events and the Immediate Aftermath
In the very early stages following the collapse of the WTC towers, it was generally difficult to be objective and reflexive. Immediate fears of a slide into global warfare encouraged many to look at the 'doomsday scenario'. In Kenya and many other countries, for example, sales of the writings of Nostrodamus were considerable. During the next days, one of the issues would be 'who dares to criticize', and clearly media outside North America would be more likely to start this analysis than those within. Then would come some introspection from within the U.S., followed by concern as to what would be the appropriate response to terrorism on such a scale. Response would then be debated politically, culturally, and technologically in the global media. Yet such considered debate would never have the same audience-grabbing attention of the initial terrorist act itself, if for no other reason than that the visual drama would be absent - that is, until the media started to broadcast imagery from the acts of retribution.
Apocalypse: 11 September to early 12 September
Who would risk being a globally visible 'enemy' of the U.S. after the horrific terrorism of early Tuesday morning, 11 September? Those normally hostile to the U.S. generally sought to distance themselves rapidly either from praise of terrorism, or from any possibility of being linked directly to the terrorism. From Cuba, Fidel Castro" ... warned of "dangerous days" ahead for the world and urged U.S. policy-makers to keep calm following deadly attacks in Washington and New York" (Cawthorne, 2001).
Subtle diplomatic language would be used. There was clear concern by Fidel Castro to distance Cuba from any support for terrorists or terrorism. Instead he pledged medical and logistical support to America, perhaps knowing it was likely to be refused (Cawthorne, 2001).
Among general Internet communications channels there were rapid, almost frantic, reactions to remove any ability to post anonymous criticism of the U.S. That was less a concern about the terrorists using it than those " ... who will inevitably send bogus threats, tips, and other noise to various news groups, federal offices, and officials" (Gaffin, 2001). The ways in which information providers responded to the unprecedented demand on the Internet was not only in terms of reducing graphics, but also in terms of focusing on the single major issue:""We have stripped the site down to the one story, because we feel that right now, there is only one story," said a CNN.com employee in the company's London newsroom who asked not to be identified" (Pruitt, 2001).
Global coverage and visibility of the events was quickly linked to a real global disaster because so many nationalities were represented in the list of dead and missing. A truly global list of people directly involved in the World Trade Center tragedy was emerging from Sierra Leonians who were street-sellers near the twin towers (Kangbai and Fewry, 2001), to Nepal, where news sources noted:"In this tragic event, if there are any Nepalese casualties, please could you inform us and we shall set up a Tribute column for them. Please email us at email@example.com" (Anonymous, 2001y).
A communication request which itself indicates that increasing e-mail access is available in Nepal.
As one set of information channels worked non-stop, another key set of channels stopped working almost totally. The unfolding events in New York and Washington on Tuesday led rapidly to a seeming paralysis of governance as far as government agency Web sites were concerned. The evacuation of staff from key buildings in effect left the information channels untended. Only the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site seemed to remain operative and responsive to the events, whereas:" ... for hours, the White House Web site continued to display a day-old notice that President Bush was concerned about the nation's economy. Finally, about noon, a brief statement by the president was posted. And later in the afternoon, a somewhat longer statement was added" (Matthews, 2001).
The style of official reporting in other countries was very much tinged by the extent to which they were, or were not, allies of the U.S. North Korea noted that:"There were unprecedented attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, throwing the whole country into panic, according to CNN, VOA and other foreign reports" (Anonymous, 2001mm).
The official government view from North Korea was unequivocal in its condemnation of terrorism:"The very regretful and tragic incident reminds it once again of the gravity of terrorism. As a UN member the DPRK is opposed to all forms of terrorism and whatever support to it and this stance will remain unchanged" (Anonymous, 2001mm).
For Nepal, outrage was similarly direct:"King Gyanendra said Tuesday's attacks on targets in Washington D.C. and New York were acts of inhumanity. "They must be condemned as crimes against humanity and the perpetrators brought to justice," His Majesty said in a condolence message to President George W. Bush" (Anonymous, 2001y).
The 24 hours following the devastation was a period of saturation coverage by the mass media, with frequent replaying of the actual attacks on the WTC twin towers, each subsequent newscast often being supplemented by new images from different angles. The enormity of the events meant that it was difficult to come to terms with what had happened. Seeing two 110-story skyscrapers collapse in seconds, killing thousands of innocent victims, was beyond comprehension, and the messages of outrage and shock were all that most people could realistically express.
The Following Days: 12-13 September
Within less than a day, evaluation of the events began, along with reporting the aftermath and the start of the recovery of bodies from the wreckage of the buildings. The actual events were by now extensively documented in words and in images, but one emerging concern was why it had been so easy for terrorists to hijack four airliners from three major airports in the U.S. Reporting noted, for example, that the Clinton administration had not followed, some eight years earlier, recommendations to increase security in U.S. airports. The reason? Lobbying from airlines, who claimed that increased security would impair their economic efficiency, since rapid access to aircraft by passengers was essential.
Any detailed evaluation of the politics and business pressures behind airport safety would be a sensitive issue, particularly in less than 24 hours after the events and much of the public was still in shock. Due to their ability to publish instantly, Internet news and reporting sites were possibly the better outlets for early analytical reporting. For example, Wired.com reported that "Security experts are stunned but not necessarily surprised that four domestic commercial jets were hijacked on Tuesday" (Batista, 2001). Stephen Weber of the University of California at Berkeley was quoted as saying:"To be able to coordinate several hijackings in the United States - that's unprecedented. Obviously, there's a vulnerability in the system that we didn't know about until now" (Batista, 2001).
This early thought-provoking reporting began to sensitize Americans to the fact that the airport systems seem to have made it easy for terrorists to board and take over aircraft. Lax security was worrisome, combined with rules that allowed knives up to four inches in length to be taken aboard as cabin baggage. In addition, how were the terrorists able to fly the airplanes so effectively and accurately? Where were they trained? Was the destruction of the icons of capitalism enabled by capitalism's own software and information, such as flight simulator packages (Noble, 2001)?
There were other questions as well. Why did the combined might of the U.S. intelligence and military systems not detect preparations for what was a detailed and integrated terrorist operation? Criticism was directed early at the multi-billion dollar Echelon surveillance system:""Echelon hasn't worked. In the coming days there will be a lot of discussion about whether the intelligence services have invested in the right technologies. Perhaps they should have opted for spies, for human intelligence," said Maurice Wessling, a Dutch privacy and digital rights activist" (Evers, 2001).
Loss of personal (and corporate) privacy due to known and admitted electronic eavesdropping systems, such as Echelon and the FBI's Carnivore (now DCS1000) system, had been hotly debated by 'personal freedom' groups and even national governments on both sides of the Atlantic prior to 11 September. What would be the impact now that these systems seemed to have shown themselves ineffective in averting a major terrorist attack that must have required months of careful planning? Would private citizens and companies be more likely to live with such electronic spying in their daily lives if it could help prevent a recurrence? Or would they be outraged by the vast sums of taxpayers' money had been spent on surveillance systems that did not appear to work?
The shock felt around most of the globe brought into play the issues of globalization itself. On one hand, the sense of outrage stimulated reporters to view it in the context of the 'global village' (Garreau, 2001). Reports from South Africa noted:"Snap interviews conducted by ECN [East Cape News] yesterday [Wednesday] about that first CNN televised moment revealed that most people had to first shake off a movie-like sense of unreality. Their next reaction was a profound sense of watching the world change before their eyes" (Meintjies, Mkokeli, et al., 2001).
The integrity of reporting was questioned in some areas. For example, Israeli journalists felt as if their reporting capability from Palestine had been limited, with external reporters relying too much on Palestinian information sources, and therefore the reporting was likely to be tinged with propaganda (Gilbert, 2001).
The view that Americans have a strong sense of community spirit was identified through such events as mass donations of blood. Engaging the community spirit to gather intelligence (quite independent of any worries about the failures of the intelligence networks thus far) was evident in the request for citizens to provide any useful information via all channels. On the Web, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), 'a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C)', directed primarily at cybercrime, was now used as a conduit for information related to the disaster (IFCC, 2001).
As the official agencies both asked for information, and used their legislative powers to mandate the provision of information, there were some voices arguing that privacy was being rather hastily discarded in the panic to identify the culprits. For example:"Microsoft's Hotmail service has also been the target of increased federal attention, according to an engineer who works there. "Hotmail officials have been receiving calls from the San Francisco FBI office since mid-(Tuesday) morning and are cooperating with their expedited requests for information about a few specific accounts," the person said. "Most of the account names start with the word 'Allah' and contain messages in Arabic" (McCullagh, 2001).
Other reports highlighted concerns such as:""I heard former President (George H. W.) Bush saying we've got to prepare to give up our civil liberties," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law professor at the University of Southern California Law School in Los Angeles. "All of that sentiment is very dangerous at this point in time"" (Abreu, 2001).
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had been invoked to mandate some ISPs to provide records of traffic through their systems prior to the disaster (McLean, 2001).
Informing citizens and customers of the consequences of the disaster became a vital activity on the Web. Chain e-mails, hitherto regarded mainly as spam, suddenly had a positive role in the dissemination of information (Reuters, 2001a). The mass media praised itself for the Herculean efforts at providing global information, particularly in the face of the silence on most U.S. government Web sites (Walker, 2001). Again, the disparity was highlighted between the timeliness of the mass media, and the less timely nature of government information sites. Government Web sites are notoriously slow in being updated, across the globe. The ability of the FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Web site to respond to the disaster in a timely manner, by providing much needed 'official government' news updates, should perhaps be a lesson to all governments, at all levels of government (local, national, international), to take a close look at their information strategies.
Early fears of tens of thousands of casualties meant that many families around the world would be directly touched by personal tragedy. The Web provided massive connectivity to the human impact. The NY.com site started a survivor database, but in so doing exposed a common failure of such initiatives, i.e. the inability to assure data quality, accuracy, completeness and legitimization:"The database is compiling its information with submissions from the public. The NY.com staff says it is attempting to confirm the accuracy of all submissions, however a review of the database showed a number of entries were not thoroughly checked; many of the entries were incomplete and others were obviously fictitious" (Venditto, 2001).
The problems of integrity and authority of information were still evident on Friday, 14 September (Benner, 2001). The bewildering range of Web sites covering the disaster, ranging from official sources to prayer sites (Wendlandt, 2001) both added to the noise and also helped to overload the networks. Even so, the Internet, while loaded massively on 11 September had performed effectively, in spite of a huge disruption on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. (Callaghan, Carlson, et al., 2001).
Economic impacts were starting to be identified. E-commerce would suffer in the immediate aftermath, not necessarily because of traffic loading on the Web, but more through transportation paralysis leading to the breakdown of distribution networks. For airline transportation, there were real concerns:"Perhaps most affected by the disasters were the online travel sites. With air traffic halted nationwide and thousands of flights cancelled, such sites saw transactions slowed and customer service centers swamped with calls" (Wolverton and Sandoval, 2001a).
Airline sites attempted to keep customers informed of the travel chaos (Bartlett, 2001a). The need for detailed information and reassurance led customers to rely much more on phone calls to service centers than Web sites. A spokesperson for Orbitz stated:"People have tremendous amounts of questions. Unfortunately what that has meant is higher call volumes and wait times than normal. We are at full staff and are asking all agents to work overtime if they possibly can" (Hills, 2001).
From the technological viewpoint, we should not forget that the average citizen cannot access the Web for news unless they have access to a working telecommunications system (e.g. telephone, either fixed line or mobile, cable, etc.). Even in the developed world, many millions of citizens do not have access to the Internet (for e-mail) or Web (for news pages). So it should not be surprising that telephone help lines were swamped for information. Even those with a Web connection prefer to be reassured or assisted by a human voice rather than a Web page. In developing nations, especially in rural areas, the most rapid means of communication are still more likely to be based on radio and satellite TV, i.e. traditional broadcast media, than on the Internet or Web.
For e-commerce businesses such as Priceline, which depends on late bookings and offers for much of its business, there would be serious effects (Wolverton and Sandoval, 2001a). International shipping companies found suddenly that they could not unload cargo in U.S. ports (Jae-hee, 2001). In the aftermath of the attacks, although airlines appeared to suffer the most acute economic pain, the sectors close to it, such as hotels, aerospace manufacture and insurance, would be badly affected. How much of the commercial losses were insured or insurable is an interesting question and one that insurance companies (and the supposedly insured) would no doubt be addressing in the coming weeks and months. Exposure of insurance companies was being assessed within two days of the attack, with estimates of damage ranging from $US10 to $US70 billion - Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was the largest insurance cost to date at $US20 billion.
The huge figures were being estimated on the basis of often hastily gathered information about re-building costs and liability costs given the expected number of deaths. The use of information here was both urgent and heuristic. The future viability of major players in the financial and services sector was under threat, and current and potential investors needed the best available estimates to help them revise their investment strategies. Within two days of the attacks, it was obvious that the U.S. federal government would have to step in within days of the disaster, with significant emergency funding - some $US40 billion - to help provide some economic stability.
As if the immediate threats to e-commerce were not enough, there was the additional burden of ethical trading following the collapse of the World Trade Center and the partial destruction of the Pentagon. E-Bay banned the sale on its site of 'all World Trade Center and Pentagon memorabilia' (Anonymous, 2001k). Ethics also came to the fore in reactions from the 'nerd' community. The Taleban of Afghanistan Web site was hacked , and there was a rise in ethnic tension particularly towards Arab and Muslim people (Anonymous, 2001ll). On a positive information technology side, the planning for disaster recovery in many large businesses had ensured that strategic information resources were intact (Schwartz, Krill, et al., 2001).
Political comment at government level often counseled caution, particularly from China, although the official line also stated that:"China would not rule out assisting military action if such operations were to be decided under a broader framework, such as the United Nations" (Anonymous, 2001g).
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Mekere Morauta, expressed the concern of his country, noting "Everyone of us prays for the many, many lives that have been lost and the many people who have been injured. We offer our comfort to all US citizens in PNG especially those who are working here on the goodness of their hearts to further the advancement of PNG" (Anonymous, 2001ee). International meetings, such as the U.S.-Africa Business Summit, were rescheduled to late October (CCOA, 2001).
Even 'enemies' of the U.S. were now inspired to issue statements of strong support, such as Sudan (UNIRIN, 2001). Arab political opinion was more acerbic than most, for obvious reasons. There were calls for the U.S. to face up to the searching question as to why it had become hated by so many countries and groups around the world:"While the Bush administration has announced its determination to "wage war on terrorism," the US will never win that war until it addresses the grievances which inspire militants to strike at Washington. Palestine should be at the top of the Bush administration's list because the US pro-Israel stance in this century-old conflict fuels the hatred which drives Muslims to attack "soft" US targets and kill US citizens" (Jansen, 2001).
The global focus on terrorist acts in the U.S. had, according to the Arab League, allowed Israel to carry out punitive operations against Palestinians without adequate coverage being reported in the global media:"The league "condemns the exploitation of these regrettable events by Israel, which is escalating its savage aggression against the Palestinian people, its invasion of Palestinian cities and the practice of terrorism against the Palestinian people"" (Anonymous, 2001f).
Emotions surrounding the disaster spilled over on Thursday, 13 September in a British Broadcasting Corporation political debating program 'Question Time'. The London tabloid paper, The Sun, reported that "The program on the World Trade Center horror descended into chaos as a woman in Arab dress told Mr Lader the world despised the US for its foreign policy" (Smith, 2001), a remark made in the presence of the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. The Director General of the BBC was moved to issue a formal apology, admitting that "it was an inappropriate program to broadcast live just two days after the suicide attacks on America, and should have been recorded and edited" (BBC, 2001b).
One might ask why such a reaction resulted, particularly at a time when Americans themselves were heard on television interviews at the scene of the twin towers destruction to ask "Why does anyone hate America enough to do this? What have we done to them?". Although the woman's question may have seemed insensitive, she had as much right to make her point as any other comment made during the program.
The End of the First Working Week: 14 September
By Friday, 14 September, three days after the disaster, the Web was deeply populated with content, much of which developed and extended the themes already identified. Yet new content would continue to cover the personal and political reactions. While the Web is an instant medium for information dissemination, there are many groups and organizations whose organizational behavior is more measured or bureaucratic, and so their content was still to be posted.
The ethical dimension continued to develop, sometimes along more nefarious lines. In any disaster there are people who will make money in fraudulent ways. Many people who were geographically distant from the events, yet who felt part of it after witnessing the events on television repeatedly and continuously, wanted to donate money. A series of e-mail scams (Farrell, 2001; Lyman, 2001) emerged, focusing particularly on bogus charity requests (Anonymous, 2001l).
Altruism also was evident in some reactions. Gartner Inc, one of the high-profile international consultancies on the new economy, decided to make its reports available free on the Web:"Research reports compiled by Gartner ordinarily are obtained only by clients paying a fee for various services, or are sold individually to non-clients. Reports commonly cost into the thousands of dollars and some are priced at $20,000, a Gartner spokesman said today. How long the reports would be available free was not clear, a company spokesman said. Gartner set a user ID of "emergency" with the password "response" for free access" (Kelsey, 2001d).
How long indeed! The company Web site was rapidly overwhelmed with people downloading the reports, to the extent that within hours the offer was withdrawn:""Unfortunately, some individuals have exploited this situation and were downloading all Gartner research for inappropriate use," Gartner said on its Web site today. How much research was pilfered was not clear" (Kelsey, 2001a).
The offer clearly had backfired. Perhaps this indicated both the strengths and weaknesses of the Web. The strength is in the evidence that rapid global dissemination is feasible. The weakness is in the fact that never before has it been so easy to make a global fool of oneself through actions whose consequences have not been clearly thought through. An online 'suspense thriller' game was withdrawn by the vendor as being inappropriate following the events (Kelsey, 2001c). Microsoft announced that it would remove images of the World Trade Center from future versions of FlightSim, and it was reported that "There has been no suggestion the terrorists used Microsoft's computer game to prepare for Tuesday's deadly attacks" (Linn, 2001).
Information terrorism emerged as a reaction to the terrorism of 11 September. A hack of 10,000 sites with a 'Fluffi Bunni' demand for Bin Laden with the demand "If you want to see the internet again, give us Mr Bin Laden and $5 million in a brown paper bag. Love Fluffi B" (King, 2001b) was widely derided as being offensive and inappropriate, while the hacks of perceived terrorist Web sites seemed to split the nerd community with "some Internet vigilantes calling for an assault on perceived terrorist sites and others pleading for calm" (Lemos, 2001).
Just as certain technologies were being withdrawn or revised, there also were questions as to whether technologies could help avoid such events in the future. From computers that could steer airliners away from skyscrapers or make automated landings, to face-recognition devices already used to spot card counters in casinos, technology could provide ways to make the skies safer, but at a cost, experts said (Reuters, 2001b).
For the first time, proximity to unfolding events (made possible by the technologies and infrastructure of the GII) took on an almost macabre dimension. Passengers on the hijacked jets used their own cellular telephones and the sky-phones routinely installed in the planes, to phone the authorities and their family, friends and relatives (Anonymous, 2001r). Some of those who received calls were interviewed on television, again sensitizing the global village to the individual traumas involved. No longer were we to wonder 'what must they have been thinking' as the jets were hijacked and flown on a suicide mission. The people who were to die were talking openly of their feelings and reactions. The tragedy was still touching individuals around the world, including an American journalist, David Filipov, working for the Boston Globe, and based in Moscow. The Moscow Times reports that he knew his father was on one of the planes:"Since then, Filipov has seen the video footage of his father's plane hitting the twin towers. "That's surreal and hard," he said Thursday. "You don't expect to see your father's death played on national television over and over again." Filipov said the family was coming to terms with its loss at a time of national tragedy. "Our own personal tragedy is intermeshed with the larger picture at this point" (Anonymous, 2001w).
Many nationalities were now being represented among the dead, such as 25 Koreans (Jang-jin, 2001), but within the U.S. national concerns were dominant. The desire of international police authorities to help the U.S. led to more demands for information that threatened to puncture privacy protection (Cha and Krim, 2001). In the U.K.:"The National High-Tech Crime Unit has invoked the Data Protection Act to ensure text message, email and voice message logs are not routinely destroyed" (Anonymous, 2001nn).
In the U.S., Senate 'approved the FBI's use of the Carnivore e-mail surveillance system [renamed by the FBI to the more bland 'DCS1000 tool'] to investigate acts of terrorism and computer crimes' (Costello, 2001a). In the Senate debate, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah noted the urgency to approve such powers in the search for those responsible for the disaster, while adding "we must also be careful that in our quest for vengeance we do not trample those very liberties which separate us as a society from those who want to destroy us" (Costello, 2001b). Similar concerns were expressed in a Washington Post editorial (Editorial, 2001e), and Mieszkowski (Mieszkowski, 2001) wrote "The hardcore privacy advocates respond with an age-old warning: Any temporary restrictions now may lead to a permanent infringement on liberties later, a sort of "slippery slope" to a less free society".
Introspection and evaluation were leading to some uncomfortable early conclusions. An editorial in the Economist noted:"Whether one is for or against missile defences, there are three other aspects of America's security arrangements that seem to require attention: airline security, intelligence-gathering, and preparing cities to respond to terrorist attacks" (Anonymous, 2001n).
The editorial concluded by stating directly the dilemma over surveillance and privacy:"In the end, no precautions can make any country perfectly safe. A society as free as America is particularly hard to defend. But that is a poor argument for curbing America's freedoms, as many Americans have already pointed out. Going down that route would be to hand the terrorists much of the victory they are so fervently seeking" (Anonymous, 2001n).
Much better inter-agency data sharing and integration would be needed in the near future, adding a sense of immediacy to the concepts of 'joined up' or 'connected' government:"Former CIA investigator and analyst Stanley Bedlington said that the way to avoid future attacks is to coordinate the activities of the federal, state, and local governments. "The basic problem is communications and coordination," Bedlington said" (Schwartz and Sullivan, 2001).
General security policies throughout the federal government were under intense scrutiny. There were real fears that cyber-terrorism against U.S. government sites would further increase once the military response was underway (Onley, 2001), and:"Speaking at a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Joel Willemssen, managing director of information technology for the US General Accounting office, said recent reports and events indicate that efforts to beef up the cyber-security of federal systems are not keeping pace with the growing threats" (Krebs, 2001).
Yet the ability of the U.S. intelligence gathering and cyber-crime fighting units of the FBI to effectively combat these growing new threats is limited, since "law enforcement's limited ability to respond to computer security threats (means that) sophisticated invaders can more or less operate without fear of being tracked down, even if they are detected" and "the FBI ... is woefully ill equipped to deal with computer crime and terrorism" leading to the situation wherein "only 36 percent of the companies that admitted to being hit said they reported the crime to law enforcement" (Freedman, 2001).
Freedman goes on to state that "outsiders broke into and temporarily controlled at least 155 computer systems at 32 federal agencies last year". Lest anyone think that communications and Internet security are not of paramount importance for the new Information Society, he concludes with the chilling reminder that "targets of terrorists ... include electric power grids, natural-gas pipelines, water supplies, dams, hospitals and other critical facilities ... 80 percent of the food transported by rail in the USA crosses either of two bridges over the Mississippi River" (Freedman, 2001).
Global political reaction by now was more varied. Existing enemies such as Iran and Libya directly condemned the terrorism (Anonymous, 2001aa). Moroccan concern focused on the Muslim and Arab issues (Talhimet, 2001). Key groups such as the Palestinians had been portrayed early in the events both as possible perpetrators and also as global hoodlums, some of who had openly celebrated the disaster in the streets. The television images of women, children and men dancing in celebration were to tinge global perceptions no matter how small a minority that group of celebrants were:"These 20 or so "dancing Palestinians" and this one woman with glasses suddenly became the symbols of more than 3.5 million Palestinians who live either under Israeli occupation or in refugee camps. The fact that Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat and more than two dozen Palestinian organisations in the West Bank and Gaza had denounced the bombings seemed inconsequential in the face of this short, unconfirmed video report" (Hanania, 2001).
Therefore the official Palestinian sources were keen to indicate that the majority of the Palestinians, and at least all of the official political groups, found the events abhorrent. The incident demonstrates the potential of a globally interconnected information infrastructure to rapidly and widely promulgate a potentially negative and damaging message without any viewer knowledge as to the authenticity of the message or even the degree to which the 'message' is shared by the group (ethnic, national, racial, political) from which it is purported to emanate.
A weekend article in the South China Morning Post noted that celebrations had occurred on a limited scale in China (Anonymous, 2001h), yet universal condemnation of that was strangely absent from the media. A global day of mourning had been declared for Friday, 14 September, with three minutes of silence to be held in Europe at 11.00h British time. The Palestinians held their own minute of silence (Anonymous, 2001dd). The Palestinians remained upset that Israel allegedly continued to use the global focus on the U.S. as a smokescreen for punitive activity in Gaza and elsewhere. The Middle East Times cited the Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer as saying:""It is a fact that we have killed 14 Palestinians in Jenin, Kabatyeh and Tammun, with the world remaining absolutely silent. It's a disaster for Arafat," Ben Eliezer told the Yediot. The ministry of defence did not deny Ben Eliezer's comments, but said they could not be considered as an official declaration" (Anonymous, 2001v).
The Baath Party in Syria communicated views that expressed their long-held antipathy with the U.S. It warned the U.S. not to use the expected military retaliations as a reason for punishing the Arabs in Palestine, who Syria regarded as carrying out 'legitimate Arab resistance against Israeli occupation' (Anonymous, 2001ii), noting further that "This shock confirms that even a superpower cannot live apart from the world, even with a ring of missiles, particularly if it ignores what is happening on the ground" (Anonymous, 2001ii). More unequivocal condemnation came from the communist government of Vietnam, a government with every reason to despise the U.S., although the message of condemnation was within a critical statement over U.S. policy towards Vietnam:"The Viet Nam Fatherland Front has demanded that the United States annul the so-called Viet Nam Human Rights Act saying it is an insult to the patriotism and pride of the Vietnamese people" (Anonymous, 2001oo).
Such a statement could be interpreted in a number of ways. For example, the cynic may argue that the condemnation within a critical statement was simply trying to gain political favor with an enemy. On the other hand, an objective reader may read such statements and start to build up a picture as to why the U.S. is hated so much around the world. Calls for such an evaluation had been made on previous days, and would continue to be published during the following weekend.
Developing countries such as Nepal were further evaluating the impacts of the tragedy on the economies and societies in their own countries, as well as expressing condolences:"11 September 2001 will also impact Nepali society and economy. It will be harder to enter the United States as the doors of Fortress America close further. Tourism will be hurt as Americans keep away, and others avoid hotspots in Asia. The Thais are already predicting a 15 percent drop in tourism earnings for the rest of the year, and India will be hit. Nepal's tourism, just barely beginning to pick up after the royal massacre and news of political instability, will be affected" (Anonymous, 2001x).
So not only would immigration into the U.S. likely to be more difficult, but the expected downturn in U.S. international business and leisure travel would impact on Nepal's economy.
The King of Jordan further reinforced the belief that U.S. international policy had exacerbated tensions in many areas in the world. An editorial in the Jordan Times noted him as saying:""If the US had resolved the problems in the Middle East, notably the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I seriously doubt that they (the terrorist attacks) would have taken place," the King emphasised. And this is exactly what most Arabs believe" (Editorial, 2001b).
Furthermore, Jonathan Power, writing also in the Jordan Times, argued:"Yet, long before George Bush became president with his forceful in-your-face, take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the world outside on issues as diverse as global warming and anti-missile defences, America had been turning in on itself, to the point of self-destructiveness" (Power, 2001).
Kenyan reporting reinforced the need for the U.S. to be much more reflexive about its global image:"And so, if, as pledged, the Bush administration is going to seek retribution and vengeance in every single state that has ever harboured or supported terrorist groups, it needs to begin by examining its own backyard and its own history" (Wanyeki, 2001).
The People's Daily in China argued, not surprisingly, that the Nuclear Missile Shield (aka Star Wars) was no longer a logical development for the U.S. (Siyong, F 2001), although the article did also argue that the U.S. could emerge from the disaster as a strengthened society.
Information dissemination via mass media Web sites was now highly developed, supplemented also by satellite and space-station imagery (McDonough, 2001), by extensive media site graphics (USA Today, 2001), and also by individual amateurs (i.e. not bona fide media professionals) whose access to the Web gave them low-cost dis-intermediated capability to distribute their own copy, usually still or video imagery (Bartlett, 2001b). Early metrics of search engine access indicated the extent of demand for media coverage, e.g. the Lycos most-used search terms being"CNN, News, World Trade Center, MSNBC, ABC News, BBC, Breaking news, World news, Whitney Houston, NBC. After the World Trade Center, other popular terms included "New York" and "Osama bin Laden", the exiled Saudi dissident suspected to masterminding the attacks" (BBC, 2001h).
The demand for the CNN site via searching was reported as being 160 times the normal load (Bonisteel, 2001). The rather bizarre presence of 'Whitney Houston' in this list was explained by 'apparently because of rumors surrounding her absence from Monday's special Michael Jackson concert' (BBC, 2001h), perhaps indicating that global attention to the terrorist events was still not damping down general levels of interest in popular media issues.
Economic ramifications continued to be reported, supplemented by the consequences of knee-jerk reactions by organizational bureaucracy. The low-fare airlines, with their ticket-less travel, were now reeling under the decision to ban ticket-less bookings (Wolverton and Sandoval, 2001b). This seemed pointless, since a valid identity document had to be shown before boarding with prior ticket-less systems, and such bookings were made universally with credit or debit cards that themselves implied an audit trail for the person involved. Yet even these U.S.-applied restrictions did not affect European low-fare operators, such as Ryanair, from which one of the authors continued to purchase ticket-less travel, solely via the Web, using a combination of credit and debit cards, throughout the period since 11 September, in Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Reflection and Analysis: The Weekend of 15-16 September
The weekend newspapers are typically more reflective than the dailies, and it was expected that continuing coverage of the aftermath would be supplemented by much more critical evaluation, sensitivity and analysis. Individual countries still identified closely with events through their own casualties, estimates by then being : 77 Indians (Anonymous, 2001a), 11 Brazilians (Anonymous, 2001i), four Malaysians (Emmanuel, 2001), with a global summary was provided by many newspapers including British Sunday tabloids (Anonymous, 2001e). Others, such as Roumania (Hareshian, 2001) were clearly affected by events.
The relative impact of television, newspaper and Internet in informing the world would be evaluated. Early findings reported that "more than four-fifths of Americans relied primarily on television for coverage. The project's telephone survey found 11 percent used radio, and only 3 percent turned to the Internet as the primary source" (Anonymous, 2001j), with a primary reason being the human voice commentating on the images on TV. The question of whether the media coverage should have been filtered or even censored was a challenge noted by the Nation in Kenya (Editorial, 2001d), concern being expressed about the unexpurgated images of horror, injury and death on the Web sites. The presence of terrorism in other countries would be evaluated, such as Malaysia, where surrounding countries had problems, as did Malaysia with its own ethnic tensions (Akmar, 2001).
Jingoism emerged in tabloid newspapers with the Sun in the U.K. providing a printable U.S. flag on its Web site under the heading "Fly Flag and Support America" (Anonymous, 2001m). The Washington Post worried whether the imagery had made things worse or was helping the grieving process (Farhi, 2001). Coming to terms with the disaster would place enormous burdens on counseling services in the U.S. in particular. Post-traumatic stress syndrome could be widely experienced, and particular concern existed in talking to children (ABC, 2001a).
Communications channels of all sorts were in operation, including e-mail and bulletin boards (BBC, 2001k; Yip, 2001; Bermant, 2001) that served to illustrate both the real strength of human reaction as well as the more unpleasant, unthinking and venomous utterances. The ABC News discussion forum contained e-mails asserting that President Bush was un-Christian, that Americans were hypocrites, as well as messages of condolence and support (ABC, 2001b).
An increase in racial and religious tension was reported from many countries. The Times of London reported instances of racial harassment at U.S. airports, where Arabic-looking people were treated to levels of interrogation not reserved for white people (Anonymous, 2001z). A ten-fold increase in racial abuse was reported in the U.K. (Carrell and Herbert, 2001). ABC News would play its part in encouraging understanding and reconciliation with a Saturday program allowing viewers to 'Chat With Muslim Cleric Al-Haaj Ghazi Khankan' (ABC, 2001c). So the same media channels that provided the sense of immediacy and proximity to the horror of the terrorist attacks would later provide the means to encourage understanding.
Within Pakistan, media coverage was cautious about whether an offensive would achieve closure on events:""You can't just go in and devastate a country," said Zinni, who as commander of the US Central Command was one of the Pentagon's top authorities on the region. "A military approach that strikes and leaves will only perpetuate the problem" by inflaming anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world," he added" (Khan, 2001).
Once news of the possible military offensive was heard by people in Afghanistan, a not surprising reaction was to flee (Shahid, 2001). Refugees headed for Pakistan and Iran. Iran had to close its borders to stem the flow of people (Anonymous, 2001t). In Afghanistan, the defiant government (Anonymous, 2001jj) asked people to prepare for a religious war, or Jihad (Anonymous, 2001kk).
At least one global pariah was reported as being true to form (Anonymous, 2001gg) - Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He remarked:"Isn't the evil inflicted on America in the act of September 11, 2001, and nothing else is a result of this and other acts? This is the main question and this is what the American administration along with of the Western governments or the Western public opinion should answer in the first place with serenity and responsibility, without emotional reaction and without the use of the same old methods that America used against the world" (Hussein, 2001).
The significance here is that he acknowledges that the disaster was 'evil', and, like others, questions whether a military response by the U.S. would work in the absence of a clear evaluation by the U.S. as to why the events occurred (Francis, 2001). There was widespread caution about a hasty military attack that might inflame, not ameliorate, the situation, and the Philippines Star expressed such views (Editorial, 2001c). The need for self-evaluation was noted in Cuba (Wotzkow, 2001) and, even more importantly, in the pages of the New York Times (Burns, 2001). Lebanon, meanwhile, sought to reassure the U.S. that it should not be regarded as a haven for terrorists (Hourani, 2001).
Nationally within the U.S. the domestic and economic paralysis was easing. All sporting events in the U.S. and Canada had been cancelled  (Harding and Smith, 2001). Countries such as Korea were more concerned by medium and long-term effects on their own economy (Sang-soo, 2001). The U.S. domestic economy was helped by the re-opening of airspace to domestic flights, although there were real concerns over the continuing viability of Washington Ronald Reagan Aiport with its flight paths in such close proximity to downtown Washington D.C. (Timberg and Layton, 2001). The U.K. initially banned flying over central London, but then relented because the policy was logistically unworkable for London Heathrow airport (BBC, 2001g). The need to help air travel to recover would be critical in averting massive bankruptcies of airlines (Howe and Aoki, 2001) and the resulting unemployment of tens of thousands of workers, directly or indirectly.
The role of President Bush came under attack, with criticism of his actions following the events compared to those of ex-President Clinton (Anonymous, 2001pp). However, President Clinton himself expressed unequivocal support of the actions of President Bush, arguing that the safety of the incumbent President was an imperative, and the Secret Service therefore needed to evaluate circumstances in detail before the President visited New York. When President Bush did visit, the reports were full of praise for his actions and his demeanor.
On a more parochial, community level, the identity of many of the terrorists was now known, and coverage included the 'shock-horror ... I had no idea a terrorist was living next door to me' syndrome. This was real human-interest material including reports from Germany where some of the terrorists had lived:"Ms Van Minden, who lives with her handicapped husband and is home almost all the time, said she regularly gazed from her window in the evenings and saw much of the activity in the men's first-floor apartment. She could see the two front windows of the apartment and saw a computer in each room. She said she sometimes saw visitors with the three men who lived in the apartment - usually about seven in all - "sitting in a circle looking at something on the wall as if they were praying"" (Anonymous, 2001bb).
The hijackers were, it was said, "Nineteen men, any one of whom could have been your next door neighbor. A support-network of 50 to 100 others, aided by a well-funded organization that stretched across four continents" (Rijn, 2001).
Some coverage continued to elaborate on the information and security failures (McGeough, 2001; Wilkinson, 2001), with reports that some of the terrorists had been under observation (Johnston and Lewis, 2001) prior to the attack, and that investigators now knew where they had learned to fly - in the U.S. itself (Marshall, 2001). The U.K. Sunday Times was extremely critical of U.S. domestic airport security. It was now acceptable for the Arizona Republic to publish its own damning report of security at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport (Zoellner, 2001). A seemingly bizarre explanation for the intelligence failures was postulated by the U.K. tabloid, the Sunday Mirror:"CIA officers have no wish to infiltrate Osama bin Laden's terrorist network because of the lack of sex, a former agent claimed last night. Reuel Marc Gerecht said he did not think the CIA has a single qualified Arabic-speaker who could play a believable undercover Muslim fundamentalist. If they did he would not want to spend years "with s****y food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan," he added" (Anonymous, 2001qq).
In itself this rather lurid and prurient coverage shows how different media sources adapt and adopt other sources. The original material about the CIA was in a disturbingly far-sighted analysis by Gerecht in Atlantic Monthly (Gerecht, 2001). Published in August 2001, just one month before the disaster, the main argument seems to be that Bin Laden has little to fear from the might of U.S. technological surveillance. The Sunday Mirror was correct in its quotation, for the Atlantic Monthly article states:"A former senior Near East Division operative says, "The CIA probably doesn't have a single truly qualified Arabic-speaking officer of Middle Eastern background who can play a believable Muslim fundamentalist who would volunteer to spend years of his life with shitty food and no women in the mountains of Afghanistan. For Christ's sake, most case officers live in the suburbs of Virginia. We don't do that kind of thing." A younger case officer boils the problem down even further: "Operations that include diarrhea as a way of life don't happen"" (Gerecht, 2001).
The bulk of the article, however, is a deeper analysis of the failings of high-tech surveillance and intelligence gathering.
By the weekend many people in the U.S. were considering being more rigorous in their use of the latest communication technologies. The role of mobile phones and e-mail was a good reason to upgrade old handsets (D'Innocenzio, 2001). Therefore, horrific though the events were, there were to be gainers in the information technologies sector (indeed profit makers - and even, as discussed later, the terrorists themselves profiting) as well as losers (in particular, the airlines and the other travel industry sectors).
Would communities in the U.S. now be irretrievably changed? Would the mythical 'American way of life' be consigned to history, especially in regard to personal freedoms? The Los Angeles Times reported that "But at least for now, Americans overwhelmingly favor retribution and prefer military action to more deliberative legal proceedings" (Barabak, 2001) (as also, allegedly, did the U.K. (Anonymous, 2001d)). The message regarding privacy also is worrying:"In the short term, Americans say they are willing to give up a good deal - from personal privacy to a bigger chunk of their paychecks - to restore some of the security they felt before terrorists crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" (Barabak, 2001).
The events of 11 September would continue to reverberate around the world, and will continue to impact on domestic economies and societies globally (Editorial, 2001a). Individual countries felt the need to upgrade their own security, for example at Japanese nuclear installations (Anonymous, 2001p). As the Sunday Telegraph in London noted, the next steps were largely 'Into the Unknown' (Myers, 2001). At the first Asia Pacific Economic Summit (APEC) of the new millennium, held in China from 20-21 October, the focus was clearly on terrorism and its potential impact on national, regional and global economies. The leaders of 21 APEC economies signed a "visionary" statement against terrorism. The participants, including China, U.S., Japan and Russia, committed "to take 'appropriate financial measures' to stop the funding of terrorism, enhance protection of industries like telecommunications and transport, and watch air and sea security" (McMillan, 2001).
While declaring that the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. were 'murderous', no mention was made of the U.S. retaliation in Afghanistan, proving once again that the 'old order' was reasserting itself along regional political lines.
Ripple and Reverberations - The Aftermath into Mid October
Like an earthquake, the World Trade Center disaster changed the landscape of New York: suddenly and massively, with aftershocks being felt in the economic slowdown, in threats to health, and in the possibility of more terrorist attacks. But it was more than an earthquake, since far away landscapes were changed elsewhere and just as dramatically. It was not even Gaia, since the energy and impact from the position of Ground Zero did not dissipate on the basis of natural or physical laws. Neither did the events fit into a predictive pattern. Perhaps the 'least worst' model of the whole event, i.e. the attacks and their aftermath, is a chaotic one, in which dramatic and unexpected series of interactions, after they had happened, could be evaluated and interpreted rationally.
The economic impacts, for example, were felt widely, especially in the travel industry. In the U.S., e-commerce sales fell (Christoffersen, 2001; Koller, 2001), not so much because of problems in the e-commerce sector, but due more to a reduction in willingness to purchase generally in the weeks following 11 September. U.S. retail sales experienced their biggest fall in nine years in the month following the attacks (Neikirk, 2001). The airline industry was seriously effected (Greenberg, 2001), ranging from the suspension of e-tickets (Anonymous, 2001c) for temporary (Kelsey, 2001b) and questionable security reasons (as if the information about a customer was more reliable if printed on a physical ticket that on an e-mail confirmation?), to business reductions that led to bankruptcy of national airlines Swissair and Sabena, the near bankruptcy of other national airlines such as Aer Lingus, plus the closure of smaller regional and local airlines such as Gill Air in the northeast of England. Even airports were under threat of bankruptcy (Milner and Osborn, 2001).
Some airlines, particularly low fare airlines in Europe, saw increased business, leading then to tensions with governments in Europe, and with the European Commission, regarding financial assistance to what the low fare airlines considered to be already failing national carriers. Fear of travel, based on often irrational evaluations of events rather than evidence-based information evaluation, meant that even long-distance bus travel in the U.S. was suffering. Elder (2001) discusses the fears of passengers traveling on Greyhound buses, and the extra precautions taken by bus companies.
So the assessment of risk enters the information equation, concerning individual safety, stability of multi-national corporations and even the future of major events. The insurance coverage for the 2002 soccer World Cup was put at risk when U.K. insurers were no longer willing to underwrite the policy for the England team (Chaudhary, 2001).
Maybe a different conceptualization will emerge, because the events of 11 September represented a huge interaction of physical and information space in a way hitherto not experienced. By late September, the information conduits were reporting a change in emphasis from shock and outrage to one of planning response, revenge, and realigning political and administrative strategies to cope with the threat of global terrorism. In the context of global information, nine possible themes emerge in relation to information coverage.
The media self-evaluates its role and responds
The mass media had been crucial in providing channels connecting people around the world in real-time to the events of 11 September. Subsequent to that, they had been influential in helping people evaluate and understand the issues behind the attack. They also would become vital in communicating the rationale behind the emerging military response. In the U.K., the Guardian, on 17 September, published comments from the editors of U.K. national newspapers (Anonymous, 2001s). For television presenters, there were the tensions of non-stop feeds of the images and the context in which they could comment (Brown, 2001). In a review of the U.K. media coverage, an ex-editor of a national newspaper, Roy Greenslade, concluded that it was the explicit contributions of individuals that should be remembered:"Finally, after reading acres of newsprint, it's perhaps significant that I was most struck by one sentence buried in the reportage. The Guardian's New York team talked to a man who had walked down from the 80th floor of one tower. "There were firemen going up as we were coming down," he said. "They were going up to heaven, effectively". Forget all the pictures and the headlines and the commentaries. That single poignant quote encapsulated both the horror and the bravery. Journalism was properly fulfilling its task, telling us what it was like to live and to die on the day New York caught fire" (Greenslade, 2001).
The balance between Internet and conventional media, when people were accessing information on the day, indicated the extent to which multiple channels were used:"While only 3% of US adults turned to the Internet as their prime source for information, a further 64% reported using it as a secondary source about last Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. US adults referred to the television (78%) and the radio (15%) as their prime source of information about the attacks" (Porter, 2001).
Media sensitivity about what can be said, shown, or played after the events, meant that re-scheduling of content was deemed necessary. Self-censorship of popular music broadcasting occurred, avoiding such songs as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" (King, 2001a). Not everyone, however, got it right. The October 2001 issue of GeoInformatics (www.geoinformatics.com) had a satellite picture of the smoke rising from the collapsed WTC twin towers - a timely picture for a magazine covering geographic technologies, including remote sensing. However, the same cover page had thumbnails of articles. At the same level as the smoke from Ground Zero, just slightly to the left, is the title of the main article 'GIS Visualization: The Killer Application'. This was hardly the most apt positioning of words.
The mass media, of course, deal both with information reality and unreality. Reality meets unreality most in the popular newspapers where the film and television stars feature more prominently. Film stars were attempting to link to reality at Ground Zero, perhaps to regain their media visibility at a time when unreality was now far less important than reality:"Can anyone blame them, in these straightened circumstances, for sneaking down to Ground Zero to get a slice of the compassion action? Apparently, celebs have been approaching the disaster zone as if it were a happening nightspot. Some have been phoning ahead, but many have presumed that their fame would be enough to get them past the security cordons" (Raven, 2001).
Nevertheless, while the media had a pivotal role in the dissemination of information, they also were affected economically, particularly by a serious fall in advertising revenues as general economic activity fell (Phillips, 2001).
Suppression of information
There was an almost mortified realization that the terrorists probably used technological and information tools that help underpin global capitalism. First, their possible use of technology could extend to cellular phones, encrypted communications via the Internet, and detailed map data available in the public domain in the U.S. (Campbell, 2001; Hall, 2001; Weisman, 2001a). Second, there was a shocked realization that terrorism could have been capitalizing on the information and the tools of capitalism. Did Bin Laden profit from knowledge of the impact the actions would have on stocks and shares (Godson, 2001), and did he therefore invest in a way that profited after the event?
Suddenly, information previously ubiquitously available was hastily withdrawn (Anonymous, 2001b; Gugliotta, 2001; Ornstein and Schoch, 2001; Smith, 2001). For example"The [U.S.] Transportation Department has removed its national mapping system for a variety of pipelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yanked a report on the dangers of chemical plant terrorism. The Environmental Protection Agency pulled information on risk management programs, which inform communities of dangers from 15,000 chemical plants and other industrial facilities nationwide" (Ornstein and Schoch, 2001).
The removal of data on one hand could be seen as a sensible precaution to stop terrorists using this information to plan further attacks on different targets. However, more realistically it should be seen as an action that is more understandable as administrative knee-jerk reactions. If information strategy is now part of the terrorists' toolkit, then they would almost certainly have key data downloaded prior to 11 September, after which they would presume that such data would be withdrawn.
Even pressure groups hitherto promoting open access to information sometimes felt the need to self-censor their own sites. The Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy maintained on their site information regarding "nuclear technology, weapons deployment and the locations and, in some cases even floor plans, of secret U.S. intelligence facilities" (McGuire, 2001a). Not surprisingly they re-evaluated what could be left on the site in the context of current security fears.
The U.K., being the major partner with the U.S. in a military response in Afghanistan, also reviewed data holdings and policies."A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed the policy was now under review but would not say whether it would be forced or voluntary. "We are considering the policy on data retention in the context of the emergency legislation on the back of the attacks in the US"" (McCue, 2001).
This rather equivocal response is more indicative of the fact that the U.K. has a much less open policy on data availability anyway, whereas U.S. government data holdings have been ubiquitously accessible. Any reduction in availability has potential constitutional implications under Freedom of Information legislation.
These examples of information suppression, appearing so suddenly in reaction to a single event, regardless of how dramatic or tragic, lead one to question just how well considered the existing information strategies actually are across the spectrum of 'free access' to 'no access' groups in the information community.
Increased availability of information
Examples here are rather harder to find, although the most fundamental increase in information availability is the content provided, mostly free of charge, by the global media. For example, "The National Academies have put 23 of their reports on security and terrorism on their Web site" (Sweeney, 2001). The creation of online archives as repositories of information about the events was noted by McAuliffe. The U.S. Library of Congress was aware that:"Hundreds of Web sites have been set up around the world since 11 September to exchange information about the disaster. The Web Preservation Team at the Library of Congress, a group called the Internet Archive and a research project hosted at webArchivist.org are working in collaboration to build an electronic historical record of this time, which will be available to all members of the public" (McAuliffe, 2001).
Manipulation of information
Propaganda expands in importance during war situations, and that suppression of information also occurs. There is a huge literature on political propaganda, but it is noteworthy when a government is caught explicitly promoting the use of a major news event to announce unpopular decisions or policies. Throughout 2001, the U.K. experienced a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, itself being an event that has adversely impacted the economy, particularly the domestic tourism industry, at a cost of many billions of Euro. Following the events of 11 September, the U.K. government suffered another outbreak, this time of foot-in-the-mouth disease (Day, 2001; Harper, 2001; Sturgeon, 2001; Wintour, 2001b).
This scandal started when a U.K. political advisor issues a memo directing staff to implement a well-known ploy in PR circles - bury bad news behind some other more newsworthy event. As Wintour noted "If the first casualty of war is truth, the second casualty is newspaper space devoted to non-war news, something the army of Whitehall spin doctors, ever eager to manage bad news, has not been slow to spot" (Wintour, 2001b).
The scandal was not so much the fact that this process goes on, but that the memo was so explicit, and that it was written on the day of the disaster. This puts into stark perspective the subsequent alleged attempts by the government to persuade the media to self-censor the news:"Downing Street has summoned senior broadcasters to a meeting this week to discuss the security implications of their war coverage, including the screening of videos by the al-Qaida network. The meeting, sought by Tony Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, will also discuss the treatment of claims by the Taleban that Afghan citizens are being killed in the bombing raids" (Wintour, 2001a).
Truth and objectivity are difficult things to maintain in times of war due not only to military hostilities towards an enemy, but also to information hostilities towards the conveyors of information.
The re-emergence of dissonant information
At times of extreme national, local and individual trauma, when is it acceptable to be cynical, critical or satirical again? It was the New Yorker issue of 24 September that took the brave step of inviting celebrated writers to express their thoughts and emotions about 11 September (Angell, 2001; Antrim, 2001; Appelfeld, 2001; Franzan, 2001; Ghosh, 2001; Johnson, 2001; Mead, 2001; Sontag, 2001; Updike, 2001). But it was the contribution of Susan Sontag that generated real opprobrium, with her initial sentence stating:"The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing" (Sontag, 2001).
It is probably the case that there is no 'correct' time to express such views after such a massive loss of life, and in the City's high-profile magazine, but it does represent the necessary balance required in an objective and inquiring media. Sontag was pilloried for her comments. In an interview by David Talbot (Talbot, 2001b; Talbot, 2001a), entitled "The "traitor" fires back", she was unrepentant about her views:"What I wrote was a howl of dismay at all the nonsense that I was hearing. That people were in a state of great pain and bewilderment and fear I clearly understood. But I thought, "Uh-oh, here comes a sort of revival of cold war rhetoric and something utterly sanctimonious that is going to make it very hard for us to figure out how best to deal with this." And I have to say that my fears have been borne out" (Talbot, 2001a).
If it is difficult to write critically, then when is it acceptable to be satirical again? The U.K. magazine Private Eye had as its cover dated 21 September the image of George Bush being told of the attacks by an aide. The speech bubble had the aide saying "Mr President, it's Armageddon", and the President's bubble stating "Well, I'm Armageddon out of here". This continues a long tradition of Private Eye covers that can both wound and amuse. The letters page in the next issue of 5 October contained both expressions of disgust, as well as letters of support of a free and questioning media (Letters, 2001).
As ever, the balance between free-speech, individual sensitivities, and morality is a difficult one to achieve, even more so when an event had such global ramifications. For Microsoft, however, the boundaries of taste were very clear indeed. Microsoft would remove the images of the Towers from its Flight Simulator 2000 package (BBC, 2001i), and the corporation announced a delay in the release of the product (Thurrott, 2001). The launch date, planned before the disaster, was to be 18 October 2001.
Indicators of changing information priorities
It's rather macabre, but something globally shattering would have to occur to displace sex as the world's favorite search term (Anonymous, 2001hh; Oates, 2001). The search term 'sex' was pushed off the top of the most-used search term list. Instead, "A new seriousness has gripped the net, with searches for entertainment, sport and nude celebrities no longer ruling the roost" (Anonymous, 2001cc).
The U.K. National Health Service demonstrated how organizations rapidly adapted their information channels to deliver advice on possible health risks directly to health practitioners. First there was urgent advise to health units from the Chief Medical Officer on the day of the disaster, requesting:"I am writing to you to request that you urgently check that your Health Community Emergency Plans are active and contact numbers and procedures are current. I would particularly advise that you check that your contacts with the Police and other emergency services are correct and tested without delay" (Simpson, 2001).
Subsequently, the threat of biochemical attack became a serious one. The Chief Medical Officer's circular included questions and answers for doctors to use if patients were concerned about traveling to the U.S. (Troop, 2001).
The political re-prioritization of information society issues
These themes are perhaps the most worrying in the long-term, since much was discussed about the threats to privacy as governments and their intelligence agencies argued for greater access to individual information (e-mail, phone conversations etc.), as well as to more surveillance capabilities.
First, however, there were new information moral dilemmas. Is hacking ethical when it attacks terrorism? There was the usual shock-horror at hackers defacing 'allied' sites, for example the WTC site itself (McWilliams, 2001). But is it justified to attack 'enemy' sites, for example? (Hermida, 2001; Rodriguez, 2001; Stafford, 2001) Does such hacking come under a heading of legitimate warfare?
Suddenly privacy was almost a dirty word, since it was sometimes being emotionally linked with the fact that terrorists may be able to hide behind a veil of privacy (Gold, 2001; Olsen and Hansen, 2001). There was a continuing introspection and evaluation of technological tools, particularly in the context of the failure of high-tech intelligence agencies such as the CIA to predict the disaster (Piller and Wilson, 2001; Weisman, 2001b). The FBI called for more access to e-mail records (Goodley, 2001), and the U.S. Congress and House of Representatives heard calls for stronger legislation in favor of surveillance and intelligence gathering (Anonymous, 2001q; Jackson, 2001; Jones, 2001a; Koszczuk, 2001; McGuire, 2001b).
As if the information society and globalization were not having enough impact on employment stability, there was now consideration as to whether aircraft could be automated. If human pilots are not there to be overcome by hijackers, would this be safer? This does recall a conversation Michael Blakemore had with pilots when flying some years ago from Toronto to Manchester. While over Ireland, the pilots said that one of the key challenges was to stay alert while the autopilot was flying the plane. The Captain then quipped that while aircraft could fly in a fully automated fashion, humans in the passenger cabin would be unlikely to accept a machine flying them . He argued that in the future the planes would fly automatically, but with a human pilot and a monkey next to the pilot. The job of the monkey would be to restrain the pilot from touching the controls and thus imperiling the aircraft."Raytheon is one of several companies looking to use new satellite technology that could someday allow jets to be landed by people on the ground, in much the same way that hobbyists bring in their model airplanes by remote control. The company announced Monday that its technology had guided a Federal Express 727 to a safe landing on a New Mexico Air Force base in August - all without the need of a pilot" (Anonymous, 2001ff).
This does beg the question, however, as to whether this process falls under the fallacy of technological progress. If we find a new technology, will not the terrorists simply learn that technology, and hack into the guidance systems? There are statistical and social attitudes at risk here. Another psuedo-technological information panacea proposed was the introduction of identity cards (France, Green, et al., 2001; Jones, 2001b; Kite, 2001; Lillington, 2001; Murray, 2001).
The politics of media language
Once the military response towards Afghanistan was underway, the global media needed to classify it within their national political and domestic editorial contexts. Was it war, was it unjustified hostility, was it ethical, was it a U.S. and U.K. event or was it regional and global? This is worthy of analysis in its own right, but a survey of media sites on Sunday, 14 October illustrates the diversity of interpretations:
- The World Fights Back: The People (U.K.) http://www.people.co.uk/
- The West at War: The Sunday Mirror (U.K.) http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/
- War Against Terrorism: The Independent (U.K.) http://www.independent.co.uk/
- A Nation Challenged. America Attacks: New York Times http://www.nytimes.com
- War on Terrorism: Daily Telegraph (U.K.) http://www.telegraph.co.uk Sunday Sun (Newcastle, U.K.) http://icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/
- Weather to delay invasion: Sunday Mail (Queensland, Australia) http://www.thesundaymail.news.com.au
- The attacks early yesterday morning Australian time by the United States and Britain on Afghanistan mark the first salvo in their war against terrorism. Justice or Vengance: Canberra Times http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/
- War on Terror. Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/
- Attack on Afghanistan. The Observer/Guardian (London) http://www.observer.co.uk/
- U.S. Under Attack. U.S. Strikes Back. War on Terrorism: Straits Times (Singapore) http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/home
- Little mention, stories mainly about the recovery of the Kursk submarine, Moscow Times http://www.themoscowtimes.com/indexes/04.html
- America's War. The Daily Trust (Abuja) via http://www.allafrica.com
- Afghanistan Conflict. Pravda (Russia) http://english.pravda.ru
- Eliminating the Scourge of Terrorism. Vanguard (Lagos) via http://www.allafrica.co
- Attack on Afghans. An Ignoble War. Times of India http://www.timesofindia.com/
- Attack on America - the Retaliation. CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com
- America Strikes Back. CNN http://www.cnn.com ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/ National Post (Canada) http://www.nationalpost.com/
- Strike on Afghanistan. BBC (U.K.) http://www.bbc.co.uk
Conclusion: The Old Information Order Starts to Re-establish?
At the end of the period during which we surveyed the information sources (the weekend of 14 October), traditional polarizations re-established themselves along pre-existing political fault lines. This is hardly surprising, given the U.S. Presidential view that you are either 'for us or against us', leaving no room for equivocation. The Afghan government is grateful for the support of Turkmenistan, with the Afghan Ambassador to that country stating "The neutral policy of his excellency Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy the Great is supported not only in Turkmenistan, but also all over the world" (BBC, 2001a). The U.S. expressed gratitude to Kazakhstan for its support of the U.S., claiming "We are not planning a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. We only want there to be the possibility for the Afghan people to set up their own government involving all of Afghanistan's ethnic groups" (BBC, 2001l).
India was hostile to Pakistan's alleged definition of terrorism, since India regards "Islamabad's acceptance of the 1 October attack on northern India's Jammu and Kashmir Assembly as an act of terrorism" (BBC, 2001e). A leading article in the Times of India was critical of the attack on Afghanistan, concluding that "An ill-defined and unilateral war that undermines international law and the U.N. Charter can only lead to the perpetuation of terrorism, not its elimination" (Varadarajan, 2001). Saddam Hussein resumed his normal levels of hostility to the U.S.:"He said the U.S. should not confront violence with more violence, but should consider any party that resorts to terrorism to be "a mere individual case". However, he said, if an individual case represented the conscience of the people, that was a different matter. Saddam said the U.S. would become weaker every time it waged aggression against "a certain country"" (BBC, 2001f).
Nigeria was worried about the impact of attacks on an Islamic nation on its own fragile ethnic tensions (BBC, 2001c; Suleiman and Yashim, 2001); the Egyptians are broadly supportive of the U.S. but were very worried about the impact on their economy (BBC, 2001j); and, the Iranians moved back to a critical stance of the military actions of the U.S. and the U.K. (BBC, 2001d).
Has the world then really changed? The Economist of 27 September reviewed globalization (Anonymous, 2001u; Anonymous, 2001o). Looking at an historical perspective, the Economist concluded:"Economic liberty suffered a terrible reverse in the 1930s, thanks to war, financial breakdown and bad government. That brought one era of globalisation to an end, and history could repeat itself. Let us at least agree, however, that if governments allow this to happen it would be a tragedy - and not for the rich West, first and foremost, but for all the poor of the developing world" (Anonymous, 2001u).
The fact that the political fault lines remained in place is not in itself new. However, the fact remains that the fault lines were so quickly accessible through the conduits of the information society, rapidly through workstations in our houses and offices. We could exchange our reading and writing almost in real-time between Durham and Luxembourg, America and China, an indication of the power of the Internet. There are real concerns that one of the casualties may be personal privacy, but it is just as likely that the legislative reactions may lead to increased sensitivity by the public of privacy, and what it means.
As a result of 11 September 2001, will there be any discernible shift in development of the Information Society? Will such changes be for the better, leading for example to greater online security, thus encouraging increased consumer level e-commerce? Or will these changes be for the worse,such as "Big Brother" style online surveillance of e-mail, Internet discussion forums and Web pages, driving users away in droves? Economics aside, perhaps the potential impact of these events will lead to the Internet to be increasingly seen as a vehicle to introduce and assist the growth of democracy and citizens' participation in their own governance, so badly needed in so many parts of the world today.
America will survive the destruction of the WTC towers and the damage done to the Pentagon. The economic cost will be great, but affordable for the largest economy in the world. The loss of innocent life, while tragic and to be deplored, may bring Americans closer together as a nation, just as past disasters and traumas have done. But will the Information Society as we knew it survive unscathed?
About the Authors
Michael Blakemore is Professor of Geography at the University of Durham, U.K.
Roger Longhorn is a consultant in information policy and strategy.
4. The site www.taleban.com was an attempt by the regime to provide a dis-intermediated source of information to the world. It was, however, rather contradictory that they felt it necessary to embrace a technology that they banned domestically. As of 26 October the site has the sole text 'This site is no longer available'.
5. The actual enumeration of the numbers of dead was to be a major challenge. Apart from the grim reality of the lack of physical remains for many victims, U.S. authorities would be faced with information processing challenges, including the matching of names reported in slightly different ways by relatives and friends.
6. Indeed, we were both working in Luxembourg on this paper from 13-17 September and even the local village cinema was closed out of respect to the U.S. until the 17th. At a flower show in the village on the 15-16th the majority of the attendees were dressed in mourning.
7. Indeed, when the Victoria Line was introduced on the London Underground (subway), the trains were fully automatic. However, passenger concern led to the introduction of humans at the front cab, largely for cosmetic reasons.
Wherever possible we provide direct URLs. However, some sites do use temporary URLs, or link within a frame thus masking the direct reference.
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Anonymous, 2001r. "How Cell Phones Made Calls From Ill-Fated Jets," International Herald Tribune 14 September, at http://www.iht.com/articles/32486.html, accessed 14 September 2001.
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Paper received 18 September 2001; revision received 26 October 2001; accepted 16 November 2001.
Copyright ©2001, First Monday
Communicating Information about the World Trade Center Disaster: Ripples, Reverberations, and Repercussions by Michael Blakemore and Roger Longhorn
First Monday, volume 6, number 12 (December 2001),
A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.
© First Monday, 1995-2016.