Research at CIC Universities Explores Reactions and Impact of 9/11

Sep 09, 2011

As the nation reflects on the events of 9/11, scholars and researchers at Penn State University and the University of Chicago are looking closely at how the impact of the events of that day ten years ago has been reflected through the lens of daily life,  policies, and academics.

In "Newslore: Contemporary Folklore on the Internet" (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Russell Frank, associate professor of communications at Penn State University, analyzed the newslore -- jokes, rumors and doctored photographs circulated through e-mail and on websites -- about recent events in American history, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Soon after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Frank saw a growing wave of newslore about the attacks. Most of the material was not fit for distribution in the mainstream media. In one doctored picture, the Statue of Liberty is gesturing with an extended middle finger. Another photo appeared to show a tourist on the observation deck of the World Trade Center seconds before the plane hit the tower.

Newslore can be cathartic for both the creator and the recipient. In the case of Sept. 11 newslore, the jokes and images initially targeted Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda and one of the planners of the attacks. He was often depicted in doctored photos and cartoons as hunted by U.S. jet fighters or being tortured.  "One way to cut an enemy down to size is to mock them," Frank said. "You make them look ridiculous and you take away their power."

On the policy and academic front, The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism at the University of Chicago has launched a website devoted to reflections and strategies from policymakers and academics on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11.  The site offers original contributions on the Middle East, Islam, homeland security, U.S. military policies and terrorism-fighting strategies such as “Off Shore Balancing.” The website emphasizes new perspectives, in addition to archival material.

In addition to perspectives written especially for the site, it is a comprehensive resource for media, policymakers and academics. CPOST has collected many videos, op-eds and other resources regarding 9/11 including:

  “The 9/11 anniversary is an important time to re-think the course of U.S. national security policy,” says Robert Pape who directs CPOST, “and these wide-ranging, thoughtful perspectives are an excellent beginning.”

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