There is already talk that like December 7, 1941, the date
September 11, 2001, will be "a day that will live in infamy." But the
recent terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has
proved far deadlier than Pearl Harbor, as USA Today (September 12)
The Los Angeles Times (September 13) observed that this month's attack
was also worse than the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, which
had stood for nearly 140 years as the bloodiest single day in American
history. Now with combined figures of missing persons and those who have
died surpassing the 5,000 mark, September 11, 2001 may have even more
historical significance than Antietam.
In measuring editorial support for a formal declaration of war in the
wake of the attack, Carma found that dozens of newspaper editorials
wrote that America was already at war. The media was not waiting for the
US government to make any formal declarations.
Newspapers also recognized that the difficulty in initially identifying
the enemy makes this battle unlike any previous war America has
In New York, Newsday (September 12) published an editorial with the
headline: "It's war, but against whom?" The media noted that this would
not be a conventional war among nation-states. With no one claiming
responsibility for the September 11 attacks, the media, if not the
government, was unsure of the foe.
Commentators urged Americans not to react blindly in their anger. With
fingers most often pointed at Saudi-born Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan,
there was frequent caution that Americans should not infringe upon the
civil liberties of Arab-Americans, as happened to Japanese-Americans
during World War II.
A number of editorials also focused on how the coordinated attack could
have happened, lamenting the fact that US intelligence and security
personnel were caught flat-footed. USA Today (September 12) wondered,
"Why was our intelligence so lacking?"
In covering President Bush's statement that the US will not distinguish
between those who commit acts of terrorism and those who harbor them -
the media urged America to build a coalition of allies. These reports
looked approvingly on the fact that NATO had deemed the attack on the US
to be an attack on each of its members. An editorial in The New York
Times (September 13) read, "Terrorism operates internationally. The war
against it must be organized internationally as well."
A number of editorials identified the September 11 attack as a pivotal
event in US history and argued that America will never be the same
There had previously been a perception that terrorists would never be
successful in attacking American soil. However, the inconveniences of
increased security, and the demands of war will erase any kind of
innocence, according to the media.
Although editorial coverage addressed additional topics such as acts of
heroism in the face of this tragedy and the need for grieving, there was
also an unshakable belief that a united America should and must pull
together to defend itself against attack.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found