Susan Sontag was right
Today’s authoritarian regime of punitive mass infantilization started 9/11/2001
After the twin towers in Manhattan were reduced to rubble Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the New Yorker commissioned a group of their top writers to pen brief essays about the event. Most of these epistles have passed into oblivion with little notice, but the briefest essay among them by Susan Sontag caused a disproportionate eruption of outrage in both official government circles and the media organs dedicated to amplifying their messages. It is still controversial today.
An excerpt from Ms. Sontag’s comments.
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. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.
Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together.
“Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
Within a month of 9/11, then President George W. Bush declared a never ending war on the ill defined noun “terror.” His war message was amplified uncritically by sycophantic media, which gushed that he had already risen to the occasion to become a wartime president. A year long, historic spike in his approval ratings followed, giving him political carte blanche that ended with large swaths of the Middle East destabilized and engulfed in the flames of permanent war.
In contrast to mainstream media, Sontag characterized Bush as “robotic” and thought the bombing of Afghanistan, which ranked among the lowest nations on earth in the UN’s human development index with 70% of the population malnourished, was a fool’s errand. Dissenting voices such as her’s were pushed to the margins of national dialogue. She was quickly labeled an "America-hater," a "moral idiot" and a "traitor" who deserved to be driven into "the wilderness.” She also received death threats.
Sontag responded by condemning the “rhetorical overkill” and rampant “demonization” sweeping the nation while worrying publicly that America’s “cow-like media and scaremongering leaders,” combined with widespread “self- censorship” might turn the country into a police state.
Regarding the Bush presidency, Sontag noted that “the  election was stolen for him,” and she characterized his administration as “some kind of regency, run presumably by [Vice President] Cheney and [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld.” She summarized by noting that although big media had been intimidated into compliance with official narratives, “you can't shut everyone up.” (Ibid)
Sontag’s concerns about the direction the nation was taking in the wake of 9/11 look prescient today. After more than 20 years of the War on Terror, culminating in a disgraceful and bloody retreat from Afghanistan in 2021, Brown University calculates the cost of this monumental folly at $8 trillion and nearly 1 million deaths. The enormous geopolitical costs, on the other hand, are incalculable.
THEN & NOW — THE FEAR BASED NARRATIVES OF TERROR & COVID
One of the most striking things about Sontag’s 2001 essay and follow up comments is how perfectly her characterization of the era, even down to her charge of “a stolen election” resulting in the installation of the incompetent emotional hotspur George W. Bush as President, and the counter attacks against her for straying from officially sanctioned narratives, fit the new Covid & Climate regime of 2022. This time, the “stolen election” ended with the installation of elderly Joe Biden as president. Like Bush before him, Biden is controlled by senior administration handlers in service to a transnational agenda.
In Bush’s day, the transnational script, dressed in patriotic finery, came from the Project for a New American Century and their call for a US-led New World Order. With the installation of Biden, the vehicle for transition to a transnational order, a “Great Reset,” is comprised of a coordinated network of global banks, corporations and extra governmental organizations ranging from the WEF to the UN, the WHO, World Bank, IMF, Blackrock, etc., a cadre of so called “global stakeholders” who think of themselves as “sovereignty-free actors.”
The “self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions” from government officials and media as well as “a campaign to infantilize the public” described by Sontag in 2001 have continued unabated for 20 years and become more virulent since the March 2020 declaration of a global pandemic.
Lamenting the emergence of a “ubiquitous surveillance state” after 9/11, the ACLU noted in September 2021:
Over the last two decades, government forces have trampled on civil rights and liberties in the name of 9/11. What the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks has made abundantly clear 20 years later is that the freedoms and rights we trade away in the midst of an emergency are exceedingly difficult to claw back once that emergency has faded from the headlines.
During the past two and one half years of medical authoritarianism in the name of fighting an ever mutating virus, it has become clear that fear of terror has morphed into a generalized culture of disorienting, weaponized, infantilizing anxiety that has turned inward and is meant to be permanent — fear of viruses; of one another; of nuclear war; domestic terrorists, racists and insurrectionists; rogue gender pronouns; climate apocalypse; inflation; supply shortages; drug addiction. The list is seemingly endless.
Adding to the anti-democratic 9/11 legacy of a perpetual 24/7 surveillance state, the new Covid & Climate censorship regime wields the concept of “misinformation” as a cudgel to confine all political speech within officially sanctioned channels. The anti-democratic hypocrisy of those demanding censorship echoes the calls for Sontag’s cancellation more than two decades ago.
Navarra Institute researcher David Thunder observes that “Advocates of heavy-handed political censorship, parading under the banner of misinformation-detectors,” are using the term not as a “politically neutral, scientific criterion of correctness, but [as] a powerful tool of political propaganda.”
In Sontag’s day, french fries were renamed “freedom fries” lest the “enemy” be given quarter. Today, any questioning of official narratives is characterized as a form of quasi-criminal deviance and denialism with chilling effects on first amendment rights.
Even more troubling, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Glenn Greewald notes that the Biden administration’s new domestic terrorism framework is a “dangerous attempt to turn the war posture of the U.S. military inward to its own citizens.”
Biden’s “blood red” speech in Philadelphia September 1, 2022, cast in terms of saving the “nation’s soul,” left no doubt that the War on Terror has now become a faux religious domestic war against apostate US citizens.
At the end of Biden’s speech he urged Americans to “Vote, vote, vote.” It is an empty exhortation, a version of what Sontag once described as “nihilism for the masses.” More multi-billion dollar consumer election spectacles will not be sufficient to reverse the nihilist slide into infantilization and authoritarianism that began on 9/11.