What Do You Tell Your Children About 9/11?

Detail from the graphic novel I Survived the attacks of September 11, 2001

The empire never stops churning out soft propaganda to make sure that the next generations in the U.S. are as confused about their government’s wrongdoings as their forebears were. When do you tell your own children the truth? And how do you present it in terms they are able to understand?

I’ve previously mentioned the publishing company Scholastic which does a lot of the heavy lifting around selling pro-war, pro-imperialism narratives to young children. One of their mechanisms for infiltrating public schools is through book fairs, thoroughly commercial enterprises that reach right into publicly funded school time to sell kids on militarism with books that come with their own set of dog tags. Never too young to start thinking about being cannon fodder for the empire!

A Scholastic series that is very popular with a first grader I love is the I Survived series. Among historical fiction about a character who survives the great molasses flood in Boston or the shark attacks of 1916 we find the title: I SURVIVED THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.

Consuming stories about peril like fairy tales or historical fiction is a way to process our fears as fragile human beings. Preying on this tendency in order to sell imperial narratives is a way to make money while serving the power structures that can make our lives prosperous or miserable.

But what to tell the children?

Australian mom Caitlin Johnstone wrote today: 

Humans have two adulthoods: the first is physical maturity, the second is intellectual maturity. The second adulthood is the process of learning that everything you were taught about the world in childhood is false, and discovering the truth of what’s really going on. The first adulthood is thrust upon us by nature and time, while the second is a conscious and deliberate process we choose for ourselves. All humans reach the first adulthood if they live long enough. Very few reach the second.

I prefer the discovery method of education but what is a reasonable response to the barrage of misinformation visited upon a typical American 1st grader?

Well friends, I came right out and said in response to many questions about the details of the 9/11 attack in New York City: Your own government caused 9/11. This news was received with skepticism (hooray!) and then I faced the fundamental pedagogical question, how best to support my claim for this audience?

I went with the amazing coincidence between what the event would come to be called and the three digit emergency services number that all in the U.S. had known for years: dial 911.

Still skeptical (hooray!).

Then I felt it only fair to protect my loved one who is still quite an innocent child by adding: If you say this at school, some people might get mad at you.

You may disagree with my choices. I had the benefit of a father who told me the hard truth about political realities long before most children were thought old enough to handle it. I think this accelerated what Johnstone calls the second adulthood. It’s been a benefit in my life, not a curse.

What do you tell the children about 9/11?

BARBIE & OPPENHEIMER Are Both Sophisticated Propaganda Vehicles

I can hear you saying, “I get that OPPENHEIMER could be soft propaganda for nuclear weapons use but BARBIE??” And I’m right there with you — because not everything that comes out of Hollywood is propaganda for the U.S. empire’s war machine.

Unless it is.

Bear with me while I notice that a) BARBIE is stirring up controversy over a map that is glimpsed showing a nine-dash line delineating areas in the South China Sea right off the coast of China and 

b) U.S. client countries like the Philippines are lining up to ban BARBIE because they object to where the line is.

Here’s the non-fanciful map that NPR (National Pentagon Radio) served up in early July to accompany their article linked above:

Here’s another map I saw this morning that may have some relevance here:

Pew Research map shows unfavorable views of China are rather uneven worldwide and furthermore suggests that propaganda works. The highest percent of those viewing China unfavorably are in U.S. client states Australia and Japan, followed by U.S. client state Sweden, followed by the U.S. itself.
Heck, evenfalse stories about the Barbie movie are helping to fan the flames of the map controversy.

It’s evil, but I have to admire the empire’s narrative management strategies.

As for OPPENHEIMER? Don’t get me started. While sheepdogs for the Democratic Party insist the movie is required viewing and sure to turn anyone anti-nuclear, sharper analysts reach different conclusions. From indigenous activists Klee Benally and Leona Morgan:

To glorify such deadly science and technology as a dramatic character study, is to spit in the face of hundreds of thousands of corpses and survivors scattered throughout the history of the so-called Atomic age.

Think of it this way, for every minute that passes during the film’s 3-hour run time, more than 1,100 citizens in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki died due to Oppenheimer’s weapon of mass destruction. This doesn’t account for those downwind of nuclear tests who were exposed to radioactive fallout (some are protesting screenings), it doesn’t account for those poisoned by uranium mines, it doesn’t account for those killed during nuclear power plant melt-downs, it doesn’t account for those in the Marshall Islands who are forever poisoned.

Of course the real power of propaganda is directing our attention, both away from inconvenient truths and toward a version of reality that benefits the powerful.

I’ll leave you with this example from popular culture aimed at young kids: 

This is  from a picture book for children, Diary of a Spider, published in 2011 by Scholastic. I could do an entire blog post on that corporate entity’s penetration of U.S. public schools with turn key book fairs that sell a myriad of pro-military and pro-empire books. 

Soft propaganda starts early and it never sleeps.