Saturday, December 03, 2005

Noticing a Memorial to terrorists

... and some who cover it.

First, there's those who cover it in the reportorial sense of uncovering a story. Here's the review summary of the redesign of the Flight 93 Memorial by Error Theory. (via BrainDroppings) Clearly the redesign effort concentrated on doing a more effective job of hiding the objective qualities of the design than it was to correct them. Ace of Spades nails it at the end of his post:

When supposedly inadvertent and accidental bits of symbolism are defended for no good reason, I begin to doubt the inadvertence and accident of it all.
Now here are the AP and ABC painfully covering the story in the traditional definition of hiding any story.

It's frustrating to see such recalcitrance in addressing the complaints about the memorial by the architect and his overseers. What's just as frustrating is seeing AP and ABC lay their whitewash on the story to suit their collective points of view. Never avoiding an opportunity to highlight the smallest symbolic aspect of an event if objectional to them, both can just as easily paint a story over with a bored hue of complacent disregard, a snobbish shade of amusement, or a bright tone of approval. It shows in the pigments that are their words and, though like any painting, I suppose, some of what it "says" is in the eye of the beholder, but by what is included and excluded, what is emphasized and downplayed and where everything is placed, each painter works hard for you to understand what he wants you to know.

ABC wants you to know of their disdain for any questions or complaints about the Memorial. Picked up from AP, they edited what was already a "nothing to see here story" to suit but never in this ABC article do the editors of either modify it to note the faction responsible for necessitating the Memorial, Al Qaeda, and leaves the only association of it with a terrorist act in the amorphous sense of reporting "some critics had said [the Memorial] was a symbol honoring terrorists, officials announced". Someone said there were some critics. Someone else said someone said it was a symbol honoring terrorists. Neither AP or ABC will report first hand of this; they won't dirty their hands.

ABC's disinterest, not only in the questions about the design but any discernible symbolism, is quietly explained to readers by leaving this paragraph untouched:

Flight 93 was flying to San Francisco from Newark, N.J., when it became the last of four planes hijacked that day and the only one not to kill anyone on the ground. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed it as tried to take control of the cockpit. The crash site is about 65 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
It's hijackers, always, noting their transformation from ordinary people by their act but purposefully avoiding mention of the hijackers' further transformation to terrorists and murderers.

And ABC leaves AP's infant like explanation of news past, that the, "passengers, aware of the previous hijackings" as though the passengers hadn't been made aware of the two (8:45 AM and 9:03 AM) and, possibly, the third (9:43 AM) aircraft had already been crashed into their targets by the terrorists, when Flight 93 passengers first first called friends and relatives to report their own hijacking at around 9:39 AM.

But what do you expect from an advocacy group like ABC that has no problem with AP reminding that the symbolism of Flight 93 is one where it was "the only one not to kill anyone on the ground" while everyone not of their philosophical and political persuasion remember this crash much differently. Let's not bring any emotion to inflate this story or create a ruckus. Edit out anything that might continue this 'facile' controversy and maybe even cause us to cover the complaints; so one oversight of AP is caught by ABC and out go these two paragraphs:

Gordon Felt, of Remsen, N.Y., whose brother, Edward Felt, died in the crash, said he didn't believe the original design honored the hijackers but is nonetheless pleased with the changes.

"My concern is that we have a memorial that honors my brother and the 39 other brave Americans that were on Flight 93 in a respectful way that not only respects their lives but respects the topography of the land," Felt said Wednesday.
Heaven forbid the report takes up 500 more bits of file space on ABC's server and an inch of column space on their webpage? No, it's 'We don't want to be called on to cover complaints because we left praise in the report.'

And that's why the symbolism is important, whether it's the words used to paint a story or features used to frame a memorial. What is included is just as important as what is excluded. Words expose as well as hide, emphasize and de-emphasize. Evolution without change does mean something if you report that it does. Facts are what your report needs them to be even if they aren't. So:

- a ring can be a ring even if it is isn't
- forty groves can ring a site even if all forty are on one side,
- a wall is just a wall, especially if it forms a crescent
- a whole wall is white even if only 44 blocked portions are white, and
- let's just ignore that 40 of these white blocks will be used to symbolize the 40 victims of the plane that held 44, but the other 4 blocks will be used symbolically for something else or nothing at all.

And finally, a welcoming tower centered entry to the Memorial, initially considered by critics to be a sundial marking Islam's noon prayer time, is never thought by those designing the memorial to usefully "evolve" into marking the time of the crash. And AP and ABC couldn't care less; they probably don't even know and that's evolving design, too.

It is amazing how, at times, one person or group taking offense can stimulate AP or ABC to report that the whole world is in turmoil and then, at others, they make an actual effort to ignore offenses. It's not that the all offenses taken are news, it's a matter of personal opinion and preference. But that's the point of advocacy -- mine or AP's or ABC's. The difference is I don't make it my job and pretend I don't advocate things by what and how I write. Or don't.

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