Indignity Vol. 1 No. 18: Never Forget


Indignity Vol. 1 No. 18: Never Forget

9/11 X 20 = 16.3636364

TRYING TO ANTICIPATE the anniversary of 9/11 seems contrary to the spirit of 9/11. But the season is here again, or is it?

People in the coverage-planning business seemed sure that this was going to be a big news anniversary. Twenty years! But then Joe Biden went and took down our most expensive monument to 9/11, the Afghanistan war, before the day for commemoration even rolled around. The history book slammed shut. (Not really, not ever; the Global War on Terror drones on in more countries than we even are allowed to know.)

Still, I started writing something else for today and now I'm writing this instead. The empty space where the feelings were supposed to go nagged at me. But I'm keeping it short; I haven't been reading any of the anniversary coverage, so why should I expect you to? The pieces go by in my feed unclicked. The photos look like Pearl Harbor now. I can specifically recall exactly where I sat watching these things happen on TV, with the phone beside me, but the pictures look like Pearl Harbor nevertheless. Photos don't have that same character anymore, in the 2020s. Something about the contrast? The black parts are deep and a little blotchy, like newsreels.

Where did the feelings go? There was a whole sliding scale about how much you could feel about 9/11, unofficial but real: how much 9/11 had Happened to You. By general population standards I could claim at least a 7, maybe an 8, with my wife on Capitol Hill, an actual target, unreachable all morning on that phone as she fled. By the standards of the people in the discourse industry, clustered in New York and D.C. to begin with, I felt like a 4 or a 3. I hadn't smelled it.

The one anniversary piece I did read was by New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, who took the occasion to write about something else entirely: how the mood of crisis and national unity in the fall of 2001 led the news industry to avert its eyes from the final inquiry into who had gotten more votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, and whether the Supreme Court's decision to stop the recount was responsible for George W. Bush being president:

The actual results of the recount was that Al Gore’s narrow winning margin would have been provided by a cache of “overvotes ” — ballots that were discarded by machine counts because they registered two votes for president, but which were revealed by hand inspection to show a clear choice. (These voters had marked Gore’s name, and then wrote his name in, causing the machines to discard them as a double vote.)

The result of the recount would have depended on whether the officials conducting the recount examined these overvote ballots. It can’t be proven either way. The major newspapers chose to assume that the overvotes would have been ignored in a recount, triggering a Bush victory.

...Only the Orlando Sentinel bothered to ask Terry Lewis, the judge who had been overseeing the recount, about it. Lewis replied that he likely would have examined overvotes, a method that would have resulted in Gore winning.

What we call history is, in practice, what we can bear to think about. (What we call unexpected is, often enough, what we didn't want to think about.) Privately, uselessly, I do believe President Al Gore would have read his briefing book; I believe he probably would have been derided as a fraud and a nerd if he'd acted on it and thwarted the plot; I believe eventually Osama bin Laden would have come up with something else shocking and terrible to do, incredulously trying to find the limit to Americans' seemingly endless complacency. In the past 48 hours, as many Americans died of COVID-19 as died in the attacks 20 years ago. How will we feel about that, in 2041?


IN RESPONSE TOThe Mystery of the Shiny Coats,” which referred to “Generation X Can’t Even Have Generation X,” Lauren writes:

Thank you for recognizing (and naming) the Internet Event Horizon. I've been complaining about it in an inchoate way for a while now -- my whole previous career as a writer/journalist/whatever has disappeared into it -- and now at least I know I'm not the only person aware of it. " ... [T]he gap between those things that were around to be incorporated in real time into the eternal present of the World Wide Web, and those pre-Web things that were old enough that the World Wide Web reached back and made note of them for their nostalgia value" is exactly perfect, and I'm only sorry I didn't see this in 2019 when you wrote it.

And now I'm off to scan my clips from the 80s and 90s so I can look for a job that doesn't exist.

BTW, I've now actually *seen* an Irish Doodle.

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WE PRESENT instructions for the assembly of sandwiches from Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes, Copyright 1916, now in the public domain for the delectation of all, written by Marion Harris Neil, M.C.A., former Cookery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, author of How to Cook in Casserole Dishes, Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them, Canning, Preserving and Pickling, and The Something-Different Dish.

8 sardines
2 tablespoonfuls lemon-juice
1/2 teaspoonful Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoonful paprika
2 teaspoonfuls chopped parsley
2 ozs. (4 tablespoonfuls) butter
2 hard-cooked eggs
Capers or watercress

Toast lightly oval-shaped slices of bread. Skin and bone the sardines, rub them into a paste, add the seasonings and the butter creamed. Spread this mixture on the canapés, garnish with a border of the egg-whites, finely chopped, and on the top scatter the yolks of eggs rubbed through a ricer, and a few capers or sprigs of watercress.

If you decide to prepare and enjoy this sandwich, kindly send a picture to us at