New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman published a blog post Sunday in which he wrote that “the memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned” and that the date has become “an occasion for shame.”
Krugman’s point was that conservatives exploited the tragedy of 9/11 for years afterward. Conservatives angry about his post — including Donald Rumsfeld, who canceled his subscription to the Times after he read the piece — say their point is that Krugman shouldn’t be launching a political attack on a day of solemn remembrance.
As the blogosphere argues over Krugman’s choice of words, of tone and of timing for this kind of post, it’s worth realizing that most of the country’s media struggled with how to write about the anniversary of 9/11.
In the Times special section on 9/11, “The Reckoning,” Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote an odd mea culpa apologizing for his brief stint as a war hawk after the attacks.
The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten, instead of writing anything new, republished yesterday what he wrote in 2001.
Several journalists, including the Boston Globe’s Neil Swidey, simply wrote down their memories of that awful day, a reflex that essayist Steve Almond said he’s seen before.
“I recently went on a radio program to discuss the literature of 9/11,” Almond wrote on the online culture magazine the Rumpus. “The host spent most of the hour chatting with people about their memories. They all talked about watching television. They were telling personal stories about watching television.”
It wasn’t just journalists; authors struggled with how to write about the day, too.
In the New Yorker, author Zadie Smith wrote a somewhat convoluted essay about the persecution of Muslims after 9/11, even misquoting Martin Luther King Jr., who did not actually say, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Also in the New Yorker, author Jonathan Safran Foer compared writing about 9/11 to his son’s nightmares, which his son either couldn’t describe or didn’t have the vocabulary to.
Some say that if many of the best writers alive struggled to put down words to describe 9/11’s anniversary, Krugman should also get some slack.
Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher, an often combative writer, took a softer tone toward Krugman on Monday, writing, “If I woke up every September 11 and banged out the first five paragraphs that popped into my head, I’m sure the result would often be something as inflammatory as what Krugman wrote.”
And he included this telling point: “The 9/11 anniversary is a tough day for everyone, and people handle grief in different ways.”