Essay Number #1
Reading Response; The selling of 9/11
“The promise of closure through consumption” (Heller, 2005 pg. 20)
“The Selling of 9/11 As A Commodity” by Dana Heller, is an extensive and indepth analysis of basic Marxian principles, depicting the issues within a capitalist society. The essence of which that nothing is free from commodification. In a system where the only escape from ‘alienation’ is to consume, events – even those as traumatic as September 11 can be made into a well packaged good, ready to be marketed, and branded products for all target demographs. “Aligned sympathetically, on one hand, with respect for human dignity and suffering, and on the other, with global capistalism’s own successful reproduction and expansion.” (Heller, 2005 pg.5) Seemingly, Heller (pg, 2005 pg. 5) is asking the question as to whether the ‘powerful corporate’ companies and those driven by ‘political interests’ are producing these goods to speak for the trauma, or conversely, abusing the trauma without regard, just to make a dollar? Firstly this essay will look at the fundamental issues the author is trying to portray, before considering the stance she took; and finally a critical analysis of the piece – with support for Hellers argument, along with some of its limitations.
In the extract from the introductory chapter titled “Consuming 9/11,” Diana Heller discusses the relationship between consumerism and the forming of an identity. In the case of 9/11, the identity being promoted was one of “patronage and patriotism,” This was achieved through the process of ‘reimagining social relationships,’ which blurred the boundaries of sexuality, gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation and race. Heller raises the concept of escapism through consumption, while the multinational companies scramble to fuel these emotions by making a purchasable outlet for individuals suffering.
Furthermore, Heller conceptualises this idea of packaging emotions, through the methodology of aligning products and commodities, with abstract human emotions. These consumerable goods the purpose of which is ostensibly supposed to help one remember, infact highlights the speed with which events are forgotten. Heller elaborates her point through various examples. Heller discusses how attacks of this nature can emasculate men. As a result, they automatically cling to something masculine. In the case of 9/11 this was manifested in the firefighters. Describing the saturation of firefighting imagery as, “to sustain confidence in the coherence of the national body, with heterosexual masculinity as its best line of defence.” (Heller, 2005 pg.14) Moreover, she continues with this concept by referring to the massive uptake of the American flag. Everything from car decals, slogans and signs, “The irony here is that in their rush to participate, Americans fashioned their individual patriotisms in precisely the same way: by consuming mass-produced American flag kitsch.” (Heller, 2005 pg.17) Finally, Heller concludes her examples with the explosion of 9/11 memorabilia on the internet, in particular, on auction website ebay.
The author’s stance toward this subject is one of shock on the one hand, yet self awareness on the other. Almost as if Heller knows that society is aware of the capitalist ideology, but even with this knowledge cannot help but play into it. Similarly, Michel de Certeau discusses the idea that by creating a ‘representation’ of the object rather than the object itself, a bridge between the two is formed, that ultimately defers the truth about the real object. The case of 9/11 is rather like a child acting out against his parents when he is misguided. Similarly, according to Heller (2005 pg 6), America, in its hunger for meaning, acted out - through a series of practices, such as consumerism. Such emotions as fear, vulnerability and demoralization were exploited, packaged and sold back to the unwitting public as a form of