20 Years After 9/11, “Never Forget” Requires Remembering Everything

“Focusing on the emotion and heroism of one day avoids getting ensnared in everything that came after. It sticks to what we can all agree on. It’s safer, in the way that it’s safer to teach the Civil War or Jim Crow as horrors of the past instead of events on a continuum that reaches into the present.”
— James Poniewozik, New York Times television critic, commenting on Sept. 11 anniversary specials

As the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 has approached, television has been full of deeply moving commemorations. Stories about the lives lost, the devastation and pain, how the sheer horror of that day brought out the best in so many Americans.

There have been far fewer stories about the ways Sept. 11 was cynically exploited by ideologues, demagogues, and a range of economic interests to push illegal and cataclysmic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to create a climate of fear that led to Islamophobia and attacks on civil liberties and anti-war activists at home – all with the complicity of U.S. news media.

MEF attempted to track and record these mostly untold stories in real time in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Between 2001 and 2006, we conducted dozens of interviews with leading progressive voices and critics of U.S. war policy who were being shut out of corporate media. We also produced a range of films that focused on how U.S. news media across the board, from MSNBC to Fox News, were operating as uncritical disseminators of U.S. government war propaganda.

We’ve highlighted some of these interviews and films below. You can watch them on the Kanopy streaming platform if your university or public library subscribes to our collection (click here to see). You can also purchase them on DVD, get a 7-day streaming rental, or host a public virtual or in-person screening.



Beyond the Frame: Alternative Perspectives on the War on Terrorism (2004) features interviews we conducted in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 with some of the most prominent progressive voices in the nation, including Noam Chomsky, Bernie Sanders, Naomi Klein, Manning Marable, and Janine Jackson.

Beyond Good & Evil: Children, Media & Violent Times (2003) explores how children were affected by U.S. media coverage of 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, placing special focus on the simplistic good-versus-evil narratives and tropes propagated by the Bush administration.

Independent Media in a Time of War (2003), featuring award-winning journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, dissects corporate news media coverage of the earliest days of the Iraq War, revealing a disturbing pattern of complicity and a total failure of journalism.

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire (2004), released at the height of the Iraq war, explores how neoconservatives and other war hawks, with the help of a complicit and cowed U.S. news media, exploited the fear and anxiety unleashed by 9/11 to push imperial policies abroad and repressive policies at home.

War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2007), featuring media scholar Norman Solomon and narrated by actor Sean Penn, traces recurring patterns across five decades of U.S. war propaganda and corporate media complicity, from Vietnam to the Iraq War.