Televising 9/11 and Its Aftermath: The Framing of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Politics of Good and Evil

in The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television
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For most of the four days following 9/11, TV viewers around the world were mesmerised by unthinkable images. Television brought home to Americans especially the polarising effects of the post-Cold War world, including the backlash of Islamic fundamentalism and the imminent threat of future terrorist attacks. A formulaic narrative quickly emerged; ordinary police and firefighters took the lead as America’s national heroes, while Osama bin Laden and the rest of al-Qaeda and the Taliban rose up as villains. On September 12, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush gave voice to this mythic small-screen storyline as “a monumental struggle of good and evil.” This chapter considers the ways in which television portrayed the major events of September 11 and its aftermath. It examines Bush’s main televised responses and the ways his administration’s faith-based foreign policies were initially framed on TV. Bush’s evangelical Christian background is examined, as is his subsequent political vision for waging war on terrorism. Finally, representative telecasts, broader programming patterns, and general viewing trends during the first six months following the attacks are surveyed and summarised, as are the longer-term consequences of framing the global media event of September 11 in terms of good and evil.