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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

09-11-07

Contacts:

Brian Monahan, Sociology, (515) 294-8379, bmonahan@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

ISU sociologist studies social construction of 9/11 and its use as political, social resource

AMES, Iowa -- Monday's lead headline in USA Today read "Is 9/11 becoming just another calendar date?" The story by Rick Hampson went on to detail how today's sixth anniversary is "unlikely to pack the same emotional clout, generate the same media attention or command the same public focus as the fifth anniversary."

But that's not really a surprise according to Brian Monahan, an assistant professor of sociology at Iowa State University who has been researching the social construction of 9/11 and its use as a political and social resource.

"In our culture, we have what you might call dominant anniversaries, and number six is not really one that tends to resonate," Monahan said.

"The first anniversary of a major event is often marked as a very important occasion, and the fifth and tenth anniversaries tend to bring about a spike in attention, but the anniversaries in between, while significant for many folks, do not tend to draw the same level of media or public attention," he said.

Monahan, who is working on a book tentatively titled "Constructing 9/11: Media Coverage and the Making of Public Drama," which will be published in the future by New York University Press, argues that we should not measure the ongoing significance of an event like 9/11 solely by the number or size of ceremonial occasions and public memorials.

"The fact is, the dominant notion of 9/11 as it was created in the years after the attacks continues to serve as a well-stocked reservoir of images, symbols, and rhetoric from which our political leaders, public officials, media personnel and others continue to draw," he said. "It's used to evoke certain sentiments or assumptions in their audiences, promote a particular version of reality, and buttress or advance agendas and ideologies."

And because the horror of the 9/11 terrorist attacks understandably captivated the media and the world for such a long time, the words "9/11" still carry an iconic value today -- one that is frequently used in political and social forums, according to Monahan.

"We can see the continued symbolic value of 9/11 being put to use in a number of ongoing political matters, from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to various domestic policies, to the ongoing campaign for the U.S. presidency," he said.

In fact, Monahan considers the GOP presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani -- the mayor of New York City during the attacks -- to be one of the more visible examples of 9/11's continuing political impact.

"When Giuliani repeatedly references his role in the aftermath of the attacks and invokes his standing as a 'hero of 9/11' -- which he seems to do quite often -- during his campaign appearances, he is, indeed, trying to draw upon the continued significance of 9/11."

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Rememberance of 9/11 has not faded, Monahan says. (35 sec.)

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Brian Monahan, an assistant professor of sociology at Iowa State, has been researching the social construction of 9/11 and its use as a political and social resource. He is working on a book tentatively titled "Constructing 9/11: Media Coverage and the Making of Public Drama," which will be published in the future by New York University Press.