blowback for failures in journalism

I’m putting together a new “signature” course in the fall, “Understanding 9-11,” and looking for possible readings.  In the obituary for noted political scientist and author Chalmers Johnson, the Times emphasized his work on the concept of “blowback,” the unintended consequences for American policy.  Journalism is implicated in this, because not only are international issues not well understood by the public, but that ignorance cycles back to drive emotional responses at later points in time.

Summarizing the series in “Dismantling the Empire,” Dr. Johnson said that “blowback” means more than a negative, sometimes violent reaction to United States policy. “It refers to retaliation for the numerous illegal operations we have carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public,” he wrote.

“This means that when the retaliation comes, as it did so spectacularly on Sept. 11, 2001, the American public is unable to put the events in context. So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.”

The course will not be about journalism per se, but I propose to try to understand 9-11 through a journalistic lens.


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