News Brief: US Media, Washington Rush Head First into 9/11 2.0

Citations Needed | October 11, 2023 | Transcript

Citations Needed
21 min readOct 12


Joe Biden addresses the escalation, Oct. 10, 2023. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I’m Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: You can follow Citations Needed on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show through We are 100% listener funded. We do these News Briefs in between our regularly scheduled episodes. And, Adam, as we are following the news out of Palestine and out of Israel about this past weekend’s kind of latest wave. I hate that kind of, ‘There’s now an escalation.’ It’s like, okay,

Adam: Well, yeah, cycle of violence, but it’s, it’s, it’s a major escalation

Nima: You know, yeah, I mean, I guess, you know, ongoing apartheid, but then major escalation of just lethal violence over the weekend, that has now seen, based on the latest numbers, we’re recording this in the evening of Tuesday, October 10, 1,200 Israelis dead and over 900 Palestinians dead in Gaza. And that is rising fast because of the devastating airstrikes that the Israeli military is visiting on all over Gaza with the intent to collectively punish a caged population. And so, Adam, you know, we’ve been doing Citations Needed for now over six years. And sadly, we’ve done a number of these Israel-Palestine News Briefs or episodes, usually related to a new kind of major escalation in violence and what we are seeing in terms of the media reaction to it.

Adam: Yeah. So unlike again, other times, we’ve covered the escalations, usually, the death tolls, for example, in Protective Edge in 2014 was, the civilian death toll was 243 to one. I think it was something like 1487 to six, Palestinians to Israelis. So this is obviously different, although with time remaining, because what Israel is presently doing, and I’m sure the death tolls will be much, much higher by the time you hear this, you know, this could easily go to 4,000 or 5,000, probably more, maybe even upwards of 7,000 or 8,000 dead Palestinians. The last number I heard was 290. Obviously, it’s all very sad. I know, that’s kind of maybe kind of trite to say, but you know, this is something that affects anyone watching the news. Needless to say, it is a lot of dead people very fast. The media, I think criticisms such as they are, we have a few, we’re gonna interject with But broadly speaking, this has all been kind of 9/11ed. And very fast, right? Which weirdly, the right wants to 9/11 it, and to the extent to which the left or even liberals have used the word 9/11 and actually use it as a warning. Like, remember all that horrible shit we did after 9/11 where we invaded and occupied our country for 20 years and invaded and occupied a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 for another 15 to 20 years, we still have a military base there. Iraq, that this is maybe like a pump-the-brakes kind of moment, where it’s like, we should not do what they did after 9/11 where everyone acts with the sense of kind of open vengeance. I don’t even think it’s fair to say subconscious. I think it’s very aware of the vengeance, very aware of the kind of, ‘take the gloves off’ was a cliche you heard a lot of the last couple days, just as we heard up to 9/11. They’re obviously different in major ways. Al Qaeda’s not Palestine, it’s not Hamas, in key ways which we can get into.

But the 9/11-fication of what we’re seeing is being assisted by the media and we are a media criticism podcast, and we wanted to kind of interject with some things we thought were fueling the US to support sending more arms and weapons to Israelis’ bombing, indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, which I think it’s fair to say it’s indiscriminate. There isn’t really much of a army, Israeli army spokesman today said in reference to attacking Gaza “Our focus is on creating damage, not precision.” There’s not really a pretense of any kind of targeting Hamas, alleged Hamas, you know, guns storages or whatever, they’re just gonna bomb to do what they what they called in the past, they called mowing a lawn, you sort of have to, but Gaza is on its place. Now, to give some context to those who don’t know, Gaza, the Gaza Strip, as it’s known, is about 140 square miles. It is densely populated, has a population of 2.37 million people. It is 50% under the age of 15. It does not have control over its civil society, its air, it sea, its trade, its electricity, its water imports, exports can’t get in. So this is the context in which this attack kind of emerged from. This is the first time in many, many, many years that there has been a remotely symmetrical kind of attack, which is to say, as opposed to like, lobbing their glorified firecrackers into southern Israel. This was a legit attack where they killed, by some estimates, I think, upwards of 200 civilians, civilians being defined as not active military. And I think that about three quarters of the people according to Haaretz, they’ve killed so far are military, but the names are still rolling in so that percentage may change. But as of now of the people they initially attacked, a great deal of them were civilians.

Went home to home, and certain kibbutzim, and and other, I guess, towns and just killed people and kidnapped quite a few people to be negotiated for people that Israel had kidnapped from Palestinians allegedly. Supposedly last as reported Qatar’s maybe handling a prisoner exchange, I think they want to exchange, maybe even hundreds of people they took that Israel’s taken throughout the years, Israel is notorious for keeping Palestinians and even Palestinian children in what they call administrative detention, which is to say they’re kind of in prison forever without trial.

Nima: Yeah, indefinite trial is imprisonment.

Adam: Indefinitely for doing bad things, including, you know, writing certain poems or waving certain flags. So anyway, that’s kind of a description for those who don’t know, we just kind of wanted to fill you in. And there has been an effort to kind of turn this into this, ‘We stand with Israel.’ And one of the first things we want to talk about was this, what we call the sort of double standard of the condemnation game where it’s like, ‘Do you condemn Hamas?’ And people say, Well, obviously, clearly, I mean, the sense that we condemn killing children.

Nima: But it’s like the password that you need to get into any conversation.

Adam: Yeah. And it’s like, okay, that’s fine. And then this is the point many Palestinians, Palestinian activists and Palestinian commentators have made, which is, obviously on a baseline humanity, you condemn the killing, especially of children, you can debate civilians or not civilians, but we can all agree children should not be killed, or rather, should not be targeted, which Israel clearly does. And obviously, Hamas militants, to some extent did that, they targeted children. And then you say, well, obviously, but again, upwards of 300 children in Gaza have died over the last 72 hours. You can’t drop bombs on a densely populated city and not kill children. You know, they do these half-assed door-knocking, supposedly, where they drop a little mini bomb before they drop the big ones, you can get out.

Nima: Because everyone can get out within 60 seconds when they have nowhere to go.

Adam: Yeah, and of course, they’re not, they even stopped doing that. There’s many reports saying they’re just dropping bombs, they don’t give a shit. Which is kind of where we’re at now. In 2014, you know, 551 Palestinian children were killed. And with the, I think it was, what, a month-and-a-half war? Operation Protective Edge. And so you know, that when you drop large munitions, and you know, if I was to go into a crowd of people and just start firing an Uzi and so I think there was a suspected murderer in this crowd, that wouldn’t pass moral muster, right? But when you do it to Gaza every couple of years, it’s okay, because there’s supposedly Hamas militants somewhere and you have to bomb them. And there’s, there’s no other way of getting them, you can’t send in troops to actually invade and go capture them and put them on trial, that’s sort of not going to happen. So it’s, you just lob, you just level entire neighborhoods. And of course, you’re gonna kill a lot of children when you do that. Thus far they have. Thus far the number is 300. These are children, these are babies, somebody’s babies. And this asymmetrical condemnation game where someone like John Fetterman, or Joe Biden, or pretty much every Senator in the Senate can say these platitudes, ‘Israel has a right to defend itself. We 100% support them.’ Without any qualifications, without any–initially, the State Department called for restraint, which is kind of a pro forma thing they always do. They’ve been doing this since the Carter administration, right? Anytime there’s an escalation of violence–

Nima: They called for, like, a restraint and hoping that there’s a ceasefire. And then they pulled that down.

Adam: They pulled that text out of the website and deleted it, and said it was a mistake.

An Oct. 9, 2023 headline from The New Republic on US officials’ backtracking on calls for restraint.

Nima: [Laughs] Right.

Adam: So basically, they’re saying Israel can kind of do whatever they want for the next couple of weeks, if not longer. Now, that is tacitly an endorsement of killing children, because that’s who’s going to fucking die in an area that’s half children. Again, you can kind of play this clever game about how, Oh, no, it’s we’re trying to target the Hamas, you know, lair somewhere or media apparatus, whatever you want to call whatever sort of excuses like, you cannot lob the amount of munitions and ordinances that Israel lobs into Gaza and not kill children, because you clearly just don’t give a shit, you’re mowing the lawn. It’s deliberate. It’s collective punishment. A form of war is oldest time you just lob shit into a city and call it a day because it’s risk-free for, right. Again, Israel has an Air Force, Gaza doesn’t, Palestinians don’t have an Air Force. They don’t have surface to air capacity. They don’t have shelters, they don’t have places to hide. Yeah, if they build a shelter, it’s filled with cement. But you have a situation then where you have this asymmetry of not only the condemnation game, you have asymmetry of humanity, which is kind of again, maybe a little obvious for listeners of the show. It’s kind of Noam Chomsky, 101. Right. Worthy and unworthy victims. And we are seeing it–

Nima: We are seeing Israelis are murdered whereas Palestinians happen to die somehow.

Adam: Yeah, and I get it. It’s fucking sad. A lot of people lost a lot of kids. A lot of moms lost a lot of kids. A lot of, a lot of kids lost a lot of parents. It’s fucking sad. But the stories about dead Palestinians, from what I’ve seen, CNN, MSNBC, just don’t fucking exist. Now one reason is there’s no reporters. There’s no American reporters inside of Gaza. I think the BBC has someone, there’s a full blackout that took out the power, but generally speaking, you’re just not going to get that story. Occasionally you’ll get it here and there, but mostly I think it’s fair to say 95% of the human interest stories we’ve seen are those of dead Israelis.

Nima: Yeah. Because because most of the reporters are wearing flak jackets in Tel Aviv.

Adam: Right. And again, there’s cultural relations. There’s political relations, there’s sort of the general hatred of Muslims, right, that kind of is embedded into our, our media culture.

Nima: Yeah. And just like the general kind of unbearable whiteness of colonial allies.

Adam: Yeah. And so we’re just not going to get the human interest. There are just going to be stats, they’ll throw in a mention here and there, but it’s kind of unpersoned. And this is what the 9/11 vibes are kind of meant to do. And then for some reason, unfortunately, we taught right wing this idea of both-sides-ism-. Everyone’s like, Oh, you’re both-sides-ing get by talking about. It’s like, okay, first off, dead Palestinians are not Nazis. They’re just people who are born in Gaza. They’ve been they’ve had a blockade since 2008. They’ve been under military siege the entire time. Again, no access to water, air, etc. No freedom of movement that can’t go anywhere without the government’s permission, which they rarely get, arbitrary detention, arbitrary killings, without any real due process, blah, blah, blah.

Nima: Yeah, Gaza has been under Israeli military occupation for over 50 years.

Adam: And if you don’t believe us, Haaretz, which is the kind of liberal, it’s kind of The Atlantic magazine of Israel, maybe more like the New York Times, that kind of liberal, center-left intelligentsia English language newspaper.

Nima: But reports and editorializes with far more honesty than anything you will ever see in English-language press.

Adam: They blamed Netanyahu for the attacks and specifically blamed their complete inability to have any kind of negotiation in good faith, any kind of movement with respect to the basic rights of Palestinians and the continued imprisonment and indefinite detention of 2.3 million people. And this context is not important because it kind of says like, Oh, isn’t this like their Joker origin story? Isn’t this interesting why these people decided to, you know, break out of their cage effectively. It’s the entire issue at hand, right? It’s not like these people just woke up one day, decided to be evil. There’s a context here. And there’s conditions which no Westerner, no, you know, listening to the show, or you’re watching MSNBC or CNN, would ever withstand for more than a few days, and they’ve lived it for the better part of 17, 18 years. In some ways, even longer. It’s always hard to know when to start the clock on these things.

Nima: Right, but the clock did not start four days ago.

Adam: No, it did not. But you wouldn’t know that reading about the ways in which people are treating this like 9/11 because 9/11 necessarily entails some kind of unjustified attack. So Fetterman, Biden, Kamala Harris, they all had the exact same language, every senator that I’ve seen who commented on, all said it was unprovoked. Now, again, we need to look up the definition of the word “unprovoked.” Because when you cage 2.3 million people without any rights, without any freedom of movement, without clean water, without schools–

Nima: When most of them are either themselves refugees or descended from refugees from 1948, when they were expelled from their villages into Gaza, and have been held there for 75 years, the idea of like, that something would be unprovoked because like, the day before, Western reporters weren’t really thinking all that much about Gaza, kind of puts into perspective, you know, what kind of allegedly low-level violence is just sort of acceptable.

Adam: Right? It’s sad, because you don’t hear about it. And their unemployment rate is 40%, 80% of Gazans live in poverty. And so when you say that context is like, ‘Oh, you’re making excuses.’ And it’s like, if there’s this thing that causes the bad thing, that sort of has a causal relationship, that is an explanation, that is not an excuse for some of the tactics which again, we could all people can say you’re not good. It is a cause. Israeli media, it talks openly about this. This is it, people aren’t so precious there, I think. And if you talk about the cause, if you talk about the injustice of apartheid, if you talk about the years and forget the death toll, right? Again, the asymmetrical death toll throughout the years are usually somewhere between 10 to one, 15 to one, all these skirmishes, right, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians did unarmed marched into the walls of Gaza, which they called a border, even though it’s not a border, you can’t invade your own country. And they were mowed down by the IDF. Right, hundreds died in 2018. You can’t talk about this as some sort of enduring injustice as the left, God forbid, does all the time. Says what about the occupation? What about apartheid? Why are we giving $3 billion, $4 billion a year to Israel? It’s, why are we supporting this? How do we expedite a real solution that gives dignity to people whether it be a one-state solution, obviously, a two-state solution doesn’t really work anymore, because it’s not really to put Palestine but a sense of equal rights of some kind, some kind of recompense or some kind of restitution. Because the status quo works for the majority of Israelis. If you’ve ever been to Israel, you just wouldn’t know, you wouldn’t know that there’s people living in a totally different universe just down the block. Palestinians come into Israel to you know, frankly, take low-wage jobs.

Nima: But not from Gaza.

Adam: Not from Gaza. Correct. To clarify, they come from the West Bank. You’re right. But it’s just like any traditional apartheid system. It is two different fucking universes and the status quo was working for a lot of Israelis, again, I think most know, and they have open debate about uh, this or that or the peace process or whatever. But for the most part, if you’re that technologically asymmetrical, again, if you have F16s, F22s, I think they now have F 35s, if you have the world’s most sophisticated spying software, infiltration everywhere, again, air, land, sea control, backing of the most powerful country in the history of the world, and all the technology, the attendant technological advantages that come along with that, you’re kind of feeling good about yourself, right? This sort of caging a population of two million people and giving third- and fourth-class citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank and carving up and kicking them out of their homes and settling their land. There’s not really an incentive to change the status quo, the extent to which there’s movement, it’s largely a kind of moral objection. But from a practical perspective, there’s not really a lot of real threat there with an Iron Dome, etc. Although I guess that proved to be kind of useless in this context.

Nima: Well, which is, I think, why this is being treated in a slightly different way. That’s why this is being 9/11ed. Because there is the sense that Israelis are actually under threat, or at least were, and not only under threat, but a shockingly horrifyingly large death toll. That is a lot of people killed. And I think that that horror, and that kind of violence has never happened to Israel.

Adam: I mean, at least not since the ’80s. I know there were scattered bombings here and there, but there’s never been a death toll remotely close to this.

Nima: No.

Adam: This is from The Atlantic by Franklin Foer. “President Joe Biden has genuine Zionist commitments to Israel. But the war that has begun with Hamas is bound to test its limits.” So this war begun with Hamas, sort of just began on October 7, 2023.

Nima: That’s right, history began that second.

Adam: And you see all these like, ‘This is 9/11. This is 9/11.’ And not to say that, like 9/11, didn’t also have antecedents, although I don’t think the comparison is good at all. Because again, I think the sort of engineers and rich kids who did, who actually did 9/11, with the help of Saudi intelligence, I don’t think they were like, you know, they weren’t living in a cage, right. And their grievances were somewhat incoherent, to say the least. So I don’t think the analogy is good, other than it’s sort of like, hey, remember when Muslims did a violence, right? That’s kind of it’s, it’s sort of a racist generalization. But that’s why it’s so important to 9/11, to sort of draw these racist analogies, but also, to say, like, this is new, or this is something that is like, unprovoked or sort of out of the blue, right? So it’s clear blue sky in New York on a Tuesday kind of out of nowhere. And of course, again, like everybody knows, that’s not true. Haaretz knows that’s not true. We all know that’s not true. It’s now taboo to say that, because then it’s sort of seen as excuse-making or whatever, or seen as insensitive. And one ought to be careful about how we talk about these things. Because I know that you know, it’s sensitive for a lot of people watching this, but we have to be realistic about what the antecedents to these things are, and the fact that there is a total double standard. There has been a double standard since before I was born. And the double standard has been very acute this week. And the double standard is not just morally wrong, it’s intellectually incoherent. And if you can’t properly analyze a problem, you can’t work towards any kind of meaningful solution and all this kind of jingoistic, gung ho Israel, ‘We stand with Israel, we stand with Israel,’ while they turned Gaza into rubble, which already was and is turning into rubble even more and the most gratuitous and cruel, inhumane, haphazard, and vindictive way. Because as far as I know, the US government doesn’t fund and arm Hamas. [Laughs] I know Fox News wants you to think Joe Biden does. But like, as far as I know, my tax dollars don’t pay for Hamas. My tax dollars pay for the F22s and the bombs.

Nima: Yeah.

Adam: And the tanks and the surface-to-surface missiles. Which is why I think those within the US Left have a unique obligation to speak out on that, because it’s our country in our name, doing these things, and have been doing them for again, before we were born, and it’s gotten more acute, it’s gotten more violent, it’s gotten more desperate.

Nima: But see, that idea is always completely suppressed in the media in favor of Hamas as an Iranian proxy. Right? You always hear where Hamas gets their funding, Hamas gets their weapons. And then Israel defends itself against that, right? Defends itself against Hamas, defends itself against Iran, and against Hezbollah and Lebanon. But obviously, the you know, who funds and arms Israel is never explained in the same way. Right. It’s not like a kind of common Homeric epithet that is put along with Hamas. It’s not US-armed Israel as kind of mirroring this Iran-backed militants, right? And so you get this asymmetry of language because we’re supposed to see the evil in the villain in the one side, and then the noble innocent defending itself from the savagery on the other side.

Adam: Yeah. And that basic lack of humanity, lack of anyone giving a shit relatively speaking is so ingrained in our media culture. I mean, I don’t know how you undo it. I know people try. Again, there’s been a lot of viral clips on social media of sort of older kind of more grizzled Palestinian politicians, activists, academics kind of politely explaining the situation. One guy sort of began by talking about how six members of his family, including nephews and cousins had died. And the first thing they said was, Do you condemn Hamas? Like, the guy just said his children died. And again, this is not a question that’s asked of anyone who does the rah rah, like Marco Rubio was doing incitement of violence, Nikki Haley, they don’t say, ‘Do you condemn killing civilians by Israel?’ That’s never, do condemned the occupation do continue apartheid. They’re never asked to condemn that. Because that’s just not something you’re obligated to do, even though, even though you actually fund it and support it, right?

Nima: [Laughs] Right. And literally politicians are I mean, even more so than just sort of paying your taxes and knowing where it’s going. Billions of dollars every year. But right, then you actually have politicians or former politicians who are actually responsible for casting votes or approving funding, and they are never asked, they are never asked to condemn any violence, when it is Israel doing the violence, right? And I think as you said, Adam, this kind of 9/11ing is now one of the standard talking points. You know, there were kind of immediate analogies made with Al-Qaeda and ISIS, because of the Hamas attacks actually inside Israeli territory, something that has really never happened like this before. And then, almost immediately, you started really seeing this turn into one of the main narratives. Representative Adam Schiff stated on Sunday, October 8, this: “Right now Israel is being brutally attacked. It is a victim of terrorist attacks. And the only sentiment I want to express right now, when Israel is going through its own 9/11 is unequivocal support for the security and the rights of Israel.” You also had Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer say this: “Massive attacks by Hamas leadership into Israel. This is no less than Israel’s 9/11.” CNBC over the weekend had this headline: “‘Israel’s 9/11’: Political analysts react to deadly Hamas attack.” And Politico EU, the European Union site for Politico had an article on Monday, October 9, with this headline: “Israel’s 9/11 puts spotlight on Netanyahu.” So you know, this is now becoming one of the main analogies for this. And very few of these articles use the 9/11 analogy as anything other than kind of shorthand, Adam, for like a wake-up call, like a wake-up call via violence that then needs to be reacted to, and you know, that there’s going to be mass violence, but it’s righteous, as opposed to, I would argue, maybe more accurate historical analysis of what 9/11 did, which is the analysis that violent revenge visited on millions of people who had nothing to do with the actual instances of violence that you are really reacting to that were so shocking and horrifying and motivating. That actually you then destroy entire countries, you displace millions upon millions, you kill men, women, children, etc., with no regard to any kind of humanity, any kind of restraint. That is the lesson of 9/11, possibly, but that is not how the media, or politicians kind of using this are assessing the situation is really just the shorthand for this is a wake-up call that needs to be avenged.

Adam: Yeah. And I know we spent the last episode last week dumping on Ken Roth. To his credit, a lot of hey, he and I know he’s not associated with Human Rights Watch anymore, but other organizations are calling for deescalation. They’re calling for the Israelis not to take the vengeance out on Gaza. You know, this is not a fringe position outside the US political realm. It really is coming from a lot of, it’s bipartisan, it’s Democrats, it’s the President, this like, we stand with Israel, no matter what they do, kind of let them do their thing. The New York Times had an extremely curious phrasing in their editorial supporting Israel to you know, this whatever sort of mind shut down platitude about defending yourself they said, Already, the Israeli government is cutting off power and water to Gaza. And in order to siege to starve Hamas of resources, this tactic, if it continues, will be an act of collective punishment.” So it’s not what now? It’s a great liberal phrasing, because it’s like if they do it for too long, like they can have, they can have a little bit of war crimes as a treat. But if it goes on for too long, it makes sort of liberals too squeamish, then we’ll sort of–

Nima: Then we’re gonna start like tsk-tsk-ing, tut tutting, handwringing.

Adam: It’s very specifically phrased to say yeah, you guys can do it now. But if it goes on, you know, drags on for too long and makes us squeamish, then we’ll intervene.

Nima: But don’t worry, we haven’t intervened for the past 17 years, let alone 75. So it’ll probably be fine.

Adam: Yeah, they’ve been, they’ve done some handwringing here and there, but there’s not any sense of like, we need to work towards a one-state solution, or we need to have some equal rights for everybody. We need to end apartheid. So anyway, that’s the feedback from what we see, the situation’s obviously very fluid, so much will change when you’re listening to this and obviously for the next few days, but for now, there’s a, everybody really wants, many people want there to be a 9/11 forever. And, again, having learned from the wrong lessons from the last 9/11 forever. Perhaps we could be a little bit more deliberate.

Nima: Yeah, maybe don’t, maybe don’t say that. Of course, you know, this is one of the biggest stories in the world right now. We will continue to follow it. We will obviously not foreclose the possibility, Adam, of us doing another News Brief as the situation continues, tragically, horrifyingly, and what we’re seeing in the media doesn’t give us much hope. But it certainly does give us more to talk about and so we may be back with another one of these soon, but definitely stay tuned for more full-length episodes of Citations Needed coming your way in the coming weeks. As always, of course you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed. If you are so inclined, please do become a supporter of our work through All your support through Patreon is incredibly appreciated as we are 100% listener funded, but until we are back with another full-length episode of Citations Needed, thank you again for listening. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Our senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. The transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.

This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.