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4/15/08

NYT: 9/11 "Attack on America" is Jingoism

Get Me Rewrite: A New Monument to Press Freedom

(NYT)- "How many mediocre buildings can one city absorb?... Rising on a prominent site along Pennsylvania Avenue, [the Newsome building] joins a spate of new memorials and museums that have been reshaping the historic center of Washington during the current Bush administration.

Despite its lofty tone, the design reeks of parochialism, not bold ideas... If the building reveals anything about the state of journalism today, it conveys the industry’s anxieties over the shrinking attention span of the average American...

But here the journey is freighted with artifice... Visitors step past a fragment of the Berlin Wall and then ride a glass elevator alongside a menacing guard tower. On the top floor they are confronted with part of a rusted, mangled broadcast antenna from the World Trade Center, part of the exhibition “Attack on America.”

The juxtaposition is startling, but also borders precariously on jingoism. The suggestion is that the values of a free press and a free market are one and the same. This sentiment is made explicit in an exhibit of a map of the world in which countries are color-coded according to their level of press freedom. America is green; Russia and China, red.

Nicolai Ouroussoff completely missed the point, and while he's an accomplished critic, it's clear he is clueless in this modern communication age. Wars are fought with words today, and so it's completely appropriate that a map of press freedom accompany an exhibit on terrorist attacks. And to call this jingoistic is just ridiculous.

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