Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

This shameless profiteering rakes over the ashes of 9/11

Firefighters working on recovery efforts at the site of the World Trade Center disaster, wait for their shift to start on Friday, Jan. 18, 2002 in New York. Of the nearly 2,900 victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2002, 684 have been matched to remains by the medical examiner. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Lois Griffin knew she was losing it when the audience started to laugh. The killer question had been: "If elected, what will you do about replacing the old boiler?" It was obvious from the look on her face that Lois hadn't given adequate thought to the old boiler issue.

As the audience hooted and hugged itself, Lois realised she'd have to do something desperate if she was to fulfil her dream of election to the board of James Wood High.

Then, suddenly, came a thrilling flash of inspiration. "9/11!" she declared. The crowd roared. "I've said it before and I'll say it again", she continued, banging her fist on the podium, "9/11!" Pandemonium.

Her opponent, husband Peter Griffin, sighed as he contemplated inevitable defeat. "There's no answer to that."

Peter is the Family Guy in the programme of the same name, considered the greatest show on earth by those of us who would rather not watch anything on television which isn't preceded by a warning that viewers might find the next programme offensive.

In real life, things are more serious. Back in 2007, Rudy Giuliani was gearing up to have a rattle at the Republican nomination for the following year's presidential race.

His strongest suit, he reckoned, was the fact that he'd been mayor of New York at the time of the atrocity. So someone on his fundraising unit came up with the wizard idea of asking supporters around the country to associate themselves with the pain of New York by donating $9.11 each to Rudy's campaign coffers. Mistake.

No sooner had the begging letters been dispatched in bundles than the International Association of Fire Fighters had a statement on the wires declaring that 'fire fighters and their families reject [this] attempt to use the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to fuel a political campaign.' Exit Giuliani.

The point is, there are limits. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck must have come close on 9/11 last year with their anniversary fund-raiser in Anchorage for 'heritage projects', tickets from $73.75 to $225.

This year on September 11, Newt Gingrich will unveil his new movie, America At Risk, exposing President Obama's failure to address the attempts of 'radical Islam' to impose Sharia law on the country.

Gingrich's website notes that those who can't wait for the weekend release may 'pre-order your copy now for just $19.95 plus $4 shipping'.

But it's back at Ground Zero that the real money's being made. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is costing $700m to build and will have an annual operating budget of $60m.

America's Second World War memorial cost $175m; the Korean War memorial $18m; the Vietnam memorial $8m. These are all publicly-owned. But the 9/11 memorial is a private affair - apart from being publicly funded, of course.

"Nobody asked for this enormously expensive memorial", says Glenn Corbett, professor of fire science at New York's John Jay College, seen as an expert on most 9/11 matters. "A lot of people and a lot of companies are making a lot of money out of 9/11."

The memorial isn't open for business yet, but its gift shop is fully operational. Stones from the World Trade Centre for $100 to $1,000, necklaces saying 'No day shall erase you from the memory of time' at £80 a pop.

Meanwhile, major corporations have been gifted billions to stay or move into the area around Ground Zero and the bonanza is by no means over.

The current edition of Village Voice cites a couple of startling figures: $1bn to Goldman Sachs for its plush building across from the site, $764m for a Durst Tower in midtown Manhattan and a Bruce Ratner office tower in Brooklyn.

In other words, some of the biggest and most profitable companies in the US are being paid vast sums of public money to operate in districts vaguely relevant to 9/11 in which they'd very likely have chosen to operate anyway. Who would have thought it - that Goldman Sachs would make $1bn from al-Qaida murdering 3,000 New Yorkers? Apart from Goldman Sachs, that is.

"When we were eating and sleeping post-9/11 stuff, the powers-that-be insisted that these subsidies would rescue lower Manhattan", Village Voice quotes Bettina Damiani of watchdog group Good Jobs New York. "Ten years and billions of dollars later ... we need to do some rethinking."

Retired fire captain Jim Riches, who lost a son on 9/11 and then lost his health from labouring in the dust on the site for months afterwards, is quoted: "This is a place for reverence and remembrance, not a revenue-generating tourist attraction. This is obscene. This is the same as people selling stuff on the streets."

That's the thing about Family Guy. Seen in context, it isn't really offensive at all.

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