by Eszter Hargittai on September 12, 2004

There were the personal tragedies of 9/11 for the family and friends of those who died.. and then followed all the other tragedies. Michael Froomkin links to this disturbing film.



Giles 09.12.04 at 4:01 pm

oh this is really stretching it – I mean before 9/11 the world was at peace.

Sure, human rights abuses like Rodney King occured but they were just rational anticipations of the forthcoming forces of darkness.

And yes – the suffering of those poor people is qualitatively and quantiatatlively beyond anything anyone, 9/11 victoms included, has ever suffered or will ever suffer.

nonsense on stilts.


notgiles 09.12.04 at 4:37 pm

The only stretch here seems to be your interpretation of the post, giles.


billyfrombelfast 09.12.04 at 4:40 pm

You know, flicking through the biographies on that site, it’s astonishing that some of them were arrested and spent months in jail because someone said they were “suspicious” or (in one case, literally) “un-american”. How disgusting.


Dan Simon 09.13.04 at 6:48 am

I’d actually be very interested in a thorough, serious, fair-minded study of the people arrested after 9/11, the justifications (or lack thereof) for their arrest, and the consequences they suffered as a result. This film is rather obviously not such a study. In fact, the effect of its Web preview–on me, at least–is the exact opposite of its obviously intended one: rather than evoke my sympathy, it arouses my suspicion, because the obvious gaping holes in all of the stories it tells suggest that the missing details were omitted because they interfere with the film’s propaganda goals.

A more balanced documentary might well have convinced me that the overall behavior of US law enforcement authorities in the wake of 9/11 was deeply faulty, and needs to be reformed. This film, however, is unlikely to convince me of anything but the filmmakers’ preference for emotional manipulation over informative communication.


mona 09.13.04 at 9:33 am

Dan: are you saying the film makes things up? that the story of the guy getting pulled up – where you from, Israel, Jewish or Arab, what’s the difference, it’s a big difference, I’m Arab, you’re arrested – is a lie?

I’m just asking, I wasn’t there either when that guy got pulled up, so I can’t know, either. But there’s not many ways you can “emotionally manipulate” or “propagandise” a story like that, if it’s true. It’s told rather dryly, too. If it’s not true, then, it’s not a documentary, but fiction, and its makers are not propagandists, but frauds. If, taking skepticism further, there are no true stories like that, then, any reports of cases of people detained without charges and then released, are also lies, and the journalists reporting about them are all lying scum.

OR, it’s perfectly normal to detain people without charges, considering.

Or, again, we might just cut it shorter and just say, who cares, they’re all Muslims anyway. They must have done something wrong. Their legal troubles are nothing, nothing compared to what the families of victims of terrorist attacks suffered. They should be thankful they’re not in some Arab dictatorship. It’s a testament to the restraint of Americans that Muslim/Arab Americans didn’t get beaten up after 9/11. Etc. etc. (Just some of the responses I’ve heard to the mention of the situation of people detained like that).

No one likes to hear stories like that.


Tom T. 09.13.04 at 2:20 pm

I think it’s hard to argue that there were no abuses of government power against Muslim immigrants following 9/11. It’s worth noting, though, that many of the cased cited on the film’s website ended in deportation or some other sanction, which suggests that the people at issue in those particular cases were found to have been in violation of immigration law. It strikes me that these cases are examples where the system worked, not where it failed. Presumably the filmmakers had the opportunity to select the most sympathetic group of cases for their film, and the fact that they have lumped in these violators with cases that do sound as though they may have been abusive suggests that the abuses may not have been as widespread as the filmmakers seem to suggest.


Matt Weiner 09.13.04 at 8:03 pm

Tom T–I haven’t watched the trailer, but the fact that a person is eventually deported does not necessarily mean that the system worked. Take this rather notorious and despicable case–a harmless Nepalese illegal immigrant was left to rot in a cell where the lights never went off, for three months, because he’d been videotaping on the streets of New York.

Perhaps the filmmakers exaggerate how widespread the problems are, but the government has been so insistent on secrecy that it’d be hard to tell. Does anyone have any governmental figures on post-9/11 arrests, confinements, etc.?


mona 09.14.04 at 8:21 am

Deportation after arrests with no charges and long periods of detainment is proof of _what_ system working? this isn’t about immigration.

It is disturbing that violations of legal principles and human rights should be dismissed so carelessly, but oh well we’ve had careless dismissals and apologies of far worse, so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Matt: no, of course there are no governmental figures, they were even trying to deny they were hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, then they had to admit that, and there have also been suspicions of other undisclosed detention ‘facilities’ like Guantanamo. There have been many people detained with no charges and no trials, also in the UK to a lesser extent. There have been several reports on this issue in the past years so it sure isn’t being raised for the first time by this documentary.


Dan Simon 09.14.04 at 8:33 am

Mona–I’m referring to the legal defense-style selective presentation of the cases. In some cases, the subject’s completely wholesome, non-activist, lifestyle, free of any terrorist associations, is earnestly recounted–and in other cases, the description is strangely silent on the subject. Some cases specify a ridiculously flimsy reason for the subject’s arrest, while others neglect to say anything–even whether the reason for the arrest is publicly known. Some cases trumpet the subject’s eventual exoneration, while others are much more vague–referring to deportation, for example, without elaborating on the reason for the deportation. In each case, therefore, one wonders what an objective journalist would have included that this filmmaker/advocate left out.

Matt–it sounds perfectly plausible to me that the government has been less than perfectly forthcoming about the details of the disposition of the post-9/11 detainees. All the more reason, then, for an objective, dispassionate accounting of the cases, so that consensus can be reached as to what excesses, if any, have been perpetrated, and how to avoid them in the future.

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