It might be a bigger insult to be called mainstream than you think

“If you read nothing but the Newspaper of Record, you might believe that New York City, like the nation, united in sorrow and shock, has risen to the challenge of global jihadism, joining a righteous crusade Bush’s people are now calling the War on Terror” (Bleeding Edge, 326)

Link to NYT Interactive Article:


I chose this passage to discuss the historical references made by Pynchon toward mainstream media, the picture of 11 September that they painted and the resulting American mentality that was fostered as a result of this depiction. The historical example I would like to reference is the Newspaper of Record, commonly known as the New York Times or as some say, “that damn liberal rag”. In particular, I am going to address the front page of the New York Times from 12 September, 2001. I have attached an image of the front page to assist in understanding Pynchon’s thought process.

My first portion of the analysis will be superficial, I would like to pick out specific similarities between the references made in the passage to the cover of the New York Times from the 12 of September, 2001. Below I have comprised a brief list noting the comparisons:

  • U.S. ATTACKED – – – – “united in sorrow and shock”
  • HIJACKED […] TERROR – – – – “War on Terror”
  • A CREEPING HORROR – – – – “War on Terror”
  • President Vows […] Evil – – – – “righteous crusade”

These types of headlines facilitate the growth of national shock, anger and outrage. The media directed the attention away from the lives that were lost that day; the innocent passengers, unsuspecting employees and courageous first responders. You would be remiss to find even the slightest mention of Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

The ramifications of the media’s depiction of the event were immediately evident. On 15 September, 2001 Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered outside of his gas station in Mesa, Arizona. (SALDEF) Pynchon alluded to increased racial tensions within the city, however he is actually expressing this emotion as a country wide mentality, since Pynchon has utilized New York City as a microcosm for the entire nation throughout the novel. For example, Maxine cites “cabs driven by members of the Muslim faith, who between shifts are taking courses in Spanish as a Second Language with a view to pos[e] as a slightly less disrespected minority […]” This is congruent with the feeling of Muslims everywhere. In class last week, Brad briefly spoke about the restaurant above his place of work that was shot up purely because they served middle eastern food. Pynchon also cites the increased patriotism around the city, with flags being hung in nearly every public location and “God Bless the USA” banners left and right.

I am in agreement with what we discussed in class, this being that Pynchon feels that the image created by the mainstream media caused us to ask the wrong question. We took the attack personally and asked, “How could this happen to us? Why would someone do this to the greatest country on Earth?” Pynchon argues that instead, we should be more globally focused. The focus of the attacks shouldn’t be on “New York City, [and] the nation, united in sorrow and shock […].” I believe that Pynchon would have wanted to see a more globally focused headline, one that eliminated the appeal to emotion and provided a depiction of what really happened, a global catastrophe. Furthermore, Pynchon insists that the media is directly responsible for the justification of the war that we are still fighting today.



  1. “The First 9/11 Backlash Fatality: The Murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi.” SALDEF The First 911 Backlash Fatality The Murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi Comments. Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2015.

“U.S. ATTACKED.” New York Times 11 Sept. 2001, 51,874 ed.: 1. Print.

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3 Responses to It might be a bigger insult to be called mainstream than you think

  1. specifictortoise says:

    It’s interesting to see the actual headlines on the day it happened. While I doubt there would’ve been any real possibility of thinking or talking about the events in a global sense, especially the day after it happened and in the city most affected, it would be interesting to find out exactly where the phrases you’ve pointed out originated: “War on Terror” etc.
    Also of note is Pynchon’s use of the word “crusade.” It’s a word the U.S. has to be careful about using (there was some recent controversy about it IIRC) since it translates to “holy war” which is the same justification the extremists use.


  2. lostmythics says:

    I also agree. Sometimes we tend to use strong language in response to harrowing situations. Even though we should have been thinking globally about the impact of 9/11, no doubt many people were thinking more in line with how to media reported on the event. Self-centered thinking is something I think we all have trouble overcoming and being able to have a more broad view on the events that happen.


  3. soc19 says:

    Thank you for linking to the image of the front page headlines– it’s my first time seeing it, and it really is fascinating. As horrible and traumatic the 9/11 attacks were, these September 12th headlines strike me as being remarkably sensationalist. The rhetoric being used in this front page alone– “day of terror,” “President vows to exact punishment for ‘evil,'” etc.– feels strangely overly dramatic. These headlines were crafted to rouse emotion in the readers, appealing to them in an almost petulant way, as if saying, “look what atrocities have been done to America– and now, the bad guys are gonna pay.” I would have expected that a newspaper would treat the event with a bit more dignity and solemnity, paying respects to the victims and first responders, as you mentioned. It’s also sad to see the rampant Islamophobia and racial tensions that resulted from such sensationalist media coverage, lasting well into today.


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