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The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in…

The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (2007)

by Susan Faludi

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A fascinating look at America's reaction to the attacks of september 11th, from a feminist perspective. Analysing news reports and bogus stories, including the whole Jessica Lynch saga, Faludi shows convincingly that when the going gets tough, the simplest thing to do is to search for the John Wayne figure - even though, or in fact because, that figure is a mythic one constructed to gloss over the 'shame' of not having been able to protect the homestead sufficiently during white America's expansionist phase.

Faludi's study focuses on America, but various European allies in the 'war on terror' could well fall under a similar spotlight. When fundamentalist Islam attacks, it seems the best answer some of our leaders can come up with is to lock up their wives/daughters and strut their cowboy credentials. ( )
1 vote Litblog | Dec 19, 2014 |
Well-researched and very readable: "The Terror Dream" analyzes how the media and the government manipulated the events that transpired on 9/11 (and the aftermath) so that everything be presented as a return to strict gender roles circa the 1950s and/or the Wild West. Faludi pulls out all these great quotes from the media and blogosphere (my favorite: "The phallic symbol of America has been cut off," he wrote of the World Trade Center, "and at its base was a large smoldering vagina, the true symbol of American culture, for it is the western culture that represents the feminine materialistic principle, and it is at its extreme in America") in order to show the backlash against feminism and women in general.

She points out how the overwhelming majority of those who died at Ground Zero were male, and yet the media searched in vain to find pictures of women being carried out of the ruins by strong firemen; she also points out how the rescue efforts were largely pointless, as most of the survivors walked themselves out of the building. When those male-hero stories failed to materialize, the "victims" plastered all over the media became the poor widows and little girls left behind.

Then she turns to how the government portrayed itself, going back to Westerns and stories of the Wild West, and making themselves out to be coyboys saving the nation from invaders; she goes back further in history to draw these parallels.

The whole time I was reading, I was also wondering to myself...was my head in the sand during all of this?! How could I have not noticed?! I remember specific events--such as the Jessica Lynch "rescue"--but I'm surprised that I never put two and two together as to how these stories were being presented to the public.

Still, this is not a book about victimization; rather, it's the beginning of a long-needed discussion on how the media and government draws the attention away from real issues that need to be faced.
  mugwump2 | Nov 29, 2008 |
The first 1/3 was quite boring. The second part, on 9/11, and de-bunking the Jessica Lynch myth, was fascinating. After that, the book switches to a historical perspective on feminism in America; I gave up.
  Seajack | Jul 7, 2008 |
The first half, covering the reaction to 9/11 was very interesting. The second, about reaction to terror in early American history was less so - I skimmed that part. ( )
1 vote attolia | Nov 3, 2007 |
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A bitter chill crept along the whole length of his body. The frozen ground seemed to drain the heat from his blood, and the blood from his heart itself. Perhaps it was that, and knowing where he was, that accounted for what happened next. Or maybe scars, almost as old as he was, were still in existence, down at the bottom of his mind, long buried under everything that had happened in between. The sky seemed to darken, while a ringing, buzzing sound came into his ears, and when the sky was completely black it began to redden with a bloody glow. His stomach dropped from under his heart, and a horrible fear filled him -- the fear of a small helpless child, abandoned and alone in the night. He tried to spring up and out of that, and he could not move; he lay there rigid, seemingly frozen to the ground. Behind the ringing in his ears began to rise the unearthly yammer of the terror-dream -- not heard, not even remembered, but coming to him like an awareness of something happening in some unknown dimension not of the living world.
-Alan Le may, The Searchers

A people unaware of its myths is likely to continue living by them, though the world around that people may change and demand changed in their psychology, their world view, their ethics, and their institutions.
-Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence
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In Trauma at Home: After 9/11, one of several high-toned anthologies published in the early aughts that strived to "make meaning" out of the twin towers' rubble, Judith Greenberg, a professor of comparative literature, offered "an example of how this tragedy has been played out upon the body and in the mind."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805086927, Hardcover)

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author of Backlash--an unflinching dissection of the mind of America after 9/11
In this most original examination of America's post-9/11 culture, Susan Faludi shines a light on the country's psychological response to the attacks on that terrible day. Turning her acute observational powers on the media, popular culture, and political life, Faludi unearths a barely acknowledged but bedrock societal drama shot through with baffling contradictions. Why, she asks, did our culture respond to an assault against American global dominance with a frenzied summons to restore "traditional" manhood, marriage, and maternity? Why did we react as if the hijackers had targeted not a commercial and military edifice but the family home and nursery? Why did an attack fueled by hatred of Western emancipation lead us to a regressive fixation on Doris Day womanhood and John Wayne masculinity, with trembling "security moms," swaggering presidential gunslingers, and the "rescue" of a female soldier cast as a "helpless little girl"?
The answer, Faludi finds, lies in a historical anomaly unique to the American experience: the nation that in recent memory has been least vulnerable to domestic attack was forged in traumatizing assaults by nonwhite "barbarians" on town and village. That humiliation lies concealed under a myth of cowboy bluster and feminine frailty, which is reanimated whenever threat and shame looms.
Brilliant and important, The Terror Dream shows what 9/11 revealed about us--and offers the opportunity to look at ourselves anew.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:49 -0400)

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Examines America's psychological response in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks to discuss why America responded with a call to restore "traditional" manhood, marriage, and maternity.

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