What ever happened to the cash-ins and viral kitsch that circulated after the 9/11 attacks? It's not the most important question of the weekend, but I was curious, having seen and gawked at all of this stuff 10 years ago, fitfully coping with the news. Slate's invaluable Lauren Hepler and I checked all the sources, and we bring you: Five unwelcome flashbacks. Big thanks to Bill Ellis for his paper, “Making the Big Apple Crumble: The Role of Humor in Constructing a Global Response to Disaster.”
“America Cries,” by Guy Parneix and D.E. Waldron
The much-imitated, much forwarded image of a bald eagle shedding a tear over the burning WTC was dreamed up by two artists on a Yahoo! Group. ”Waldron and I collaborated on this image on the day of the attack,” says Parneix. “He had sent me some images and they kept going back and forth until America Cries developed. It spread across the internet faster than I ever imagined, and authorship was claimed by at least 20 people, but all that was straightened out and the NYFD legal department now handle those issues.”
“Osama bin Laden Bomb Song,” by KOMP-FM
Three KOMP-FM DJs recovered from the shock of 9/11 by writing parody lyrics for Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O.” In their version, there was no bunch of bananas. There was a lurid revenge fantasy in which Osama bin Laden is brought down by American military power. (“Come, Mr. Taliban, turn over bin Laden/Colin Powell gonna bomb his home.”) A Flash video cartoon illustrating the song was forwarded widely as the invasion of Afghanistan began. A decade later, it’s still online.
“Lake America,” from 173rdAirBorne
In the days after the attacks, www.173rdairborne.com became a clearing house for anti-bin Laden parodies. Among the most widely-spread objects d’art were fake maps of the Middle East and Central Asia with unfriendly countries named after oil companies. One variation, in which Afghanistan had been replaced by “Lake America” – presumably after being obliterated – got enough attention to shutter the Italy-based website. The idea of the Taliban stronghold being turned into a hole survived in other parodies.
9/11 Coins, from the National Collector’s Mint
The New York-based National Collector’s put out its first WTC tribute item late in 2001. They’ve produced coins on every major anniversary of the attacks. Every time, they get called out by politicians for “bad taste,” and every time, they claim to sell out. (A spokesman didn’t respond to questions about the coins.) And they have company. Earlier this year, Historic Coin Mint started selling a commemorative gold piece in honor of Navy Seal Team Six’s raid on the OBL compound.
“Freedom” by Paul McCartney
He was more or less done mixing his latest album when, stuck in a plane at JFK, he saw the attacks unfold. The next day, he wrote this simplistic anthem, which was released as a single (#97 with a bullet!), played at the 9/11 tribute Concert for New York, and played again at the 2002 Super Bowl. After the start of the Iraq War, worried “I'm talkin' bout freedom/ I will fight, for the right/ to live in Freedom.”