THERE WAS AN EERIE parallel between medium and massacre. The mightiest military machine in history can do nearly nothing to protect the last remaining superpower against stealthy attacks like Tuesday's, and Bush's hallowed missile defense will do even less; in this sort of war, the factor that counts is the human one. Likewise in the reporting of it. The kamikaze hijackings that destroyed the World Trade Center towers and smashed one wing of the Pentagon left the national media in shock—dazed, confused, and behind the curve, for all their news gathering resources.
At home, we watched and listened to the national network reports while fielding anxious calls from overseas checking to see if Seattle was burning too. The differences in what information (and supposition) got through here and there was instructive. While the U.S. networks ran and reran footage of the Trade Center towers crumbling and Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings looked for words, TV Globo and other Brazilian channels also showed the rest of the world's response—from Tony Blair announcing Britain's security measures to crowds in some Middle Eastern countries cheering. Even before the American networks announced a "traffic jam" at Pittsburgh's airport, their Brazilian counterparts reported that a hijacked plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
Of course, they also reported that as many as eight planes had been hijacked and other American locations attacked, prompting the panicked calls we got; there's something to be said for restraint and waiting for confirmation. Not that U.S. media were immune to overkill. As of 3:45 EST, CNN.com was reporting: "Pentagon collapses after plane crashes into it." The armed forces may like that spin; they can demand a new headquarters along with a new budget to fight this new war.