Boulder Weekly’s cover story “Why are we so hated?” published in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, garnered more mail than any other single story the paper had run up to that time. Letters came from across the United States, from Europe and from Australia. Literally hundreds of letters poured through the Weekly’s front door and email accounts. About half the letters condemned the article, blasting both the Weekly and Pamela White, who wrote it, for everything from bad timing to treason. The other 50 percent praised both White and BW for being brave enough to ask tough questions. About a month after the article ran, major national publications began asking the same question.
It was also a question immediately explored by former CU professor Ward Churchill, whose controversial essay on the topic surfaced several years later and prompted an investigation that ultimately resulted in his firing, for what CU officials insisted were unrelated reasons.
In the piece, White explored the possible motivations behind the 9/11 attacks by interviewing local policy experts and activists, including CU religious studies professor Ira Chernus, who told BW, “The important thing is to be able to listen insofar as we can to the people who carried out this thing. We start out with the assumption that there’s no point in listening to what they have to say. The general assumption is that if you listen to what they say, that endorses [the attack].”
David Barsamian, host of the nationally broadcast Alternative Radio program, told BW that hostility toward U.S. foreign policy, including the country’s support for Israel, was likely a major driver behind the attacks. Terrorism, Barsamian said, is the “poor man’s B-52.”
CU-Denver political science professor and KGNU radio producer Joel Edelstein added, “Americans would not sit quiet if they were treated like the Palestinians are treated by the Israelis.”
White wrote that it is not just U.S. policy in the Middle East that makes the United States a target. Nor is dissatisfaction with the United States limited to Muslims. Experts told BW that other reasons for antipathy toward America include U.S. indifference toward World Court rulings, its refusal to fulfill its financial obligations to the United Nations, and its global military presence.
The article also pointed out the fact that even Europeans are mystified and outraged by American use of capital punishment and the opposition of some Americans toward abortion. And it explored the role of American pop culture and our country’s economic bullying internationally.
White recalls that it was a difficult, courageous approach to take two days after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, during a time of passionate patriotism, pain and vitriol against those who carried out the attacks. To take an honest look in the mirror and ask what motivates our enemies was not a common approach among flag-waving journalists in the days following the attacks.
And the flood of letters demonstrated that BW had once again made a profound impact on the community.