Bigger Than 9/11

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming up very shortly, the newsmedia is of course inundating the Internet with 9/11 stuff. Most of it is about how much of an effect the attacks had on the world, but Foreign Policy has an interesting article about ten events from the past decade that were more important than 9/11. Their list, ending with the most important:

  • The American response to 9/11
  • The ‘Arab Spring‘ revolutions
  • The strengthening of the relationship between the US and India
  • The stagnation of developed economies
  • The skyrocketing use of social media
  • Mobile computing, via smartphones and tablets
  • Wall Street’s crash of 2008
  • The current Eurozone economic crisis, especially concerning the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain)
  • The failure to address global warming
  • The rise of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China)

Photo by Ahmad Hammoud


About half the items on that list are bogus: the response to 9/11 can’t be separated from 9/11 itself and called a more important event. And the stagnation of developed economies as well as the current Eurozone crisis can safely be lumped in with the crash of 2008 as “the global recession”. The failure to address global warming may be an issue in 50 years, but it’s definitely not significant for the past decade: global warming hasn’t affected anything from 2001 to now. It’s like saying that the failure to remove Kim Jong-Il from power is an important event in the last decade: it may be that he’ll nuke South Korea in 10 years, but only then could it be argued that failing to remove him was important, because he could also die tomorrow. Ditto for the US-India relationship: nothing important has come out of it up to now.

Finally, the rise of social media is tied to the rise of mobile computing: social media is a parasite that could not have survived without iPhones, because Facebook and Twitter use is as prevalent as it is exactly because people can change their status while waiting at the doctor’s office, upload pictures from the beach they’re on or the revolution they’re at, and check-in at their favorite bar. Conversely, mobile computing would probably not have taken off as quickly as it did were it not for people demanding to do those things.

So the list should actually go something like this:

  • The Arab Spring
  • The rise of social media and mobile computing
  • The global recession starting in 2008
  • The rise of the BRIC countries — mostly China though

One could argue that the Arab Spring wouldn’t have happened without the combination of 9/11, the rise of social media/mobile computing and the global recession, but that would be reaching about as far as Foreign Policy reached to stretch four items to ten.

From Foreign Policy, via NPR

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