Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
August 2, 2012

“Disappeared” Olympic 7/7 Tribute: NBC Perpetuates Myth Terror Only Happens to Americans

With one seamless cut to a celebrity interview before the tribute to terror victims in the Olympic opening ceremonies, NBC reinforced the perception that Americans have neither compassion nor the ability to relate to tragedy abroad. Americans didn’t need to see it because it didn’t happen here. The Olympic tribute was “not about America.”

If you were watching the opening ceremonies in the U.S., NBC edited the tribute out and, instead, cut to an interview with Michael Phelps and Ryan Seacrest. Perhaps NBC felt there was an absence of something, some American visual or ritual, a military flyover or specific 9/11 reference, to which American viewers could relate.

The two elements of the tribute to victims of terrorism were brief: the Wall of Remembrance with photos of worldwide terror victims consisted of a series of quick montages; the sparely sung Scottish hymn and dancing tribute to the victims of the 7/7 London terror attacks lasted just a few minutes. But after watching the tribute, if NBC felt that Americans would find the images capturing people, symbols, and events somehow “foreign,” does the network feel the presence and commemoration of  Americans killed in the London bombings would be perceived as foreign as well? There were at least two Americans on the Wall of Remembrance. One was an unidentified Marine; the other was U.S. Air Force Academy cadet Andrew Chin. We don’t know how many other Americans might have been pictured.

Beyond the presence of the two Americans, however, it’s also troubling to consider that the live performance would be somehow too abstract, artistic or somehow inaccessible to speak to an American audience. The tribute to the London victims, for example, started with a dust explosion, so readily recognizable to Americans who watched the dust from the World Trade towers as they imploded and choked New York’s Financial District. And as the dancers devolved from still to the chaotic motion of survival, Americans too might remember the frenetic pace of fear and rescue and, perhaps, the march to war.

Many Americans would also know the simple hymn sung by Scotland’s Emeli Sandé in an almost halting yet haunting manner as dancers kept a crazy pace in the dim of dark hues on the stage.  Abide with Me is a well known song of surrender and comfort in God in life and death, sung nearly a capella by Sandé as she stood in front of an Olympic Bell eerily reminiscent of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell.

It couldn’t have been Sandé or the dancers NBC thought American couldn’t relate to, they were as diverse as London has been for decades and as America has become.

But if you think about it and watch these diverse dancers, perhaps representing victims, grasp the child dancer and lift him into the light above the chaos, the network’s error becomes most obvious: in editing out the tributes, NBC perpetuated the myth that terror only happened to Americans. That we can’t identify or relate to the loss experienced by other peoples, other nations. That we don’t look or feel like everyone else. Instead of the opportunity to experience this visual empathy on a national scale, we get Michael Phelps and Ryan Seacrest and NBC fills the absence of something–anything they believe Americans can’t understand–with nothing.

– Karen Hull
See 7/7 Tribute video here.
(screen grabs: BBC, NBC Sports)
  • Glossedreality

    This is one of those moments where I am honestly ashamed to call myself an American. It makes me extremely sad and upset to think that an American Network decided that taking a moment to honor the tragedy of others and honor their lives isn’t ‘American’ enough… especially since we make such a big deal about honoring our own in this country. It think that NBC should have sucked it up, and decided that the message in those few minutes of tribute were important enough to risk their all important viewer ratings. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that would have even changed the channel, but hey, maybe consideration is becoming a trait in minority here in America. NBC certainly doesn’t have any. 

  • jonst

    Regardless of how ignoble the motive, or false, and insulting, the underlying assumptions maybe be, anything that cuts down on America’s seemingly insatiable capacity to drown itself in these endless ‘celebrations’ of tragedies, in these endless quests to turn tragedy in spectacle and ultimate profit……I’m all for. 

    • molly

      For me, your argument would have more merit if it were Americans putting this tribute together to “drown” in more spectacle, but since it was another country that has also been hit by terrorism (and a lot more of it in the past 100 years – Blitzkrieg?), refraining from wallowing in the pool of profit is nannyism at its worst.

    • Offended Brit

      You are a total imbecile. NBC cut this tribute entirely TO boost profit! By switching from a highly moving and relevant tribute to an interview with Phelps, they must have figured it would prevent millions of ignorant Americans from switching the channel because it was about something that was not America!

  • Wayne Dickson

    Aside from the editing itself, that NBC would offer such a rationale is shocking and contemptible.  Re jonst’s comment, I see the issue a little differently. Yes, “if it bleeds, it leads” … but then it’s forgotten. We enjoy momentary tragedy too much, and we build cumulative awareness and response too little. I like the poem David Rovics wrote re Aurora:

    The survivors will hug and tell their stories
    With flashing lights the living and the dead
    Will be taken to the morgues and to the hospitals
    We’ll hear about the last words that they said
    At least if it was a notable occasion
    Like if it happened just down the road from Columbine
    If the victims numbered in the dozens
    The murder plan especially malign

    The governor will talk about the senselessness
    The madness that must explain the crime
    Some will ask about the guns, six thousand rounds of ammunition
    He bought legally all at the same time
    If the murders were especially dramatic
    This man will have his week of fame
    But by around this time next year
    Just a few will remember his name

    Fewer still will remember his victims
    In this great nation that seems to have no peer
    And who can blame us for our amnesia
    With fourteen thousand killed by guns last year
    But for now they’ll talk about his methods
    They’ll ask how he came to be this way
    They’ll hire more policemen in the theaters
    It’s another massacre in the USA

    They’ll ask about his schooling
    Who could have seen these warning signs
    Some will ask why he had access
    To buying an assault combine
    Former victims will speak out on the TV
    They’ll have a platform for just a little while
    Until something else takes over
    Like a storm or a fire or the latest summer style

    They’ll talk about violent films and video games
    The social disconnection of the youth
    They’ll talk about the cubicles and headsets
    With each one separated in a little booth
    They’ll talk about bullying in schools
    They’ll talk about all sorts of social ills
    They’ll ask if he smoked marijuana
    And if he was on any kinds of pills

    The corpses will be removed from the theater
    They’ll replace the seats and wash away blood stains
    The NRA will lay low for a week or two
    While pouring money into electoral campaigns
    The President will praise the First Responders
    And ask God for these madmen to be cured
    The Assault Weapons Ban will be voted down in Congress
    And the next massacre will be assured

    • jonst

       ’and someone will write a poem about it and try and get it published.’

  • Troutcor

     I didn’t watch any of the opening, but it is hardly surprising that NBC wanted to put the biggest US Olympic superstar ahead of non-US centric ceremonies. They are trying to draw viewers and sell a product, period.
    I am a bit confused by the Bag’s wish (and that of some posters here) to expose US viewers to yet another sob story “tribute” about “terrorism,” even if it was presented from a slightly wider-than-usual perspective. What was the point of the tribute? To show that Western Europe is also being horribly bullied by “terrorists?” I did not see the tribute, but I would be surprised if it included victims of Western terror. Were innocent Iraqi women and children killed by the US included? Palestinian civilians murdered in Cast Lead? I highly doubt it.
    So who cares if we missed it. Let’s not allow our wish to castigate our fellow Americans for being provincials overshadow the job of analyzing the phony “War on Terror.”

    • Abs

      Your comments – and the basis for the story – is unfortunately wrong. The tribute WASN’T to victims of terrorism – it was specifically ‘for those who cant be here’ – this was meant to encompass anyone – including Munich, 9/11, anything – that was the point, doh. The photos were not a roll call of terrorist victims. Its  been presented as a 7/7 tribute as news consumers in the US as they are too ignorant to even complain about the actual facts of what was cut. On reflection you are too stupid top have been shown the segment – stick to the Simpsons and be happy.

    • Michael Shaw

      Seems worthwhile to post the link to the tribute so that the debate doesn’t occur in the abstract:

    • Rachel

      Troutcor (and any other Americans who have no idea about 7/7): the attacks on London occurred the day after we were awarded the Olympics! Unlike America, we don’t generally go on about difficulties that have struck us, so it wasn’t just a random note to terrorism! It was due to the fact that the bombings occurred the day after the awarding of the Olympics!! It was simply a note about the tragedy that hit London the day after it was filled with celebration.

      Jesus, you are just demonstrating the ignorance and self-centred nature of so Many americans! Which was the point of this post…

    • Offended Brit

      Troutcor, you are the reason the rest of the world see Americans as inward-looking and ignorant. How dare you scoff at a tribute to innocent people who died in London one day after winning the Olympics bid at the hands of terrorism. Just imagine how outraged you Americans would be if we shunned 9/11 remembrance as “yet another sob story tibute”

  • iazban

    We continuously look for fresh faces that can perhaps be part of us and
    become a london escorts,cheap london escorts,busty london escorts,ebony escorts.We carefully screen our
    escort girls to make sure that they do not just have the looks but the
    personality as well so that they can be a perfect escort.

  • Cactus

    I don’t care what NBC’s excuse is, they have an obligation to broadcast the entire show.  But why are we surprised.  “Time” frequently censors their covers for the US audience.  CNN has an entirely different channel for international broadcast, which they don’t let us see.  After all, they cover items from all those foreign countries, why would we want to see that crap?  By continuing to censor the media that we are allowed to see, they are contributing to the dumbing down of our country.  A problem already rampant.
    All too often, the media (frequently in collusion with politicians) feel they must shield the American people from what they consider distasteful images.  Hence no photos of caskets returning from Iraq which leads to no public outrage.  No images of England’s sacrifices means American sacrifice is exceptional.  We aren’t all in this together, it’s just the USA singled out for special persecution because of our freedoms.
    The irony here is, I think, that NBC was really afraid that they would get complaints from 9/11 victims if they showed it.  Of course, no such worries when a certain former president and former mayor repeatedly flogged the event to advance whatever career move they were working on at the time.  It must be confusing inside their bubble.
    My only true surprise here is that NBC edited out the memorial, but left in the paean to the NHS, because as we have all been told repeatedly, the Brits really hate the NHS and it isn’t worth trying here.

  • Marcus Culver

    Anyone annoyed at this please join the Facebook group

    There is also a petition here requesting an apology from NBC

  • Rachel

    Just heard that NBC hadn’t shown this tribute. As someone who was caught up in the aftermath on 7/7 (and narrowly missed being on one of the tubes) I find this very upsetting, especially as if the tables were turned America would probably have declared war on us (‘you’re either with us or against us’.

    And the tribute was particularly relevant as the bombings took place the day after the
    Olympics were awarded to London. It’s not about commercialising tragedy, jonst. It would be disgraceful if there hadn’t been an acknowledgement of 7/7. And it’s disgraceful NBC cut it.

  • Rachel

    Troutcor (and any other Americans who have no idea about 7/7): the attacks on London occurred the day after we were awarded the Olympics! Unlike America, we don’t generally go on about difficulties that have struck us, so it wasn’t just a random note to terrorism! It was due to the fact that the bombings occurred the day after the awarding of the Olympics!!

    Jesus, you are just demonstrating the ignorance and self-centred nature of so
    Many americans! Which was the point of this post…

  • jemblue

    I suspect that NBC’s real reason for skipping the tribute was that they didn’t want a Christian hymn (“Abide With Me”) to be broadcast on their station. The “It wasn’t tailored for U.S. audiences” excuse is absurd.

  • Pingback: Olympic Recap: Nationalism in Perspective – Usain Bolt vs. #NBCFail | - POPSspot

  • Troutcor

    Abs -  what are you talking about? “Those who can’t be here” means what, if not victims?
    I think your objections with my remarks lie somewhere beyond semantics, but you are unable or afraid to argue with facts, hence the very petty Simpsons remark. An ad hominem attack is an ineffective way to show someone ELSE is less intelligent that you.

  • jemblue

    Please do not attack all Americans based on the dubious decisions of one television station. That is not fair to us. Besides, how are we supposed to know what the tribute was like when we weren’t allowed to see it?

  • Wayne Dickson

    Fair enough, jonst. But blame it on me. David’s an internationally known crusader for social justice, not a publicity hound. He didn’t ask and doesn’t know that I’ve shared his poem. (I’ll tell him now, of course.)

  • jonst

     There is no reason he should write it and not want it publicized…or at least appreciated. It was a very moving.  My lament was not with him….it is with the ‘inevitably’ of the reactions… matter what it is, we are condemned to play our part in this sadness. And someone will, inevitability, exploit us playing our part.  This exploitation should not stop us from doing what we think right. But we should at least admit…that like it or not, we WILL become a part of the scenery in someone’s IP.    

  • Wayne Dickson

     Point well taken. Thanks.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes