I'd listen to the words he'd say
But in his voice I heard decay
The plastic face forced to portray
All the insides left cold and gray
There is a place that still remains
It eats the fear it eats the pain
The sweetest price he'll have to pay
The day the whole world went away
(Nine Inch Nails, The Day The World Went Away)

Though the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 must primarily be understood as attacks in space, it is true that there was a symbolic time component as well: the choice of day itself. In the outpouring of media that has come since then, "the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001" became too bloated of a meme for regular usage. It is necessary to compress this down to as small a chunk as possible for media transmission, thus 9/11.

Though we say and hear "nine-eleven" when 9/11 becomes speech-act, there is subconscious violence that takes place when the meme is viewed in print. As every phone directory in North America tells us, 911 is the telephony code for EMERGENCY, so a cognitive association of panic is made at the subconscious level every time the numbers are seen in print — the forward slash is irrelevant. Obviously a lot of thought went into planning the specific symbolic details of the attack.

As noted earlier on this blog, the same sort of information compression takes place in sports reporting. "Create an engaging, information-dense meme for the athlete to swirl around the matrix, and it will become more easily remembered by John Q. Sixpack, and therefore more valuable in a marketing sense."

So who controls these memes?

To answer that question is to understand the heart of symbolic warfare.

(props to Dewq for s[t]imulating the post title)


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