There’s been talk that Hurricane Katrina overshadowed this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Maybe so, but consider a contrarian theory: The focus on Katrina may have worked to conceal the degree to which people are already losing interest in 9/11. There would, of course, have been much more 9/11 material in the media this month in the absence of Katrina, but that’s no guarantee that people would have paid attention to it. It’s not that Americans think the threat of terrorism has gone away. In a CBS News poll fielded prior to the 9/11 anniversary, 79 percent of adults agreed that Americans “will always have to live with the threat of terrorism.” However, the sense of personal peril has ebbed. Despite the recent bombings in London, just 9 percent of the CBS respondents said they think it “very likely” that an attack will take place in the U.S. within the next few months. That figure has declined steadily during the past four years, from 36 percent in September 2001 to 23 percent in September 2002 to 18 percent in September 2004. Since the war on terror (and terror’s war on us) is one for which there’s no such thing as an exit strategy, people seem to have devised their own exit strategy—i.e., worrying less about terror (and, one suspects, thinking less about 9/11), at least until the next attack comes.
—Posted by Mark Dolliver