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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Analyzing In The Wake Of 9/11

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On September 11th, 001 as I looked up at the television set broadcasting the collapse of the World Trade Center I was filled with confusion. As I sat in my English class all eyes were glued to the television, as we watched replays of the planes crashing and the buildings imploding. We had been attacked. My first reaction was of disbelief, no way did terrorists destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon it just wasn’t feasible. Two of the proudest symbols of our might and way life had been attacked and destroyed. In their book “In The Wake Of /11 The Psychology of Terror” Pyszczynski, Solomon, and Greenberg claim that the events of September 11th “hit us with a one-two punch of mortality salience coupled with a major attack on our cultural anxiety buffer” (Pyszczynski ). This is a very strong argument because the claim is clear, the grounds are excellent, and the conditions of rebuttal are well developed.


Pyszczynski et al’s argument is strong because it begins with a solid claim. Pyszczynski et al begin the body of the chapter by immediately stating their claim, “the /11 terrorist attack hit us with a one-two punch of morality salience coupled with a major attack on our cultural anxiety buffer” (). Opening with a strong statement like this, the authors let us know from the very beginning where they stand. The text states the claim throughout the chapter, reassuring the reader of the author’s intentions. Their sufficient grounds further solidify Pyszczynski et al’s claim.


Pyszczynski et al’s grounds are strong and thorough. Pyszczynski et al use many respected studies, psychological theories, and the principles of TMT to back their claim. Pyszczynski et al state that the “one two punch” was a literal and psychological blow upon us. Pyszczynski et al recall a study in which it is stated “0% of Americans either knew someone or knew someone who knew someone that was missing, hurt, or killed by the terrorist attacks on /11” (4). This large degree of personal association with death caused people to feel very vulnerable. The authors quote two citizens that noticed significant increases in business immediately following /11 stating that gun sales and the drafting of wills went up dramatically. In the language of TMT these increases were results of a heightened sense of death accessibility as a result of the “one-two punch of morality salience coupled with a major attack on our cultural anxiety buffer” (). Therefore citizens reacted by purchasing guns in an effort to feel more secure and drafted wills to feel as thought their family would be taken care of in case of the worst. The authors point out that Bible sales increased 45%, religious internet sites experienced a 50% increase in traffic and the massive increases in displays of patriotism were all in efforts to repair our cultural anxiety buffer (101). These observations strengthen the authors’ claim because they follow along with the principles of TMT and are common behavior among people who have undergone the type of emotional strain the authors claim Americans did. Pyszczynski et al observe that many people reacted with violence and anger towards those deemed threatening whether it was justified or not. Pyszczynski et al state “Sometimes the fear, anger, and desperate need for understanding resulting from heightened accessibility of death thoughts are directed toward those with no obvious similarities to the perpetrators of the attacks. Recall that research has demonstrated that mortality salience produces especially punitive reactions to moral transgressions” (105). After /11 the United States looked for people to honor after the tragedy. Pyszczynski et al state that this need for heroes was an effort to repair the damage done to our cultural anxiety buffer as a result of /11. The text states “mortality salience leads people to view positive social actions as more desirable” meaning faced with ideas of death, as a people we reach for our ideals and virtues to give us comfort (10). Pyszczynski et al produce evidence of studies that link this type of behavior, the opposition of those different and embracing the ones viewed as friends to TMT, which again strengthens their claim. Pyszczynski et al support their claim with studies and observations as grounds to strengthen their argument. The argument is effective because of these solid grounds.


Pyszczynski et al’s argument is very strong despite lacking conditions of rebuttal. Their claim that terrorist attacks “hit us with a one-two punch of mortality salience coupled with a major attack on our cultural anxiety buffer” is very well established (). The authors spend chapters 1-4 explaining and arguing TMT and by now assume the reader accepts their theories. All of the evidence the authors present from many different studies makes it a very sound argument and difficult to oppose. The intended audience being the American public witnessed first hand how the country responded to the attacks and can see that the conclusions Pyszczynski et al draw are correct. The argument is not weakened for lack of conditions of rebuttal due to its strong claim and extensive grounds.


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In conclusion, America has bounced back. We have continued on with our lives and are now stronger and better for the events of September 11th. We have learned to set aside the fear and move perpetually forward in effort to show the terrorists that we will never be broken. Pyszczynski’s argument is very effective. /11 did deliver a “one two punch” to our sense of security, but as TMT states fear is managed by our sense and maintenance of our culture. This is why we must always continue with the American way of life. Nothing can repair the damage to our cultural anxiety buffer and mortality salience quite like resuming our way of life and fighting harder for it.





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