18 years ago today, Al Qaeda, with the support of the Taliban attacked the US, eventually leading to a war we’re still fighting in Afghanistan. Up until about a couple of weeks ago, Googling “Taliban September” would have brought a fairly long set of pages related to the events of that time. But in the constant search for freshness, those results are now buried (as of this writing the first result mentioning 9/11 shows up at the bottom of the third page of result).
Thanks to an emphasis on providing results related to what is happening now as opposed to weighting whether current events should be more important than history, Donald Trump’s failed “secret summit” with the Taliban now captures the top results in Google. Bing, the second top search engine (by a long margin) brings a linkage between the Taliban and 9/11 up on its second page.
Considering that, for many, search engines have become the first point of reference, it is troubling that one of the most significant historical event of the last 20 years is buried in such a way.
18 years in, the scars of September are still on the mind of many (just yesterday, someone I was crossing the street was observing that a plane flying over Manhattan felt as if it was flying low, leaving both of us to observe an unexpected moment of silence). But on the internet, it appears that memory continues to be ephemeral. Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” If that is true, it has a lot of work to do in terms of making historical information accessible and useful.
So while Google may not remember, it is up to all of us to remember and pass on what happened on that day so that future generation no live through the same horror.
We are the memory of the past. We are the vessels of history. Let’s make sure we do not give up our humanity to those maintaining the machines in a less-than-humane way and let us hope that they will improve in the years ahead, bringing history forward again.
Carlos Dominguez, Mark Ellis, Melissa Vincent, Michael DiPasquale, Cynthia Giugliano, Jeremy Glick, David Halderman, Steve Weinberg, Gerard Jean Baptiste, Tom McCann, David Vera.
This post is part of a continuing series in which I remember those I knew who were lost on that day. Here are the previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002. For context, you might want to read The day after, which is about as raw as one can get about that day as I wrote that piece less than 36 hours after the first plane hit. This is the longest series I’ve ever written and I expect to continue yearly until I can no longer write.