Thursday, March 30, 2006

How Borders Ignores the Record of 9-11

People going to Borders book stores asking for the now-infamous banned Motoon issue of Free Inquiry magazine can also ask another question: "What books do you have on 9-11?"

Answer: you will find almost none. That was my conclusion after I visited a huge Borders location in New York, on 57th Street and Park Avenue. Just a few miles from Ground Zero, the store carried not a single book devoted to 9-11 in its first-floor section of New York books, "All Things Local." The ONLY fleeting reference to 9-11 was in FDNY: An Illustrated History.

I wanted to be fair to Borders, so I asked a sales associate where I could find 9-11 books.

She couldn't point me to a specific section, but she mentioned 102 Minutes by New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. She suggested I look in Modern U.S. History and the politics sections.

I spent at least 30 minutes scouring the shelves of history, politics, and even photography. Surely, I thought, a New York Borders would keep a good stock of 9-11 books, through the logic of the local angle if nothing else. But here is all I uncovered:

-- The 9-11 Investigation, on a top shelf where I could barely reach it

-- Here is New York: A Democracy in Photographs

And that's it: as far as I can tell, this store didn't carry Portraits in Grief, New York September 11, not even 9-11 by Noam Chomsky.

To check that my New York visit was no anomaly, I also visited a Borders in Stamford, Connecticut, and also asked a sales associate for 9-11 books. Again, I got steered to 102 Minutes in the Modern U.S. History. I found that, along with:

-- Tower Stories

-- Inside 9-11: What Really Happened, by German's Der Spiegel magazine

And that's it. The whole search made me feel like I had dropped into a bizarro-world bookstore, where the most fateful world-historical event of our times did not occur. A visitor to either store would find it almost impossible to learn what happened that day -- what happened to set in motion the chain of events that led to many other books that Borders is happy to carry, such as plans to impeach President Bush.

The Free Inquiry episode makes a lot of sense in this context. Borders wouldn't want to inflame anybody with pesky photos of 9-11, right?

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