9/11: how the attacks changed the world

20 years have passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They were followed by the War on Terror and the US's invasion of Afghanistan. But the date marks a turning point not just in geopolitics. Commentators focus on the political, social and economic consequences of 9/11.

Open/close all quotes
NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Terrorists benefit from distrust of Muslims

To mark the anniversary NRC Handelsblad published the memoirs of young Dutch Muslims and warned of the consequences of indiscriminate distrust of Muslims:

“Children were called terrorists by their classmates, and on 9/11 they were told at home that they'd better keep a low profile at school the next day. The attacks on the East Coast of the US changed the lives of young people decisively. Their stories contain a mandate: whenever Muslims are all put tarred with the same brush, whenever they have to distance themselves from the attacks, the gap between non-Muslims and Muslims becomes wider. That is exactly what Osama Bin Laden intended.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Discussion about a better world postponed

9/11 has all but stopped critical discussion of globalisation, Aftonbladet notes with resignation:

“An entire generation of young people who really thought they could make a different world possible has been denied a public debate. ... What could have happened if this conversation had continued? If world leaders had talked about the Tobin tax, taxation of the super-rich, the climate crisis and international trade union solidarity, we would probably have found more answers in the last 20 years to questions like how to increase fairness, how to decrease the plundering of the planet and how to protect democracy from authoritarian forces.”

Eco - Economia Online (PT) /

The basis for US dominance of the digital economy

Institutional surveillance of society may not have begun on 9/11, writes Eco,

“but it has been legitimised and globalised by it - with an unexpected consequence: the dominance of the American model over the digital economy. ... Europeans have still not woken up from their dream that this would foster global cooperation, while in fact it has quickly become an effective tool of [US] economic domination. In the nascent digital economy, the American giants have been able to exercise their power without control in Europe. The abuse of their dominant market position has led to the takeover of over 800 potential competitors and the destruction of just as many companies.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Belief in universal values is passé

The events 20 years ago were a rude awakening for the West, editor-in-chief Massimo Giannini laments in La Stampa:

“We had laboriously built our democracies by putting our faith in progress, co-determination, tolerance, freedom and rights. We believed that the community of values we had learned to call the West was attractive to all. ... We believed that the foundations of any liberal democracy - its constitution, the secular state, the separation of powers, parliaments and the alliance between capital and labour - could withstand all the influences of history. We believed that the fall of the Berlin Wall had settled the score between East and West forever - to our advantage. We believed that our affluent societies had disarmed the millennial religions and the ideologies of the 20th century. We were wrong.”