The PJ Tatler

Famous Photo Almost Excluded from 9/11 Museum: Too 'Rah-Rah American'

A new book coming out next month about the fight over the planning and construction of the 9/11 museum reveals some shocking details about the decisions made about what should be included, as well as a sickening philosophy guiding those choices.


New York Post:

This iconic picture of firefighters raising the stars and stripes in the rubble of Ground Zero was nearly excluded from the 9/11 Memorial Museum — because it was “rah-rah” American, a new book says.

Michael Shulan, the museum’s creative director, was among staffers who considered the Tom Franklin photograph too kitschy and “rah-rah America,” according to “Battle for Ground Zero” (St. Martin’s Press) by Elizabeth Greenspan, out next month.

“I really believe that the way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently,” Shulan said.

Incredible. Shulan’s philosophy as he tries to explain himself is even more putrid and bizarre:

Shulan had worked on a popular post-9/11 photography exhibit called “Here is New York” in Soho when he was hired by Alice Greenwald, director of the museum, for his “unique approach.”

Eventually, chief curator Jan Ramirez proposed a compromise, Greenspan writes. The Franklin shot was minimized in favor of three different photos via three different angles of the flag-raising scene.

“Several images undercut the myth of ‘one iconic moment,’ Ramirez said, and suggest instead an event from multiple points of view, like the attacks more broadly,” the book says.

“Shulan didn’t like three photographs more than he liked one, but he went along with it.”

Shulan told The Post he didn’t know that the way Greenspan described the discussion about the photographs “is the way that I would have.”

“My concern, as it always was, is that we not reduce [9/11] down to something that was too simple, and in its simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event,” he said.

Who? What? WTF? “…[I]ts simplicity would actually distort the complexity of the event”? Pray tell, how does simplicity “distort”?

Shulan was hired for his “unique approach,” said the museum’s director. I think he was hired because he is a great bulls**tter. He transfixed the director with some artistic double talk and she fell for it.

For the record, 9/11 was simplicity personified. There is nothing complicated about why we were attacked. But by hiding behind complexity, you can ignore the obvious ramifications of the attack, and substitute — like Mr. Shulan — total bull**it.

There is a terrible sadness associated with this story. It is the growing realization that when my generation — or perhaps the one following — is gone, there will be more Americans like Mr. Shulman than Americans like me — people who find that kind of rationalization, that sort of ignorant posturing , rancid and decrepit.

I was hoping to visit the 9/11 museum some day. I’m sure there will be some powerful reminders of what happened. But if the guiding principles of its “creative director” is any indication of the tone and thrust of what the museum is offering, I want no part of it.