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par Julian VIGO
Just over a year after September 11, 2001 the Metropolitan Transport Authority of New York City ran the series of ads, “If you see something, say something”, forewarning subway commuters of abandoned bags or rucksacks left under subway platform or passenger seats. The subtitle could not have directed a clearer message to New Yorkers : “Be suspicious…” where the object of suspicion was left ambiguous, if not bulky and dark.
This public campaign was launched just a few months before the United States’ government initiated Special Registration, a process which required Muslim male immigrants over the age of 16 to register with Homeland Security (the agency created in the aftermath of 9/11 which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Services). Because of Special Registration there was a roundup and detention of Arab and Muslim men carried out with unprecedented secrecy violating very basic civil rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the very human rights delineated by the Universal Declaration that the United States helped draft (Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and played a major role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948). In the months following 9/11approximately 13000 men were virtually disappeared from civil society in the United States as part of the US government’s implementation of the Patriot Act as executed through its Homeland Security Department. Contiguous to the quite visible and much-discussed rendering of the dead of 9/11 and their memorialization in American society in the years since 9/11, there has been a disturbing silence in American media and society at large regarding the routine rounding up, interrogation and imprisonment of these men of Arab origin throughout the United States that took place in the months following 9/11. Still what persists in New York’s transport system today are 8th generation versions of this public service announcement to include multimedia adaptations (1) of this message from December 2002 while the suspicion of Muslims and Muslim Americans in the United States has reached previously unimaginable depths. Since its adoption by New York’s Metropolitan Transport Authority, “See something, say something” was adopted by the City of Chicago, and then nationally with Department of Homeland Security.