Differences

But there are substantial differences between the 'spectacle of the real', in this case, and the Hollywood equivalent; differences that clearly code one as 'reality' and the other as part of the realm of fictional-entertainment spectacle. Certain aspects of the images function as markers of modality, signalling their status as one or the other; the term, from linguistics, is used by Robert Hodge and David Tripp, in a different context, to suggest 'ways of situating messages in relation to an ostensible reality' (1986: 43). A number of modality markers made it clear that the real images on September 11 were not something from or 'just like' a movie. For a start, it would be abundantly clear to viewers with any media literacy that what they were watching on the day was of the nature of a 'breaking' live news event, an intrusion into normal programming or into normal news coverage. This is made apparent through numerous familiar conventions, including commentary by news anchors, reporters and 'experts' and through graphics presented on-screen. These are not absolute guarantors of authenticity, given that such devices are sometimes used in fictional works, precisely because of their power to evoke an impression of w the real. Recent examples include some sequences in the BBC television u production Smallpox 2002: Silent Weapon (2002), which employed real news L anchors as part of its realization of an imagined smallpox outbreak, although in this e case in a production that presented itself as a retrospective analysis. Any viewer M unsure of the status of the coverage on 9/11 could have any doubts dispelled, ยง however, as some reported at the time, by changing channels: the fact that the same ? material was being presented on all networks at the same time underlined its status 9

not just as 'reality', but as reality considered to be of a high order of impact and importance.

Looking in closer detail at the images, many of the modality markers of real/actuality television in this case were to do with what was missing, what was absent, in comparison with the Hollywood-fictional equivalent. One of the markers of real, genuine authenticity in audio-visual media generally is a reduction often in the plenitude of images, as suggest by Amy West elsewhere in this volume. This applies to both 'real' reality coverage and the fabricated version found in some fictions. Absences or reduced quality of images - such as shaky camerawork, dodgy focus or awkward zooms - signify that events have not been staged for the convenience of the production of images. Coverage reacts to the events, rather than the events being created for, or through, the images themselves. In the case of September the 11th, there were numerous such signifiers of actuality.

There was initially no footage of the first impact at all, a key absence, a guarantor of authenticity (what spectacular disaster fiction would leave so crucial an event unseen, other than in the event of a severe lack of resources?) that was not filled until the following day. Our view of the second impact was obscured, rather than clear and complete. Depending on which channel viewers were tuned into, the impact happened either behind the first tower to have been hit, or behind the tower that was now being hit. In both cases, viewers could see - in multiple repetitions throughout the day - the plane approaching, momentarily disappearing from sight and then only the great billow of flame that emerged out from another side of the building. The moment of impact was teasingly out of view.

There was also an absence of close-ups or images of what was going on inside the tower: the kinds of scenes of panic, death, rescue or escape that would be expected in a movie. There was no human scale to which to relate what we were watching -very much the essential stuff of the Hollywood-fantasy version, in which we would expect melodramatic sequences, focused around central individual characters to whom we had been introduced in advance, depicting tragic and heroic encounters inside the twin towers. There was also a considerable and sometimes sustained confusion in while-it-was-happening coverage. The BBC, for example, reported at _ one point that another plane had hit, when what had happened was the collapse of ce the first tower. For all the real drama and its extraordinary nature, there was also a j= slower passage of events than would be found in a fictional version such as the rapid, intense, multiple impacts of the meteor shower on Manhattan in o Armageddon. "G

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