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Sifting through 9/11 anniversary talk….

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Ted Koppel shrewdly analyzed how America handed victories to Osama bin Laden in its response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

But he failed to mention a key player in the fear that has made that possible: The news media.

Stoking fear and alarm over terrorism — and provoking a jittery response to every threat with breaking news alerts, no matter how serious in hindsight — has been good for business. And media outlets have been all too willing to feed anxiety, seeing that as a logical come-on to compel viewers to watch and (in terms of radio) listen.

Since most people derive their impressions of the world at large from television (and to a sadly lesser degree, newspapers), this is hardly an inconsequential contributor to the environment that has made the overreactions and poorly conceived responses in the wake of 9/11 possible.

We have met the enemy, in other words, and he is good for ratings — or at least, perceived to be so.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles Times media columnist James Rainey pointed out CNN resident bozo Rick Sanchez’s role in thrusting freak-show pastor Terry Jones into the media spotlight. According to the piece — which meticulously assembles the overplayed story’s genesis — Sanchez interviewed Jones early on and then fussed when he wasn’t credited for bringing this loon to the public’s attention.

Sanchez is a big reason why despite all the rhetoric from CNN Prez Jon Klein about his network being the one middle-of-the-road hard-news operation, it’s difficult to take the channel seriously.

Like I’ve said before, ideology and political polarization are only part of CNN’s problem. As “The Daily Show” regularly documents in devastating fashion, it’s the frequent bouts of stupidity that truly undermine CNN’s desire to provide a sober alternative to Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

Can Piers Morgan and Eliot Spitzer/Kathleen Parker change that dynamic? We’ll see soon enough.