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september 15, 2003

Verbal Abuse

A few months ago Renana Brooks wrote an interesting article in The Nation analyzing Bush's use of negatively charged emotional language as a political tool:

Bush is a master at inducing learned helplessness in the electorate. He uses pessimistic language that creates fear and disables people from feeling they can solve their problems. In his September 20, 2001, speech to Congress on the 9/11 attacks, he chose to increase people's sense of vulnerability: "Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen... I ask you to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many citizens have fears tonight... Be calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat." (Subsequent terror alerts by the FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security have maintained and expanded this fear of unknown, sinister enemies.)

Contrast this rhetoric with Franklin Roosevelt's speech delivered the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He said: "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory... There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces--with the unbounding determination of our people--we will gain the inevitable triumph--so help us God." Roosevelt focuses on an optimistic future rather than an ongoing threat to Americans' personal survival.

Great! Now, to be a vigilant citizen you must not only keep an eye out for government deception, but also somehow shield yourself from mass hypnosis. This is just getting weird. Anyway, one editorial adjustment I'd make to this article would be to go through the entire thing and replace "Bush" with "Karl Rove & Friends". I just have a hard time believing Bush has the capacity to be this diabolical all by himself.