Only a Traitor Wouldn't Trust Dear Leader to Keep Us Safe. You're Not a Traitor Are You?
How lovely. The networks give BushCo prime time on a Sunday night to sing another chorus of Stay the Course. Whenever BushCo makes a major speech, I like to remind myself of Dr. Reanna Brooks' analysis of Dear Leader's speaking style, which she, in "A Nation of Victims," describes as "abusive." From the article:
President Bush, like many dominant personality types, uses dependency-creating language. He employs language of contempt and intimidation to shame others into submission and desperate admiration. While we tend to think of the dominator as using physical force, in fact most dominators use verbal abuse to control others.
A key trick is "personalization":
... By personalization I mean localizing the attention of the listener on the speaker's personality. Bush projects himself as the only person capable of producing results. In his post-9/11 speech to Congress he said, "I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people." He substitutes his determination for that of the nation's. In the 2003 State of the Union speech he vowed, "I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." Contrast Bush's "I will not yield" etc. with John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Here's BushCo from tonight during a particularly long stretch, which comes at the end like a crescendoing coda and even opens with some good old fashioned dolchstoßlegende for good measure:
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.
Shorter version: "The only thing we have to fear is dissent because verily without it all things are possible. I'm telling you nicely, you people are well-meaning traitors who seek to undermine freedom around the world and you'd better just shut the fuck up before we make you shut the fuck up." He probably should have been positioned on a balcony surrounded by armed soldiers and clergy members instead of behind a desk for that part to have its full effect but he works with what he has. Now here's the big finish. Count the personal pronouns.
Americans can expect some things of me as well. My most solemn responsibility is to protect our Nation, and that requires me to make some tough decisions. I see the consequences of those decisions when I meet wounded servicemen and women who cannot leave their hospital beds, but summon the strength to look me in the eye and say they would do it all over again. I see the consequences when I talk to parents who miss a child so much – but tell me he loved being a soldier … he believed in his mission … and Mr. President, finish the job.
I know that some of my decisions have led to terrible loss – and not one of those decisions has been taken lightly. I know this war is controversial – yet being your President requires doing what I believe is right and accepting the consequences. And I have never been more certain that America’s actions in Iraq are essential to the security of our citizens, and will lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.
It's good to be king.
Another aspect of BushCo's style, which Brooks notes, is the constant use of empty language - statements so broad or abstract that they are impossible to refute. There was plenty of that tonight ("to give Iraqis confidence that a free life will be a better life"; "Mr. President, finish the job."; "For every scene of destruction in Iraq, there are more scenes of rebuilding and hope. For every life lost, there are countless more lives reclaimed.") You can't drop a pencil without hitting another empty phrase. If you object to any one of them, you run the risk of being labelled a partisan defeatist, as Dear Leader warned us. So in the interest of not being chased by my torch-wielding neighbors, I'll move on to Brooks' third aspect of BushCoSpeak: pounding home a negative framework which leads to learned helplessness. Here's Brooks:
Psychologist Martin Seligman, in his extensive studies of "learned helplessness," showed that people's motivation to respond to outside threats and problems is undermined by a belief that they have no control over their environment. Learned helplessness is exacerbated by beliefs that problems caused by negative events are permanent; and when the underlying causes are perceived to apply to many other events, the condition becomes pervasive and paralyzing.
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.)
Here's some of BushCo from tonight:
If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.
This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims – a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals – to de-moralize free nations … to drive us out of the Middle East … to spread an empire of fear across that region … and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends. These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield – and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaida to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.
The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere – they object to our deepest values and our way of life. And if we were not fighting them in Iraq … in Afghanistan … in Southeast Asia … and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens – they would be on the offense, and headed our way.
September 11th, 2001 required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously, and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them. On that day, we were not in Iraq … we were not in Afghanistan … but the terrorists attacked us anyway – and killed nearly 3,000 men, women, and children in our own country.
Then he outlines his three-part plan for total victory. It's filled with dishonest numbers and empty language like, "'Another voter was asked, 'Are you Sunni or Shia?' He responded, 'I am Iraqi.'" and "our Coalition will remain on the offense – finding and clearing out the enemy." It isn't long before he's back reminding us of why we must believe in that miracle plan or failing that, at least shut up: it's because our lives depend on it him. By the way, this next paragraph hits the abusive language trifecta. See if you can find an example of each technique.
It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. We would abandon our Iraqi friends – and signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops – by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve, and tighten their repressive grip. We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us – and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor … and I will not allow it.
We are, indeed, helpless to resist. So relax kids, if you do exactly as Drunk Daddy says and if you shut up so he can concentrate on keeping us safe from all the secret, dangerous things that only he can see and keep us safe from, he won't let the terrorists attack us in broad daylight in two cities leading to the deaths of 3,000 innocent people. Again.
Related: Before the speech Timmah helpfully announced the WH line that BushCo would not be addressing the "eavesdropping" that violated federal law and the Constitution. Then we heard this:
Americans can expect some things of me as well. My most solemn responsibility is to protect our Nation, and that requires me to make some tough decisions.
If anyone thought that that line didn't address the "eavesdropping" unpleasantness, they're probably working for the corporate media.