Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bubble Boy II

The Lynch Mob Meme, Part 5

Among the innumerable inadvertent ironies of Bush’s ascent is the benefit of the doubt he got from this claim of “emotional intelligence.” The claim can only have come from those almost autistically lacking insight or sympathy. Though he has gotten better at reading robotically from the teleprompter, Bush’s mannerisms, whenever he speaks from the heart or wanders away from the script, are like those of the villain in a crudely melodramatic movie; they positively scream: lying, phony, shifty, twisted. Most directors would ask their villain to reign it in a bit, get it down to the level of say Joaquin Phoenix’s evil emperor in Gladiator. But apparently nobody can give Junior such direction; he doesn’t speak the language, and in Bushese there’s no way to convey this. No wonder untold millions of Americans cannot even bear to witness W’s tortured stammers and grimaces, the weird, desperate semaphor of his body language, like that of a Tourettor trying not to bark or curse. Almost as unbearable, is the post-event analysis of each ever more “Presidential” speech, which until very recently was invariably offered up the ass-licking hacks of the corporate media.

The sheer awfulness and mendacity of George Bush’s every speech, make George Orwell’s much-anthologized essay, “Politics and the English Language,” seem Pollyannish. Technically, W’s entire rhetorical repertoire consists of: nonsense, platitude, malapropism, truism, error, and falsehood. He seems pathologically incapable of speaking the plain truth. So much of what he says proves, upon even cursory consideration, to be nonsense; it’s simply unintelligible because the syntax is mangled, the words are made up, or the sense of one clause immediately cancels out the sense of its apparent complement. Less technically. it often seems that Bush speeches consist of nonsense and falsehood in precisely the ‘Less filling/Tastes Great’ proportions. Indeed, he speeks Advertese, it which truth is a vestigial mood, as subjunctive is in English.

Bush has gotten less halting as he reads from the teleprompter, though not so on the rare occasion when he has to answer a reporter’s question. Still, even at his best, W. sounds very much like a text-to-speech computer program. The elocution is almost right, but the emphases and rhythms are definitely off; it’s as if there’s nobody inside the speech, no truly sentient entity making the sounds.

There are those, especially Mark Crispin Miller, who claim that Bush’s incoherence is somehow adaptive or strategic, a sort of learned-helplessness which allows for infinite retroactive spin, no-fault retraction, and plausible deniability. This seems true, although also sometimes too kind to Bush, as in the following example, which catches the nauseating quintessence of W., though it is hardly the most incoherent or dishonest example in his history. During a press conference on the eve of the Afghan “war,” October 11th, 2001, a reporter asked Bush:

“Mr. President… you haven't called for any sacrifices from the American people. And I wonder, do you feel that any will be needed? Are you planning to call for any?”

The question clearly baffled and alarmed Bush, but bafflement didn’t stop W. from spewing a bit on the subject:

“Well, you know, I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think they're waiting in airport lines longer than they've ever had before. I think that -- I think there's a certain sacrifice when you lose a piece of your soul. And Americans -- I was standing up there at the Pentagon today, and I saw the tears of the families whose lives were lost in the Pentagon. And I said in my talk there that America prays with you. I think there's a sacrifice, there's a certain sense of giving themselves to share their grief with people they'll never, maybe, ever see in their lives.
So America is sacrificing. America -- I think the interesting thing that has happened, and this is so sad an incident, but there are some positive things developed -- that are developing. One is, I believe that many people are reassessing what's important in life. Moms and dads are not only reassessing their marriage and the importance of their marriage, but of the necessity of loving their children like never before. I think that's one of the positives that have come from the evildoers.”

It is worth noting that W. clearly, literally doesn’t know what “sacrifice” means. Not the simple, painful ‘surrender of something for the sake of a particular end,’ sacrifice is a metaphysical, highly theoretical concept for W., something, apparently, to do with the “soul.” On the practical level, Bush has sacrifice confused with any suffering (or even inconvenience) that incidentally befalls one. Then again, how would W. know about sacrifice or how it differs from suffering? He’s never had to work for anything, pay his own bills, or suffer the penalty for his indulgences. So: longer airport lines, that’s W’s idea of wartime sacrifice. The Aphasia-as-Learned-Helplessness theorists might point out that this confusion of terms did allow Bush to avoid politically risky considerations like spiraling deficits and body bags, things which would ensue should a real war break, out as he so wished, and we now know, intended. It is especially worth noting here, that while one can be a decent person without understanding, say, supermarket code-scanners, understanding of sacrifice is absolutely, intrinsically necessary to real decency and leadership.
(to be continued)


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