The Fertile Gardens of Liberty
I don't know how hypnotized or how stupid they have to be to have witnessed the pageant (as in that line from the movie "Wag The Dog": 'Think of it as a pageant') yesterday, and then have watched the Prime Time Speech by Bush and not notice the thousand-pound gorilla in the room.
But that's OK. The media haven't gotten it all along. Politics used to be about emotional "hot-button" issues and debates. The debates weren't always the most elevated, true. But there was actual debate.
But -- and I spent fifteen years in Hollywood watching it -- media is about appealing to the reptile brain, you know, hot-looking-girl equals chewing gum. So your reptile brain has been conditioned, like Pavlov's dog, and when you see the chewing gum, you think of that hot-looking-girl, and you buy the chewing gum. And in a strange way, the reptile brain -- or your instinctual brain, or your 'fight or flight' brain -- has been satisfied about the hot-looking-girl.
There are fifteen references to "Nine-Eleven," "September the 11th" and 9/11 in the speech.
The whole day has been about 9/11. The debate has raged about a 9/11 documentary, er, docudrama, er, crockumentary, er whatever on TV.
Americans preferred NFL opening weekend, which is ironic, considering that this whole cycle of post-Vietnam wars began in 1983, when breaking news about Lebanon and Grenada always seemed to happen during the halftime of NFL football games. The George HW Bush Panama invasion a few years later happened during bowl season, and halftime was a series of special reports on the Panama "crisis" and subsequent invasion.
That next Super Bowl, somehow, the halftime show, the Boy Scouts, the U.S. military, Whitney Houston, and George and Barbara Bush were seamlessly interwoven in a montage that still leaves me breathless when I think of it. Hot dogs, Mom, Apple Pie and Chevrolet. It was perfect from a propaganda art point of view. And nary a comment on it in the media.
This gum is what that hot-chick-who-kisses-the-hot guy chews. Or maybe he chews it. Doesn't matter. They eat that stuff up in Sweet Home, Oregon. You can find the gum in Tualatin and Tigard, in Clackamas and Pendleton and Madras and Boring. It's even in Irrigon, Oregon, but that hot chick lives somewhere in Santa Monica, California. But, while your rational mind -- the one that debates and thinks about issues -- knows, KNOWS this, the reptile brain is now firmly convinced that the hot chick is somehow embedded in that pack of gum. And so the reptile brain will want that gum whenever it sees it. The conditioning has neatly bypassed the cognitive mind entirely.
And, worse, we're conditioned to ACCEPT the conditioning from childhood. I don't need to further explain. You know how commercials work. You sneer at that stupid commercial. Yeah. Right: The gum DOES NOT equal the hot chick.
But when you see the gum, you think of the commercial, sneer at the conditioning, and yet buy the gum. And, as we walk out of the store, we tell ourselves: "Who do those advertisers think they're dealing with? Hah!" But you also think: "OK. This gum is kinda cool. It's not like that old 'squirt' gum or poprocks, though. Gee. I wonder whatever happened to Fizzies?"
And, as presently constituted, we don't so much have a government as an advertising campaign.
There are no hot button issues anymore: just hot buttons. As in "push their buttons."
It's conditioning, and it's supplanted debate. The news cycles broadcast the message to the reptilian brain, and not one smart reporter monkey seems to notice the thousand-pound gorilla in the room last night. They still think it's about debate. And so the conditioning message goes out even through the "smart' reporter monkeys. The Bushies realize that it's not thoughts that matter -- although they will fight with an almost feral intensity if you alter their words, euphemistically called "talking points."
It's not the "Estate Tax" (its legal name) it's the "Death Tax." It's not "redeploy over the horizon," it's "Cut and Run." It's "The War On Terror" and "I'm a war president." (That last is certainly true in a tragic sense that its speaker never seems to quite understand.) It's now "Islamo-fascists," where before it was whatever-it-was-before.
These Bushies are as addicted to their phraseology as they are to bad pulp prose, evidently.
The 9/11/2006 speech featured perhaps the worst purple prose ever included in a presidential address, a new low in the history of White House rhetoric:
At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty, and resume their rightful place in a world of peace and prosperity.As a professional writer, lo, these thirty years, I can only say: GAAAAACK!! Criminy that's dreadful. "The desert of despotism"? Perhaps the speechwriter meant "the DESSERT of despotism," I don't know, like, maybe just desserts, or else some fancy pastry that dictators have after their entree. It's hard to make sense of a metaphor that nails-on-a-blackboardy.
Listen to this rhetorical monstrousity that was read last night by a straight-faced -- and potentially sober -- George W. Bush:
Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent.Without passing judgment on the truthfulness of the proposition, it is EXECRABLE writing. Sax Rohmer wouldn't have stuck it in any Fu Manchu novel, nor would Lester Dent have used it in a Doc Savage book. Johnston McCully would have excised it from any Zorro novella and Edgar Rice Burroughs wouldn't have CONSIDERED putting it into a Tarzan novel, or even in his Mars series.
All right, now we can pass judgment on the "truthiness" of the proposition: it's B.S. For months, Bush has been explaining the ideology and philosophy of the "Terrorists" (or whatever they're called this week). And there is zero doubt that he is wrong. The only entity who holds the precise beliefs that Bush continually prates on about is Satan, and he's mythical -- at least as far as foreign policy should be conducted.
It doesn't matter that it's purple prose and bad pulp villain motivation. It's conditioning as it's meant to be conditioning, and so it works just like that gum-- and by negation, as well.
Them bad; we good. I: we. Therefore, I good. (to paraphrase Alley Oop).
I mean, I doubt that Bush could explain his OWN political philosophy. I am not about to take him at his word about what Osama bin Laden's political philosophy is. And, of course, George MUST now expand the franchise. If Osama died, he wouldn't have a franchise any more.
Technically, he was given the authority to go and "git" Osama bin Laden. This, he has not done. Meantime, they've consolidated huge chunks of the government under the rubric of "Homeland Security." And, while no one seemingly was watching, they've consolidated all the intelligence agencies under one Super Intelligence agency, of which John Negroponte is "czar."
And all to fight ... well, EVIL.
Because that's what's continually pounded into our heads: the "terrorists" are evil. No one can dispute it. The "Al Qaeda" is evil. Ditto. (But, alas, and increasingly, dittoheads ditto.)
Somehow we were back fighting World War Two again, last night, and George even mentioned some of his predecessors -- usually a bad sell on his part unless he's talking about Millard C. Fillmore or Warren G. Harding. Still, conditioning IS conditioning, and it doesn't hurt to try. If they do it long enough and hard enough, even I might actually believe that he's an American president -- although I doubt it, frankly. Conditioning has its limits.
They've plowed the fertile graveyard of 9/11 for five years now, and for his speech to the nation, one need not have been surprised that it would be about George W. Bush's wants and needs, rather than the nation's wants and needs. There was no doubt that the speech would be about What George Wants. (I mean, there are people in New York still so aggrieved and grieving about 9/11 that they stood for hours in the still unfilled hole of 9/11 and listened to what was, in effect, a dramatic reading of the phone book of a small town of 3,000. Surely the speech would be about them, right? No: if you thought that, you must have just fallen of the watermelon truck, to use the awkward 'folksie' colloquialism that Mommy and Daddy Bush love so well).
Let's put it this way:
George W. Bush finished up a two-day "Nine-Eleven" marathon by flying from New York to Pennsylvania back to Washington D.C. and gave a Prime Time Address on the subject, seemingly of "Nine-Eleven."
Fifteen times did he reference it in the speech. Go to the whitehouse web site and you can watch the streaming video and download the official transcript AND you get not one, not two, but THREE bonus 9/11 references (Heck Aunt Nancy, there's even a "Remembering 9/11" special page with photo essays and video and all kindsa stuff! It's at http://www.whitehouse.gov/september11/ as if you couldn't guess.)
Two days of flying and praying and God blessing us, from the Oval Office, in Prime Time on the Fifth Anniversary of Nine Eleven George W. Bush managed to conflate Iraq and Nine Eleven again.
After two weeks of "Saddam Hussein didn't have anything to do with 9/11" from Bush, from Cheney, the Republican-chaired Senate Intelligence Committee. Iraq does not equal Nine-Eleven. (Condoleeza Rich didn't seem to have gotten the memo. Or perhaps some conditionings are harder to break than others).
At least he didn't say anything about the "Islamo-fascists."
Then I'da been askeered fer sure.
Bush yet again conflated 9/11 with Iraq. And the media seems to have gotten right up out of their chairs, walked to the corner grocery and bought the gum.
This is LITERALLY pandering to the "basest instincts of mankind." The fear instinct is the most basic instinct of all, trumping all others, save the maternal instinct (which has a lot of projected fear associated with it. The maternal instinct realizes that it's fearing for more than one, after all).
I will not mention that the technically precise definition of "terrorism" is:
n. The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. [The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2004.]Er, whoops.
But, alas for the Bush, America was watching something else: After all, this WAS the premiere of Monday Night Football on ESPN after 35 years on ABC, and it was the first Monday Night Double-Header. The Redskins Vikings game was tied 16-16 in the middle of the fourth quarter and was decided by a kick with virtually no time remaining.
You live by the halftime, you die by the halftime.
I guess they were so busy re-conditioning us that Iraq equals 9/11 that they forgot that one.
I wonder what kind of gum they chew?