Can Bush Speak?
Find a Conversation
|Fri, 08-08-2003 - 7:29am|
The first time I felt uneasy was when he displayed such arrogance during the first days of the disputed election, before he stole the Presidency. He expressed such a sense of entitlement, such outrage that anyone would dare dispute the heir apparent! Okay -- all politicians are arrogant. But as I listened further, as his Presidency progressed, I noticed other things: his speech patterns, the types of emotions he tried to evoke, all seemed designed to create sorrow and guilt if you did not agree with him completely. He seemed like a preacher, or a father, sorrowing over our sins.
I was startled to discover that Renana Brooks, a clinical psychologist, has also been concerned about Bush's speechmaking. Dr. Brooks heads the Sommet Institute for the Study of Power and Persuasion. Dr. Brooks has discovered that Bush uses dependency-creating language, that he tries to shame others, with contempt and intimidation, into submission and dependence. His language is the language of the verbal abuser!
One of the techniques Bush uses is called empty language. This means that he uses broad statements that are abstract and mean little. They are almost impossible to analyze and oppose. For example, instead of explaining the relationship between malpractice insurance and increasing health care costs, Bush says, "No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit." Or, instead of giving giving concrete reasons for waging war on Iraq, Bush says, "We will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people." Verbal abusers, too, use empty language, to make others seem beneath contempt, and to rename and belittle their opinions.
Another technique Bush uses is personalization. He projects himself as the only person who can get the job done. He says, "I will not forget this wound on our country, and who inflicted it." Or, "I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." Compare this to Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Dr. Brooks finds that the word "you" seldom appears in Bush's speeches. Like abusers, he creates dependency.
Bush also uses a technique called negative framework. He borrows this technique from advertisers and hypnotists to create the image of a dark and dangerous world around us, so that we will be in fear, and respond with something psychologist Martin Seligman calls "learned helplessness." Contrast this with Franklin Roosevelt, who, when we were fighting for our survival, said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Or, compare it to Reagan, who said, in explanation of the crisis in Lebanon, "Where do we go from here? What can we do to help Lebanon gain greater stability, so that our marines can come home?"
In my opinion, Bush also resorts to character assination, like McCarthy. If you dare to disagree with him, your are labelled unAmerican. Bush uses the language of the abuser. He, like abusers, has isolated our country from its' traditional allies, with his crackpot imperialism and agression in Iraq. He has battered our economy and our environment. It is time to stop the abuse, and elect a better President.
You can learn more about Dr. Brooks at www.sommetinstitute.org.