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"A particularly astute analysis of the television coverage of the campaign, the election, and the political aftermath."—NewsdayThe Bush Dyslexicon is a raucously funny ride—whether it's Bush envisioning "a foreign-handed foreign policy" or Miller skewering vociferous cultural conservatives like William Bennett and Lynne Cheney for their silence on Bush's particular "West Texas version of Ebonics." But there is also a strong undercurrent of outrage. Only because our elections have become so dependent on television and its emphatic emptiness, says
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"A particularly astute analysis of the television coverage of the campaign, the election, and the political aftermath."—NewsdayThe Bush Dyslexicon is a raucously funny ride—whether it's Bush envisioning "a foreign-handed foreign policy" or Miller skewering vociferous cultural conservatives like William Bennett and Lynne Cheney for their silence on Bush's particular "West Texas version of Ebonics." But there is also a strong undercurrent of outrage. Only because our elections have become so dependent on television and its emphatic emptiness, says Miller, could a man of such sublime and complacent ignorance assume the highest office in the land.
LOOK WHO'S TALKING
On picking up The Bush Dyslexicon, you may think you've seen this sort of thing a hundred times before—and not only in bookstores but on TV. This book, you figure, must be just another snickering ad hominem attack on yet another U.S. president—a blast of easy satire, meanly motivated. On the one hand, it might be a piece of laughing propaganda by, or for, the party out of power, in this case the Democrats now doing to George W. Bush what, say, the Republicans, and/or the Christian Coalition, did to Bill Clinton or what the Democrats had done to Richard Nixon or what the right had done to FDR: putting out a mocking version of "the record," full of campaign lies and comic gaffes and damning statements taken out of context. Or this book might be a mere commercial venture, with no partisan affiliation—a lite anthology of famous bloopers, offering a bound equivalent of an evening's worth of campaign-season stand-up, TV's sharpest wiseguys taking on the latest round of flubs and pratfalls. Thus this Dyslexicon would fall into the rich—and often lucrative—tradition of David Frye (doing Nixon), Chevy Chase (doing Gerald Ford), countless mimics doing Jimmy Carter, and so on, right up through the last campaign, when everyone was doing the "robotic" Gore and Bush the Bumbler. And so whether you regard it as a partisan assault or an attempt at cashing in, this book may strike you as either a cheap shot or a guilty pleasure, depending on which man you voted for—assuming you could vote, or even wanted to.
First impressions often tell the truth, as I will argue here. Your first impression of this book may be off the mark, however. For one thing, the Dyslexicon is not a piece of party propaganda. Its aim is not to move the masses to take some simple action, nor is it part of any broader effort by the Democrats. (As a New Yorker, I could vote safely for Ralph Nader, and I did so with a certain wary pride.) Nor does this book play any propaganda tricks. It includes no items altered or abbreviated, nor is it cunningly selective, but rather reprints passages at length and places entries in their proper context—at times even debunking certain unfair raps against this Bush or his father. Most important, this book does not promote the dangerous simplicity that marks all propaganda, good or bad, backward or enlightened. ("All propaganda is a lie, even when it is telling the truth," as George Orwell put it.) While it is clearly "anti-Bush," in other words, it is not a tacit advertisement for some simple other way. (Indeed, its tacit purpose is to warn against the sort of warlike either/or that is destroying our democracy, through both the GOP and major media.) On the contrary, this book admits complexity, honoring paradox and ambiguity—a flexible approach that doesn't make for propaganda, which tightly answers every question so as to leave you grinning in assent.
While it promotes no party line, neither is this book a mere anthology of funny bits. Amusing as it often is, The Bush Dyslexicon has not been crafted just for laughs, although that would have been an easy job. For one thing, such manipulation would have been dishonest—and irrelevant, because the situation that we're in today is really not so funny. Even if our president were the cheery cretin that such satire makes him out to be, it wouldn't make our plight a comic one, for he has a highly seasoned, wholly ruthless, and, for that matter, deeply humorless cabal of rightist pols and operatives around him—and that's no joke. In any case, our president is not an imbecile but an operator just as canny as he is hard-hearted—which is to say that he's extraordinarily shrewd. To smirk at his alleged stupidity is, therefore, not just to miss the point, but to do this unelected president a giant favor since, as Shakespeare's Prince Hal reminds us—and as Bush himself has often said—it suits a politician to have everybody thinking he's a dunce, especially if he wants to do things his way. The satire that sells him short, therefore, can only work to his advantage, by blinding us to his team's big-time plans and causing us to overlook his own prodigious skill at propaganda.
Far from merely goofing on this president, then, this book is meant to shed some light on propaganda in our time. The Dyslexicon attempts to give the lie to that enormous wave of propaganda—a joint production of the GOP and major media—whereby George W. Bush was forced on us as president, and then, after his inauguration, hailed almost universally for his amazing charm, his democratic ease, his rare ability to be all things to all Americans, and so on. Our experience of this transparent coup has been disorienting from the start. On the one hand, TV has clearly shown the truth about him—with his own inadvertent help, since Bush is strangely frank about himself. His body language bellows his uninterest, his distraction, his uneasiness, his callousness; and he tends to blurt out all or part of what he's really thinking, even as he's trying to lie about it (a linguistic struggle that intensifies his incoherence). Meanwhile, his handlers and the mainstream media all keep on trying to play the revelations down, forever countering the obvious with lots of upbeat spin and tactful silence. Thus TV keeps on sending us an eerie double message, by showing us one thing and telling us another. Those who want to buy the pitch prefer the latter, naturally, while those who just can't buy it feel as if they must be going crazy, what with all those smooth authoritative voices claiming that this man should be our president—when we can see, and have seen all along, that that is simply not the case.
Thus we are the victims of a strange new national disorder. It is as if the U.S. body politic were itself afflicted with a corporate version of dyslexia. The individual dyslexic cannot learn to read because he is unable, for whatever reasons, to translate letters into sounds. Because he can't decode those printed symbols for their phonic content, the writing on the page can make no sense to him. Today our body politic is comparably disabled, although it isn't written language that's the problem. The head that drives that body forward is, of course, the media machine—the busy neural network of producers, editors, anchors, journalists, and pundits, all subtly guided by the propagandists of the right. While it has no trouble scanning press releases or providing copy for the TelePrompTers, that swift, collective mind is fatally dyslexic when it comes to doping out the very spectacle that it presents to us. Unable to perceive the glaring daily evidence of absolute hypocrisy and cynical manipulation, it cannot read the writing on the wall—which, meanwhile, is crystal clear to many of the rest of us. The dyslexics at the top may be extremely savvy, yet they lack (to quote Orwell again) that all-important knowledge "in the bones" whereby we try, down here, to make our way. Seeing that it's all gone wrong yet always hearing, from on high, that everything is perfectly all right, we each feel—whether we can read or not—as helpless and perplexed as any undiagnosed dyslexic faced with street signs, menus, newspapers, and exams.
Against all that, The Bush Dyslexicon is meant to set the record straight: to remind us of the truth that TV shows us, even as it keeps on lying about it—much like the president himself, who, unless he knows his script by heart, often tells the truth despite himself, and does it most transparently when he is lying. (In this he is much like his dad, as we shall see.) By thus corroborating what TV so viscerally conveys, the book may also help dispel the great myth of "the liberal media"—a preposterous notion (or Big Lie) that Rush Limbaugh and his screaming brethren have long since sold to millions of Americans. And, more subtly, by pointing out the truths that television has revealed to us, this book may also shed some light on the bizarre postmodern form that propaganda often takes today, here in the culture of TV—wherein the falseness of the spectacle before us is a sort of open secret, obvious to any viewer who wants to see it and, strangely, all the more deceptive for that fact.
FIRST IN HIS CLASS
Of all his flaws, the president's illiteracy is—or was—the one most noted by the media. Governor Bush's way with words (and logic, and books) got prominently covered in the months before Election Day, although journalists eased off as time went on. His bite-sized gaffes were perfect for TV, which duly replayed some of them, while Frank Bruni of the New York Times tracked the candidate's most flagrant boners. (Meanwhile, long lists of Bushisms—carefully compiled for Slate by Jacob Weisberg—crisscrossed the country via e-mail so that the Democratic precincts of all cyberspace were finally saturated by November 7.) More influentially, the televisual concentration on Son of Bushspeak—George H. W. Bush having had a similar problem—extended quickly to the realm of late-night comedy, which is the surest way to the nation's consciousness. (Of course, the shtick on Bush was more gleeful, and far more insulting, than the tittering journalistic bits.) Such reportage-cum-stand-up did the trick, to some extent. Soon everybody knew that Bush could not pronounce "subliminal," while few had heard—or ever would hear—of his neglected military service, his many shady business dealings, or his close ties to the likes of Representative Tom DeLay, to name a few of his more substantive and complicated failings.
The governor was not the first American presidential candidate to stand accused of gross illiteracy. In the fierce campaign of 1828, the genteel supporters of incumbent John Quincy Adams—that dour, standoffish veteran of the Harvard faculty—tried to beat back the advance of Andrew Jackson, the much-loved hero of the War of 1812, by casting him as far too rough-edged and unthinking to "discharge the complicated and arduous duties of President," as one Whig politician put it. To make their case that Jackson was a man "who cannot spell more than about one word in four," to quote one piece of Adams propaganda, the Whigs circulated letters that included stark examples of Old Hickory's faulty English—proof that he was too coarse, too "savage," to be entrusted with the nation's leadership. The general was "a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar." Adams later hotly reminisced, "and hardly could spell his own name."
There are, however, some big differences between the anti-Jackson campaign and the recent coverage of the governor's defective English. First of all, the Whigs themselves invented those "examples" of the general's illiteracy—as they were forced to do, since Jackson was in fact an eloquent haranguer, whether at the podium or at his desk, even if his syntax wasn't always perfect. The governor's linguistic record, on the other hand, is all preserved on video and/or audio. It is therefore as authentic as the secret tapes of Richard Nixon or as any flub or pratfall broadcast on America's Funniest Home Videos.
As the Dyslexicon makes clear, this president would seem to be the most illiterate in U.S. history. His is not the merely technical illiteracy of most Americans, who, irrespective of their class or education, routinely make grammatical mistakes so slight that only pedants mind them: George W. Bush is so illiterate as to turn completely incoherent when he speaks without a script or unless he thinks his every statement through so carefully beforehand that the effort empties out his face. His eyes go blank as he consults the TelePrompTer in his head, and he chews uneasily at the corner of his mouth, as if to keep his lips in motion for the coming job, much as a batter swings before the pitch. Thus prepared, he then meticulously sounds out every ... single ... word, as if asking for assistance in a foreign language. Without such hasty mental planning, Bush is liable to make statements that either don't mean anything ("I will have a foreign-handed foreign policy") or require unscrambling ("Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream") or say the opposite of what he means ("Well, I think if you say you're going to do something and don't do it, that's trustworthiness") or are just dead wrong ("The legislature's job is to write law. It's the executive branch's job to interpret law").
Indeed, our president's illiteracy is something of a miracle, as rich in its own way as the expository genius of the Founding Fathers. His incapacity does not reflect one problem in particular but several kinds of verbal defect. As Gail Sheehy has argued, the president may actually suffer from dyslexia. (For Governor Bush's response to that diagnosis, see p. 102.) Surely that condition may explain his tendency to transpose words and to blurt out the opposite of what he means. It may also explain his frequent malapropisms ("hostile" for "hostage," "arbitrary" for "arbitration," "preserve" for "persevere," "cufflink" for "handcuff," etc.). However, dyslexia would not account for his incessant violation of the fundamental rules of grammar ("The question is, how many hands have I shaked?"), his syntactic accidents ("It's not the way America is all about"), or his utter prepositional confusion. Nor—far more important—would dyslexia explain the president's thorough unacquaintance with the system that he now purports to lead or his unawareness of the world beyond our borders (except for northern Mexico). To believe that Social Security is somehow not a federal program, that the word "insurance" is mere Washington bureaucratese, to think that Kosovars are "Kosovarians" (and the Greeks "Grecians," and the East Timorese "East Timorians"), and to confuse Slovenia with Slovakia—and the judicial branch of our own government with the executive—is to suffer from no disability but ignorance.
Clearly, we have come a long way from the discursive model of the Founders, those broadly educated and "profoundly reasonable people" whose language was exemplary for its "everyday businesslike sanity," as Bernard Bailyn has observed. Of course, it is unfair to measure Bush against the likes of Madison, Monroe, and Jefferson since, as expositors, they surely have no peer among the modern tenants of the White House. Perhaps, then, we should compare Bush not with the very greatest of his literate predecessors but with those who tend to place last in historians' rankings of American presidents. Yet even in comparison with most of them as users of the language, this Bush does not compete. The one likely peer who comes to mind is Zachary Taylor, an arrogant patrician dunce renowned for his contempt of learning. Otherwise, even the least of our premodern presidents are daunting in their eloquence and erudition, since all of them were well instructed in the art of rhetoric (which back then denoted far more than "baloney"—the colloquial meaning of the word today). The well-read James Buchanan could make thorny legalisms understandable to common folk; Franklin Pierce—a distant forebear of our president on Mother's side—was fluent in Greek and Latin, like so many of his peers, and an adept of Locke's philosophy; John Tyler was also a cultivated lawyer; and the autodidact Millard Fillmore was assiduous in compensating for the rudimentary education of his early years. (Throughout his unimpressive stint as president, Fillmore was never "heard [to] utter a foolish or unmeaning word," claimed his attorney general.) The disastrous Andrew Johnson was a first-rate speaker, while his bibulous successor, Ulysses Grant, could boast some literary genius, as readers of his Memoirs know. In the last century, the dim and genial Warren Harding—although a stunning windbag—at least had what it took to edit several newspapers, and the hapless Herbert Hoover was a copious and able author.
For all their faults as chief executives, none of those men could ever have said anything like "A leadership is someone who brings people together" or the celebrated "Is our children learning?" Yet here again it may be unreasonable to hold Bush—a child of television and a product of modern education—to the vanished standards of nineteenth-century schooling. Against them, such precise and ready talkers as Bill Clinton also fail, and so do nearly all the rest of us. ("If we wish to become great and useful in the world, we must improve our time in school" wrote Grover Cleveland, age nine, in 1846.) Perhaps, then, we should measure Bush against those postwar presidents who in their time also took flak for verbal failure. Eisenhower was often ridiculed for the syntactic murk of his adlibbed remarks—but such obfuscatory rambling was deliberate, a canny way to dodge the question without seeming to. Despite his folksy aspect, Eisenhower was a subtle and exacting rhetorician, as Emmet John Hughes, his top political adviser, points out in The Ordeal of Power, and at his best a vivid writer, as Crusade in Europe demonstrates. Obsessively prolific, the mad Nixon was throughout his public life often faulted—rightly—for the deep dishonesty and egocentric bias of his output, both written and spoken; yet even his most violent memos were drafted in sound English, and in his lucid intervals he could indeed be "perfectly clear," as we can see from his debates with Kennedy. And even Ronald Reagan, although much mocked for his simplicity, was in fact an avid reader—albeit one with a hearty appetite for anti-Soviet propaganda—and (when he knew his lines) an excellent speaker—a talent that depended on the vast archive of quips and anecdotes stored in his head. "His mental cassettes," Lou Cannon writes, "were crammed with odd scraps of information and obscure insights that he had acquired from his reading [and, of course, his viewing] and committed to memory." Thus Reagan did have an absorptive and inquiring mind of sorts—even if he did think that the singular of "indices" was "indice".
And yet without a script, of course, the Great Communicator tended either to fall mute or make no sense at all, nor was he capable of writing books or full-length speeches by himself. However, Ronald Reagan was another Winston Churchill by comparison with George W. Bush—whose only competition for the anticrown of presidential barbarism would appear to be the gentleman who sired him. In his day, the frenetic and uneasy George I was just as tongue-tied as the laid-back W. Throughout the 1988 campaign, in fact, his penchant for "Bushspeak" was a subject of much tittering coverage, which pushed the contrast between his awkwardness and Reagan's way with (scripted) words. Just like his son, the elder Bush was ridiculed for meaningless assertions worthy of Sam Goldwyn ("It's no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another"), for mangled syntax (he claimed to oversee the writing of his speeches, "inarticulate as though I may be"), for using the wrong word (the Democrats had "cramped down on any discussion of individual initiatives"), and for non sequiturs, mixed metaphors, and wild allusions ("You cannot be president of the United States if you don't have faith. Remember Lincoln, going to his knees in times of trial and the Civil War and all that stuff. You can't be. And we are blessed. So don't feel sorry for—don't cry for me, Argentina"). He was also given to bizarre remarks whose psychic roots are best left unexplored: "We have made mistakes, we have had sex," he once claimed in a public testimonial to Ronald Reagan. (For his part, the son once told a crowd of Iowans, "The most important job is not to be governor, or first lady in my case.")
Excerpted from THE BUSH DYSLEXICON by MARK CRISPIN MILLER. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Crispin Miller. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
|Look Who's Talking||1|
|The Madness of King George||77|
|The Young Pretender||97|
|"I Am Who I Am": Bush on Bush||98|
|The Wit and Humor of George W. Bush||120|
|Curious George: Bush on Books||123|
|Let Me Make One Thing Perfectly Clear||132|
|The Education President: The Sequel||136|
|"Bring Us Together"||143|
|That Old-Time Religion||147|
|Freedom of Expression||155|
|God's Green Earth||167|
|Profile in Courage: Bush and Leadership||178|
|All the World's a Stage: Bush on Foreign Policy||195|
|Commander in Chief||203|
|It's the Economy, Your Excellency||212|
|The Nation's Health||220|
|The Color Line||226|
|Message: I'm Real||246|
|The Making of the President 2000||254|
Posted May 25, 2002
Mea culpa! The Postman works I referred to are Amusing Ourselves to Death (published 1986, NOT 1985) and Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century (NOT Nineteenth Century). I regret my previous error and extend my apologies to Mr. Postman.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 25, 2002
After reading this book, anyone Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green or Independent will find that NYU Media Studies professor Neil Postman was correct in his assessment that, as Americans, we are 'Amusing Ourselves to Death' (Postman, 1985). For those who are apt to view this book as mere leftist 'bias' regarding Bush's ineptitude, I suggest you read Postman first which may strike you as less 'partisan.' Upon reading the collection of verbal gaffes by our president, I became increasingly perturbed by our diminishing intellectual capital as a nation. As for television? They call it an 'idiot box' for a reason and this book shows what happens to our society when our overall literacy (linguistic, cultural, etc.) diminishes as a result.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 27, 2001
With all due respect to Paul Begala and Molly Ivins, Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon is the most insightful book on the unelected Bush. The title may give the impression that the book is just a collection of malaprops; it is not. Miller explains how RESIDENT Bush and his right-wing cohorts, abetted by the corporate-run media, have undermined and eroded our democracy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2001
Mark Crispin Miller has taken his microscope and scalpel and slowly dissected W's run for the presidency. By transcribing the debates with Gore you are able to see how sly and slippery Bush can be when cornered. Read to yourself, Bush's words are mixed up and sound like incoherent rants. But said aloud without the ability to rewind and listen again, they actually seem to make sense and flow together into meaningful thoughts (Ah! The Joy of TV). For a culture raised on the belief that looks matter and MTV style news broadcasts. Bush is the right man. But like his father before him (No New Taxes/A New World Order) the facade will wear off and soon the people will see that they have been fooled. They have given the position of Village Chief to the village idiot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2001
This book should be #1! Simply the most devastating indictment of Bush so far, and it's no wonder that the Right wants us to ignore it. Read it and be prepared to laugh, cry, be angered and frightened.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 18, 2001
This book is not a humourous collection of Bushisms for entertainment purposes. It's a serious analysis of Politics, Bush style. I can't believe how nervous this book made me while reading it. I couldn't put it down. Having worked in the Washington, DC environment for nearly 20 years I thought I knew what was going on around here. This book chilled me to the very core. I implore every True American to read this book, and to think long and hard about what they do and who they vote for during the next Congressional Election. By True American, I'm saying every person who's ever felt any loyalty to the Stars and Stripes, who've ever shed a single tear for the loss of a single American son or daugher in defense of our shores, and anyone who's EVER believed in the American Dream. This book can change your life, or at least wake you up to the possibilities our last Presidential Election have opened. Mr. Miller's book was so intense, I completed it in a single 24 hour sitting. Now I can't stop thinking about what he's shown me, and every newsclip of Mr. Bush now sends new chills up my spine. Let Mr. Miller help you think and see what's happened to our country by reading this book. Investigate the bibliography. Research the details. Don't take Mark Miller's word, or mine, come to your own conclusions. You'll become shocked and amazed when you start seeing the truth. You'll find yourself agreeing with Miller. You owe it to yourself! You owe it to America.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2001
Miller pans the Bush family, the media and the Democrats. Of course, the main subject is W. The reader is enlightened to how the media and their buddies in the Bush family (or visa versa) created, with the U.S. Supreme Court our current president. We have not had such an illiterate, out-of-it president since Zachary Taylor. A suggestion for readers is to buy two copies, one to read and another to pass along to others. You will see how TV runs our lives including the selection of our president. One can but wonder if 'reality' programs, all the sex and violence on TV is a reflection of our society or if our society a reflection of what we are seeing on the tube. G.W.Shrub is the ideal candidate for people caught up in the boob tube. Think about it...If you are news person...Al Gore is boreing and you need sensationalism to sell papers or get viewers. A buffoon is much more interesting and newsworthy. Duh! It looks like W's your choice. Miller is one who has earned his living as part of the media and so has given an insight into the media's role in electing W. This is well worth reading and passing along. Please do, dear readers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2001
I THOUGHT THAT I WAS TOO SENSITIVE TO WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY. YES, THE MILITARY WAY IS BEING IMPOSED ON US. YES, THE TV TELLS US WHAT IT WANTS, NOT WHAT IS HAPENING. YES, WE ARE BECOMING A PLUTOCRACY. ARE WE GOING TO FOLLOW LIKE SHEEP THESE GREEDY, SELF-SERVING LEADERS. IS THERE NO CONSCIENCE AND GOOD WILL LEFT IN THIS COUNTRY? THIS BOOK IS AN HONEST REPORT OF WHAT IS BEING DONE TO THE MAJORITY OF US. WHERE IS THE OPOSITION, WHERE IS COMON SENSE AND FAIR PLAY? ARE GOOD MAN AND WOMAN GOING TO LET THE BUSHES DO THIS SHAMEFUL AND BLATANT ROBERRY? DONT ALLOW THIS TO CONTINUE. READ THIS BOOK. READ THE AFTERWORD. I HAVE BEEN FEELING IT AND NOW IT IS CONFIRMED. THIS IS NOT HENRYY THE VIII TH IN 1,500. THIS IS 2001. WAKE UP AMERICA BUSH FOOLED EVERYONE, INCLUDING WHO VOTED FOR HIM.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 18, 2001
Professor Miller's book at first just looks like another collection of 'bushisms' or cheap political gags. In fact, it's an incisive, masterful interpretation of George Bush's political career to date: a career which the author reveals as cunning, devious, and immensely successful. Along the way, he deflates the myth of the liberal media, Bush's image as a foolish but likeable nullity, his egalitarian airs, and much more besides. Better still, the book is really funny. Miller's acerbic, witty style is a pleasure to read, as funny as it is smart. I laughed out loud again and again, and giggled when I wasn't wimpering with fear at having a man like Bush as President. Anyone that is skeptical about Bush's (dis)qualifications, or is interested in a high flight of political criticism, or who just wants to laugh, ought to buy the Bush Dyslexicon today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 7, 2001
'What's not fine is, rarely is the question asked, are, is our children learning.' - George W. Bush, Jan. 2000 Media critic Mark Crispin Miller has written a new book titled The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder. Although it brims with outrageous examples of Bush's inability to speak meaningful sentences (e.g., 'Laura and I don't realize how bright our children is sometimes until we get an objective analysis.'), this book is not so much about Bush's illiteracy as it is about how the corporate media cherishes him and his utter lack of ideas. Miller believes that Bush¿s problem is deeper than mere dyslexia, or what he calls Bush¿s ¿West Texas ebonics.¿ It¿s deeper, too, than simple ignorance. Bush¿s problem is that he¿s an ANTI-intellectual, and thus he plays very well on television. Although an excellent advertising medium, television detests reasoned discourse and instead focuses attention on the visual and the trivial, such as Ross Perot¿s big ears, Al Gore¿s robotic gestures, or any woman¿s hair style. Writes Miller: 'The networks' journalistic stars go on and on and on about the politicians' failure or success at pleasing--or at not displeasing--viewers. ¿such interminable yakking tells us nothing, dwelling on details of bearing, posture, voice, and makeup, instead of dealing with what anybody did, said, or failed to say.' Put another way, our TV culture reduces 'all discussion to the level of the taste-test, wherein 'likeability' is all that counts.' Thus, a smirking ignoramus who couldn¿t name any world leaders during his presidential campaign actually became a darling of the media, whose reporters and pundits continue to coddle him like a slow child, virtually never throwing him any curves nor attempting to pin him down with pointed or complex questions. In a typically wry passage, Miller observes: 'Thus, Bush himself is a big-time beneficiary of what he likes to call 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.'' Particularly galling to Miller is the Right's attempt to spin Bush's ignorance as an indication that he's a man of the people, like an Andrew Jackson or an Abraham Lincoln. (Republican Representative J.C. Watts actually introduced Bush at a campaign rally in South Carolina by shouting proudly, 'You don't have to be smart to be president!') Miller reminds us that Bush hardly dragged himself up from common conditions. Rather, he partied his way through school, squandering rich educational opportunities at Andover and Yale, two highly competitive institutions which never would have accepted him--much less graduated him--without his family¿s intercession. Accordingly, Miller dubs Bush the anti-Lincoln, 'one who, instead of learning eagerly in humble circumstances, learned almost nothing at the finest institutions in the land.' ¿And I see Bill Buckley is here tonight, fellow Yale man. We go way back, and we have a lot in common. Bill wrote a book at Yale--I read one.¿ - George W Bush, Oct. 2000 Miller¿s book is nothing short of alarming, cataloguing as it does the anti-democratic collusion between the corporate media and the conservative politicians who support them. But Miller¿s wit is as keen as his powers of observation, so this book is as pleasurable as it is disturbingly informative.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.