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June 14, 2004

Doubters 3, Evil 2

One thing Reagan Week highlighted is how profoundly dark and pessimistic Bush is. Compared to Reagan–who was terminally optimistic and hopeful in his allusions–Bush’s speech stands out as consistently apocalyptic and paranoid.

Take Bush’s eulogy for Reagan. Bush completely missed the nostalgic, celebratory tone of the ceremony. Even with the intention to be positive, he could only do so in the context of oppressiveness. The paragraph that got the most airplay, for example, is filled with allusions to torture and conniving. (Perhaps that Abu Ghraib thing is still rattling around in his consciousness?)

Anyway, in that single paragraph, I counted three “doubters,” two “evil’s” and one “hated.”

  • http://www.americandynamics.cc Abe

    there was a great article on this last year [ http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030630&c=1&s=brooks ], well worth reading the whole thing, but here is the direct Bush vs. Reagan:
    ‘All political leaders must define the present threats and problems faced by the country before describing their approach to a solution, but the ratio of negative to optimistic statements in Bush’s speeches and policy declarations is much higher, more pervasive and more long-lasting than that of any other President. Let’s compare “crisis” speeches by Bush and Ronald Reagan, the President with whom he most identifies himself. In Reagan’s October 27, 1983, televised address to the nation on the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut, he used nineteen images of crisis and twenty-one images of optimism, evenly balancing optimistic and negative depictions. He limited his evaluation of the problems to the past and present tense, saying only that “with patience and firmness we can bring peace to that strife-torn region–and make our own lives more secure.” George W. Bush’s October 7, 2002, major policy speech on Iraq, on the other hand, began with forty-four consecutive statements referring to the crisis and citing a multitude of possible catastrophic repercussions. The vast majority of these statements (for example: “Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time”; “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists”) imply that the crisis will last into the indeterminate future. There is also no specific plan of action. The absence of plans is typical of a negative framework, and leaves the listener without hope that the crisis will ever end. Contrast this with Reagan, who, a third of the way into his explanation of the crisis in Lebanon, asked the following: “Where do we go from here? What can we do now to help Lebanon gain greater stability so that our Marines can come home? Well, I believe we can take three steps now that will make a difference.”‘

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