“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)” (Miller 3).
I finished The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder by Mark Crispin Miller, perhaps one of the most important books published about George W. Bush. While Miller, a media professor at New York University, finds humor in rehashing the numerous misstatements made by Dubya (“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family”; being one example of hundreds), this is a serious work.
Undeniably, the book argues the Bush is illiterate, undereducated, and oblivious:
…When he [George W. Bush] tries for a grammatical arrangement more complex than see-Dick-run, Bush often breaks down in mid-effort, having just…forgotten how he started out, and where he ought to go.
I felt like their decision was not a fair decision at the time, and I felt like they had rewritten a law andyou know, so therefore.
As it dictates the endless parataxis of his sentences, so does the president’s amnesia often have him flailing in supreme rhetorical confusion, blurting out disjointed bits of prose until some propaganda tag in pops into his head, which then gives him something clear to say, repeatedly" (Miller 260-261).
Dubya’s issues run a lot deeper than problems with syntax, and indeed, the portrait that emerges is almost Nixonian in its darkness. It is very clear that Bush is not even close to being the sunny person his media spinmeisters make him out to be.
The Bush Dyslexicon is also about the impact of television on the electoral process and the media complicity in helping the rich remain rich and the powerful remain powerful. It’s sobering in that respect, because what we’ve witnessed is the co-opting of the fourth estate. What was once considered an independent part of the checks and balances system of US government is now nothing more than a ratings lap dog. It is not an improvement.
Finally, and chillingly, this pre-September 11th work warns of the malcontents who run the Republican Party.
…[It is] a GOP that is not only dominated by the super-rich (who also own much of the Democratic Party) but managed by a host of vengeful ultrarightists whose alliance is peculiar to this time and place: Nixon men still seething over Watergate; military men still smoldering over Vietnam; Southerners still livid over the desegregation of the schools, the end of lynch law, the extension of the franchise, and the burning of Atlanta; Christian Fundamentalists still steaming over rock ‘n’ roll, the Scopes trial, and modernity in general; Catholics fuming over Roe v. Wade. The whole enterprise is funded, and its larger moves dictated, by the corporate network of big oil and petrochemicals, "defense," tobacco, pharmaceuticals, insurance, pesticides, and automotives, among other industries, their top brass and top shareholders are all still smarting at the heavy hand of "regulation"as if there were a lot of that in the United States.
Each of those angry factions is forced forward by a toxic memory, or illusion, of defeat. What has now made them all especially dangerous, however, is a victory: the fall of Soviet communism. We cannot afford to underestimate the traumaor ignore the consequencesof that disappearance. On the one hand, the whole huge bureaucracy of national security is still in place, but lacks a global enemy to justify its appetite. That system needs a state of warjust like its Soviet counterpart (which was finally ruined by the cost of that requirement). And yet the need is not only material but psychological. For as long as Stalin’s empire shared the planet with us, the wildest of our citizensand not just grassroots kooks but many high-and-mighty maniacswere suitably preoccupied by that external threat. Although they did great harm to the Republic in pursuit of their apparent mission ("McCarthyism," the war in Vietnam, the Watergate conspiracies, and Iran-Contra being only the most infamous examples), the patriots never went so far as to subvert our democratic institutions openly. Fixated on the dictatorial Other, American extremists by and large respected the legality and peacefulness of our elections, ritually proclaiming them as blessed examples to the wider world.
But all that changed with the collapse of communism" (Miller 262-263).
Miller’s Afterword has worse things to say about the media and TV media in particular. I don’t think he’s wrong about any of it. The Bush Dyslexicon should be essential reading for every American citizen, preferably before the next election.