MEDIA COMPLICITY NEWLY POSTED ARTICLE 10
The Character Myth
"Bush's handlers project the President as a man of character. His team has carefully crafted an image of him as a man who is strong and moral, someone who sticks to his principles and is capable of making tough decisions. This phenomenon was foretold by media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who warned:
'Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.'
Theory soon became reality. Ronald Reagan was the first American politician to demonstrate the power of what I call the character myth, a project launched by his speechwriter Peggy Noonan, whose biography of him was titled When Character Was King. The character myth relies on the psychological phenomenon that a person who speaks frequently and passionately about morals is generally regarded as a moral person. According to the character myth, a person who demonstrates that he has 'character' need not present any evidence in support of his policies or decisions. They are simply assumed to be correct, since they come from a person with the ineffable quality known as 'character.' . . .
"Bush's team knows how to exploit the Great Person myth. Bush's deliberately constructed image as a moral leader who knows what is right for America takes the place of rational analysis, and his insistence that we are in an ongoing state of crisis in our war against terror helps to perpetuate this dynamic. Bush and his supporters often silence opposition and dissent by encoding in their arguments a worldview that implies that even to challenge Bush's ideas is immoral and damaging to the social order, and even to the survival of the nation and of Western civilization. Linguists call this device the lost performative. the speaker purposely leaves out the authority behind far-reaching statements in order to pass off controversial viewpoints as the absolute truth. When Bush says 'Our cause is just,' he purposely leaves out the 'according to whom?' Saying 'I think the war is just' or 'Donald Rumsfeld thinks the war is just' is much different from asserting 'Our cause is just.' The underlying message from the authoritarian leader is, Do exactly as I say, or catastrophe follows. Overgeneralization and false generalization are powerful vehicles for such a leader.
"Joan Didion captured this well in her book, Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11. She writes: 'We had seen the general acquiescence in whatever was presented as imperative by the administration. We had seen the persistent suggestions that anyone who expressed reservations about detentions, say, or military tribunals, was at some level 'against' America . (As in the presidential formulation 'you're either with us or you're with the terrorists.') We had seen, most importantly, the insistent use of September 11 to justify the reconception of America 's correct role in the world as one of initiating and waging virtually perpetual war.' As Didion suggests, absolutist language overloads people with information and leaves them confused and unable to judge for themselves. They crave simplicity and fall back on the character myth."
By Renana Brooks , The Nation, December 29, 2003
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - - Margaret Mead