Wednesday, January 24, 2007


In The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler leads his fact-check of the State of the Union address with an examination of President Bush's use of the expression "the enemy" -- which is a particular pet peeve of mine.

Bush referred to "the enemy" and "the terrorists" repeatedly throughout the speech; sometimes the expressions were interchangeable for him. This is the most Orwellian verbal trope in his repertoire -- the way he uses the tiny word "the." It's meant to work subconsciously, using the listener's innate understanding of how the English language works -- "the" means there's no other.

Kessler gets into specifics about "the enemy" -- some of the people Bush describes this way are Sunnis, some are Shiites; some are terrorist groups, some are sitting governments; some have a planet-wide focus, others a much narrower one; some utterly reject the West, others trade with Western nations.

But the real point, for Bush, is to persuade you that there's only one war -- which means that opposition to any act of warfare by his administration can be defined as opposition to the entire fight against jihadists.

Bush used to strongly suggest that Saddam was interchangeable with bin Laden; now, instead of curtailing that tendency, he's expanded it, implying that every olive-skinned person who's ever tried to kill or injure any American anywhere for any reason is part of one big Enemy.

The press mostly ignores it, probably assuming it's just more of his macho Texas talk. It isn't. It's a carefully crafted technique of deceptive subliminal persuasion.

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