Friday, January 13, 2006

Bush: "Yes, Fear the Reaper!"

It’s odd that Mark Hyman would cite a study that concludes that George W. Bush lied and spun his way to reelection, but that’s exactly what he does in a recent editorial about Bush and the “fear of death.”

a recent study by two scholars at Rutgers University, Hyman notes that in an experiment, potential voters favored John Kerry over Bush, but that when subjects were presented with some subtle (even subconscious) reminder of death, they tended to favor Bush.

Some on the right, apparently including Hyman, believe (or want you to believe) that this is somehow proof of the rightness of reelecting our “wartime” president.

What Hyman ignores is one of the fundamental conclusions of the study. The researchers see this tendency to be subtly influenced by fear as a negative, dangerous phenomenon. They conclude that

[t]he best antidote to this problem may be to monitor and take pains to resist any efforts by candidates to capitalize on fear-mongering.

Why would Hyman would leave out this conclusion (one that’s mentioned in almost all the summaries I found of the article in the medical press)?

Probably because even Hyman knows that the Bush administration’s rhetoric over the last few years (and particularly during the presidential campaign) has drawn its energy from a single source: fear. From the incessant juxtaposition of “Saddam Hussein” with “terrorists” and “9/11” to the assertion by the vice president that a Kerry victory could mean “
we’ll get hit again,” the Bush administration’s default tactic in almost any scenario is to use fear mongering to defend itself and attack others.

For some excellent articles on the Bush administration’s use of fear and the rhetoric of war, check out the articles linked to from the website
Rhetoricians for Peace.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.55


At 2:04 AM, Anonymous al franken's turtle said...

al franken also has an excellent chapter on this study in his book "the truth with jokes". i never thought i'd see the day that hyman and franken are literally on the same page.


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