The Rhetoric of Bush & Bin Laden

The Rhetoric of Bush & Bin Laden - The Rhetoric of...

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The Rhetoric of Bush and bin Laden An excerpt from Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion after September 11 by  Bruce Lincoln Symmetric Dualisms: Bush and bin Laden on October 7 I On Sunday, October 7, 2001, less than a month after the attacks of September 11, President Bush announced the American military response in a televised address . Within hours there came a riposte from Osama bin Laden, who had prepared a videotape in anticipation of such military action and conveyed it to the widely viewed Arabic language network al-Jazeera, with instructions that it should be released shortly after Bush's broadcast. ( Read the transcripts. ) Within the Muslim world, the bin Laden tape met an enthusiastic reception, and it presented many Westerners with their first sustained, relatively unmediated view of this man. Although his language and self-presentation were primarily aimed at a Muslim audience, bin Laden's charisma was still evident, even to a Western audience relatively unfamiliar with the cultural codes on which he drew and relatively unsympathetic to the arguments he offered. Given that the tape showed him as articulate in his speech, coherent in his views, passionate in his commitments, also able to rebut Bush on certain points and to highlight others the president chose to ignore, it complicated attempts to demonize him. Treating control of the airwaves as a military objective, the Bush administration quickly prevailed on American TV networks not to broadcast any further tapes from bin Laden. Rather, they should limit themselves to excerpts only, accompanied by "appropriate commentary" by responsible journalists, who could be counted on to tell the desired story. Government officials also pressured print media to adopt similar policies. [1] The censorship thus imposed effectively deprived most Americans of the opportunity to hear bin Laden and to improve their regrettably slim and shallow understanding of this man: his grievances, goals, dreams, and delusions; his relative degree of rationality, as compared to the genuinely monstrous qualities of his ressentiment. [2] Further exposure might make him all the more repugnant to American audiences or might enhance his charismatic aura, but it would surely help create a better-informed public: the basis of any democratic society and the proper ground from which policy ought to emerge. Although the administration has voiced fears about providing opportunities for propaganda and the transmission of coded messages to underground operatives, officials are clearly uncomfortable with anything that might permit a nuanced perception of bin Laden and create sympathy for him on any point. Far better to keep him a cartoonish stereotype of Orientalist fantasy: the "Mad Mullah," a wild-eyed, turbaned, and bearded fanatic, whose innate irrationality precludes taking him seriously but makes him a serious danger. [3] If in the future we will hear bin Laden only in snippets carefully chosen and packaged for our
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This note was uploaded on 09/18/2011 for the course WR 227 taught by Professor U.nknown during the Spring '10 term at Portland State.

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The Rhetoric of Bush & Bin Laden - The Rhetoric of...

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