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Bushspeak and the Politics of Lying: Presidential Rhetoric in the “War on Terror”


Douglas Kellner is George Kneller Chair in the philosophy of education at UCLA and author of numerous books, including works in cultural studies such as Media Culture and Media Spectacle; a trilogy of books on postmodern theory with Steven Best; and a trilogy of books on the Bush administration and the media, including Grand Theft 2000, From 9/11 to Terror War, and Media Spectacle and the Crisis of Democracy.


The Bush administration, aided and abetted by U.S. corporate media, manipulated a politics of fear to push through a right-wing agenda that included the Patriot Act, massive changes in the legal system, a dramatic expansion of the U.S. military, and U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. Accordingly, I dissect Bush-Cheney administration rhetoric in the period following the 9/11 terror attacks, George W. Bush's “axis of evil” speech and the lead-up to the Iraq War, and the discourse and spectacle of the war itself. Building on George Orwell, I deconstruct Bush's rhetoric as an instrument of “Bushspeak” and the politics of lying. I argue that subsequent events in Iraq deconstructed Bush's discourse and showed the dangers and limitations of the politics of lying and of the spectacle, which can be reversed and undermined by subsequent events.