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Home > Politics

Ennui-wards and Upwards

11 October 2005

Irked and Perturbed of Norwich may whinge about the endless repeats on the telly, but secretly he knows that without them he'd be adrift in a senseless universe. Repetition may be dull, but it's one of the cornerstones of snug familiarity. It is soothing and safe, the thing you use to rock babies to sleep, the thing you use to reaffirm your measly, buffeted sense of self. It's a tiny rock hammer whittling away at the prison wall of your problems. Boink. Boink. Boink. That's better. So don't pretend, Irked, that even as you sigh and huff at the sight of that episode of 'Friends' you've seen 3,280 times before, there isn't a little attendant sensation of the world turning on its creaky axis just the way you want it to forever.

President Bush, being the misunderestimated canny soul that he is, totally gets this. He's a big believer in repetition - it calms and reaffirms and, frankly, provides an effective golf umbrella against any impending shitstorm. He knows that there's nothing more reassuring, better at invoking trust, than hearing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again. This week in the face of declining public support for that unfortunateness in Iraq, Bush has been reiterating what we're all up against (Muslims, for the sake of argument), what the hell they're playing at (blowing up non-Muslims) and what we're going to have to do about it (the same thing we've always done, Pinky). Even as you fume and seethe at the blinkered rehashing and reheated insistence, part of your brain stretches and settles back into some cosy place where predictability is nicer than a hot cuppa. His speech this week to the National Endowment for Democracy was a veritable greatest hits set of blah.

'The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia,' quoth the great man, stifling a yawn. 'We are facing a radical ideology with immeasurable objectives to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world... Against such an enemy, there's only one effective response [ooh, go on] - we never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory.' Just what we wanted to hear - the skinny staving-off of criticism poncing up and down in the purloined frock of stoic resolution. Oh, and there was something in there likening the ideology of Islamic militants to communism, although he didn't go too far down that avenue, since he still needs to save most of the red stuff to chuck across the lawns of pernicious liberals.

It does suggest that the man most accused of possessing less raw intelligence and perceptiveness than a cartoon elephant with flappy ears, does in fact consider the rest of us to be as dumb as the very essence of ass. It's excruciatingly go-back-to-bed-America. But if he expects endless repetition of the same hollow rhetoric to lull his nation back into a state of unquestioning
head-nodding, he should bear in mind that the opposite effect may arise from the constant prodding and poking of reportage. One terrorist atrocity sounds and looks much like another in the news, and roadside bombs in Iraq are so common that they have less media impact than one hundredweight of Jordan-boob. So either this becomes a background hum to which we become
accustomed, or the constant hammering produces an international headache that will only be tolerated for so long. Bush should really hope that his speeches only produce the same sort of pervasive ennui that the news reports presently do. Luckily for him at present, we glazed over completely within three minutes of the ten-gallon-hatted terrorbabble and had to blank out in front of The One With The Chick and The Duck and Courteney Cox Looking Like A Bit of Old String.

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