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Pavlov's bells in political speeches

One of the things that has raised my hackles over the past few years is the way President Bush dispenses bromides to the public like Pavlovian bells, or Pavlovian casus belli as the case may be.

I particularly resent the way he bandies about the words "freedom" and "free" in his speeches. So I downloaded a transcript of the first Bush/Kerry 2004 presidential debate and ran some quick numbers...

Number of times President Bush used the words "free" or "freedom" in the debate:

1. A strategy of freedom around the world
2. Free nations will reject terror
3. Free nations will answer the hopes
4. Free nations will help us achieve the peace
5. If given a chance to be free
6. A free Iraq
7. For all the free world would act
8. Iraqis want to be free
9. The freedom of the Iraqi people
10. Fight for their own freedom
11. When Iraq is free
12. A nation of -- of -- that's free
13. A free Iraq
14. A free Iraq
15. The world that is desperate for freedom.
16. A free Iraq
17. A free Iraq
18. A free Iraq
19. Where people are free
20. A free Iraq
21. A free Iraq
22. A free Afghanistan
23. Spread freedom
24. A free Iraq
25. A free Afghanistan
26. The world that's desperate for freedom
27. Want to be free
28. You can't be free
29. You don't desire freedom
30. They're fighting freedom
31. A free Afghanistan
32. A free Iraq
33. A nuclear weapons-free North
34. We'll continue to spread freedom
35. A free Iraq
36. A free Afghanistan
37. The free Afghanistan
38. Free Iraq

In one response he uses the words "free" and "freedom" six times in five sentences. In another he uses the words five times in five sentences.

In comparison, the number of times Senator Kerry used the words "free" or "freedom" in the debate:

1. Iraqis want to be free
2. They could be free
3. Freedom on the march
4. The future belongs to freedom

In further comparison Tony Blair in his speech at the recent speech to the British Labour Party conference used the word "freedom" only three times in his entire speech. And unlike the speeches of Bush, where the word is peppered endlessly like meaningless Pavlovian applause bullets, Blair actually questions what we mean by "freedom" and defines it:

The argument is not between those who do and those who do not love freedom.

It is between the Conservatives who believe freedom requires only that government stand back while the fittest and most privileged prosper.

And we who understand, that freedom for the individual, for every individual, whatever their starting point in life, is best achieved through a just society and a strong community.

Political rhetoric? To an extent. But I'd love to be in the second US presidential debate and ask Bush for an unscripted answer to the question: "President Bush, you often talk about 'freedom' in your speeches. What exactly do you mean by it and how has your administration lived up to that meaning?"


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 5, 2004 1:07 AM.

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