Bush anything but moronic, according to author
November 29, 2002 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Bush anything but moronic, according to author According to the author Bush may be sociopathic. I find this scary, but I am also very skeptical about it. What do you guys think? Any psychologist out there that know anything about this?
posted by tljenson (51 comments total)

 
"Hey, here's a guy we disagree with -- let's make up a scary-sounding, quasi-medical term, so that we can label his opinions as a 'disorder'! Yeah, that's the ticket!"
posted by dagny at 12:50 PM on November 29, 2002


These three paragraphs ring particularly true:

"He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge.

"When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine," Miller said.

"It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."


An out-of-hand dismissal of this article will have to address this rather striking fact. I, for one, haven't noticed any classic Bushisms when he talks about violence or revenge. The author really does seem to be on to something there.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:03 PM on November 29, 2002


It's a ridiculous argument but dagny that writer didn't make up the word sociopath.
posted by Bonzai at 1:04 PM on November 29, 2002


Space Coyote, I've noticed the same thing. Seems to me as if Bush is lying through his teeth with his "religion of peace" stuff, and I for one wish he'd give it up, and start his war already. That's what I want, and it seems like it's what he really wants too.
posted by dagny at 1:15 PM on November 29, 2002


He's a madman. A madman, I tell you! And only a little-known professor of media studies promoting a book who has diagnosed the man without ever meeting him is willing to tell the public!
posted by dhartung at 1:23 PM on November 29, 2002


dagny: heh.


Anyway, this is really old news, I remember reading the same thing a while ago. It's an interesting idea, but really it needs to be backed up with some social-psychological data points. Anyone can make a literary inference based on some observations and ideas they have, but if you're going to claim someone is a sociopath based what kind of mistakes they make, you're going to need more data to back up their claims then an episode of Happy Days.
posted by delmoi at 1:24 PM on November 29, 2002


It's a ridiculous argument but dagny that writer didn't make up the word sociopath.

Methinks dagny was referring to the world "dyslexicon," found in the first line of the article. I could be wrong, though.
posted by CreequeAlley at 1:28 PM on November 29, 2002


good for the goose and all that, yes?
posted by lescour at 1:45 PM on November 29, 2002


On the one hand, (a) the left has a history of defining political differences as mental illness; (b) I question the qualifications of a Renaissance lit scholar turned film critic turned "Professor of Media Ecology" to render psychological diagnoses; and (c) I find numerous TV & radio appearances, but I can find no list of Miller's peer-reviewed publications, which makes his academic credentials unproven at best.

On the other hand, US presidents, and political leaders in general, would make for some interesting psychological case studies. God, just look at Clinton.

Bottom line: I'm skeptical of Miller's claim, but who knows -- a mildly sociopathic personality might make a good leader for wartime. I'm just glad Jimmy Carter's not POTUS now.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:57 PM on November 29, 2002


it does explain quite a bit, doesn't it?
posted by RobbieFal at 1:57 PM on November 29, 2002


but what does it mean that when he's talking war and revenge he doesn't ever misspeak or mangle words?

I would say that it shows what he really cares about (we all speak better when we're interested in the topic at hand). I have yet to hear him speak of the economy or wall street scandals or jobs without misspeaking....
posted by amberglow at 2:05 PM on November 29, 2002


I would prefer moron to sociopath. Do we get to vote on it. I know a false dilemma. I left out some of the possibilities, idiot for instance.
posted by onegoodmove at 2:06 PM on November 29, 2002


And only a little-known professor of media studies promoting a book who has diagnosed the man without ever meeting him is willing to tell the public!

so he's taking a leaf from instapundit's roll of toilet paper?
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:07 PM on November 29, 2002


Funny you mention Carter, because I was just wondering if we have had a president who wasn't a sociopath since his term.
posted by 2sheets at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2002


Also, as an aside -- what politician isn't a sociopath? Par for the course.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2002


Here's an interview with Miller, and here's an article about the lack of media exposure of Miller's and Moore's books, despite their success.

I find the label of 'sociopath' a bit outlandish, but I must admit, one of the main reasons I can't warm up to Bush is because he always strikes me as being oddly disconected from whatever he's talking about ("now watch this drive"). The idea of that guy having that much power is just unnerving.
posted by homunculus at 2:13 PM on November 29, 2002



posted by four panels at 2:50 PM on November 29, 2002


Speechless.
posted by stbalbach at 3:00 PM on November 29, 2002


I am not sure why a professor of communications feels he is able to lable a man a sociopath. This strike me as absurd. Now I do not like Bush, and I feel that as many have said for this thread we have had any number of presidents with odd patterns of behavior (including Lincoln), but such easy labeling adds little to our understanding. It was not long ago when I saw an article or two that claimed his drinking and drugs had seriously impaired him.
As for his lack of compassion etc, this seems a trait that is likely to be present in those seriously right of center (they call ilt individualism) and coming from great wealth where all is taken for granted.
Let's just say he is (1) a slow learner, (2) moron, (3) lacks true charisma, (4) is not a true leader, (5) Or is growing into the job and improving as time goes on. (6) has proven himself effective in helping out those who do not need help and neglected those in great need.
But here I may be seen as a sociopath.
posted by Postroad at 3:05 PM on November 29, 2002


punctuation is your friend, postroad.
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:17 PM on November 29, 2002


I think Miller's trying to tap the market Michael Moore milked so well.

(a) the left has a history of defining political differences as mental illness

And the right doesn't? Come on, Hieronymous Coward; it's not like conservative statements about the "disease" of homosexuality are hard to find. And that's just one example. Yeesh.

good for the goose and all that, yes?

Heh. Nice one, lescour; you sure don't have to convince the folks at Media Whores. But really, Miller doesn't even begin to make his case with a few carefully selected data points. At the very least, the idea that someone would stammer less when they're feeling confident is hardly worth talking about, let alone taking as evidence of sociopathy. If Miller wants to make the case that Bush is more comfortable being a hard-nosed right-winger than a compassionate lover of people, all he has to do is look at the guy's policies. Evidence of Bush's smug sense of entitlement is everywhere; the "sociopathy" stuff is a stupid distraction.
posted by mediareport at 3:54 PM on November 29, 2002


I think it's pretty simple -- the American public currently won't stand for a person who seems to consider an issue for too long. It's decried as waffling or watching polls too carefully, but personally I just call it intellegence.

So now we've got this. Despite all the obvious problems with him, he certainly seems to have bloodlust and a directed focus on what the problem is, and (shrug) that's what the people want. It's worked before, and it will work again.

It takes a good social atmosphere to elect on deeper issues than retribution, and we're not there right now.
posted by jragon at 4:03 PM on November 29, 2002


donkeyschlong, are you expecting me to get mad because you've mentioned Glenn Reynolds? Troll.

So far as I know, Reynolds -- who is not a reflexive defender of Bush -- has made no diagnoses from afar, but should he do so, as a professor of law one may downgrade his credibility in the field of psychology appropriately. As argument, your analogy has little merit.

For the record, having lived through the 1990s like the rest of you, I am gravely disappointed to see the left, in opposition, appropriating strategies used against them by the right. And I find this particular thread, in which neener neener you did it first is considered high argument, similarly disappointing. If this is the left of today, fuck you all.
posted by dhartung at 5:03 PM on November 29, 2002


I dispute the notion that being a sociopath disqualifies one from also being a moron.
posted by rushmc at 5:37 PM on November 29, 2002


/shrug. I never bought the moron argument in the first place.
posted by rudyfink at 5:44 PM on November 29, 2002


If this is the left of today, fuck you all.

i never thought i'd say this, but dhartung used to be the economist of metafilter contributors, rational and unflappable; these days he's more like the ny post, noisome and reactionary. where's the anger coming from, bro? it's just a site. you act like you're taking what everyone says here personally. i'm pretty sure it's not about you. maybe your ego needs a rest.
posted by donkeyschlong at 7:01 PM on November 29, 2002


Who says you can't be both stupid and evil? I noted it at the time and thought it was odd when Bush made his very first remarks (from the school) about the terrorist attack on 9/11, he said "...conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act."

Folks?

Following this was several days of coon-hunting analogies, lest we forget. I say Bush is stupid and a bad man. Who's with me?
posted by planetkyoto at 7:20 PM on November 29, 2002


Dopey, bad, and funny lookin' too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:24 PM on November 29, 2002


I myself prefer to think of Hillary Clinton as evil incarnate.

But seriously I think a person would HAVE to be crazy to want to be President. I cannot think of a single president that hasn't had to deal with a deluge of criticism no matter what he does.

More to the point of this thread, I really don't understand why people can't just say they disagree with Bush's policies without demonizing him. People are entitled to their political opinions, but I think it is petty to diss the man instead of honestly debating the differing viewpoints.
posted by konolia at 8:13 PM on November 29, 2002


Planetkyoto-
"...conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act."

And how, exactly does that get you to the conclusion that Bush is "bad" and "stupid". Granted, it's a rather odd and somewhat colloquial thing to say, but still...

The only thing I can think of would be that "folks" is rather close to "fucks". Not necessarily the best thing for the President to say on national TV, but even if that was what he was thinking, or nearly missed saying, I highly doubt that there weren't a lot of other fairly "good" people saying the exact same thing.
posted by silvermask at 8:14 PM on November 29, 2002


Hieronymous: the left has a history of defining political differences as mental illness

Mediareport: And the right doesn't?

No, there is no comparison.

"The political use of psychiatry came to the world’s attention during the days of the Soviet Union, when the profession of psychiatry was used to suppress dissent." (Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry)

"During [China's Cultural Revolution], the official view was that virtually all forms of mental illness were caused by politically deviant thoughts." (Human Rights Watch)

"There has been a major resurgence of psychiatric abuse in China since July 1999, with hundreds of members of the Falun Gong religious group having been forcibly sent to mental asylums by the police as part of a wider government crackdown against the group." (GIP)
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 8:36 PM on November 29, 2002


but dhartung used to be the economist of metafilter contributors, rational and unflappable

Judging from what I've read of dhartungs posts in recent months, he still is far more rational and unflappable (as well as informed and balanced) than the overwhelming majority of mefi posters.

maybe your ego needs a rest.

Know thyself!
posted by shoos at 8:45 PM on November 29, 2002


Hieronymous Coward - what does China and the Soviet Union have to do with "the left?"
posted by mcsweetie at 8:58 PM on November 29, 2002


For whatever my B.S. in psych and M.S. in counseling psych are worth, I'd file that article under "pop-psych rubbish", though surely a degree isn't required to see that. Freud's ideas were widely read and they seeped into the popular culture, where they continue to shape thinking about psychology long after having been mostly discredited, and I think that's what's going on here. Like his verbal slip-ups are some kind of peephole into his subconscious...bah. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

If you want a much more reliable measure of whether he's a sociopath or not, look at his behavior. I'd say you might find some ammunition there, but that's another thread.

And I doubt he's a true moron, though I don't think he's terribly bright, either. I'd say a rather unimpressive average seems about right. Though he does seem rather dull when standing next to Gore.
posted by boredomjockey at 9:11 PM on November 29, 2002


Shoos - I was a little concerned about this post - We all need our foils, our opposites for self definition, and I would (personally) admit to occaisonal eccentricity, but a reserved (if incisive) intellectual style is usually Dhartung's forte and so (?):

"I tell you, this empire thing sure isn't worth it, if all the lilliputians do is whine. Don't step there! No, not there either, there's a sewer! Well, grandma needed a new garage anyway. Say, there's a fire! Why don't you, you know, make water -- if you don't mind?
posted by dhartung at 7:38 AM PST on November 29"

I personally think this is funny and smart, but my tastes in humour are a bit over the edge, and so I wonder about the shift in tone.

message from the Office of Information Awareness:

Dear citizen, we are concerned by the statistical change in the tone of your written expression; you are, we hope, feeling well? Please respond to this query within 72 hours or you will be sequestered for further analysis and refined profiling. But please relax, as we are fully confident in your fidelity to the cause."

-- Yours Truly, The Office of Information Awareness


posted by troutfishing at 9:21 PM on November 29, 2002


Mediareport: It's not like conservative statements about the "disease" of homosexuality are hard to find.

Warning: I think this is a red herring that leads way off-topic, but what the heck...

(1) For this analogy to be valid, homosexuality would have to be identical to political dissidence. Is it?

(2) Until quite recently, doctors called homosexuality a disease. So while it may be incorrect to call it a disease today, it's not medieval to do so. (It wasn't until 1973-4 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and 1986-7 that the APA's revision was complete.)

I don't think you can equate the occasional rhetorical excesses of the American Right (i.e., remarking "fags are sick") with the systematic, decades-long psychiatric abuse of thousands of people as invented and practiced by the bastions of the Left. They're not the same.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 9:21 PM on November 29, 2002


Sorry, Silvermask, I didn't explain that I posted that quote to show that he does screw up when in anger mode, not as proof that he is a sociopath or psychopath. I doubt it refers to "fucks," but rather that it can be attributed to his "I'm just plain ol' folks" mode. Like when Clinton would go back into the "Y'all" schtick when he was playin' to Little Rock crowds. he just failed to switch completely back into Comander in Chief mode when duty called.

I disagree with the author in that I do believe that Bush is basically unintelligent, though. If you study his career, you can see that he was a failure at everything until he learned to be a stooge for people who wanted to score points with his Dad. He's ridden stoogedom all the way to the White House.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:35 PM on November 29, 2002


Anyone heard any good jokes lately?
posted by hama7 at 10:00 PM on November 29, 2002


Has anybody here read Miller's Bush Dyslexicon? It seems most people here are responding to the article with little knowledge of the book. I think Miller is out of line to call Bush sociopathic, but if you read his book, he makes some interesting arguments about Bush's sloppiness of thinking and reasoning. Unlike most books which play off Bush's verbal gaffes for cheap laughs, Miller uses debate, interview, and TV show transcripts to place Bush's gaffes in context. Sorry to say, placing Bush's gaffes in context does not work in Bush's favor, but rather makes him look worse. When Bush cannot make a logical argument to make a point, he instead relies on stringing together stock phrases supplied by speechwriters without any regard for whether they're in the proper sequence. Miller also makes the point that Bush is probably the least well-read and most intellectually uncurious chief executive in the history of the U.S. It's one thing if you don't want an Adlai Stevenson-style egghead running the country, but it's quite another matter to view the deliberate embrace of ignorance as a badge of moral purity
posted by jonp72 at 11:05 PM on November 29, 2002


Watch his walk, his body language. Try to imitate it and you'll realize some things about him.
posted by semmi at 11:10 PM on November 29, 2002


what? that he's an overprivileged jock?
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:27 PM on November 29, 2002


semmi: It's usually considered par for the course that half the people posting in a thread haven't bothered to read the article. To expect any more than one or two to have read a book before making a clever comment is asking too much of this crowd :)
posted by Space Coyote at 2:04 AM on November 30, 2002


Until quite recently, doctors called homosexuality a disease. So while it may be incorrect to call it a disease today, it's not medieval to do so.

weird, so a medical text actually changed and started saying something else? thats completely nuts. no doubt this is due to the fact that colleges are liberal breeding grounds and all doctors have to go to college and therefore want gays to vote democratic, and not due to the fact that in medicene old tenets are routinely cast aside in favor of more researched, more accurate ones.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:03 AM on November 30, 2002


This thread has definitely jumped the shark.
posted by konolia at 7:36 AM on November 30, 2002


it's quite another matter to view the deliberate embrace of ignorance as a badge of moral purity

But, everybody's doing it! It's become the American way, and anyone who doesn't at least adopt the pose is viewed with increasing suspicion.
posted by rushmc at 8:32 AM on November 30, 2002


Folks?

What? I use the word 'folks' for a group of people, and I have known worse things to come out of people's mouths when they heard some important skyline material in NY fell down. Personally, I dislike cursing so my expletives are more in the line of 'waffles' and 'fudge' than stronger words.

Why can't he be the worst of all possible choices? Let's make him crazy, stupid, demonic, bloodthirsty, and mentally ill. You know, most of you probably give more credit to the average joe off the street than you do to the average joe that sits in the Oval Office. I don't like him much either, but fudge, it doesn't put me in the position to think that equates with him being the bottom of humanity or anything.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:30 AM on November 30, 2002


Watch his walk, his body language. Try to imitate it and you'll realize some things about him.
posted by semmi at 11:10 PM PST on November 29


The man has hemorrhoids?
posted by mecran01 at 12:45 PM on November 30, 2002


Heironymous, you still haven't addressed the issue mcsweetie raised about your use of Stalin, Mao and related fascists as stand-ins for "the left." They were both corrupt dictators who adored centralized government power. It's a tragic shame it took the Western left so long to disavow them, but that's hardly the same as saying they represent "the left." Stalin's (and Lenin's, for that matter) crushing of more democratic left-wing groups in Russia is well-documented.

Also, the political nature of the "disease" label as it's currently being used against gay people by the fundamentalist right couldn't be more obvious. Since calling homosexuality a "sin" isn't helping their cause, they use the idea that non-hetero sexual orientations are medical/psychological disorders needing treatment in order to fight against legal equality. The issue is hardly a "red herring."

The frequent characterization of all recreational use of illegal drugs as an "addiction" is yet another example of right-wing medicalization of political difference.
posted by mediareport at 12:57 PM on November 30, 2002


donkeyschlong: Well, consider me occasionally flappable. You're right; it's usually a signal one needs a little time out in the Big Blue Room (as opposed to the little #C9C9C9 room).

Hieronymous: But of course; and I confess to thinking much the same, that redefining unable to mouth liberal platitudes as antisocial personality disorder is, as a philosophy, a few short steps away from re-education camps.

But in reality, I just think it's one step away from a string of election losses. A rational party experiences a defeat and rethinks its strategy; sometimes the Democrats seem in a race to explain theirs in terms of right-wing conspiracies, moral opprobrium, and contempt for public gullibility -- obviating any legitimate basis for re-evaluation. A friend reading this thread said (in response to my comment) that the politics of personal destruction worked for the Republicans, so the Democrats would be smart to adopt the same strategy. I don't agree either that the strategy "worked", i.e. was responsible for the wins in 2000 and 2002, and I especially wouldn't agree that the party would be well served by following suit.

mcsweetie: It is not so much that the New Left in the West is tainted by the totalitarian left, as it is that the existence of such in the totalitarian left undermines any argument that such tactics are necessarily sourced in the political right. Fascism and totalitarian communism ('left-fascism') are two sides of the same coin.

trout: That made me laugh. Out loud.
posted by dhartung at 1:11 PM on November 30, 2002


Dhartung: re: "message from the Office of Information Awareness:

Dear citizen, we are concerned by the statistical change in the tone of your written expression; you are, we hope, feeling well? Please respond to this query within 72 hours or you will be sequestered for further analysis and refined profiling. But please relax, as we are fully confident in your fidelity to the cause."

-- Yours Truly, The Office of Information Awareness"

--I'm glad. I meant it in the best spirit. One good laugh can turn around a whole pissy day. Now, about that Poindexter guy....
posted by troutfishing at 9:36 PM on November 30, 2002


Oh, one more thing - I wonder if the bulk of the debate between the US "left" and "right" (I don't quite buy the usual one dimensional political typology. Two dimensions are better, three dimensions better still...) isn't best charactorized by the question:

"What rights (if any) should adhere to American citizenship?" - this question lays open the issue of civil rights, and wealth transfer (taxation), and is left/right neutral. Who has the guts to broach this topic?
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 PM on November 30, 2002


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