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January 4, 2004 Examples of Forceful Writing: Candidates for the Purple Prose Award

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Over at Princeton University one of the fellows in the Computer Sciences Department takes a stab at political analysis.  He writes a lengthy analysis of current US foreign policy, and it is a good read.  But the prose style is most "unscholarly" so to speak.


"Our foreign policy is fueled by overt paranoia and an imperious sense of omnipotence."  Really? 


"Its shrill, threatening rhetoric, relentlessly echoed by a gang of media goons, has coarsened public discourse and alienated friends and allies."  Maybe so.

See Bush's Desolate Imperium by Bernard Chazelle

Here's a sample:


Ah, the ease with which George W. Bush attracts superlatives!  Helen Thomas calls him "the worst president ever."  A kinder, gentler Jonathan Chait ranks him "among the worst presidents in US history."  No such restraint from Paul Berman, who brands him "the worst president the US has ever had."  Nobel Laureate George Akerlof rates his government as the "worst ever."  Even Bushie du jour, Christopher Hitchens, calls the man "unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things."  Only Fidel Castro, it would appear, has had kind words for our 43rd President.  "Hopefully, he is not as stupid as he seems, nor as Mafia-like as his predecessors were."

Vain hopes.  In a mere three years, President Bush has compiled a record of disasters that Fidel could only envy.  While cutting taxes for the rich, starving out federal programs for the poor, dismantling environmental protections, riding roughshod over civil liberties, and running the largest budget deficit in history, his administration has pursued a "law of the jungle" brand of foreign policy fueled by overt paranoia and an imperious sense of omnipotence.  Its shrill, threatening rhetoric, relentlessly echoed by a gang of media goons, has coarsened public discourse and alienated friends and allies.

At home, Bush has stoked the fears of a public traumatized by 9/11 and encountered rare success preaching an "us-against-them" Weltanschauung soaked in self-righteousness.  Dissent has been equated with lack of patriotism, illegal detentions have gone unchallenged, and racial profiling has been given new life.  In the run-up to the war, international disapproval met with sophomoric tantrums ("freedom fries, anyone?") and vindictive hissy fits (canceled exchange programs with French high schools): hardly America's finest hour.

Abroad, the image of the United States has never been worse.  Ever.  While the horrors of 9/11 prompted an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy for the US worldwide, Bush squandered it all away and morphed "America the Benevolent Giant" into "America the Shrill Bully."  Bush's vision of a dog-eat-dog Hobbesian universe in which the US plays by its own rules is repellent to most nations.


He goes in this manner for many pages.  You may not agree with him, but he does build up a head of steam.

The item is quite long, but quite lively.


The other bit of purple prose you will find in an item in Cold Fury posted by Arthur Silber.

Check out this to his pro-war friends who fill their web logs (blogs) with comments on the debt the Iraqis owe us for freeing them:


In view of the fact that Saddam most probably would not have achieved or maintained power in the first place without our aid, considering that we supported him in countless ways while knowing a great deal about his vicious and brutal tactics, and in light of the fact that we stood by while thousands of Iraqis were killed after we ourselves had encouraged them to rise up against the evil of Saddam's rule, the Iraqis owe us precisely nothing.  To the contrary - and try to get this simple moral truth through your incredibly thick and intentionally self-blinded skull - we owe them.  Indeed, we owe them so much that it can never be repaid - and once again, we appear to be failing miserably in our attempts to right our past wrongs.  We are failing because, yet again, we have refused to learn anything from the past, and we are therefore repeating all the same mistakes over and over and over again.

I want to state one thing very clearly and unmistakably for the benefit of any warbloggers who might read this - particularly those warbloggers and other hawks who strut their self-announced moral superiority and constantly shove it in the face of everyone else, and who act as if any disagreement with their historically ignorant views of the world constitutes some sort of treason.  You are the enemies of America - just as you are the enemies of thought, of history, of ideas, of any conception of what genuine liberty means, and how it is to be achieved.

You are a disgrace to this once-great nation, and if you have your way, this nation will follow many others on the route of total self-destruction in a conflagration of military might strewn purposelessly and mindlessly around the globe, while an increasingly authoritarian government destroys what remains of freedom here in the United States.  And I also want to make it clear that there are many of us who are not at all cowed by your moral blustering.  Many of us see it exactly for what it is: the phony posturing of a coward who relies on intimidation in place of argument, who feels that shouting mindless slogans will silence any opposing viewpoints, no matter how well-reasoned, and who counts on the reluctance or unwillingness of his opponents to stand up to the taunts of an obviously ignorant bully.

As your hollow and offensive tactics increasingly reveal themselves to be almost entirely devoid of thought, of any kind of historical grounding, and of any basis in principle, I think more and more people will call your bluff - and finally shame you into silence.  You are anti-American in every important sense: you have no understanding of individual freedom or how it is maintained, you have no appreciation of the dynamics of foreign affairs, and you have no grasp of how ideas or a culture of freedom are spread.

So, as I have said before and with a deeply grateful nod to a genuinely great American whose greatness is lost on you, and with regard to your uninformed, incorrect and disgustingly ignorant charges of anti-Americanism and disloyalty, I repeat yet again: If this be treason, make the most of it.


Wow.  This fellow doesn't like ambiguity.  And was that last comment a challenge to Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly?
Let the fun begin.