While numerous books have been written criticizing the policies and practices of the George W. Bush administration, few have been as foreboding about the meaning of those policies and practices as Mark Crispin Miller's Cruel and Unusual
. In Bush and company, Miller sees a regime comparable to the most ruthless authoritarian dictatorships of the modern era and warns that Americans, skillfully duped by a corrupt government and a complicit mass media, are blithely accepting the curtailing of their liberties and the eradication of their democracy. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the tremendous fear and insecurity they generated among the American people provided, in Miller's estimation, ample opportunity for Bush and company to move the country to a place where dissent is crushed by force, wars are started on lies, and democratic elections will soon be a thing of the past. Cruel and Unusual
makes a compelling case by providing massive amounts of evidence, some concrete and some speculative, although at times the sprawling range of his subject matter harms Miller's attempts to form a cohesive argument. And for someone writing a book about George W. Bush, Miller is awfully preoccupied with the treatment President Bill Clinton received from the press and right-wing activists. Particularly strong, however, are passages related to the build-up to war in Iraq and the discrediting of weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Miller provides transcripts from cable news talk shows where administration spokesman attack Ritter with the apparent assistance of like-minded hosts while Ritter himself doggedly defends himself and persistently rejects the main reason given for war. Cruel and Unusual
is one of the most energetic and dire criticisms of the Bush administration but its urgency is matched by the crimes it sees being committed. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
In delivering this blunt jeremiad—Bush is "fascistic," "theocratic," a "crook," etc.—Miller (The Bush Dyslexicon)
argues that the Bush-era press isn't simply biased, it has been lulled into an Orwellian false consciousness. One of the major examples Miller, a professor of media studies at NYU, offers is the case of Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector who insisted before the war that Iraq probably had no unconventional weapons and was treated by TV interviewers like Paula Zahn as a near-stooge for Saddam. For Miller, further elements of the current order include electronic voting machines that he says were used to tilt the 2002 congressional elections and a cabal of Christian Reconstructionists that wants to impose theocracy on America. Miller, sometimes overheatedly, links the "extremist propaganda" of the Christian right to Bush assertions and policies, traces it to groups like the highly secretive Council for National Policy, and presents what he sees as a final agenda: "To such apocalyptic types, the prospect of a ruined earth is no big deal, as long as God can be alleged to go for it." While such arguments are familiar, as is the indignant tone, Miller's thoroughness and clarity in tracking down the sources of the policies he decries, and the ways in which they are disseminated, set the book apart.
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