Friday, April 13, 2007

Fanon, Bush, etc.

katie ness checks in with a post for the obscene machine blog:

Hey BN,

I was particularly struck by Frantz Fanon’s discussion of language in Black Skin, White Masks and how applicable his arguments are to our current political situation. Since we are in the middle of a semester-long analysis of the construction of ethnic mannequins, Fanon makes many interesting assertions about the construction of identity through language. He argues “that a study of the language of the Antilles Negro would be able to show us some characteristics of his world” (38). Fanon is convincing not only in a discussion of mid-20th century culture, but also at the beginning of the 21st century. We judge others on how they speak and, in turn, are judged ourselves. We make certain assumptions about a person by how they use language: how educated they are, what part of the country/world they come from, their age, political standings, etc. Fanon continues by stating that “[t]o speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. The Antilles Negro who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is” (38). Language is power, and the stronger our language, the more articulate we appear, the more respect we receive from others. So, how do we resolve the issue that this video present? What does George W. Bush’s mastery of the English language show us about his world? How would Fanon comment on this?
(***Warning: anti-Bush propaganda follows).

- Katie Ness


  1. And yet, Bush's Texas twang is a statement of power, and he may have taken it on in order to express the power that the "common man" has, or should have, if one votes for Bush. It may not even be natural, according to many (this from an article on the pbs website:)

    "Perhaps the best example of a Texan who defines his identity through language is George W. Bush, whose parents and siblings do not speak with the same heavily inflected speech that he does. Bush first left Midland at the age of fifteen, attending prep school at Andover, college at Yale, graduate school at Harvard, and vacationing in Kennebunkport. Yet his West Texas twang has stuck over the years, and it seems to have grown thicker since he moved into the White House."

  2. melissa t.5:56 PM

    More so than “what does George W. Bush’s mastery of the English language show us about his world”, what does it say about ours? Barring the “pre-senile dementia” that was suggested in the video, was his change of speech pattern done so in an attempt to “dumb-down” his message for the American public? In a day and age when so much of what comes through the media has been edited, filtered, and censored to make it “appropriate” for the public eye, it becomes imperative to ask ourselves: what information are we missing because those in power find it too sophisticated for our cognitive skills?

  3. Anonymous6:02 PM

    Julie Mitzel

    I am certainly no fan of George W.'s, and I admittedly have not compared recordings of his speech that demonstrate whether his Texas twang has gotten stronger since he entered the White House, still I think it important to mention that at the age of 15 it is possible for a male speaker of a language/dialect/accent to move and still retain his speech habits, even if he never returns to where he was raised. Last semester I took Linguistics 420 with Prof. Charlotte Web (yep, that's really her name) and she informed us that men, in comparison to women, retain stronger accents when they move from one place to another. Women's accents are more likely to change to nearly match the accent of the new location to which they have moved. Also, the age of 15 is somewhat of a gray area with regard to an accent and speech habits being likely to change or stay the same. Some fifteen year olds might change their speech patterns to match the common patterns of the new location, but it would not be unusual if at that age they retained their speech habits from where they grew up.

    That said, I think it is pretty awful that a man who speaks like Shrub - er... Bush (specifically with regard to his verbal errors) could win an election for the Presidency of the U.S. A person who is not of white non-hispanic ethnicity who speaks as poorly as Bush does would never be able to rise to the position Bush has risen to in this country. I think that is pretty telling about prejudice in this country.

  4. Anonymous2:20 PM

    The focus of this video wasn't his Texas twang but the words he was saying. His speeches ten years later compared to his earlier ones in fact seem slower, choppy, and incoherent. "...they never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people; and neither do we." What is that? This video is suggesting that there is something wrong with him.