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Ira Chernus Helps Us Understand the Administration's 'Scheherazade Stories

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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 12:25 PM
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Ira Chernus Helps Us Understand the Administration's 'Scheherazade Stories

To some extent they use words like "freedom" and "democracy" as synonyms for civilization. And there's a huge history of the words "civilization" and "civilized" being used to mean kind of good guys, like us. If you're good guys, like us, if you share our values, then you support freedom and democracy by definition. And if you aren't sympathetic to us, if you don't like us, if you're not going to help us and get along with us, then you are an enemy of freedom and democracy by definition. That's the way they use that kind of language, I think. It obviously is not using the word "democracy" in a very literal sense.

-- Ira Chernus

Why does the George W. Bush administration have any support? Why haven't their mistakes and bad policies led to open revolt by the American people? As Ira Chernus sees things, the answers may lie in the way they talk and the image they project, both of which are linked to some very powerful and cherished American beliefs and stories. Never mind that their actions don't fit with what most Americans want. Ira Chernus, a professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, unravels the stories they're telling. Let's hope the pro-democracy forces -- that's us -- have learned to weave a better story that voters can and will embrace.

* * *

BuzzFlash: You wrote a remarkable piece for called "Karl Rove's Scheherazade Strategy." Typically we might view politics in terms of sports analogies, but as you say, at least in terms of this administration, it's really the crafting and telling of a story. Karl Rove is a storyteller.

Ira Chernus: I'm not saying that this administration does more of it than any other. In fact, my next major research project is on Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a masterful storyteller in both the literal sense but also in this larger sense of shaping political discourse into narratives and stories. But I think that's always part of the game or the sport -- the skill of creating effective narratives.

BuzzFlash: You're quite specific in this article that Rove is playing upon a story that's part of an American myth -- the taming of the West, the taming of the savages, the good guys coming in to civilize the barbarians. Is that a fairly accurate summary?

Ira Chernus: Right. I avoid the word "myth," because as a professional in religious studies, I know how loaded and debatable that word is. So I use the word "story."


Karl Rove's Scheherazade Strategy by Ira Chernus, at, Ira Chernus' home page:


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Demeter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 06:13 PM
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