« Strange bedfellows | Main | Katrina non Hurricana »

Aleatory poetry

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday December 10, 2009 04:17 PM

Longtime readers here may recall that I sometimes like to indulge in a little lexicostatistical analysis of texts -- how often such and such a word appears, for example.

Among the many things that struck me about Obie's speech in Oslo was how often he mentioned "America" or "Americans." It's as if the flagwaving conventions of the stump speech have sunk into his very bones, and he can't open his mouth without filling the air with America.

So I started using my little Linux bag of tricks on a transcript of the speech. Here's the output of one such:

mjs@mjs-laptop:~$ fold -s -w 60 obama-nobel.txt | grep -i america
America and citizens of the world:
winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not 
deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a 
Woodrow Wilson received this prize -- America led the world 
threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil 
America, the world's sole military superpower.
this: The United States of America has helped underwrite 
The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, 
Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the 
America's commitment to global security will never waiver. 
missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is 
no rules, I believe that the United States of America must 
And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to 
working with President [Dmitry] Medvedev to reduce America 
development. And within America, there has long been a 
Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has 
America's interests -- nor the world's -- are served by the 
different countries, America will always be a voice for 
Is it just me, or does this really make a loopy kind of sense -- as if his real meaning might spontaneously emerge from the Cuisinart treatment of 'fold' and 'grep'?

"Military" yields some fun too:

deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the 
America, the world's sole military superpower.
military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense 
action -- it is military leaders in my country and others 
  • Total words: 4054
  • America and variants: 18
  • "United States": 3
  • Peace: 28
  • War: 44

It's also very dull, pedestrian, cliche-ridden ("moral compass", "disconnect" used as a noun) and mawkish:

Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.
Something about being President -- tins the ear, dumbs the brain.

Comments (14)

The thing that struck me was the sheer balls of it, saying that nations will continue war, "either in concert or alone." In other words, under the U.N. laws, or not. That, and the claim that what distinguishes this disastrous murdering asshole from MLK and Mandela is mere shortness of time in power!

Amid all the claptrap, a remarkable piece of defiant, Strangelovean, Caligulan empire-at-23:59 talk.


Dull and mendacious, hackneyed and manipulative, cynical and corrupt, patronizing and trite.

But I don't think you have a thesis MJS -- eighteen mentions of America in 4054 words is only 1/2 of one percent.


What amazed me was two things, really: that on an international occasion he couldn't stop talking about America this and America that, as if he were in Peoria rather than Oslo; and the sheer ignroant boorishness of referring to Our Fair Land as America at all (outside of Amurrica, er, that is, the United States).

I was reminded often enough, at an early age, by people who live in Other Fair Lands elsewhere in the Americas, that the US has not yet annexed all these polities, whatever Amurricans may think.

Al Schumann:

hce, there's something about imperialism that causes its high ranking defenders to forget that the United States is but one country in the Americas. It's regrettable in a minor way to elide the other countries once, but to hammer it home eighteen times is arrogance. Worse still, is the number of mention relative to the number of mentions of United States.

But I don't think you have a thesis MJS -- eighteen mentions of America in 4054 words is only 1/2 of one percent.
That's a hell of a lot, for a four-syllable Lehnwort.

I agree with Al, hce. It's a sign of how completely merit-socialized and how completely over-rated this clown is.

Do you imagine that a true World Peace Prize winner would dare use the phrase "America" once in such a speech in the year 2009, let alone say the rest of what ZerO said, insofar as it was coherent?

Maybe not the major point, but a major point nonetheless, imho.

Al Schumann:

As a huckster, though, he scored a lot of points with that speech. I can't imagine anyone wanting to impress Newt Gingrich, but the blustering and the oily bromides got warm words from the vicious old reptile.

Yet another OMFG moment there, Al, with those reactions. Good catch. "Evil in the world," indeed. Fucking hard-core amazing.

Save the Oocytes:

Others have had your idea about sense emerging from the rearranging of text, Burroughs for instance. Here's an example.

Favorite fragment from your grep: "make no mistake: Evil America"

kali yuga:

Toby Keith stands by war before Nobel performance
The Associated Press, December 11, 2009

OSLO (AP) -- American country singer Toby Keith says he won't apologize for supporting U.S. war efforts just hours before performing at the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

Keith says he supports American troops who "fight evil" abroad and that he stands by President Barack Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. Obama is this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate.


"Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly,
And there's gonna be Hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell!
It's gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you...
Brought to you courtesy of the Red, White and Blue!
Oh, Justice will be served and the battle will rage.
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A
'Cuz we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way."
--Toby Keith, singing in support of George W. Bush and Barack Obama

Huey Long once said that when fascism came to the United States, it would come wrapped in the red white and blue. What he didn't foresee was that it would be rationalized by a black man fronting for the imperial state, and selling a package steeped in a Eurocentrism that is invisible when it comes out of the mouth of someone who at heart knows he's selling the world a ton of shit. If there is a hell, Obama will be roasting alongside of Reagan, Woodrow Wilson and every other able bodied defender of the imperium.

kali yuga:

"Something about being President -- tins the ear, dumbs the brain."

Of course, this operates off the assumption that somebody like Obama was anything other than tin-eared and dumb-brained to begin with.


i have trouble sorting the pepper from the fly crap
so i didn't "review " the speech
let alone actually read or hear it

a man in love with his mother land
america is the gal name
for this here
cradle of liberty republic

honest barry a sissy emperor ??

what ?
ole infinitive splitter
the urban frontier
of the state of illinois
why he'll post up any leader on the planet
and score easily

you chaps lack a proper sense of terror
when dressed up in kool weeds

then again
md has gone jay tabor on us

obama reign => fascism ????

i don't get that signal


sorry md i meant to type mh

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Thursday December 10, 2009 04:17 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Strange bedfellows.

The next post in this blog is Katrina non Hurricana.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31