Because the deadly scourge of thamnophobia moves slowly, many of its social, political, and economic effects have yet to be understood. The impact is hard to overstate. But we must be up to the task.
The other day, I was talking to a colleague, a highly educated and intelligent person who is usually capable of insightful logic, understatement, and restraint. When the topic turned to President G.W. Bush. Suddenly, the conversation began to sound like this:
“That g@#$#$%&#$%^m@$n Bush #&$#&$%^ !!!! 2#$^@ damn 3 f$%^@k$%^@$%g neocons s#o$n%@of# b$%t@#c%h hitler!!!!! @#$%@$%^#$ Karl Rove a@s#$s%h@ #ol$%e hell in a handbasket !!!!!”
What you have just witnessed, my friends, (as Rush Limbaugh would say) is a tragic case of thamnophobia – sometimes known as “Bushophobia” or “Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS). The word comes from the Greek thamnos or ‘bush’, and phobos , or ‘fear of’. Fear of Bush.
In the past year or so, I have documented numerous cases of this tragic and heretofore unrecognized disease. Previous researchers have estimated that there may be as many as 59,028,112 cases of thamnophobia in the US alone. This would make thamnophobia the worst epidemic since the epidemic of mass motion sickness that occurred after the opening of the movie Star Wars in 1977 (which, oddly enough, no one but me seems to remember). However, this estimate, which includes everyone who voted for John F. Kerry in 2004 plus the three people who non-accidentally voted for Ralph Nader, includes not only severe cases like Helen Thomas, whose rating on the Schenck-Borelli Bush-Hater’s Index was among the highest ever recorded, but also cases of people who are, in most other respects, practically normal. While patients with mild cases may suffer few if any ill effects other than a mild case of hyperbole, severe cases of thamnophobia can produce semantic incoherence and misplaced metonymy on a scale approaching that of Cynthia McKinney. These tragic victims are predominantly political activists, politicians, news reporters, and people in left-wing Internet chat rooms. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptomology, and possible treatment for this dreaded affliction.
The onset of thamnophobia is insidious. The following lifestyle traits are highly correlated with the incidence of thamnophobia, or TP:
– Drinking latté.
– Excessive consumption of green leafy vegetables and soy products.
– Hyphenated surname.
– Driving a Volvo, Audi, BMW, or Volkswagen (especially a Bug or VW bus).
As well, a TP sufferer would agree with the following statements:
– I believe World War III is just around the corner and it’s Bush’s fault.
– The Dan Rather National Guard memo showed a deeper truth about the Bush administration.
– Name-calling is just another form of intellectual debate.
– Karl Rove is stupid and evil.
– Dick Cheney is stupid and evil.
– All Republicans are stupid and evil.
– Anyone who does not share my beliefs is stupid and evil.
– President Bush was responsible for the 2004 tsunami.
– President Bush was responsible for Hurricane Katrina.
Hermione Slatkin reported that the American Psychiatric Association (APA) approves the inclusion of “political paranoia” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). You may be suffering from that, too. (political paranoia that is, not the APA. We all suffer from the APA.)
Famous celebrities suffering from thamnophobia
Madonna, the famous celibate, habitual virgin, and deep political thinker, who compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein and complained that “a complete lack of consciousness” in America, not terrorism, Iraq or the Axis of Evil, was America’s greatest risk.
Whoopi Goldberg, who made comments about President Bush’s surname that cannot be repeated in this forum.
Michael Moore, who publicly stated on cable TV that he thinks the Bush administration is hiding Osama bin Laden.
The Dixie Chicks, who were unceremoniously tossed out of country music and forced to become rock-and-rollers for the anti-Bush comments they made in the UK.
Epidemiology and Possible Causes
So far, the causes of thamnophobia have remained mysterious. Most cases of thamnophobia have been found in the so-called “blue states” of New York and California. Colfax (2002) speculated, on the basis of similarities between the geographic distributions of thamnophobia and West Nile fever, that the causal agent was transmitted by mosquitoes. However, as Knipe (2004) pointed out, this theory has received little experimental support. Another theory, first postulated by Rotzschke and Siegel (1997a), suggested that rat bites are the cause. Povis and colleagues (2001) reported isolating a mutant viral protein known as GP277 from TP sufferers, suggesting the possibility that TP may be the first example of a genetically engineered disease created by a foreign power intent on destroying America.
The alternative hypothesis is that TP is a purely psychiatric condition. Chief among proponents of this theory is commentator Michael Savage, who classified liberalism as a mental disorder in his classic treatise entitled Liberalism is a Mental Disorder. However, the APA has not yet accepted Savage’s proposed taxonomy.
Then there is the Kool-Aid theory, proposed on a well-known conservative discussion forum called Free Republic. According to this theory, TP is caused by excessive self-medication with psychotropic drugs.
Thamnophobia in the News Media
The problem with clinical psychiatry is that it’s hard to tell which ones are the nuts and which ones just have screws loose. Take the New York Times, for example, where TP exists in epidemic proportions. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is a classic long-term sufferer of TP. She has documented the years of torment caused by her descent into the madness of thamnophobia in a book called Bushworld: Enter At Your Own Risk. Dowd’s obsession with President Bush marked the beginning of her descent from mere cattiness and superficiality into cattiness, madness, superficiality, and really bad writing. Typical of the paranoid ideation symptomatic of TP is the column in which she compares her opponents to
… a vengeful mob – revved up by rectitude — running around with torches and hatchets after heathens and pagans and infidels.
Closely associated with TP is a disease cluster known as Anti-Religious Antagonism Syndrome (ARAS), also known as Christophobia. This is again exemplified by a quote that Maureen Dowd made upon hearing that some religious conservatives were opposed to the state killing of Terry Schiavo:
Oh my God, we are really in a theocracy.
Discussing the same events, the great New York Times thinker Paul Krugman wrote:
Liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren’t sufficiently hard-line [may someday have to fear assassination from religious believers] unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists.
In other words, the New York Times believes that Christianity is evil and stupid, and that Western civilization is in danger from rampaging hordes of wild-eyed Presbyterians with blocks of Semtex strapped to their chests. Although technically this is not TP, the symptomology is sufficiently related as to justify defining a new disease complex: Anti Religious and Anti Bush and Anti Republican Antagonism Syndrome, or ARABARAS.
Here is a poignant example of TP in a patient named Molly Birnbaum, a poet who is clearly in the terminal stages of TP:
Imagine a way to erase that night four years ago when you [President G. W. Bush] savagely raped every pandemic woman over and over with each vote you got, a thrust with each state you stole. A smack with each bill you passed, a tear with each right you took until you left me disenfranchised with my hands shackled and my voice restrained.
This poem is typical of advanced TP, showing florid paranoid ideation, irrationality, and fully-developed victim mentality, along with a severe case of mixed metaphors and bad, bad analogies.
Treatment options are currently limited to two:
Thorazine (500 mg i.m. q4 to 6h)
Full frontal lobotomy