When the Teleprompter Hits the Fan
Ronald Reagan earned the title of “The Great Communicator” not only because of his effective speaking style, disarming sense of humour or “what you see is what you get” attitude. Reagan spoke to individuals, not to the crowd; he emanated warmth, empathy and integrity.
Whenever politicians implicitly address people as “the masses,” forgetting about our separate and unique identity of human beings, they make a important communication mistake. The crowd is not a brainless matter; it’s made of tellurians capable of logical reasoning and even of reading between the lines….
Doublespeak is used to deliberately distort meaning of words, cushion the shock and “embellish” a problem. It can work, on condition that the public is accustomed to waffling and chooses not to react to a minor circumlocution. This tricky technique will betray the orator, if a euphemism keeps coming back like a boomerang (e.g. “shared sacrifice” for tax increase), or if the speaker uses revolting cacology (e.g. classifying Fort Hood massacre as an incident of “workplace violence”).
Rationalization encourages unacceptable behaviour; undeserved excuses serve as positive reinforcement. A speaker who chooses such a communication style surrenders. General Patton said “Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.” In face of barbarian acts and terror threats, people’s emotions go on high alert. The audience will not be satisfied with “We don’t have a strategy yet.” If the enemy recognizes only the law of the strongest, moderate speeches and politically correct policies will have disastrous consequences. If a public speaker lacks basic interpersonal communication skills, such as saying “No” in a decisive manner, he should immediately hire James Mattis as a consultant. General Mattis will know what to say and what to do next.
Logical fallacies come in all shapes and forms. These arguments, incorrect both in logic and rhetoric result in lack of soundness and validity. Since vigilance on terror threats does not rhyme with irresponsible immigration policies, confirmation bias, kettle logic and moral high ground fallacy replace rational arguments. If we “the crowd” use logical thinking, the manipulator is doomed for failure. Why should our soldiers fight terror overseas, if our government simultaneously “opens” our borders? Why should we silently contemplate joblessness and pay higher taxes to accommodate foreigners who brazenly announce demographic war? In name of what principle should we accept to be bullied in our own countries and tolerate tantrums of “political refugees” who arrogantly dictate us list of their demands and expect us to tend to their every whim?
Arguments from authority and ipse dixit (“He, himself, said it”) usually go with patronising, and the speaker expects that the public will accept his statement as valid. Orators, who use these strategies, rely heavily on a Dumbing Down process which aims at diminution of the intellectual level of people. Speakers who use phrases such as “God bless the America we are trying to create” or “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” have only themselves to blame if people feel offended.
Actions speak louder than words, but if political speeches are preserved in National Archives, it’s because they help us learn our history and shape our future. President Obama said, “The future does not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” and President Reagan stated: “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave….” Every public speaker will either acknowledge his audience’s right to freedom of opinion and expression or learn it the hard way. The last word always belongs to people; they will clap their hands or boo, show the utmost respect or the highest finger. Political snake charmers who rely on submergence, contagion effect and suggestibility to hypnotise the crowd should not be astonished when they hear, “Don’t Tread on Me.”