Brigitte Gabriel: courage and capability

On 8 September, 2014, the United Nations hosted a conference entitled Global Anti-Semitism: A threat to International Peace and Security.

One of the speakers was Brigitte Gabriel. If you read my previous post you will not be surprised that she is the subject of this post. When seeking a formal speech from her I was torn between this speech and this one. You have the link if you want to see why I was torn. Though the other has an equally powerful, and very moving message this blog is devoted to speaking skills. I commend both, but I shall be examining this.

Unlike the other speech, she is reading this one. I know why, and I can understand it. When you are in this sort of company you don’t want mistakes, nor is it good manners to over-run your time. I often argue with those reasons, but not with the following one: the press will almost certainly have received a transcript in advance, so she has to stick very closely to it. People like her, who have learnt to speak without the aid of paper, handle paper better. She has written the speech in spoken English as distinct from written English, she limits herself to the merest glances at the paper, and she absolutely doesn’t allow it to interfere with her audience engagement.

Clever opening! The story of the necklace is laden with human interest while also including interlinear ethos. Neat.

She enters the main body of the speech by way of an alliterative triad, “demonisation, double-standards, and delegitimisation”. The first of those enables her to list some of the accusations levelled at Israel and one of them is genocide to which she witheringly replies, “If Israel has been committing ‘genocide’ against the Palestinians, then why has the population of Palestinians increased more than 600% since 1948? Israel must be the most incompetent mass murderers in the history of the world.”

She kicks the legs out from under other criticisms of Israel with the same efficiency.

She turns to the effect of antisemitism on the rest of the world. That is, after all, the theme of the conference. She does it very effectively, and I won’t spoil it for you.

With both this and the other speech I find myself assailed by incredulity at her message. How did it come to this? Anyone who reads a newspaper, and has more than a passing interest in what goes on in the world beyond their own town, already knew the truth of the bare bones of what she is saying if not the horrific details. How did we arrive with our Establishment and mainstream media spinning every story that is remotely connected with the middle east into a narrative with Islamism as the victim? We look around at ugly antisemitism becoming widespread and the accepted norm even in communities where it once was unthinkable, like academia and the arts. A frighteningly skillful, ruthless and mendacious PR exercise has been at work.

Brigitte Gabriel has the courage and ability to fight back. It is up to us to fight back also, and start by supporting people like her.


An Inspired Outburst

I spend a great deal of browsing time, looking for material for this blog. I am specifically looking for speeches, but occasionally I turn the hunt on its head and look for egregious speaking in any other context. When I find it I then look to see if the speaker has speeches on line. It is a system that has proved very effective.

Thus it was that I happened upon this …

This is Brigitte Gabriel.

Man, can she speak! I often tell my trainees that passion is worth buckets of technique, but the dream ticket is to have both. Then the passion can be most effectively channelled.

She has both: buckets and buckets of both.

In three and a half minutes, shooting from the hip, she improvises a mini speech that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Boy, what an end – I love her last sentence! Furthermore this mini speech has a Face

The peaceful majority were irrelevant

Yes, I know that it’s the safest of bets that she has said all this before, and often, but that’s not the point. It is only by really understanding speaking structure that you can deliver a message instantly tailored to any time-slot required. This speech epitomises so much that I teach that it makes my head spin. I don’t flatter myself that she has read my book. On the other hand I can tell you that she doesn’t need to. I have seldom seen an audience’s g-spot hit so squarely.

Speaking personally, without my rhetor hat on, it was also good to hear her implied message of people ultimately being wiser than their “leaders” (I detest the term). That is the bedrock of democracy, and the reason that tyrannies always fail in the end.

I went seeking examples on line of her formal speaking.

No prizes for guessing who will be the subject of my next blog posting.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has confidence

In 2015 the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion,

This House Has No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government

One of the speakers was Jacob Rees-Mogg who, as a member of the governing party in Her Majesty’s Parliament, predictably spoke in opposition.

Browse online on line in order to research Rees-Mogg’s quality of speaking and, before you even get to watch this example, you have a good idea what to expect. As he had previously been on this blog, I thought myself already well versed in Rees-Moggery, but still I went a-browsing. What I found was that he adjusts his tone and pace (though never, I’m delighted to report, his accent) according to each audience. This is a sound device but only if you do it very subtly, which he does, unlike a recent British Prime Minister who by unsubtly varying everything including his accent merely contrived to make himself sound phoney.

I was also wildly entertained in Rees-Mogg’s welcoming of interjections. He habitually gives way with an eagerness that suggests that Christmas has come early, and you understand why when very courteously he proceeds to carve up the interjection. Anyone who takes him on is playing on his home turf, as he is lightning-fast and very well briefed. You can find such examples here and here.

I was faintly surprised to find that Repartee was not actually his middle name.

He uses home turf insight with this speech, because he was the Oxford Union Librarian in his day. Consider that when he brings up the subject of gin in the second minute.  Also watch how he softens up this audience with gentle self-deprecation.

At 3:05 he delights in giving way to some rash person. Christmas comes early.

At 5:25 he begins a section which is music to my ears. It begins by his asserting that Conservatives believe that Society is built from individuals up, not from the state down. I am delighted to hear that he at least believes in the principle, and I concur that Conservatives in general agree, but I fear that the parliamentary party – particularly the leadership – has shown little indication of this since he made this speech.

The peroration is short but dramatic.

The Oxford Union, unlike the Cambridge Union, appears not to publish the result of the votes that conclude debates. Did the house have confidence? I don’t know, but Rees-Mogg’s confidence in himself in well-founded.

Mark Steyn: if it’s not the crusades…

On 26 September, 2015, in a room in the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, there was held an event that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office deemed so inflammatory, extremist and fraught with controversy that, clutching their pearls, they advised people against going near it. It was certainly dangerous. International Conference: The Danish Muhammad cartoon crisis in retrospect was its title. Free speech was its theme.

That is the fourth time I have published that precise paragraph. The other three were for speeches from –

That is a roll of honour. I commend all their speeches. I also commend the fourth and last speech at this conference. It is from Mark Steyn.

Though I am certain the conference organisers selected their speakers purely on the strength of their manifest commitment to free speech, they could scarcely have offered up a greater range of tone colour. Compare for instance Murray to Steyn. Where the one fences with an epée the other wields a knobkerry. Don’t try to decree which is more effective: just enjoy the contrast.

Nice opening! I have made a similar observation in this blog concerning the diction of those for whom English is not their first language.

In a formidable communication armoury Steyn has one astonishing skill. He is able to recount the most horrendous stories using dry humour in a way that attracts many little laughs from the audience right up to the moment he unleashes the punchline; and he does it without reducing the horror of the story. He displays this skill repeatedly in this speech, but never more tellingly that in his account of Molly Norris, beginning at 3:50. The most serious section in the whole speech begins at 27:00 where, paradoxically, he is talking about jokes.

My trainees, or readers of my book The Face & Tripod will know the value that I place on making a speech possess a Face. Steyn gives this speech a Face by quoting George Bush.

If it’s not the crusades it’s the cartoons

It’s a good speech. Like all of the speeches at this conference it’s an important speech.

Watch it.

At the beginning of this series of four blog-postings I said that I saluted everyone connected with this conference in Copenhagen last September. Now, after several hours of watching and re-watching those speeches and becoming rather attached to that androgynous figure that is the logo of Trykkefrihedsselskabet constantly overlooking the lectern, I do more.

I applaud them.