Dinesh D’Souza nails The Big Lie

In September 2017 Dinesh D’Souza spoke at Liberty University in Virginia, USA. This is not the first time we have looked at a speech delivered there: we saw Trey Gowdy likewise. At the very beginning of this speech D’Souza makes the point that unlike far too many universities and colleges in America, indeed the West, Liberty conscientiously hosts speakers from all backgrounds and political persuasions. It is disgraceful that this requires highlighting, education surely being about challenging young minds with a variety of opinions, but it does.

This speech first caught my eye when its online posting declared it to have been an amazing speech that earned itself a standing ovation. The second thing I noticed was that it was about The Big Liea book I read in hardback months ago when it was first published.

There’s an interesting thing about D’Souza’s jaw-dropping assertions, namely that no one succeeds in refuting them. In his previous book, Hillary’s America which I also read, he declared that at the outset of the American Civil War all American slaves belonged to members of the Democratic Party, and defied anyone to find an exception. That was published in July 2016 since which the silence has been broken only by smears and name-calling, the halfwit’s substitute for argument.

I was highly sceptical that this speech could in thirty minutes do more than merely trail the book. I was wrong. D’Souza is such a master of structure that watching this speech may well make you want to read the whole book, but you don’t have to unless you want to probe the detail in depth. I’m sorry if this inhibits his sales, but it’s all here, and magnificently shot from the hip. D’Souza is an astonishingly good speaker, and this an astonishingly good speech.

Have you noticed how everything that can be described as reprehensible is always characterised as ‘right-wing’?  (In fact, that is essentially the BBC definition.) Has it puzzled you when told that Stalin for instance, though a Communist, suddenly adopted ‘right-wing tendencies’ when he went about killing people? Mao and Pol Pot ditto? Have you been led to believe that the political spectrum is actually circular, and that is why the extreme left emulates the extreme right in its brutal authoritarianism? Have you been told that authoritarianism is itself a right-wing thing, despite the right always calling for smaller government? Has it ever bothered you how the ‘moderate’ left will go to extreme lengths to prevent you hearing anything from the ‘extreme’ right?

Then you are a victim of The Big Lie, and you need to watch this speech. And if you are a lover of good public speaking, then you definitely need to watch this speech.

Princess Mabel naturally.

In November 2017 the Oxford Union hosted a talk by Princess Mabel van Oranje. She chairs an organisation called Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

Her speech lasted a tad more than thirty minutes, and the rest of the time consisted of questions.

She’s a natural speaker, and that’s wonderful! We watch the real person, with no speaker’s mask, expressing transparently genuine, unselfconscious passion.

She’s a natural speaker, and that’s a problem. We are bombarded by a relentless flow of words, most of which fail to stick.

Natural speakers are probably the most difficult to coach. I watch this, knowing that if this speech were properly structured it could say at least as much, with considerably more productive impact, with much better memorability, in two thirds of the time. I also dread the possibility of anyone trying to structure the speaker. That glorious naturalness should never be allowed to be compromised.

Greg Lukianoff and the 1st Amendment

I have lost count of the number times I have covered on this blog speeches extolling the virtues, or condemning the restriction, of free speech. I can though remember the first time: it was in November 2012 and a Christopher Hitchens speech which he had delivered at a debate in 2006. Here we are, twelve years after that debate, and free speech is under worse attack than ever.

My interest in the subject must be obvious. My occupation is my obsession and based on communication. In my opinion anyone who strives to curtail communication is either imbecilic or possessed of dangerously questionable motives; and it seems that most of western academia, officialdom, and too many of our political representatives can be thus categorised. It’s worse than depressing: it’s frightening.

I hate the word ‘hate’ when it is used as a legal adjective.

Here we see a lecture on Free Speech delivered by Greg Lukianoff, the president of FIRE – The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. It was at Williams College, Massachusetts, in April 2014.

Check out the size of the audience!

As part of his opening ethos Lukianoff amusingly introduces himself as a specialist 1st Amendment lawyer. We in Britain do not have a 1st Amendment: we do not even have a written Constitution to amend. What this lecture tells us is that even with full constitutional backup to protect it the USA has free speech problems pretty much as severe as ours.

Generally I would disapprove of his slides carrying so much verbiage, because of the risk that the speaker can find himself in competition with himself. But when he sticks important, historic, Supreme Court rulings on the screen, then to quote key passages from them I have to say I think it works by dint of the weight of the passages.

I find him a joy to listen to because he lays out his arguments with stunning clarity, but then he’s a lawyer. In half an hour I find the whole free speech thing more cogently expressed than I have heard elsewhere.

He actually goes on for more than half an hour, finishing and inviting questions at 34:30, but the last four minutes are specifically aimed at American students and the benefits of FIRE membership. Then it’s questions.

This speech was four years ago, since when these matters have appeared to have got worse even though the official political culture, if not the culture of  academe, has turned through 180 degrees. For my own private interest I must go and find what he is saying now.

Thierry Baudet: nearly fantastische

Late in 2017 The Oxford Union hosted a debate on the motion, This House Believes the Decline and Fall of the European Union is Upon us. One of the speakers proposing the motion was Thierry Baudet.

Baudet is Dutch, which of course means that – like many Northern Europeans – he speaks English better than most English people. I have almost rid myself of resentment of this, my late wife and mother of my sons having been Danish; but how well does one of these linguistic geniuses deliver a speech? Let’s find out.

Immediately I delight that other than that little piece of paper, visible in the still shot and presumably bearing bullet-point signposts, he is shooting from the hip. I think he looks at it only once. Because none of my trainees needs even that little paper I am tempted to put this tiny failing down to whatever crumb remains of language barrier. I’d be wrong. When researching him my eye was caught by another speech described as “Fantastische”, and though I could understand not a word and though that audience audibly enjoyed it, I can tell you that it was read from a script. Could it be that for him public speaking is actually easier in English?

I am thrilled to be able smugly to point out an error. Where the noun is ‘instability’, the adjective is ‘unstable’. Yes of course it’s an anomaly, but what’s new? – this is English. He repeatedly describes the EU as ‘instable’. He’s absolutely right in his diagnosis, just wrong in his idiom.

I thought that Oxford Union debate speeches were allowed eight minutes, but he has bells rung at him when he has barely cleared six minutes. This seems to unsettle him a little. It’s a pity because he is both articulate and coherent, and he certainly has the measure of the EU – and not just its instability. He kicks its dogma.

Among other things you will find that he effortlessly demolishes the fallacy that past European conflicts in general and WW2 in particular were built on nationalism. The reverse was the truth.

He’s good. He’s very good. He’s nearly fantastische.