About Brian the Rhetaur

I help people become speakers.

Andrew Doyle and Woke

At The National Liberal Club in London, on 13 October 2019, Sovereign Nations held a conference entitled Speaking Truth to Social Justice. One speaker was Andrew Doyle.

I was keen to watch this speech because few have done more to satirise the wearisome Woke movement than Doyle (except, arguably, the Woke movement itself). Among other things, and I’m going out of my way to highlight this because in his speech he doesn’t do so, he co-founded and runs Comedy Unleashed, where comedians may perform without having to conform to the bigotry of Woke restrictions. This means free speech and, in a civilised society, should be the norm. The Woke establishment (and be sure that the Establishment is Woke) hates it and labels it ‘Far Right’, which is Wokese for the holding of non-Woke opinions.

I cannot believe that he’s reading a script! What has possessed him? He’s hacking great chunks out of the impact of what he is saying by regurgitating something he wrote earlier. It’s not all the time: sometimes his eyes mercifully lift from that wretched paper and he addresses the audience in spontaneous terms. Then the eyes go back down and the speech immediately deflates to an appalling degree. If you don’t believe me, close your eyes and listen. It’s certain that you will know when he is looking at the audience and when at the paper. This is exacerbated by the script being in written-, as distinct from spoken-, English; but he shouldn’t have the bloody script in the first place.

I know for an absolute cast-iron certainty that he doesn’t need it. This is not just because I’ve proved it to countless trainees over the decades, but because I have actual evidence from the man himself. Watch this and see if there’s a script.

What he is doing there is monumentally difficult. It looks easy when it’s done that well, but it is without question the most skilful form of public speaking. He’s fallen into the trap of thinking that Public Speaking is in some way different – a formalised medium. It isn’t. It’s just structured talking, and he has shown he can do that phenomenally well.

The speech is brilliant and could and should have been brilliantly delivered. Because it’s personal no one on this planet could deliver it better than he if he did but dare bin the paper. It’s punchy, funny, clever, everything you want it to be. And it’s important.

One tiny caveat concerning paperless speaking. He often quotes people by reading what they said or wrote. On those occasions he is right to do so, because by being seen to read a quote you transmit a subliminal signal that you are not paraphrasing, but quoting faithfully.

Jonathan Aitken on the shoulders of giants.

On 21 December, 2015, at the Richard Nixon Library in California, Jonathan Aitken delivered a speech entitled ‘A Biographer’s Journey’, comparing the subjects of his two best-selling biographies – Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher. Though I habitually attach, for readers that need it, an explanatory hyperlink to the name of the speaker and key people mentioned, I believe that at least two of them require no introduction, and anyway if you watch this video you will come to learn more about all of them than a link can offer. But if you insist –

Jonathan Aitken Richard Nixon Margaret Thatcher

As I habitually also, as a courtesy to the author, include links to books that are mentioned let us attend to them now. All these are authored by Jonathan Aitken.

Frank Gannon, aide to President Nixon, delivers the introduction and apologises that – unlike Nixon and Thatcher – he cannot speak without notes. Was this a specific appeal for me to teach him? Alas no.

That apology notwithstanding he proceeds to shoot most of it very capably from the hip. It’s a truly excellent introduction, affectionately delivered, replete with personal memories and fulsomely advertising all but one of the books listed above. I have heard few introductions that lasted as long as nine and a half minutes and none that so deserved to.

It has been said that punctuality is the politeness of princes. Aitken begins his lecture at 9:30, and passes to Q&A exactly 40 minutes later at 49:30. That sort of precision is super-professional and very rare.

And now I am slightly at a loss for words. This is just such a beautifully constructed and delivered lecture that I shy away from cheapening it with comment. Yes I know he regrettably has notes. Sadly the word ‘lecture’ strictly means a reading, and there are here a few occasions that I feel the reading makes the delivery a little pedestrian, but when his face comes up and he addresses us spontaneously it eclipses those brief shortcomings.

He’s a very fine speaker, and what he has given himself to say is fascinating throughout. I concede that I may bear an advantage in being old enough to have lived through the period in question, but of the many hundreds of speeches I have sampled for this blog (perhaps three times as many as have been actually reviewed) I think this the most enjoyable. I urge you to watch it.

Candace Owens uses dry powder

There was an interesting clip of video posted on YouTube on 21 September, 2019. It came from a congressional hearing on “confronting violent white supremacy”, but it culminates in a two-and-a-half minute pronouncement of extraordinary power. I think it is worth examining.

Three witnesses speak in this clip. In order of appearance they are Dr Kathleen Belew, Assistant Professor of U.S. History, The University of Chicago, Ms Katrina Mulligan, Managing Director for National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress, and Ms Candace Owens.

Dr Belew is the first to speak in this clip, and is clearly in opposition to Ms Owens. Most of the time she is referring to things we have not heard so do not yet interest me, but suddenly she comes out with an extraordinary statement. She refers to numbers that she doesn’t have, and then declares that claiming that they don’t say something “is not supported by the data”. Surely the numbers are the data; and though she is unable to produce them she claims the right to say what they do or do not support. I become suspicious.

Ms Mulligan, joining the gang versus Ms Owens, is even less impressive.

Through all this, the occasional brief sights we have of Candace Owens show very little. This impresses me. I always advise those on panels, where they are being attacked, not to weaken their silence with gestures or facial expressions of contradiction. Much better is to maintain your dignity. Stay impassive till it is your turn to speak. Keep your powder dry!

Eventually Representative Jim Jordan asks Ms Owens a question which is clearly intended to provide her with a helpful springboard. She does not squander the opportunity.

I am a fan of an aphorism by Laurence J. Peter (he of the Peter Principle, which is ironic considering the two previous speakers) –

Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.

– but here we have an exception. Candace Owens is angry, but she contains it very well. She proceeds, calmly but mercilessly, to shred her two caucasian adversaries, not just their arguments with their failure to produce those fairytale data, but their motives. I almost feel sorry for them.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the human tongue when wielded as expertly as here demonstrated, can be even more devastating.

Jim Carrey and his perfect wording

Maharishi International University, in Fairfield, Iowa, invited actor Jim Carrey to give the Commencement Address to the 2014 graduation class.

I remember being introduced to Carrey by one of my sons who had a video of one of Carrey’s early films. At the time I pointed out, as gently as an opinionated parent can, that pulling faces isn’t acting. It was some years later that I saw another of Carrey’s films and was forced to admit that the boy can play.

His splendid outfit here goes with his having been presented with an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts.

The introduction by Dr Bevan Morris is beautifully enunciated, overwhelmingly florid and very short.

Carrey doesn’t quite get hold of his opening gag, which is surprising for a pro. He slightly over-eggs it, and then mismanages his salvage attempt which is received a little half-heartedly. It’s not bad, just not quite as brilliant as it should be. It’s brave, in fact foolhardy, to try to hit the high comedy that hard that early.

Up to the four minute mark Carrey is appropriately zany, his material full of in-jokes of which I understand very little. Who cares! – it sets a good scene, and that is what he has intended. Then there is a gentle move towards matters poetic, and that is when I get uneasy.

It’s not that it’s poetic, it is that the spontaneity has gone and this sounds synthetic. It is a script. Has he learnt it, or is he using autocue or one of the other prompt-technologies? These things hide pretty well, and from our camera angle it’s difficult to spot, but yes it’s there! He’s reading this. What a pity!

I’ve heard all the arguments, and none of them stands up. If you are able to write it you are able to say it spontaneously. If you write it in the belief that you need to find the “perfect wording” then that “perfect wording” will never sound spontaneous but stilted, pretentious – yes, synthetic.

Worst of all it won’t sound sincere.

Admittedly I’m not his audience: those in the hall are lapping it up, but not as enthusiastically as they did his zany first minutes. The zany bit may have been a well-trodden comedy routine but still this actual performance of it was spontaneous. The poetic bit is the regurgitated results of sitting sweating over finding the “perfect wording”, and however warm’n’wonderful it may seem it is limp in comparison to when he wasn’t script-bound.

If he’d been shown how, he could have said all that poetic stuff spontaneously. And the audience would have lapped even more enthusiastically. What a shame!

AKA Posie Parker

Some time in 2018 at a “We Need To Talk” event at The Jam Jar in Bristol, England, an activist who goes by the pseudonym of Posie Parker gave a speech.

It seems that Parker has been banned from various social media platforms, not just by that name but by her IP address. She has also been interviewed by police under caution for publishing a definition to be found in dictionaries. In Orwellian Britain it seems that we are approaching a time when everything is policed except crime.

My previous post showed a TED talk by Susie Green where she described how her son transitioned to become a girl. In many ways it was a moving and heartwarming story, but there are always two sides to every argument. The civilised thing to do is to explore both sides.

She is reading her speech.

To me you are not a proper speaker till you can, and do, speak without notes; but Parker does not presume to be other than a parent who is concerned enough to protest, so portraying herself as not a proper speaker rather adds charm. Nevertheless she avoids presenting herself as charming; she is in a battle.

She certainly has audience instinct. She gets an excellent response to her ad lib concerning the microphone that won’t stay where placed, and she expertly stokes the laugh when it comes.

She also has instinctively followed one of my cardinal guidelines by giving this presentation a very clear Face

Does my eleven-year-old daughter have the right to go into a female changing room and not see an adult penis?

If we want to get technical it’s slightly too many words for a Face, but they’re powerful. And she repeats them several times.

Parker has at least as good a case as does Susie Green and, if I may borrow the exemplary title of the event where Parker is speaking, “We Need To Talk”. But we don’t: one side of this debate is officially muted.

A lesson we learn in our youngest days, coping with arguments in the school playground, is that the party that refuses to listen to the other almost certainly has no case. Both sides in this argument have cases, and in a climate of goodwill fairly obvious solutions present themselves; but one side is silenced and goodwill crushed. This currently applies across many areas of opinion and in many countries, where only one opinion is deemed acceptable and the other is silenced by officialdom – international officialdom.

Who or what has that sort of reach? And why should they want to sow discord? I have a theory, but this is neither the time nor the place.

Susie Green and Jackie

In December 2017 there was given a TEDx talk in Truro, Cornwall, by Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, an organisation set up to advise and support parents of gender nonconforming children.

I seldom cover TED talks, because the actual process of speaking is made fairly uniform and therefore gives me little to cause my rhetor hat to be donned. However I chose to explore this one as there is another speech giving a contrary view; and we will look at it in the post that follows this.

Thirty six years ago my elder son, likewise aged four, came home from nursery school one day and startled his mother and me with the declaration that he now knew the difference between boys and girls. We gulped gently and asked him to explain. He announced –

Girls cry and boys don’t.

A four-year-old boy barely knows what girls are, other than that they get treated differently, get dressed differently, and play with different toys. Unless he has a sister he probably won’t know the physical difference, and even then won’t care. If any four-year-old boy would rather fancy being treated as they do that other sort, have longer hair like them, wear those softer, freer, more fluid clothes, and play more gently, so what? Plenty of girls play football, even rugby, or climb trees. Our world is astonishingly rigid in its adherence to certain gender stereotypes and interpretation of non-conformity.

It’s not our fault: we were brought up from the cradle in these rigid conventions, and that conditioning goes very deep. It’s probably high time we dismantled much of it; but the current fashion for gender-nonsense, far from dismantling, actually reinforces the stereotype because its default interpretation of simple preference seems to be dysphoria. “If he wants to wear a skirt, he must want to be a girl” – why? He may be too young to have yet been conditioned, and may grow up to be a prop-forward. Convention aside, what is inherently female about a skirt? What is inherently male about climbing trees? I have no doubt that genuine gender dysphoria exists, but the way a whole industry is growing around it, must surely give us pause.

This speech tells a very moving and heartwarming story about a mother and child, and may be true in every detail. It may – in every detail – have happened to Susie and Jackie Green, or she may have cherry-picked some bits from others’ true stories with which to embellish it – as CEO of Mermaids she certainly has access to material.

[If that is thought to be an accusation of scurrilous behaviour, I would point out that there is noble precedent. We are in the season of celebrating the story of Christ’s nativity, the details of which we have cherry-picked and cobbled together from multiple sources. Nowhere in the Bible is there a star over a stable. St Matthew’s Gospel has the star, etc, St Luke has the manger, etc. Just about the only overlap detail is Bethlehem as the venue. Back to Susie Green …]

I get slightly concerned when Green supports gender realignment with statistics about the terrible rate of suicide among trans people, but fails to tell us how much of that happens after treatment. That is the sort of counter-information to be found in a blog called 4thWaveNow, which is far more knowledgeable and informative on the subject than I.

Nevertheless, misguided or not, she makes a good case in this speech. Whatever our views, those conventions are there and will cause the sort of adverse reaction from some people who were conditioned like the rest of us and don’t understand. It is therefore important that an organisation like Mermaids exists among parents trying to cope with a situation in their children that is at best confusing and at worst life-threatening.

In my next posting we will examine the opposing argument.

Martin Howe pulls no punches.

The British Conservative Party Conference at the beginning of October 2019 was an interesting affair. Parliament had been turned, by those bent on betraying the biggest democratic mandate in Britain’s history, into a bad joke. A disgustingly partisan Speaker in the House of Commons had assisted opposition parties in breaking many traditions, including that of suspending parliament during conference season. Other parties had been able to hold their conferences without their members of parliament needing to be in London to debate legislation, but not the governing Conservatives. Not only was parliament sitting while their conference was on, but crucially important business was in hand. Nevertheless the conference did happen, and much of the talk was about the foregoing in this paragraph.

During the conference the Bruges Group held a meeting which was addressed by Martin Howe.

The introduction by Barry Legg, Chairman of the Bruges Group, is delivered in tones that barely disguise desperation. There is an air of persecution. The fight to honour the people’s instruction to secure Britain’s independence from the EU is looking to be in peril. Britain’s Establishment has shown that it is prepared to descend to whatever depths are necessary, breaking any rule to thwart it, and its scrupulousness has seemed to be winning.

Howe reveals his early nerves by clinging umbilically to his script. He even looks down to be prompted to say the words, “this afternoon”. He knows that every syllable spoken at this meeting will be picked over. It is a measure of the seriousness of the political environment when a highly experienced legal advocate feels himself to need such strict circumspection.

Nevertheless he does not pull his punches. Parliament has made itself illegitimate; its activities are unconstitutional; the administration is entitled to ignore its instructions. I take this as meaning that, on 31st October 2019, the Surrender Act notwithstanding, the Prime Minister is entitled to use the Royal Prerogative to break with the EU, something he has repeatedly promised –

“No ifs or buts”

– to do. That, and the same in other equally uncompromising terms, he has made more times than I care to count.

Yet on 31st October he didn’t. Why not? What other pressures were brought to bear? It seems that the principal one was that this wretched excuse for a parliament, rotten from the Speaker upwards, would not allow a General Election to take place unless the PM undertook to break that promise he had repeatedly made. He had been rendered powerless – at least that was the story we were persuaded to understand.

So now we are into a General Election, still haven’t left the EU; and I for one know not what, or whom, to believe. It barely matters because the only feasible alternative to his party is so horrendous, that we have no choice but to elect him.

Unless the PM is party to a very deep conspiracy, and the people are being duped into believing his new assurances to return him to power only to have him renege yet again on everything he has said and lock us deeper into the EU, Boris Johnson will form a new government with a bigger majority and take us out. If he reneges, I shudder to think what will happen. The anger of the people will be ugly, just as it has been in France for the past year; and as in France we could have EU armoured vehicles on the streets of Britain. And I fear that I will not be too surprised: why do we suppose that the mainstream media in Britain has avoided showing us what has been going on in France?

But while we still can, let us try to remain optimistic and assume that the PM is sincere. High on his agenda then should be root-and-branch reformation of the Establishment. It makes the Augean Stables look like a sterile operating theatre.