About Brian the Rhetaur

I help people become speakers.

Ian Duncan Smith: humour and passion

I have a stock of speeches on which I draw when the supply of topical material thins. That supply is drying up. I wonder why…

Today we look at a speech from the beginning of last year, January 2019. A meeting of the Brexit Party, with its slogan “Leave Means Leave”, was addressed by the Rt Hon Ian Duncan Smith – widely known in Britain as IDS.

He makes early reference to an invasion by a mob which, during the previous speech, had invaded, chanted, and been invited to depart. I thought I’d tell you that, because otherwise a couple of seconds near the beginning of his speech would make no sense.

Then he pays deserved tribute to Kate Hoey, sitting behind him. She was on this blog not so long ago.

IDS does humour! More than twenty years ago he had a brief spell as leader of the Conservative party, and the Mainstream Media swung into their customary smear-fest. He was painted as being devoid of personality. Since stepping down from that he has studied, researched, and campaigned passionately on Work & Pensions, a brief not known to be all-singing-all-dancing, so that dreary image of him has rather stuck. How refreshing to see him opening with a very humorous passage, excellently delivered with skilled timing, several interim laughs and ultimately leading to a stunning punchline.

Then he turns to the passion, and very passionate it is. I tell my trainees that passion is worth bucketfuls of technique, but the dream ticket is to have both. IDS has both.

Even though the matter of Brexit is not currently headlines, it’s interesting to note those of his observations that still apply to our current predicament.

For instance, at 6:40 he talks of how the Establishment and its media echo-chamber delight in denigrating Britain. Every day during this current pandemic fiasco we are repeatedly misled about how the UK has Europe’s highest death-rate. In absolute terms, maybe, but not per capita. Taken per unit of population we are somewhere around the middle of the league table, but the bottom-feeders in the media never say so. If they wonder why readership and viewing figures are plummeting, it’s because the truth that belies their fake news is easily available on line.

The media also screams that USA has the world’s highest death rate, whereas again per capita it’s near the UK in the middle of the world’s league table. The unenviable top of the European table is San Marino, with a per capita death rate almost three times Britain’s; and if you take Manhattan out of the sample USA’s death rate is very low. The media never tell you that. It has long been said that a free press is a bedrock of a civilised society. It’s time to add a free internet to that; and even now the internet is threatened.

At 8:15 IDS has another go at the Establishment’s hatred for Britain, and swings into talking of his father’s generation in the war. They fought for freedom.

Hmmm. Freedom. Remember that stuff? Various wise people have made the observation over the ages that any society that endangers freedom, in favour of safety, winds up with neither.

Dr Daniel Erickson and Dr Artin Massihi dissent.

On Thursday 23 April, in Bakersfield, California, two medical doctors held a press briefing. They are Dr Erickson and Dr Massihi. They tell us more about themselves in the briefing, but meanwhile I can tell you that they are co-owners of Accelerated Urgent Care.

Also, in order that we might listen closely to what they have to say, let me first go over some interesting details concerning this briefing.

This video rapidly went viral (I have seen various figures posted – like 5 million!); YouTube took it down, claiming that it violated its rules; it was quickly reposted by numerous parties with copies. Time will tell how long they will last, so my link is to a posting on BitChute. I seem to be having embedding issues with it, so if it isn’t below simply click the link or copy and paste the URL that is.

The configuration of the audio is distinctly amateurish. If you happen to be listening on headphones you will find that the doctors speak only into your left ear. When questions come via the mic in the audience the audio clicks into mono. There’s a probable reason for this, but I won’t bore you with it. The room looks to be small enough for the audience not to need a PA system, so these microphones are simply for us watching the video. (Because multiple people have been reposting it, there are some versions online that are much shorter – therefore edited – and have had the audio glitch fixed. My link is, I believe, to the raw original.) At any rate this tech mistake strongly suggests that we are watching two medics with something they want to tell us, rather than a slick activist setup.

The doctors happily take and reply to questions while they are going along, rather than restricting them to a Q&A session at the end. I approve of this, and do it myself at seminars, because it provides invaluable detailed audience analysis. By the questions, and the body language of those who didn’t ask but heard the questions, you can glean really penetrating audience feedback on what really concerns them. You are also manifestly demonstrating that you have nothing to hide. It’s not practical for all presentations, but I commend it when it is.

They both shoot from the hip. This conveys sincerity and command of the subject. They read from notes only when quoting statistics or claims that others have made. This conveys accuracy.

Now let us watch the Dr Erickson Covid-19 Briefing

https://www.bitchute.com/video/v5A1B6KIvusv/

They (mainly Dr Erickson, but both are super-articulate) say what they want to say, and you are quite capable of evaluating for yourself their sincerity, so I think it would be impertinent of me to comment beyond a small autopsy on this briefing.

I came across a link to something claiming to be a refuting of what the doctors had said. It turned out to be a video clip from ABC of a few seconds of a local authority spokesperson saying that the head of the health department had denied, contrary to what you hear at 37:50, agreeing with what the doctors suggested. We did not hear this from the head of the health department, merely hearsay from a spokesperson. The ABC reporter said that further details had been sought, but no answer as yet received.

And finally, I suggest you consider why YouTube (owned, of course, by Google) are so eager to silence what Erickson and Massihi have to say.

I’ll leave it there.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had one job

At this moment a huge proportion of the world is under house arrest, because of the advent of a virus for which there are insufficient data to justify apparently any recourse other than overweening precaution. A world pandemic, officially declared as such by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has triggered the first half of a global reboot.

China – or more particularly the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – has suffered huge damage to its reputation, not so much because the virus came from China but because CCP went to great lengths to cover up the news, persecuted its own doctors when they tried to warn the world, and then lied about it all. At least as much damage has been done to the brand of WHO, which has collaborated with CCP throughout this process.

The Director General of WHO is Dr Tedros. Here he is delivering the closing speech of the 71st World Health Assembly in May 2018. WHO comes under the umbrella of the United Nations.

Tedros occupies his first four minutes, presenting gold-packaged gifts to people who have chaired meetings of this assembly. Each comes to the lectern, receives his package, proceeds carefully to unwrap his gift before the audience to reveal that it is a gavel – not much surprise, as Tedros said at the outset that this is what they were getting. So this is why, although there are just three of them, it takes four minutes for this little ceremony to be dragged out. At 04:10 Tedros seeks permission to begin his speech, but there’s still more than twenty seconds before he has completed the Hierarchical Hello. Finally at 4:32 we get the speech.

It is not a speech, it is a reading. Tedros is a talking head, delivering ten minutes of platitudes that are so bland and bromidic as to require serious self-discipline to follow. I am therefore quite proud to have caught this at 8:09 –

The independent oversight and advisory committee has given its stamp of approval to our work on emergencies, and has recognised that we are better positioned to act with greater speed and predictability…

… greater than what? The world did not witness conspicuous speed in January 2020.

If you find yourself unable to sit through all of the speech, I don’t blame you, and yet –

I actually feel a bit sorry for this man. He is a walking embodiment of the Peter Principle, and is also a terminal sufferer from bureaucritis, an ailment I have explored before on this blog, most recently last week. He feels to me to be a puppet, no more responsible for his actions than – say – Greta Thunberg.

A certain amount as been made in the media about his not being a physician, his doctorate is an academic one. All his predecessors, apparently, were medics; but so what? Speciality is often the enemy of intelligence – we can all think of examples. He has been lifted beyond his ability by the vagaries of UN psephology that help activists to punch above their weight. In this case it appears the activist was CCP, and though miserably out of his depth Tedros owes to China this position that no doubt is swelling his Swiss account. This could explain his current championing of China over USA, despite the latter contributing ten times as much to WHO coffers.

In May 2017, just before his appointment was made, it emerged that in preceding years there had been, on his watch in his own country of Ethiopia, alleged coverups of three outbreaks of cholera which were wrongly categorised as “acute watery diarrhoea”. One of his early actions after taking office was to choose Robert Mugabe as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, but the instant outcry caused the offer to be quickly withdrawn.

He’s out of his depth, but it’s a widespread phenomenon in bureaucracies that conspicuous failure is often a shortcut to meteoric promotion. It certainly happens in the British public sector. It’s almost as if devotion to a greater cause acts as a sola fide that obliterates all errors.

What keeps me awake is pondering what that “greater cause’ might be.

James Surowiecki: the Wisdom of Crowds

In May 2016, at the CMX Summit East, James Surowiecki gave a talk entitled The Power of the Collective. Essentially it was a promotion of much the same message he launched in his book The Wisdom of Crowds, published way back in 2004.

I thought I’d explore it, in order to compare and contrast the message with Douglas Murray’s appearance on this blog on 19 March, and his latest book The Madness of Crowds. Are they contradicting each other?

No.

Let’s get the rhetor stuff out of the way quickly so as to get on to Surowiecki’s message. He speaks well, shooting from the hip as a proper speaker should. Voice projection is good, diction good, generous expressive gestures. Being picky I’d have liked him to maintain broad brushstrokes a little more, as he occasionally gets bogged down in detail. He should try to save the detail for his anecdotes which are excellent – particularly the last.

His only apparent stage-craft failing is a lack of light-consciousness because he too often drifts stage-right, putting his face into the gloomy penumbra of the spotlight-edge, and occasionally actually moving completely out of it into stygian darkness. That spotlight is not fixed, it’s a follow-spot, so a slap on the wrist is due its operator; but if Surowiecki had learned the actor’s trick of ‘loving’ his light in order constantly to be seen at his best advantage, he would never have gone into darkness.

The people are always smarter than their masters.

That’s an anonymous aphorism I first picked up on decades ago, and subsequent experience has always confirmed it. It’s not that the masters are thick, though quite often they are a little – that’s a result of the type of mentality that wants to obtain fame or power – but the main reason is well-described in Surowiecki’s speech. Breadth and depth of experience and opinion will always make a community’s judgement better than those who claim to lead it. That’s why I detest calling politicians ‘leaders’. They are not: they are representatives.

The way optimally to harness the wisdom of the crowd is by democracy, free speech, and small government.

Wherefore therefore Douglas Murray’s “Madness of Crowds” in all this? Murray clearly shows us the consequence of silenced dissent, no-platforming, the revolting bigotry of political correctness, hate-filled hate-laws, and so on. Surowiecki clearly shows us the brilliance of a community consisting of the widest possible divergence of opinion and experience. Murray and Surowiecki are on the same side.

Though small, there has to be a government. There has to be a group of representatives, empowered by the rest of us to take rapid decisions when – for instance – a deadly virus threatens us.

But for my money the most dangerous and widespread disease now threatening our planet and the people upon it is what I call bureaucritis. We are threatened by the inexorable growth of an international army of parasitic, unaccountable, self-perpetuating, self-regarding, and monumentally unimpressive pen-pushers. They are drones when they should be workers. They constantly fail in their judgement and urgently need to be brought to heel – or, in many cases, put out to grass.

How? Don’t ask me: I’m not wise enough to supply an answer to that. I’m not a diverse community.

Queen Elizabeth

On the evening of Sunday 5 April, 2020, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth broadcast a special message to her subjects. (In passing, this was aired about one hour before Prime Minister Boris Johnson put himself into isolation.)

Judging by the comments on YouTube it was heard by many more than her subjects. Judging by subsequent comments on social media it was warmly received. It was interesting how many of them began along the lines of, “I am a republican, but …” It seemed to drive home to many the value of a resolutely apolitical Head of State, especially one as wedded to duty as this one.

Before we dissect the content, it’s worth registering the decorum (if you clicked that link to my Glossary page, you might be advised to keep it open). HM finds precisely the right mix of calm authority and affection. This is less surprising when we are told that she gave her first broadcast in 1940. She is probably the only person on the planet who continues broadcasting after eighty years.

A bald opening. This doesn’t surprise me: HM has, to my delight, opened her Christmas broadcasts baldly for some years. If I am really picky I’d have liked a half-second longer silence before she began speaking, but that is down to the editor.

She is straight into anaphora, “disruption …”, and the second element in that repetition contains a triad. These devices have these terms because they were identified and codified by orators in Ancient Greece.

She pays tribute to those working through the disruption, but also wonderfully to those forced not to work, and while that is sinking in she hits the Unity button –

Together we are tackling […] united and resolute…

Shakespeare has Romeo reassuring Juliet, “All these woes shall serve for sweet discourses in our times to come.” It’s a theme that has served speakers well over the centuries, and HM echoes Winston Churchill’s “This was their finest hour!” when encouraging us to enable posterity to hold us up as a fine example.

HM would be breaking her life’s habit if she neglected to include The Commonwealth, because she is their Queen too. She doesn’t break the habit, and the inclusiveness is expanded in the words, “of all faiths and of none“.

It’s a nice touch (as well as a reinforcement to the decorum) to point out the potential opportunities of being self-isolated – “slow down, pause and reflect…” And it’s another triad.

The Unity button gets more work when “… we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour“, but she is saving the strongest till last. Drawing once more on the wisdom of the ancients HM’s peroration is a symploce, “We will […] again.”

The final element, “We will meet again” echoes of course Vera Lynn, and those words have deservedly become the Face of the broadcast. But my personal favourite phrase in the whole speech comes immediately before the peroration. HM speaks of “our instinctive compassion to heal”.

Thereby lies my optimism, my faith in humankind.

Titania McGrath – Queen of Woke

Comedy Unleashed very seldom hosts serious talks. In November it hosted a lecture from best-selling author, social media activist (her Twitter following is nearly half-a-million), and Queen of Woke, Titania McGrath. Among other things she was promoting her latest book, Woke.

Comedy Unleashed is run by Andrew Doyle, who also has a hand in Titania McGrath.

An opening pause is a well-tested device for conveying confidence and settling an audience. The Lord Hague of Richmond often does it, though I don’t think I’ve known his last more than twenty seconds or conclude with a sigh.

However, gestures (see 0:47) involving a hand on the back of the head is a nerve symptom. Psychologists tell us that it signifies stress or tiredness and that it is hard-wired into us. Even new-born babies do it. McGrath habitually flicks her hair with this gesture, suggesting to me that her hands are used to fiddling with the back of the head.

At 4:30 she moves stage right, and into darkness. My immediate reaction is to castigate her for such a basic error, but it quickly turns out that the stage management has failed to cue a lighting change to accommodate this move unmasking the centre-stage screen. Though the lights do eventually change she liberates an ill-mannered comment on the subject, and the lighting engineer takes revenge by pulling his fader back down. Lighting engineers enjoy pulling their faders up and down.

Now that the screen is unmasked we see a series of very moving slides. I found it deeply moving.

Christopher DeMuth breathing

The previous posting, featuring Douglas Murray, was from a National Conservativism Conference held in Rome in February 2020. The Chairman of the conference was Christopher DeMuth, Sr.

He’s showing symptoms of Hump. The existence of hump is not the problem – everyone has that – but I’m concerned that the audience might notice. Someone like me spies stuff that would escape most audiences, but his quick shallow breathing is a little conspicuous. The reason that matters is that a speaker’s first task is to relax the audience, which in turn relaxes the speaker. If the audience is made aware of the speaker’s nerves it will remain edgy, which causes negative feedback that prolongs the hump. If I were advising him, I’d recommend an habitual regime of very slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing for at least the last minute before beginning every speech. It’s very relaxing, slows the pulse, sets a breathing pace whose influence will probably last throughout the speech, and can be done in full view of the hall because it is invisible.

I’d also recommend dispensing with a script, but then I always recommend that. In DeMuth’s case here the script is serving to extend his hump. More crucially it is unnecessary. 

When preparing to feature a speaker new to me, I habitually look for other examples of their speaking seeking trends and comparisons. In DeMuth’s case I found myself watching this keynote speech from 2015. In that case, though there seemed to be a script on the lectern, he broke free of it far more frequently and proceeded to shoot from the hip. On that occasion his hump was very discreet and much shorter. Furthermore, largely unhampered by paper, he did a much better job of engaging with that audience. That speech lasted an hour, whereas this is less than seven minutes. He absolutely doesn’t need a script, and it inhibits him.

It’s an important speech: a valuable speech. He’s given it an excellent Face: “Adios Davos”. And there’s also one sentence I particularly like, coming at 5:40.

We national patriots can get along with each other just fine.

That’s so true: if you can’t love your own country without hating other people’s then you’re doing it wrong.

He closes with a lovely triad. I won’t spoil it.

Douglas Murray is characteristically excellent

A National Conservatism conference was held in Rome in February 2020. One of their speakers was Douglas Murray.

Murray has, I suspect, been on this blog more often than anyone else, the most recent outing being here in May of last year. I make no apology for seeking a regular dose of his speaking. He is just so damn good!

Hmm! Either he has failed to stand close enough to his razor or we are looking at an embryonic beard. If the latter I look forward to seeing it once it has grown up. Is he seeking to adjust his image from brittle, surgical, forensic enfant terrible to cuddly uncle? If so that beard will classify as camouflage: not all beardies are avuncular, however cuddly they may look. Future adversaries beware.

What an opening! Beautifully conceived, and delivered dead-pan. Murray, the still image for this video notwithstanding, is habitually dead-pan and it works very well for him. In fact the weakest I have seen his presentation of arguments was not in a speech but once when interviewed by Mark Steyn. Being in the company of a good friend, and a funny one, he was smiling a lot and it seemed to take some of the edge off the points he was promoting.

He remains surgical. At 08:43 his withering, dismissive, dismantling of a fatuous children’s programme that the embarrassing BBC screened on the day Britain left the EU is a copybook example.

He and I have both recently been interviewed on the same podcast, though in different episodes. I wouldn’t presume to compare myself with him: he researches profoundly and has wonderful things to say whereas I am by nature a listener and tend to interview the interviewer. But we had something in common. Though both anxious about much in the world, we shared and expressed overall optimism. I said that I believed in people, which the interviewer paraphrased as “the wisdom of crowds”, the title of a book by James Surowiecki who may be appearing before long on this blog.

The title of Douglas Murray’s latest book, which I heartily recommend, is The Madness of Crowds. If that title seems to contradict my view of people the book’s content doesn’t, and nor do the closing stages of this characteristically excellent speech.

Patrick Moore must be heard

On 19 June, 2015, Ideacity opened its annual conference with a talk by Patrick Moore.

Anyone who has read any of Moore’s books, heard any of his speeches, or follows him on Twitter (I qualify on all three) knows what to expect. Those who haven’t heard of him get introduced by Moses Znaimer before the speech, and Moore himself fills in the gaps in his opening.

Nevertheless I have issues with that opening…

Znaimer’s introduction is very fine, containing personal reminiscence and just enough biographical material of Moore to tantalise us into wanting to hear the talk. It conveys respect, even affection, is shot from the hip, and short.

Moore’s opening bristles with unmistakeable nerve symptoms. I’m not surprised that he is nervous: every speaker experiences a Hump. But I expected someone of his experience to have developed better techniques to disguise it. It looks as if he has made an attempt by reciting the first couple of minutes by rote. The trouble is that he is uttering the rote like an automaton, and that’s one of the nerve symptoms. I rush to rescue: here’s some advice…

He kicks off with autobiographical ethos. Ethos is good, autobiography is good, automaton aside he does it pretty well, but contrary to widespread opinion there is no divine edict that says it has to be at the beginning. In fact there is a strong case to avoid autobiographical material at the very beginning.

Nerves are a form of vanity because you are concerned with what the audience thinks of you. A very good defence against nerves is to force yourself to think not of yourself but to focus on your message and the audience, and how they are bonding. How do you possibly not think of yourself when you’re talking about yourself? Enter the James Bond Film Opening, because it makes you hold up the autobiographical ethos for a minute or two till the Hump has receded. It’s much easier to talk about yourself after the nerves have been tamed and put in their place.

How about something like this? “It was wet and cold, and all things considered a bad time to be bobbing about in the middle of the ocean in an inflatable boat, trying to face down a Russian harpoon gun…” Continue in this vein for around a minute (avoiding the word “I”), then, “Let’s go back to the beginning of the story.” Swing into the existing opening.

I can come up with many more suggestions. These things are easily fixed, and every speaker should be at the top of his game from the starting gun.

Moore approaches the top of his game about two thirds through his opening, and the talk comes into its own at 5:00. It lifts still higher with the onset of passion, and never looks back.

The planet’s environment is hugely important, but all sensible and informed scientific study has been hijacked and swamped. The warmist establishment has such a political stranglehold on mainstream media that people never hear the dissenting science. Society suffers, particularly the poorest, and by a cruel irony so does the environment.

This is why voices like Patrick Moore’s must be heard.

Yavuz Aydın and sinister pairing

On 18 February, 2020, at the 12th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, there was a plenary address from Yavuz Aydin. He was a Judge in Turkey till the attempted Coup d’État in July 2016, when he was one of tens of thousands of victims of a purge by the Erdoğan administration.

I remember little of detail about that attempted coup, its news having been rather buried under the British reaction to the result of the EU referendum a couple of weeks earlier. Nevertheless I do recall – cynic that I am – how it seemed after its failure to have had for Erdogan the markings of what students of politics call a ‘beneficial crisis’.

At this moment Turkey is heavily in the headlines, as it attempts to help huge numbers of migrants pour into Europe via Greece. So let’s see if we can learn something more about the Turkish government, if only from a source that may have a jaded view of it.

I am also interested to see how a senior and experienced jurist puts his case in a foreign language.

What a gentle, audience-friendly, opening! The slightly shy smile and soft tone are exactly what are needed to generate audience empathy. It may be his genuine natural self, though I wonder whether he looked and sounded like that when sentencing convicted felons.

The way he lays out his story of the mass purge is beautiful. He makes his narrative clearer than the finest crystal. I am impressed. And then at around the seven minute mark everything changes.

He admits it: he says that he’d intended to make this all about himself, but now there were more important matters to cover. The silken narrative gives way to a stumbled, fumbled, rather garbled description of children being drowned trying to cross the sea to freedom in Europe.

The interesting thing is that though this is now rather messy, it is not a jot less compelling. It confirms what I often say to my trainees that passion is worth buckets of technique. It is a very fine address indeed.

But I have a personal conundrum.

Probably because I spend my life helping people express themselves, I have an interest in something called ‘idiom pairs’. These are pairs of words, often clichés, that colloquially are joined at the hip. At root they come in two distinct categories –

  • Antonyms: words that are opposites – e.g. “high and low”
  • Synonyms: words that essentially mean the same – e.g. “bright and shiny”

But often overlooked is a mysterious third category, and this concerns pairs of words that are perceived absolutely to belong together but often actually don’t. For example, “rich and famous”. We all know of many famous people who are definitely not rich, and rich people who shun publicity; and yet that idiom pair is rooted deep in our culture. It is trying to consider why that interests saddos like me. So where am I leading with this?

Aydin repeatedly rattles off a pair of words, obviously translated literally from the idiom of his own language – “judges and prosecutors”. Not “judges and lawyers”, but “judges and prosecutors” suggesting that they are two sides of the same coin. For one brought up in a culture of adversarial, supposedly impartial justice and innocent-till-proved-guilty I find that faintly sinister.

But that’s just me.