America’s Frontline Doctors heard

On 27 July, on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington DC, a group of white-coated people gathered to conduct a press conference. They called themselves America’s Frontline Doctors, and their videoed presentation was introduced by Congressman Ralph Norman from South Carolina. Within a handful of hours the video had gone viral, and within twenty-four hours it had been banned by social media companies.

Have the cretins who order these bans never heard of the Streisand Effect? The immediate impact of the banning is to invite the question “why?”, and in searching for an answer to “why” far more people go out of their way to listen than would otherwise have done. I am one of them.

Mark Zuckerberg, in answer to a question at a Congressional hearing, said

We do prohibit content that will lead to imminent risk of harm…

Sounds reasonable, but who decides? I am prepared to believe that there is a Facebook medical panel. I am unable to list any of its members, but I am able to list the doctors in this video.


Ralph Norman hands over to Dr Simone Gold. We later hear from Dr Bob Hamilton, Dr Stella Immanuel, Dr James Todaro, and Dr Joseph Ladapo. They are worth hearing, making “why?” even more of a conundrum.

I spent a little time searching for doctors who had arguments to gainsay the ones in this video, and merely found several people targeting these doctors with argumentum ad hominem. I also found several more doctors saying very much the same thing as these.

Furthermore, I found this short video concerning the infamous article in The Lancet which was pulled only a few days after publication.

Nothing that I found proved that the doctors in the video (shooting all their speeches from the hip by the way) are right or that they are wrong, but it did suggest that there is an important debate to be had on the matter. It is always foolish not to pay close attention to information coming to you from the coalface, and even more foolish to act to silence it.

So finding myself still asking “why?” I ask myself Cui Bono? – who benefits? The only answer I can find is anyone who stands to gain from extending the crisis or from producing another prevention or cure and, in view of the medical, social and economic costs of this pandemic in the mean time, there are no pretty answers to that.

P.S. On 6 August it emerged that both Facebook and Twitter had censored the following video on the grounds that it contained “false claims”. Again, who decides? Is their information superior to that available to POTUS?

Andrew Roberts: masterly

At the end of June 2012, United States Army War College posted on YouTube a video of a lecture by British historian, Dr Andrew Roberts. I think we can assume the lecture took place at very much the same time. The lecture was entitled Why Hitler Lost the War.

Before even clicking to start the video I believe I spot something in the image below that emphasises to me Andrew Roberts’ Englishness. I think he’s wearing a Free Forester tie. Free Foresters is the name of a distinguished English Cricket Club.

Before we address the rhetor stuff let’s get one important thing out of the way. This talk is absolutely fascinating, and I wholeheartedly commend it. It makes me want to read The Storm of War, his book on which some of this talk is based.

Roberts has manifestly researched the subject to within an inch of its life, and has such a comprehensive command of it that he’s easily able to shoot the lecture from the hip. This man is a very fine speaker, and regular readers of this blog will know what therefore comes next. I am going to get super-picky – when they’re this good I always do.

Referring again to that still image of the video you will see that he has pointedly come out from behind the lectern, and placed a tiny piece of paper on its corner. That piece of paper is the target of my pickiness. It is his crib sheet.

I know what’s on it: a series of signpost words or phrases that indicate the path he wants the lecture to take. So far, no problem; I don’t so much mind its existence, but what it causes.

Very soon I can predict each time he is about to glance at it, because the smooth flow of the narrative has begun to fragment. He glances and moves on, but the fragmentation is still there for a sentence or two till he is back in his rhythm. This a sure sign that the speech is modular, a compilation of tried-and-tested modules.

Again I have no quarrel with that, modular structures work very well, but time and trouble has to be spent in building and refining bridges between the modules in order to smooth over the joins, maintain the narrative thread, and obviate the need for a crib sheet. If I were advising him I would concede that bridges can fail, particularly when adrenaline has a nasty habit of robbing you of some of your capacity to think on your feet, so his crib sheet might still be desirable. Nevertheless I’d suggest that he put it in his jacket pocket. Its very presence would reassure him, suppress the adrenaline, and make it redundant.

And there is another more prosaic problem with his crib sheet. On two or three occasions during the talk he produces The Storm of War, in order to read out where he has quoted things others have written. (In passing, this is one of the short list of circumstances where reading during a speech is not only acceptable but commendable.) When he does so he shows us that he needs reading spectacles (don’t we all). But understandably he doesn’t bother to use his glasses to glance at his crib sheet, and that could be causing each glance to be slightly more problematic. That crib sheet needs to be made redundant.

I told you I was going to get super-picky; but I now have a final bouquet to bestow. His finish, his final sentence, is masterly.

Hans Rosling – amazing!

Many of my trainees at first assume that I disapprove of visuals, because I don’t appear to use them. It’s true that there are almost never any slides in my lectures, but I have a couple of visual props that I use. Essentially my rule is that a visual should be used only if omitting it would significantly impoverish the promotion of your message. Never allow yourself to be voice-over for a string of pictures, competing with you for the audience’s attention.

The finest user of visuals that I have encountered – one of my heroes – was the late Hans Rosling. He has been on this blog twice – here and here – but not since his sad death in 2017. I chanced upon today’s offering and decided to feature it, because one of his most endearing characteristics was his cheerfulness, and we seem to need cheerfulness at the moment. My own expectation of cheerfulness is slightly dented by the realisation that Rosling outlived this performance by barely two years, notwithstanding the comment we will hear him make at 25:33.

I believe he had a superb team of techies, preparing his slides, because they always illustrated his point in a revolutionary fashion and always animated. But I have never before seen, from him or anyone else, what we see here. At 2:26 he builds a graph in the air between him and his audience. What is it: a hologram? I don’t know, but it’s brilliant.

Then suddenly we are watching some video footage, but what does the audience in the hall see? The same video on a screen there, probably, but where is Rosling while the video is playing? I don’t know, but being obsessed with a speaker’s relationship with his audience I’d like to.

Here’s my point. Many speeches are delivered to live audiences and incidentally videos are made of them. Other speeches are made specifically for the video market and an incidental audience is invited to the filming, not least to supply audience reaction. Either way it’s a bit of a compromise, because there are subtle differences in how you present to each medium. But not here. Rosling appears effortlessly to be straddling the two. My word, but he was good!

So concerned have I been with the technicalities, that I haven’t mentioned the message. If you are familiar with his work it will not surprise you to be told that he is exploding the widely held fallacies about the world and the way it is going. Materially the world – all of it! – is going not to the dogs but getting better. Nearly all metrics indicate that global life is getting better – and he illustrates the data in a hugely entertaining fashion. Watch that speech, and it’ll be one of the shortest hours you ever knew.

Yes, there are still some – a rapidly decreasing number, but some – for whom life remains a hard struggle. We see them on video, tackling their struggle with good humour, and my mind flies off to other recent video footage of spoilt kids in rich countries, rioting and burning and looting because of some imagined victimhood.

He addresses climate change – lukewarmly, but he addresses it. I reckon he has to for a lot of understandable political and financial reasons, but I’d like specifically to address a few seconds of video footage of a chimney starting at 52:20. Try going there and pausing the video.

What do you see? A factory chimney belching out filthy, sooty smoke? No. That can’t be smoke. Smoke doesn’t create itself out of nothing after an appreciable gap of a few feet above the chimney. That gap is the giveaway. What we’re seeing is steam – a colourless gas which you can’t see – coming out and cooling to vapour – which you can see. Look closely at the spout of a boiling kettle and you’ll see the same thing. Yes, the vapour from the kettle is a very different colour, but this bit of video has had a colour filter applied. It’s phoney. I’ve seen countless examples of this cheat, so I spotted it immediately.

True, there are factory chimneys with real smoke coming out of them but smoke doesn’t look dramatic enough so they cook up this piece of phoney film. I’ll say no more on that, except I’d like to think that Rosling didn’t make it but used a piece of library film that others supplied.

It’s an amazing lecture, though, and I’m so glad I found it.

Raheem Kassam looks left

In August 2019 The America Conservative Union and Liberty Works brought CPAC to Australia. One of the speakers was Raheem Kassam.

Nice introduction, whoever that is. Quirky, funny, and above all short.

The introduction tells us that Kassam is likely to be jet lagged. Strangely enough I’ve found that jet-lag, far from ruining speeches, is often a beneficial source of peripheral stress. Perhaps it triggers an extra helping of adrenaline. The key to combatting it is to have had plenty of sleep. At any rate Kassam seems to be on the ball.

He conspicuously comes out from behind the lectern, wearing a clip-on lapel mic. Does this mean that he’s going to shoot this all from the hip? Not quite.

I become puzzled by how much of the time he is looking to the left (stage left: his left). I wonder whether the auditorium is asymmetric. That would be weird, but not entirely unknown. The hypothesis deflates when I see the lectern standing square to the stage. No there has to be another reason, and I soon spot it. He is being prompted by notes on the lectern – probably just bullet-points, judging by how seldom he looks, though he also conspicuously and correctly reads a quotation – so whether looking at the notes or not he is more comfortable with the lectern in view. That’s irrational: lecterns don’t walk away, but it is a less obvious symptom of let-lag.

There are two solutions. Discipline yourself always to monitor the whole arc of audience and/or learn to do without even bullet-points. From the quality of his speaking I suspect that he’s on top of both. He came out from behind the lectern, because he’s happier not having that between him and his audience. But then he decided to play safe with bullet points because these are special circumstances – jet-lag again.

Yes, jet-lag may not impair the speech, but it can introduce tiny tendencies that get spotted by sad specialists like me. Enough of all that; what about the speech itself?

It’s very good indeed, and delivered well. Worth watching. There’s stuff in there that is relevant to things going on right now.

William Happer and Klingon

The Heartland Institute held a conference in Madrid in mid December 2019, to coincide with COP25 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference – also in Madrid. One of their speakers was Dr William Happer.

I had intended to feature another Happer speech, made at Princeton in September 2014. I enjoyed that one, not least when at 4:25 he shows photographs from Al Gore’s book, Our Choice. Gore has created an image of what the world will look like if we don’t follow his lead over climate. Gore is full of such predictions as we remember from his film An Inconvenient Truth. Predictions in that film have long passed their sell-by date, and none has materialised. The prediction in this image from the book has similar themes like land disappearing under the rising sea, and an abundance of hurricanes. Happer points out that one of the hurricanes is depicted revolving the wrong way round. Along with the audience I laugh out loud at such an elementary error.

However, that other video being six years old was very fuzzy. How technology has improved since I began this blog!

Happer begins by thanking “James for that kind introduction”. At the beginning of this video we momentarily see James leaving the platform. James is James Taylor, and we see him properly later when Happer’s speech gives way to Q&A.

Since beginning this blog in 2012, I have lost count of the climate speeches I have studied – several times as many as I have featured. Very early I spotted that whereas alarmists focus on alarm, sceptics focus on data. When you fail to show the workings that underpin your argument, what does that say about your argument? Not only did sceptics show their workings but they provided links to the data. I’m not a scientist, but I’m quite good at spotting whether one number is higher than another; and over the years I have developed a habit, when I hear the media announcing some alarming climate news, of going straight to the data source to check. It’s almost tedious, the regularity with which the alarming news is shown to be nonsense.

Einstein is quoted as having said something like if you can’t explain it to a five-year-old you don’t properly understand it yourself. Happer is pretty good – when necessary – at explaining to a non-scientist like me; but here he is speaking to a scientific audience, and therefore there is a brief section where he could be speaking Klingon for all I get from it.

However, to my delight, at 18:50 he addresses the infamous 97% consensus thing. My data-checking habit long-since revealed that 97% to be garbage. There have been a couple of supposed surveys that claimed to have established it, and both collapse under scrutiny, but it doesn’t stop alarmists and lazy journalists from parroting it.

Even before I began analysing speeches for this blog I had been made suspicious. Al Gore used to bang on about how “the debate is over”. What debate? I had never seen or even heard of a debate. I now have seen very many sceptics challenge alarmists to debate, but somehow the alarmists always run for cover – meanwhile calling for sceptics be no-platformed.

Today the matter has gone far beyond science into politics, the economy (the climate industry is worth trillions), even religion. This last is witnessed by e.g. the Pope supporting it; and at 1:09 Happer quotes a Hawaii Senator as saying that climate is more religious than scientific. These are powerful forces to be ranged against the holding of a debate when their case is as thin of substance as the air.

President Trump has promised a debate, and he tends to honour his promises, but his presidency has thus far been beset with a range of distractions. If he gets a second term will he honour this one? Happer has worked with several administrations as senior adviser on matters scientific. That includes Trump’s, so if there is a debate perhaps we shall hear a lot more of him.

Peter Shore is passionate

Some speeches featured on this blog are within days of delivery, some a few years old. Today’s is possibly the oldest, yet still as topical and relevant as can be.

This week forty-five years ago in 1975 was notable for both the momentous and the trivial. You may ponder on which was which. Snow on the Monday (yes, in June) caused the abandoning of first class cricket matches, and the UK rang to the strains of Don Estelle and Windsor Davies performing Whispering Grass. The Thursday of that week saw the UK going to the polls in a referendum to decide whether the country should remain in the European Economic Community, now called the European Union.

On Tuesday June 3rd, 1975, Labour Member of Parliament, the late Peter Shore, delivered a speech in The Oxford Union in a debate ahead of that referendum.

Wearing my rhetor hat I struggle with the sense that any negative observation would be impertinent. This is really an outstanding piece of passionate oratory, but …

It is also one of the clearest examples I have heard of a particular diction flaw. I refer to disproportionate syllable stress. In raising his voice to be heard throughout the hall, he heavily emphasises those syllables that should be stressed. So far so good: Peter Shore speaks with beautiful clarity, but he sometimes neglects the non-stress syllables to the point of virtual inaudibility.

Curiously it is a flaw to be most commonly found in speakers who are especially conscientious about their speaking. (One of the finest speakers around today, Daniel Hannan, commits this, and I have said so in this blog a couple of times. Ditto Barack Obama.) Also if you point out the sin to the sinners they deny it so vehemently that without a recording it is desperately difficult to persuade them of it. I understand their incredulity. Some years before this speech I was receiving training from a genius called Kate Fleming, and when she accused me of this I ferociously denied it till circumstances forced my hand. (There’s an account of that in my booklet, Every Word Heard.)

This speech is fantastic, and is made even more entertaining through the cutaway shots of – e.g. Jeremy Thorpe and Edward Heath. We first see the latter smiling smugly, and later again when the smile has gloriously frozen after Shore’s treatment. Is that Barbara Castle sitting in the background? Anyway I commend it to you.

Yes, that was an interesting week. The snow on the Monday cleared quickly, and by the weekend there had started a heatwave and accompanying drought. The drought continued, on and off – chiefly on – till the August Bank Holiday more than a year later.

The effects of that referendum are only just finishing now (Deus Volent).

Trey Gowdy: editor’s nightmare

Universal lockdown may be easing, but there’s still a dearth of new speeches being delivered. Never mind: I am enjoying exercising archeology and unearthing some interesting samples to examine.

Trey Gowdy is no stranger to this blog, having previously been featured twice – here and here. Though he has retired from US Congress he still appears on television, consulted on the ramifications of political news. Most recently this seems to concern stories surrounding “Obamagate” which is about the only topic that can elbow Covid to one side on American news broadcasts at the moment. The story seems destined to run and run.

I found two brilliant examples from a large supply of speeches Gowdy made in the House of Representatives, and after agonising over them I made my choice. They say very much the same thing, even though – if the backdrop is to be believed – they were delivered on different occasions. This makes me wonder whether the behaviour being described was a habit of that POTUS of the time. The other speech was even more dramatic, generated a standing ovation in the House, and is certainly worth watching. But the one below has one particular feature of interest for students of public speaking. (Incidentally, Gowdy does not say what the video title below suggests.)

In these times of political hyper-partisanship everyone who puts his head above the parapet will be attacked. One attack method involves being misquoted. Even when your words are recorded on video you can still be misquoted by being edited. In the past few days there was an example of an American news anchorman accusing the US Attorney General of not saying something he should have said, when the footage of him actually saying it had been removed from the report. It was clumsy and quickly exposed, but it demonstrates the danger.

Cutting out a portion of a recording is the quickest and easiest way of bending, altering, or even reversing the meaning of what was actually said. But there are evasive precautions that a speaker can adopt to make that more difficult to achieve; and, whether by accident or design, Gowdy habitually uses one of the easiest.

Once the editor has decided what he wants to remove, his principal difficulty is in finding suitable edit points at which he can cut out and then back in again without it being noticeable. (In passing, there are electronic devices that will spot editing, however well disguised, but here we are concerned just with what humans can hear.) By far the easiest edit points are in the tiny pauses between sentences, and removing whole sentences is the easiest way to adjust meaning without appearing to impede the speech flow. Those tiny inter-sentence pauses are therefore going to be the editor’s prime targets.

All the speaker has to do is not pause between sentences. If during a sensitive part of a speech you stick your pauses in shortly before the last couple of words of sentences, and then run straight through into the beginning of the next, you are giving a potential editor a hell of a headache.

If you listen carefully you will find Gowdy doing exactly that.

Listening carefully is worth it anyway, because this is one hell of a good speech.

Andrew Klavan: a polished sapphire.

Think about the people you want to be around. Think about everything that’s the opposite of shallow and trendy. Think about four years of conversations you’ll never forget. That’s Hillsdale College.

(from the website of Hillsdale College in Michigan)

As a courtesy I habitually supply explanatory links for people, places and publications involved in my blog posts. That’s the first time in more than 460 posts that I have been so impressed as to reproduce words from a venue’s website. In April 2019, at Hillsdale College Andrew Klavan delivered the speech we feature today.

Declaration of interest: I’m a fan of Klavan’s, having discovered him years ago via his Revolting Truth videos. I listen to his podcast, The Andrew Klavan Show with its ridiculous opening signature song, preceded by an even more ridiculous one-minute flight of absurdity that sometimes reduces even him to hysterics. He makes me laugh, makes me think, keeps me abreast of the goings-on over the pond. I also appreciated his autobiographical book, The Great Good Thing. I reveal all this to warn that there’s a danger that you might find me fawning.

Klavan begins at 2:00, following an introduction by Abby Liebing. She reads her introduction, and that’s ok given that introductions are more than 80% factual information. However, if I had guided her, I would have urged her to dare to face the audience and not the script when giving us her name because I’m certain she knows her own name well enough not to read it. Yes, of course, the paper is a security blanket; but we want to see her face.

Klavan’s speech ends at 33:12. There follows nearly the same amount of time for Q&A.

He reads his speech, and suddenly I’m torn. He reads better and more expressively than almost anyone I’ve heard. In fact in passing I reckon virtually all of his podcast is read from a script; but you have to listen very closely to spot it because he has really mastered the art of writing in spoken – a subtly different language from written – English.

The writing is magnificent. For instance at 10:10 Klavan brings up the question of abortion, and a few seconds later gives us in just one, short, jaw-dropping sentence the strongest argument I’ve heard that abortion must not be the mother’s choice. And it’s based not on theology but biology.

Would any of the speech’s brilliantly economic choice of words have been compromised if he had shot this speech from the hip? Possibly, but that would have been offset by the benefit of the words being transparently spontaneous. It would have been the same brain that conceived the words, albeit without the luxury of dwelling over each phrase, so right there is the compromise to be judged. The freshness of spontaneity or the sparkle of economy? An uncut diamond or a polished sapphire? That’s why I’m torn.

We can compare the two. At the beginning, from 2:42 Klavan morphs from the end of a brief thank-fest into some spontaneous musing on the state of society and whether it is appropriate to laugh at it. At 3:36 he moves to his script, and the colour minutely fades.

But now I doff my rhetor hat, become an ordinary audience member, and tell you that it is a stupendous speech. There are points here and there when I’d take issue with the detail of some of his arguments, but that’s part of the stimulus that makes it so enjoyable.

I often press the stop button when Q&A begins, but thinking I’d sample a little of it I then sampled all. Hillsdale College yields up some excellent questions. Most of them from students, but there is one questioner who describes himself as “seasoned”. We can see only the side of his head, but I reckon he’s slightly more seasoned than I, and I am more seasoned than Klavan. At any rate, Klavan for once is put on the back foot. His answer is pretty good but his body language suggests that it’s been a narrow thing. I’m glad I saw that.

I enjoyed the whole hour.

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.

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.