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.

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.