Last week we viewed a speech made by Tucker Carlson at a National Conservatism Conference in 2019. He was introduced by theologian R.R.Reno, widely known as ‘Rusty’, whose introduction was so well put together and delivered that I immediately went looking for a speech from him and found one at a plenary session at the same conference.
He is talking about Christian Universalism versus American Nationalism.
Not content with making a fine job of introducing Carlson, he makes an excellent job of introducing himself and his topic. For the first three quarters of a minute he tells us that he is going to address this knotty issue through the medium of seven propositions. So far so crystal clear, even up to and including his stating his first proposition.
That done he pulls his spectacles down from the crown of his head, peers through them at his script, and thereafter he might as well have been speaking in Klingon. Having been itching to learn more, I am now struggling to stay awake.
His first mistake is having as many as seven propositions. Unless his audience has been given a transcript of this talk they’re never going to remember all seven propositions still less the arguments that support them; and if they have been given a transcript why is he bothering to read it to them. They would make far more sense of it if they read it, each person absorbing it at his or her own pace.
Interestingly he seems to have managed to memorise all seven propositions because he raises his eyes to his audience to reveal each one. I’m prepared to bet that he can also remember all the arguments that support each one, but he doesn’t trust himself to do so because each time he plunges afresh into his script.
When will people learn that spoken English and written English are different languages? Write a learned treatise and any reasonably educated person will happily read and make sense of it. Read out a learned treatise and even a learned audience is as good as lost.
I wasn’t indulging in humorous hyperbole when I mentioned struggling to stay awake. I briefly dropped off and, deciding that my advanced years meant that this was one of those afternoons that would benefit from a nap, I went and had one. That was yesterday and, duly refreshed, I revisited the speech this morning only to drop off again. I still haven’t reached the end of the speech.
I have not a shred of doubt that Rusty Reno writes brilliant treatises. I also know from my own observation that he has all the makings of a fine speaker. All he needs to do is recognise that the two media are quite different, and then to prepare a clear mind-map enabling him to stand there, look at his audience and shoot his speech from the hip, just as he did with his excellent first 45 seconds. He needs to trust himself. I trust him.