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.

Thierry Baudet: nearly fantastische

Late in 2017 The Oxford Union hosted a debate on the motion, This House Believes the Decline and Fall of the European Union is Upon us. One of the speakers proposing the motion was Thierry Baudet.

Baudet is Dutch, which of course means that – like many Northern Europeans – he speaks English better than most English people. I have almost rid myself of resentment of this, my late wife and mother of my sons having been Danish; but how well does one of these linguistic geniuses deliver a speech? Let’s find out.

Immediately I delight that other than that little piece of paper, visible in the still shot and presumably bearing bullet-point signposts, he is shooting from the hip. I think he looks at it only once. Because none of my trainees needs even that little paper I am tempted to put this tiny failing down to whatever crumb remains of language barrier. I’d be wrong. When researching him my eye was caught by another speech described as “Fantastische”, and though I could understand not a word and though that audience audibly enjoyed it, I can tell you that it was read from a script. Could it be that for him public speaking is actually easier in English?

I am thrilled to be able smugly to point out an error. Where the noun is ‘instability’, the adjective is ‘unstable’. Yes of course it’s an anomaly, but what’s new? – this is English. He repeatedly describes the EU as ‘instable’. He’s absolutely right in his diagnosis, just wrong in his idiom.

I thought that Oxford Union debate speeches were allowed eight minutes, but he has bells rung at him when he has barely cleared six minutes. This seems to unsettle him a little. It’s a pity because he is both articulate and coherent, and he certainly has the measure of the EU – and not just its instability. He kicks its dogma.

Among other things you will find that he effortlessly demolishes the fallacy that past European conflicts in general and WW2 in particular were built on nationalism. The reverse was the truth.

He’s good. He’s very good. He’s nearly fantastische.