Brigitte Gabriel: courage and capability

On 8 September, 2014, the United Nations hosted a conference entitled Global Anti-Semitism: A threat to International Peace and Security.

One of the speakers was Brigitte Gabriel. If you read my previous post you will not be surprised that she is the subject of this post. When seeking a formal speech from her I was torn between this speech and this one. You have the link if you want to see why I was torn. Though the other has an equally powerful, and very moving message this blog is devoted to speaking skills. I commend both, but I shall be examining this.

Unlike the other speech, she is reading this one. I know why, and I can understand it. When you are in this sort of company you don’t want mistakes, nor is it good manners to over-run your time. I often argue with those reasons, but not with the following one: the press will almost certainly have received a transcript in advance, so she has to stick very closely to it. People like her, who have learnt to speak without the aid of paper, handle paper better. She has written the speech in spoken English as distinct from written English, she limits herself to the merest glances at the paper, and she absolutely doesn’t allow it to interfere with her audience engagement.

Clever opening! The story of the necklace is laden with human interest while also including interlinear ethos. Neat.

She enters the main body of the speech by way of an alliterative triad, “demonisation, double-standards, and delegitimisation”. The first of those enables her to list some of the accusations levelled at Israel and one of them is genocide to which she witheringly replies, “If Israel has been committing ‘genocide’ against the Palestinians, then why has the population of Palestinians increased more than 600% since 1948? Israel must be the most incompetent mass murderers in the history of the world.”

She kicks the legs out from under other criticisms of Israel with the same efficiency.

She turns to the effect of antisemitism on the rest of the world. That is, after all, the theme of the conference. She does it very effectively, and I won’t spoil it for you.

With both this and the other speech I find myself assailed by incredulity at her message. How did it come to this? Anyone who reads a newspaper, and has more than a passing interest in what goes on in the world beyond their own town, already knew the truth of the bare bones of what she is saying if not the horrific details. How did we arrive with our Establishment and mainstream media spinning every story that is remotely connected with the middle east into a narrative with Islamism as the victim? We look around at ugly antisemitism becoming widespread and the accepted norm even in communities where it once was unthinkable, like academia and the arts. A frighteningly skillful, ruthless and mendacious PR exercise has been at work.

Brigitte Gabriel has the courage and ability to fight back. It is up to us to fight back also, and start by supporting people like her.


Hilary Benn’s tour de force

On the evening of 2 December, I suddenly noticed that Twitter had begun humming with comments on a speech that was being made by Hilary Benn in a debate in the British House of Commons on a motion to allow British forces to begin bombing positions in Syria, held by ISIS or ISIL or Daesh or whatever we are calling them this week. What was startling was that the comments were as favourable from his political opponents as they were from his friends. From this I guessed that he was coming out in support of the motion, but I was so tightly tied up with what I was doing that I was unable to tune in and watch.  A recording was available shortly afterwards.

Comments on the speech quickly appeared in the media. Some were for him some against, and a few offered puerile bleating along the lines of “What would his father say?”.

For my part I am always eager to see for myself any speech that is being heralded as especially good; but also, with my opinions torn over the matter, I wanted to hear his argument.

This recording begins with the end of the previous speech. Clive Efford is opposing the motion on the basis of doubting the effectiveness of airstrikes. Quite so. That is my chief doubt.

Benn stands to cheers from his own side, and begins by reproaching the Prime Minister for remarks he made earlier in this debate when he characterised opponents of the motion as terrorist sympathisers. He’s right. One wonders where the PM finds those who advise him. Certainly there are some in that house who have a dubious record with respect to certain terrorist groups, but a debate of this type is not the time to indulge in name calling. Apart from lack of parliamentary courtesy, name calling always weakens your argument because it suggests you lack confidence in it yourself. While reproaching Cameron Benn reveals that he will vote for the motion.

He continues by paying tribute to previous speakers before launching into his own argument. He cites resolutions by both his party and by the United Nations, thus claiming legal and moral righteousness for supporting the motion.

Then at 5:33 he begins a section that makes me uneasy. He lists some of the crimes of Daesh. I rather feel that there will be few in that house who do not know and would not condemn the obscenities committed by those criminals; but if people are harbouring doubts concerning the effectiveness of bombing, the wickedness of the target is irrelevant. This verges on the  “something must be done” school of idiocy.

At 7:29 -“If we do not act, what message would that send about our solidarity with those countries that have suffered so much?” I’m sorry, but dropping bombs is not a declamatory activity. It is far too serious to be used to send a message.

At 8:00 the speech at last starts addressing the meat of the issue – effectiveness. He begins citing examples of airstrikes having succeeded in harming the progress of Daesh. For three minutes, culminating in the words, “the threat is now” the speech actually tackles the main question, and at last I feel that some of the plaudits I’d read on Twitter were justified.

But then, shortly before the end, the speech again weakens when he gets worked up over how these wretched jihadists hold us in contempt, and believe themselves better than us. So what? People’s opinions matter only if you respect them.

A great speech? For me, in terms of content, not really. For that crucial three minutes it was good, but most of the rest missed the point. The point is not that these people must be stopped by any legal means, including killing them. That’s commonplace. The point is whether the proposed activity will work. For three minutes Benn persuaded me that it might, but that was a small percentage of the whole.

Nevertheless the cheers that greeted the end of the speech were thunderous from both sides of the house, and I know why. Apart from the welcome it received from those voting the same way, the speech was distinguished by being very skilfully delivered. His pacing, variation of tone-colour, telling pauses, everything was beautifully done. And if that seems to reveal cynicism in me it’s because I have yet to cite the most important quality – his transparent sincerity and passion for his message. That’s why his market bought his product.


Philippe Sands and climate dissent.

Canadian investigative journalist Donna Laframboise has been publishing on Big Picture News, her blog, a series of articles showing how the international establishment is working to silence free speech on the subject of climate change. The latest of these articles, Silencing Dissent via the Courts, described a lecture by Philippe Sands QC at the UK Supreme Court last week. Laframboise suggests with some justification that Sands is seeking to make it internationally unlawful for anyone to express an opinion on climate change that is contrary to the Establishment line.

Personally I am alarmed that lawyers get involved with the expression of any opinions – particularly scientific ones. If someone wanted to question the existence of gravity, for instance, I’d be outraged if a court tried to stop him.

In the case of climate change this lecture looked to me like just another precursor to the attempted United Nations power grab that the December climate conference in Paris will represent. If the proposed treaty goes through the world will, for the first time, have an unaccountable global supranational power ruling over it. And that’s not a crackpot theory, but documented under UN imprimatur. Climate change has been an extraordinarily convenient instrument with which the UN has been able to crank up its grip on world affairs over the past twenty years. That is why politicians and prelates pronounce their conviction at a volume that varies in inverse proportion to the validity of the evidence. The UN is become the fountainhead of authoritarianism.

Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming began as a tenuous theory, backed up by little more than computer models making predictions. The globe has refused to cooperate with those predictions. You would be hard pressed to find a single one that has been realized by actual events, even though we are already a long way beyond the computers’ projected timetables. Taken from official data, there has been no increase in global temperature for nearly nineteen years, no abnormal rise in sea levels, no reduction in net polar ice, no increase in severe weather patterns, and five times as many polar bears as when I was a boy. That is not to say that the theory is necessarily wrong, but it does increase what have always been serious doubts. Let us see to what extent Philippe Sands QC acknowledges those doubts.  He begins at 8:05

If you are a lawyer you may find this riveting. If not you may not. I am not a lawyer. The etymology of the word ‘lecture’ decrees it to be a reading. This is a reading. The quality of Sands’ delivery notwithstanding, the people in the room seem to be staying awake; but I would rather be at home with a good book – or even a bad one.

After some preliminary niceties he begins with an account of some meeting some years ago in the UN whereat the islands of Palau were making a noise about imminent submerging under rising sea levels. Interestingly, although he does discuss in detail the legal ramifications of all this, he never actually tells us whether sea levels were rising or have since risen or whether the islands have in the mean time gone on their own sweet way. Having just googled them I can tell you that the indications are the last.

And this sets the tone for the entire lecture. Nowhere does he actually supply any hard evidence to support the climate change theory, merely protesting in impenetrable legalese that international courts have no proper influence over the matter.

The nearest he comes to evidence is an extended argumentum ad verecundiam beginning around the 17 minute mark. He extensively quotes the IPCC. As far as I could tell he quotes no actual data.

The Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change was founded in the ’90s under the auspices of the UN. Let us note the words ‘climate change’ in its name. Why is that significant? Because if there is no climate change there is no IPCC. Its existence and a large number of taxpayer-funded jobs depend upon a presumption encapsulated in its name. Over the years several venerable scientists have left it, protesting that they have been misrepresented. Nevertheless, though independent organisations sent in to audit its work have been critical of its being a political rather than a scientific body, the IPCC has produced five assessment reports, each accompanied by a summary for policymakers. The latter begins life as a draft produced by the IPCC and is then for several days subjected to phrase-by-phrase editing by a huge international panel of political beings ensuring that the summary follows the political narrative they wish to pursue. Therefore what began as a political bit of purported science becomes further politicised out of all recognition. And that’s the authority that Sands quotes. Again I say argumentum ad verecundiam, and pretty shoddy verecundiam at that.

At 43:00 Sands says, “the room for real doubt has disappeared”. He is a Professor of Law. I wonder what terminology he would deploy to tell a student, whose research was as shallow as quoting a single and interested source, that he’d been inexcusably idle.

He continues till 56:22; and essentially he has called for the International Court of Justice via the evidence of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be granted extraordinary powers over matters of scientific opinion, in order to facilitate the signing of a treaty in December which would give the UN unaccountable powers that no body – elected or otherwise – has ever had before.

Both the ICJ and the IPCC are UN bodies. All are impervious to the wishes of any electorate. What was it someone once said about absolute power?

Christopher Monckton exposes motives

On 27 April 2015 there was held, in Rome, what was called a ‘prebuttal’ to the Vatican’s Climate Summit on the following day. A substantial collection of leading independent scientific experts was assembled to convey a simple message. All the empirical data show that there is no climate crisis.

In my previous posting we covered a speech by E Calvin Beisner, addressing the theological arguments in general and in particular how the world’s most poor were the biggest losers as a consequence of the policies being pursued by the proponents of this fictional crisis. Today we look at a speech by Christopher Monckton at that same conference. He is addressing the motives behind those policies.

Monckton opens with a tribute to other speakers at this conference. If you wish to see them go here.

Because he can use humour well, Monckton is often tempted to play the Court Jester. Being good at humour is not the same as being a stand-up comic, and too often he dies. This conference deals with very serious matters. Monckton plays it dead straight and my word but he is a good speaker!

I first became interested in this subject very many years ago. What grabbed my attention was that only one party in the argument actually argued. The sceptics always showed their workings, drawing attention to the data. The alarmists too often merely made unsubstantiated assertions and indulged in name-calling (argumentum ad hominem). The sceptics regularly challenged the alarmists to debates; and the alarmists ran away and hid behind argumentum ad verecundiam or argumentum ad populum. This last intrigued me quite early. The level of persecution meted out to dissent, called into question the genuineness of consent. I dug behind the ‘97% consensus’ claim and looked at the original survey. The ‘consensus’ was phony: a shameless piece of data manipulation. The same data that claimed 97% support could make an equally strong case for 97% against.

I am not a scientist, but I quickly developed a system for myself whereby I checked what data I was able to understand, went and found credible scientists who were saying what I had found, then I followed them. They were the ones showing their workings and they weren’t calling the opposition names. They were the sceptics, and what they said has shown to be correct. I learned that yes, carbon dioxide has a greenhouse effect but it is minuscule. The ‘crisis’ was based on what was never more than a tenuous theory which has collapsed. None of the alarmists’ projections has materialized. You could have been born since there was any measurable warming and now be old enough to vote. Alarmists’ assertions can today withstand not even cursory scrutiny. It’s so easy that I was puzzled that more didn’t do it. Or did they? Not everyone could be fools: some had to be knaves who were authors of the fiction or went along with it for base motives. And were those motives actually base? It took me time to get answers that I could check, and what I found chilled the blood.

And that is what this speech is about.  We don’t see Monckton’s slides, but I am not sure we need to.

I think we need to be afraid.

Emma Watson’s voice is trailing her face

It made all the papers! In September 2014 Emma Watson spoke at the United Nations about gender equality and the he-for-she campaign. The speech was universally described as ‘moving’. Shall we see whether we agree?

Before we reach Ms Watson we see and hear her introducer making a mistake that I have previously identified in this blog. If you are at the lectern you should never join in with the applause. It feels right, but looks and sounds wrong.

Oh dear, how vulnerable her voice sounds! She is very nervous indeed. It is understandable, but I am anxious to know whether this is merely a manifestation of hump, or whether it is more deeply rooted.

The worst of the vulnerability recedes in around 3 minutes, which is par for a hump, but now there’s something else bothering me and I can’t put my finger on it. She does not look down at the lectern, but nor is she shooting from the hip. This is a learnt script: I’d stake big money on that. I’m not surprised: she is after all an actor. The learnt performance has also been thoroughly rehearsed, but again that is what actors do.

Quite often I find I can identify problems with speakers by closing my eyes and letting my hearing operate without visual interference. I try this, and am quite alarmed by the result. She now sounds monotonous, frankly boring, and the voice is fragile.

This is what has been bothering me. Visually she is conveying a very strong and expressive picture; but the sound, when taken alone, is frighteningly weak.

I am trying to resist a facile, knee-jerk analysis along the lines of film-actor-hasn’t-learnt-proper-stage-voice-projection, though there could be something in that. At any rate, her voice is nothing like as expressive as her face.  This is a pity.

It is laudable when young people, having made a success in one thing, branch out and challenge themselves in other directions. Emma Watson is to be congratulated, but I hope she doesn’t stop working at this particular skill because she has a way to go. Also, thus far, her work has been misdirected: learning a script is absolutely not the right way to prepare for a speech. If someone has told her it is, that someone needs to do something more suited to their talents.

Malala Yousafzai – remarkable!

Four days ago on 12 July – her 16th birthday – Malala Yousafzai, wearing a shawl that had belonged to Benazir Bhutto, delivered a speech to the United Nations. On 9 October 2012, along with two classmates, she was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen, wanting to suppress the education of girls. I am reluctant to use terms like ‘icon’, still less ‘poster-girl’, but undeniably she quickly became a symbol for a struggle for freedom against forces of terrorism. Western governments and media seized her story; she was flown to Birmingham, UK, and treated in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The shooting incident did not parachute her from nowhere onto the world’s stage. Nor was the speech to the UN her first. She had blogged anonymously and spoken publicly for some years about the drive for education for Moslem girls. She had chaired public meetings, made videos. She featured in a 2009 TV documentary about The Taliban’s attempts to close down her school; and this public profile undoubtedly had something to do with her school van having been sprayed with bullets that day last October.

Immediately I have to marvel at the extraordinary assurance she shows in the opening minute. She has learnt how to convey confidence by opening with a very measured pace. She perfectly reflects the decorum of the setting. The only incongruity, if I might nit-pick, is in the words, “I don’t know where to begin my speech”. Oh yes she does!

At that second the camera cuts to three people sitting in reserved seats. In the middle is Ziauddin, her father; so I assume the others to be her brother and mother. I think we are observing whence this speech came. I don’t mean they wrote it for her or coached its delivery, though they may have made contributions; but we see the family unit that provided the nature, nurture and support that has put an astonishing degree of fire in this young belly, steel in her backbone and eloquence in her tongue. We can no more than guess at the constant peril in which they live at home in Pakistan.

Did I say steel in her backbone? Listen to the defiant auxesis with which she declaims from 4:35 that the bullets ignited thousands of voices in support of her campaign. Did I suggest that she knew exactly what she was doing in preparing this speech? Listen to the epistrophe that begins at 5:31, or the anaphora at 7:31

Does she know how to work a crowd? Listen to, and marvel at, the list of her heroes beginning at 6:30. That is a lesson in inclusivity. The list concludes with her parents and could be desperately saccharine, even emetic, in less skilful hands.

Her enunciation is excellent. Never does she sound over fastidious, yet every word gets across. At 9:03 the word “asked” has both the ‘k’ and the ‘d’ discreetly and effortlessly yet clearly uttered. She is really very good indeed.

If bullets do not silence her she has a distinguished future, but what will be the nature of that distinction? If I were to pray for her it would be for the wisdom of Solomon. As with the fictitious Dictator’s Speech by Charlie Chaplin that I critiqued a few weeks ago she, her talent and her message could be used to support many creeds and philosophies, not all of them benign though plausible and backed by immense political strength.

She will need that fire; she will need that steel; she will need that eloquence; she will need that wisdom.