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Video Killed The Rhetoric Star

Politics / Mainstream Media May 23, 2014 - 01:08 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Hymns, Literature and Rhetoric
The well-known (to some) British academic George Saintsbury, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at several universities during his long career said that wine is like prosody and prosodic expression in the sense that steering away from the known to the unknown is always best. In English prosody and in rhetoric, from hymns to poems, speeches and other verbal communication based on written scripts Saintsbury stressed the role of spaces and voids, pauses, and unstated but implied ideas. Rhetoric of any kind, political or  other, uses a similar tactic for example by arsis or raising and emphasising the voice either throughout the speech, or occasionally distorting or 'slipping' the pronounciation of a few key words or even a key slab of the written speech.

Saying nothing but implying something is the basic trick. Adding histrionics can help.

What we have to ask is what happened to “modern political communication”, and the economic news-views pap that runs along with it like a yapping dog? Can it all be blamed on shifting from the radio show to the video show? From old-style print media like 'Newsweek' which just recently issued its last-ever paper version, to the strange jumble of neo-communication using just about any kind of “media support” - anything that bores, bemuses and loses the public.

The medium is the message and the net result is 100% clear. When politicians say much, much less than nothing that in no conceivable way implies something big. Economic “communication”, which is supposed information on the neo-economy (or neo-liberal economy), is the same mix and mingle. The same jumble of rhetoric, straight lies, crooked lies, idiocies and all-out fantasy packed into usually-short bursts because, after all, the news-and-views media has a Public Service role. It has to move onto the weather, football results and the now creaky and antique celeb people-show.

Catalexis and Epanaphora
We don't have to confuse catalexis with catatonia, although its users – the politicians – can do that. This speaking trick means either completely, or almost “dropping” a word, or several words in a speech. The voice descends, inserts a trick “emotional hesitation” pause, and the key word to kill is dropped or excluded from the speech. This enables the politician, if questioned later on, to strike a pose of pop-eyed sincerity and exclaim – I Didn't Say That!

France's current president Hollande is an accomplished utiliser of catalexis – but the problem is the public think he is only so stupid he can't read his teleprompter! Problems with catalexis can become major because the politician or Economic Talking Head will tend to say less and less – and they were already saying nothing. We are not forced to cry or lose sleep for them.

The “neo-communicators” are always drawn to epanaphora, to run along with the catalexis. Their scriptwriters and speechwriters, formerly called Spin Doctors but now downsized in every sense of the word to become Midget Liars, drop the no-no word or words from a speech or “communication”, and repeat the yes-yes words. Over and over again. Each new paragraph will wherever possible start with exactly the same “people-positive” words, even entire phrases – filling the speech with pap and killing the listeners with boredom. Backing up catalexis with epanaphora, the speech will tend to drop in speed measured as words-per-minute, and raise the BQ or boredom quotient to extremes. Some politicians try avoiding this by engaging extreme-high epanaphora, that is packing huge amounts of repeat-positive phrases or paragraphs into their speech. John F. Kennedy was an ace at this, and was regularly 'clocked' at well over 200 words-per-minute for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.

So listeners to politicians or the 'consumers' of economic news-pap 24/7 News TV shows can be bored fast, or be bored slowly – they really do have a choice!

Not So Simple
The above could seem the rational or logical choice. Listeners of political pap or readers of economic news-views pap can simply turn off and totally boycott the farce – but they can also deconstruct what they hear or read. This in turn should produce “reverse propaganda” which could seem to imply it will be the truth, but we cannot be sure about that.

The logical problem, here, is already proven. Adding the constructed + deconstructed news and views, we have a large increase, even a possible doubling of what comes out of the Internet, TV stations, radio shows, and remaining print media, at us. Taking a random example of Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal, they cover pretty much the same daily themes, and work the fatal magic of saying pretty much the same thing – either constructed or deconstructed. Result? Nobody reads either.

In turn this can be called a default victory for System Propaganda. The public was turned off any kind of media, any kind of communication. They retreated to savagery. Call it the Laager of Unknowing.

The music does not stop there, obviously. Communication splits into shards of meaning, often with a dyslexic edge. The UK association Abilitynet issues fact sheets on how persons suffering from dyslexia can “find their way around” written material they download. One recommendation is to use word predicting software programs that will predict, or “guess” what the next word should be in a phrase. The downloaded material can be “reconstructed”, possibly removing some of the lies and possibly installing sense to replace them. Examples given by Abilitynet are however not too exciting, for example if the downloaded material includes “economic programme”, you might be better off replacing those 2 words with either “error” or “system”. No kidding!

Voice recognition software equivalents can also be used. This includes software that “spell checks and corrects” all the downloaded speech (on the “economic programme” for example), reconstructs the speech, and plays it back to you from your PC's loudspeakers. Words like “bought or purchased” can be automatically replaced by “brought”, and anyway what's the difference? We will not get on to Nuance Checking and Correction software, which exists.

The Deep Pitfalls of Politically Correct
One view is simple to state.  As civilizations decline they are increasingly concerned with form over substance, particularly with language and semantics. Due to military technology development and use, following World War I the term “shell shock” entered the public mind and politcal-economic communication. After World War II the term “nuclear war” did not enter the public mind – it laid dormant for a long time —and the new buzzword for the post-1945 world was “combat fatigue”. As we know, this term pursued its own growth trajectory and is now PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder. It means the same thing, but is dressed up to be more in tune with “effete sensibilities”.

More precisely this is a pretentious euphemism. It hash huge downstream potentials for ramifying and chaotic growth in public communication when we (for example) combine shell shock, combat fatigue and PTSD, and apply those terms to the budget deficit, the absence of economic growth, unemployment and poverty, failed wars in the Third World and all the other Great Issues of Our Time.

Politically correct is already long in the tooth. It moved on to spawn a general absence of meaning and dropped down its own hole of Unmeaning.

The economy is “quantitatively challenged” the same way that blind people were formerly called blind people, but became “visually challenged”. Social psychologists explain that “politically correct”, which we can call “meaning impairment in politics”, does the exact opposite of what it was designed to do. It betrays hyper-defensive thinking and the laager mentality (or psychosis) of the ruling elites, it implies shame instead of semantic logic and equality of meaning, it portrays any “key term” such as the economy or security as under attack or threatened by the unknowing, the irresponsible, the aggressive and the belligerent.

Another synonym for the blind is sightless. The best synonym for politically correct is witless.

Our only real interest is to get a handle on “what happens next', needing us to first know at what stage we are at in the Unknowing process and the Defeat of Meaning.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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