From oratory to the soundbite

April 7, 2010

201004070704.jpg The picture shows David Lloyd George in 1919 speaking to the crowd at the Railway Station in Lampeter. He was Prime Minister at the time, but he is addressing his people. Lloyd George was an orator, as were all the great politicians until the advent of the sound byte generation that was heralding in during the 1970s. I remember hearing the deputy Leader of the Labour Party George Brown speak in the 1964 election. He turned up in Mold and spoke from an improvised platform for over an hour without notes to a large crowd, he handled hecklers with dexterity and above all engaged with the people. Ok the Welsh have a particular propensity for this, we are one of the few nations to regard a preaching competition as a good day out, but its not solely a celtic capability.

We lost the art of rhetoric in the 70s, indeed we derided it; remember the characterisation of Kinnock as a Welsh windbag, up there in racist epithets with “to welch on a deal” and the English nursery rhyme Taffy was a Welshman. Rhetoric is the ability to hold an audience, to respond to its mood, to engage with it rather than simply deliver over prepared messages. It requires you to have a command of your subject, to have a set of ethical principles that you can articulate and an empathetic ability to understand an audience. In the days of oratory we knew our politicians, now they are the impersonal manifestation of marketing speak, airbrushed to conform with the 30 second attention span that is one of the best indicators of a descent into collective stupidity. OK we have not lost our sense of satire, but that is not enough. Forget staged debates, carefully scripted and over prepared, send politicians out to engage with the people.

Remove the media from the equation, while most symbiotes evolve from parasites, the media have reversed tthat process. Their role now is a power grab (and a successful one) to control the mediation of information between decision makers and the people, to make us all pawns in their games. Make one slip, one error and that is all that is reported. Oh and don’t say social media is the solution, its only one of them with the dangers that a lie can propogate without correction, something that is far more difficult if you are standing on the back of a carriage dealing with real people.

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