This month I had decided that Eliott was entirely wrong when he famously declared in the first line of The Wasteland: “April is the cruellest month.” “Like hell it is,” I kept saying to myself. “Not compared to November.” And yet. Upon seeing certain people wearing certain jackets you change your mind. You come out of your catatonic state and start anticipating better times. Yes, you’ve guessed: Vincent was on TV tonight exuding warmth and unambiguously establishing point to point protocols as he was gesturing in connection with talk about rhetoric. I could have sworn that if it hadn’t been for his Stewart&Strauss green baseball attire, I would have mistaken him for a courtier just coming down the impressive stairs of Versailles after having been detained in an audience with the queen.

Christian Kock, a professor of rhetoric from Copenhagen University delivered the ideas today, mainly on how to avoid believing anything that dumb journalists and even dumber politicians are tying to convince us is true. Kock’s own body language, looking only down at the floor, disclosed how appalled he is at the idea that nowadays in politics, rhetoric, alas, is not about good and sound arguments – as was the case in times even way beyond the reign of Louis Quatorze, namely in the peripatetic times of Aristotle, when one had time to walk and think, rather than ride horses or waves, or whatever – but about good and bad dress on prime time TV. Sure enough, we have to sympathize with the poor politicians who are constrained to having to deliver whole messages and the perpetuation of good values, if they are chosen, in only 5 minutes. So, we excuse them for delivering only the necessary slogans, lies, and meaningless numbers.

As Kock pointed out quite rightly, it is almost never the case that politicians don’t deliver prepared in advance sentences to concrete questions that have nothing to do with these sentences whatsoever, rather than listening to the question, thinking, and then talking as genuinely and authentically as possible. Well, the politicians are pressed for time, everyone can understand that, so too bad that professors have the nerve to suggest that slogans hardly ever strike a logical homerun. I mean, now that the politicians pay a shit load of money to their style advisors, designers, and ghost-writers who are all in the business of making them look good, how dare to insist on quaint traditions, such as using regular thinking in a campaign?

But Kock insists: rhetoric in politics today is about 3 things: 1) making recourse to fictive numbers – because no one bothers to check their accuracy; here the political claim often appeals to people’s emotions: ‘oh la la, in the old days the schumcks preceding me, spent so and so much on this and that, but in my time, no such nonsense, my expenditures are cut down to zero’ - ha, ha;

2) making recourse to stating things implicitly rather than explicitly; here, the lesson the politician learns, even in rhetoric schools, as Kock ironically implied, is that you can always imply things ‘elegantly,’ and embellish a little for the greater good of yourself, while if you insist on being explicit, you can risk being caught naked – shame on you, then;

and 3) making recourse to talking-points, as in, ‘yes, yes, I know you want to know this,’ the politician may imply when talking to a journalist, ‘but I don’t have an answer prepared for this; therefore you’re gonna get this other thing instead.'– no one cares anyway.

The meta-rhetoric is this: the politician avoids answering a question in a straightforward manner because he doesn’t have a thought in his head, yet this much he does have in head: the knowledge that the journalist doesn’t have a thought in his head either. Jolly good, as the audience is also presumed to stand guilty of the same emptiness, which makes me question the efficiency of Vincent’s own remark at the end, against all this wasteland: “be alert and on guard” [giv agt og vær på vagt]. Damn. Some musketeers insist: En garde against the cynical lot. Only, indeed, will it work, when even cynicism is not what it used to be, there are no sophisticated nuances in it anymore? We take it all in, raw and uncooked. None of it matters. What matters is that we all look good.

Tomorrow I’ll be at home all day, but I’m fussing already. How lucky that I don’t have to meet anyone, which means that I can indulge in that rare activity of sitting in my armchair and thinking some thoughts. But by Jove, what am I going to wear? A dress, a dress, my kingdom for a dress…


Anonymous said…
Excellent points about the deceitfulness of politicians and journalists and others. . . .

And how wonderful and well-deserved that you have a day to work -- undisturbed -- from home. Watch out, world!


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