Sunday, July 09, 2006

The ugly truth behind the curtain

"Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either."
- Gore Vidal, US writer

Never at a loss for words that will offend someone, Vidal nevertheless provides an opening to look briefly behind the political curtain.

Political speech writing is not what it used to be. In the days before television was embedded inside people's brains and the 20-second soundbite almost daily ruled the political world, speeches were written to rouse a live audience in a hall or a park.

In those days, the objective was to say enough hopeful and patriotic things that the crowd would be cheering (it didn't matter for what--the flag was always a good topic if nothing else presented itself) as the candidate left the staging area.

Today's political speeches are either vehicles for propaganda or they are enhanced commercials (but I repeat myself). Their message (each speech has one primary objective) is presented professionally. The politicians attend special courses, taught by professional speaking coaches, to learn how to speak most effectively.

The speeches themselves are written by propagandists. Speechwriters often come from the ranks of advertising agencies or broadcasting commentary programs. During his first term in office, President Bush's main speech writer was a Canadian professor, journalist, the son of a prominent former Canadian ambassador to Washington. Today that man is eying the leadership of a Canadian political party, and will no doubt become Prime Minister if he achieves the leadership.

Political candidates and leaders don't have either the time or the skills to write their own speeches. Their most important skills are schmoozing and making promises they have every intention of forgetting later (and blaming someone else for it).

Political leaders are, in a real sense, puppets who spout what their party needs to be said. The larger the country they represent, the more realistic this statement is. Presidents Bush and Putin (of Russia), for examples, owe much to those who have the power to get them re-elected in the next vote. And those who can get their proposed legislation passed today.

Political parties, at least the larger ones, are animals (a large carnivore). Their ethics are determined by what will keep them in power and what will keep them in the grace of their people. Power is of primary importance, with money following in second place (its significance determined by the needs of the day). They eat more than they need.

Those who do not write their own speeches do not say what they really mean. They say what those who hire and pay the speech writers want said. They keep their complaints, their gripes and their plans for vengeance for private moments with those they trust (who could usually be counted on one or two thumbs).

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make reality look more like the truth.
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