18 July 2009

On being able to speak

I've no idea whether I can make this nuanced point. So--if you go no further, just watch this. It's President Obama's speech to the centenary conference of the NAACP.

It's 37 minutes long, so if you haven't got that much time start at 25 minutes. That is when he both makes his critical substantive points and displays his rhetorical genius which is amplified by his audience...

On that final twelve minutes: who else could say that? (That also goes for the Cairo speech, and the Ghana speech.)

This is not a political point (of course it is a political matter about which I have decided feelings, but that is not the angle from which I am addressing it). It is a variation on the old soap-opera line, "You tell him. He'll take it from you!" Never before has there been an unassailable figure who could make those points to that community. (Obama is not totally unassailable in the eyes of some hard-liners--he is not of slave-stock to put it crudely--so notice how he enlists Michelle in his argument.

I'm fascinated by multiple levels of communication and how they interact. Several years ago I wrote a brief note on this but my investigations ran into the sand.

A few days ago I came across a very indirect but potentially fruitful lead. If your thinking is twisted enough to make similar connections, do get in touch! If note, I hope that at least you have listened to a magnificent speech. (Apart from the sound/video sync, that is. How can state-of-the-art crews and kit get that wrong?)

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