Friday, April 04, 2008

DuckSpeak 2008: Kiss or Kill?

Is it just me, or have the insipid, repetetive talking points -- designed to talk around and past things, rather than address them -- bring to a full circle the Orwellian Duckspeak?

DuckSpeak: Cadenced enthymeme for the disengaged. OK, Orwell and Socrates said it differently. Cf, the 1990's "Keep it simple, Stupid" from the Clinton camp.

The old game was Kiss-or-Kill. Now its C-E-D or K-I-L-L.

Almost 3 decades ago, a preacher/lecturer at my college (he was African American, then known as "black," with "negro" then being in the wrenching process of being discarded as an acceptable self- or other-identifier) back when Reagan was President, explained the oratory of the southern Baptist and other charismatic Christian church preachers. (He did this as we analyzed the book Elmer Gantry, about a cynical, scoundrel [insert all kinds of other bad characteristics] preacher.)

The teacher explained that in black churches, the preachers use the technique of the enthymeme, coupled with cadence. The audience, filled with the spiritual emotion of the gathering, would bond with the cadence of the speaker. Typically, repetitive phrases were used (as well as rhymes). He gave an example like this:

Are we going to let Satan control our lives? [No! comes the chorus]
Are we going to let Satan control our children? [No!]
Are we going to let Satan win this great struggle? [No!]
Are we going to let Satan rule our local school board? [No!]
Are we going to usher Satan's law into our schools? [No!]
Are we going to let Satan have a seat on our school board? [No!]
[unstated premise goes here]
Are we going to let [John Smith] get elected to our school board [No!]

[John Smith] was toast. The audience had accepted the unstated premise - that [John Smith] was Satanic.

My preacher teacher explained why he felt the cadenced enthymeme was so effective. The premise is that conclusions that one makes, have the advantage of inertia. It will take a strong assault to dislodge those conclusions. [Enter, cognitive dissonance, or CogDis, as Bummer likes to call it, which is related.] In the example above, the audience likely has no opinion of John Smith. But when they emerge from church, they have a fallback opinion now - [John Smith] is Satanic, and they have come to this conclusion on their own, via their passive acceptance of the unstated premise in the preacher's enthymeme, delivered in cadence or in rhyme, for easy downloading to the brain.

This is more effective that a straight-forward sermon, the topic of which is, "[John Smith] is the devil." That sermon may involve a different part of the brain.

The enthymeme is much easier. And, it sticks. Because our brains have pride in the conclusions we come to, all by ourselves. So my brand new belief -- a neural pathway by which I have connected "Satan" with "[John Smith]" -- enjoys a position at the top of the hill. Anyone who wishes to dislodge this conclusion has the burden of proof. That is the advantage of inertia.

Ergo, in mass politics, DuckSpeak is effective. Cadenced Enthymeme Duckspeak. C-E-D.

The repetitive rhymes of Barack Obama? Cadenced enthymeme Duckspeak.
The homespun K-I-S-S fabriations of Hillary? Not quite as effective as Obama's Duckspeak.