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LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2017
How do we discuss serious ideas in the age of 24-hour news? What was rhetoric in the past and what should it be now? And what does Islamic State have in common with Donald Trump?
We’ve never had more information or more opportunity to debate the issues of the day. Yet the relationship between politicians, the media and the public is characterised by suspicion, mistrust and apathy. What has gone wrong?
Enough Said reveals how political, social and technological change has transformed our political landscape – and how we talk about the issues that affect us all. Political rhetoric has become stale and the mistrust of politicians has made voters flock to populists who promise authenticity, honesty and truth instead of spin, evasiveness and lies.
Featuring Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin, Tony Blair and George Osborne, Silvio Berlusconi and many more star performers, Enough Said shows how public language is losing its power, and how an ominous gap is opening between the governed and those who govern. The result of decades of first-hand experience of politics and media, this is an essential, brilliant diagnosis of what we should stop doing and what we should start doing in order to reinvigorate Western democracy.
Thompson uses his unique vantage point as president and CEO of the New York Times Company and former editor-in-chief of the BBC to assess the deterioration of political language and the current state of the media landscape. Liberals and conservatives agree that the quality of political rhetoric has declined in recent years, and Thompson wants to understand exactly what has gone wrong. He looks back to the era of Thatcher and Reagan to trace how these leaders shaped their public rhetoric differently from each other. Thatcher's serious-minded discussions of policy represented the "stately old world," while Reagan showed the way toward a new one with his penchant for witty one-liners. In Thompson's argument, the downward trend of style over substance eventually led to Sarah Palin's claim of "death panels" and the vacuous speeches of Donald Trump. Thompson then goes back even further, to Thomas Hobbes and Aristotle, to try to understand how the state and society should deal with the limits of religious tolerance and free speech. His advice for journalists could also serve as a guide for any informed citizen hoping to cut through the spin and counterspin that dominates the news. Thompson's writing packs a high percentage of insights per page and his book manages to be an exemplary investigation, a history, an autopsy, a practical manual, and a cautionary tale all at once.