What's Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?
There’s a crisis of trust in politics across the western world. Public anger is rising and faith in conventional political leaders and parties is falling. Anti-politics, and the anti-politicians, have arrived. In Enough Said, President and CEO of The New York Times Company Mark Thompson argues that one of the most significant causes of the crisis is the way our public language has changed.
Enough Said tells the story of how we got from the language of FDR and Churchill to that of Donald Trump. It forensically examines the public language we’ve been left with: compressed, immediate, sometimes brilliantly impactful, but robbed of most of its explanatory power. It studies the rhetoric of western leaders from Reagan and Thatcher to Berlesconi, Blair, and today’s political elites on both sides of the Atlantic. And it charts how a changing public language has interacted with real world events – Iraq, the financial crash, the UK's surprising Brexit from the EU, immigration – and led to a mutual breakdown of trust between politicians and journalists, to leave ordinary citizens suspicious, bitter, and increasingly unwilling to believe anybody.
Drawing from classical as well as contemporary examples and ranging across politics, business, science, technology, and the arts, Enough Said is a smart and shrewd look at the erosion of language by an author uniquely placed to measure its consequences.
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.