tv After Words CSPAN September 25, 2016 12:00pm-1:02pm EDT
are five esa or educational savings account programs and together, these programs are helping more than 1 million school children and families, plus not to mention the millions more students attending public district, chartered, home and online schools all of their parents choice. dc didn't build any of those programs. citizens in the state did. and these programs are improving student achievement and introducing competitions for students all at a fraction of what we are told we should be spending. more than 30 years after the formation of the us department of education, student taxpayers in the country are not better off but we can be. after decades of waiving the constitutional barrier to a federal goal in education under the guise of partnering with state governments, it is time to dissolve that
partnership and abolish the us department of education once and for all. >> watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. c-span, created by america's television cable companies and brought to you as a public service by your cable or satellite provider. >> now on book tv our weekly after words program. this week, ceo mark thompson discusses his new book "enough said: what's gone wrong with the language of politics". which looks at the erosion of public language. he's interviewed by arianna huffington, founder of the huffington post. >>
>> i said i don't know anything and put the phone down. then i kind of -- about a week -- thing sticks in your head and you kind of -- i thought, you know, i spent, by this point, 30 years in journalism, broadcast journalism. i done a lot of political reporting midst. ed didded a lot of political programs and i thought i had seen the changes in the way politicians think, in the way
the media reports what they say, how the media works, and changes in public attitudes, and that maybe there was something to say i thought i would be leave the bbc after the olympic games in london. told me wife i was going to take six months. i thought giving three lectures in oxford in a seminar worked very well with all of that. so that was the plan. then just before the olympic games i was asked to come be the executive of "the new york times." so suddenly the whole was a flurry of trying to organize kind of schools and apartments and moving furniture. so it was kind of crazy but it was essentially the idea that not maybe a conventional definition of rhetoric but i had something to say about more than
public language and political language. so that's how it started. >> host: you said not the conventional definition of rhetoric but in fact you do talk a lot in the book about the more conventional engine definitions of rhetoric, including "my fellow greeks, dividing it in the characters of the speaker and then the emotions that the speaker brings to the argument. so, before we get to the modern politicians and their corruption of language, and tell us about rhetoric at its best. >> guest: if you're entitled to anything, ask a greek is a good place to start. again, i hadn't really thought about this when i got the phone call but i had quite a good grounding in the classics. spent time with the latin greek and i grew fun a particular -- i was with a jesuit school and
very particular jesuit way of doing humanities, a system of education, and they each year was named after different steps in learning a classical language so you start with a group called lower grammar, then grammar, then sin tax, then upper syntexas, and then a class called rhetoric. what is interesting is i think air to thele and play to and other -- aristotle and play to plato and other greeks, they understood how we try to persuade each other. and so aristotle is -- he writes a book called "the art of rhetoric" which is maybe tour of a study of rhetoric, a how-too guide.
partly also, if you were an orator, you could look at the book and maybe learn some tips from aristotle. and aristotle had really simple but important observations. cutting corner. they want to be sure they're right so they lon painstaking arguments and they dialectic is the word for kind of -- not scientific. dialectic where is you can argue clearly but orators haven't got time for that. there's a crowd, jury, who are getting hungry, ready to go for lunch or it's a political crowd and they want you to hurry up and get to the point. so one of the basic points about political language, public lange, when you're trying to persuade someone of a policy or one an argument in a court case,
is you've got to cut to the chase, and that, of course, obvious. it's what we want. we're very impatient when we listen to politics and also dangerous because it means arguments get simply identified. and that the example of something aristotle thought which it very relevant because attention fans feel so pressed for time today and politicians are so anxious to find formulations of political language which works for twitter. they work for the strap of the bottom -- the scrap at the bottom of the screen of msnbc or c-span, a few words. they're trying to come press -- process compress and compress and you lose some of the -- gets lost. >> host: also what you're saying the book is something profound has been lost beyond the fact
the internet and twitter and the compression and our attention spans, because some -- if you look at the song, you could say it's a -- impulse on language but can be profound -- >> guest: and really the structure helps profundity. the discipline that forces creativity. >> host: like high hiku. >> guest: and it's not just 140 characters. it's something more fundamental has changed and been diminished. whys that. >> guest: i want to say something else has been lost ask is at least in principle -- always risky because that's can sound like you think was once a gold nation -- >> host: like make america great again. >> guest: exactly. a dangerous thought. people have been complaining about political language has started.
but the other thing in some ways an ideal rhetoric would balance the words you use, arguments it would balance the clarity of the proposition and the evidence you're bringing your argument. they balance that with ethos which is character and the whole way in which the speaker presents themselves and the impression they make, which is very human, and pathos. the emotional state of the crowd and these will be held in balance, and it seems we -- part of what happened is the balance has been lost. why? good question. i think first of want to say, don't just blame the party you don't like. it's very easy to say it's the republicans or democrats or bill clinton or the brexit in the united kingdom uk or whatever.
politics has changed in very substantial ways and the kind of natural shape of politics, based on class and very clear ideology, has become more disrupted and all over the western world you can feel the big political parties, the mainstream parties, under pressure. breaking apart either explicitly or implicitly finding it hard to keep a unity. went to the republican convention in cleveland, and it's a passing wrestling with unity. so they're under pressure and facing new competition from anti-politicians like donald trump or betty in italy, many others. secondly, policy, and the work of government, has become incredibly tactical. and the economists, the planners, all of the other experts, are so involved in
policymaking and their language can feel very distant from the language of order people. so in a sense the rulers, the policymakers, and the way they speak, the kind of terms they use, is very distant and indeed they've for gotten sometimes to make an argument. the world's elites in government in business, broadly believe that free trade is a great thing. free trade between nations helps open up economies, helps the developing world, helps competition, all boats rise. but they have not made that argument to the public for decades. if you think your job is at risk and you and your family's livelihood is at risk because of globalization and nobody tried to explain to you why free trade is a good thing, not surprising if you want to reject it.
so policymaker and technocraticky has pushed it april from the public. people here through the media. c-span is a good example. we're being disrupted, too, and the competitive pressures on media of having effect in editorial choices and in the style of media, and at the devices that people use now, again, they are -- i mean, instead of maybe a big, broadsheet newspaper you have a smartphone. that also has an effect of favoring shorter, pithier, punchier phrases which maybe, again, are very good at making impact but not good at explanation, and finally and the last thing i'd say is that over about 100 years, marketing has grown very sophisticated, and
it's a kind of quasi-scientific exploration of how persuasion works using empirical testing. this goes back at least to the 1930s. i quoted in my book a rather wonderful volume from 1937 called tested sentences that work, and the idea is beginning -- the idea that you can -- by saying something in at the right way you're much more likely to persuade someone to buy something. that's been brought into political language. don't think it can be one cause. it's an interlocking sect of factors which go beyond any party or country and it's all over the western world. >> host: it can't be -- what what cussed be the phrases to use algorithms to test your
phrases or politicians doing polling to come up with the best phrase to present an idea. but there's something else which is -- something i'd love to ask you about. mario como talked about campaigning in prose and always been an assumption that goh governing is more trek technocratic and -- we have lot the campaigning let alone governing and being able to explain free trade or any other policy, and of course, your book is coming out at a moment when, wherever you in the political speck trim you're aghast donate tour of this particular presidential campaign. was that intended? obviously you started thinking and writing -- >> guest: a couple years ago. >> host: long before you knew what would be happening in the 2016 presidential race. did you sort of speed up the
book to come out at this moment. >> guest: no. no. my publisher wouldn't use the word speeding up. about six months lizer than was planned, but what i want to say is this. firstly, when gave the lectures, my friend, mark donohue asked me whiff wanted to do them and was one of the key figures of them. he is a modern historian by training, and mark says to me at the time, this is good stuff you're writing. bus is it really you? are we really seeing things which are different from the past? and i think you could argue that in 2012, by the time to gut to 2016 i think i'm winning the argument. this feels -- i want to say both about brexit. a talked to europeans, politics beyond the uk, current poll
60s france is an example. current politics in italy, and also in this presidential cycle i think we're hearing things and we're seeing a kind of clash of different styles of political language which feels new, and in particular -- obvious point to make but i think donald trump really does represent a dramatic break with the conventions of political language in the past. we can think of populists in the past throughout american democratic history. some of the stuff that trump has been saying feels new and from my point of view is very interesting because ilustrates a lot of the themes i'm interested in. >> host: one of the themes that you illustrate, complete break between language and reality. and basically repeating things,
even after it has been recognized they're completely false, and just one example, the president of the united states was not born here, and is a repeated claim. and -- for which there's absolutely no evidence. >> guest: it's not true. it's factually not true. and by the way, although i think he has actually somewhat pulled back from him, once president obama presented hits birth certificate there are still people who out in digital monster land who want to continue to believe that it is true. >> host: what is interesting is he has never gone back and said he was born here. he does not repeat it as often -- >> guest: simply moves on. >> host: but never actually said, i was wrong, and he was born here. so, that to me is kind of
fascinating in terms of where we are at the moment, and i'd like to ask you, what is the role of the media here? how much of a culprit -- >> guest: it's very interesting. it's surprisingly hard for the media to debunk some of mr. trump's statements in ways which the people who believe those statements will find convincing. one of the thing is talk about in book is about a movement which is essentially a reaction to enlighten. -- rash rationalism focuses on reason and is most happy where arguments are based on evidence and fact. but a reaction to that, which is part of the broader romantic reaction to enlightenment which
says, no, when we talk in public to each other what matters most is identity, and solidarity with the community. and what matters is my relationship to you. which very quickly becomes key in this. an association with authentic language with nation and with the national community. so we talk honestly. and authentickism, being awe then -- authentic -- that's net the eyes of the beholders, but people who struggle to appear authentic and want to, iryou like, leverage or complete the idea of awe authenticity, it begins in the 1970 and in 1930s, across europe, germany and italy, authentickism becomes
central their appeal and they try very hard to distinguish themselves in the way they speak from traditional, rational, politicians. and so they focus much more on stories and particularly stories about us and them. we're together, i'm like you, i'm not like all these politicians. i'm like you. speak like you. i understand what you're going through. together we can ward off the threat from them, whoever them might be today, them might be the elites, but -- >> other greek immigrant. >> guest: i'm an economic migrant myself. but day-to-day might be the lead technocrats, foreigners, immigrants, and us are in the
context true american, the honest, hard-working middle classes who have been left behind by globalization, whose contribution to the country is not properly rewarded or accepted or understood and whose values are being undermined by multiculturalism or undermined by political correctness. you see, donald trump when he mentioned the phrase, political correctness and the spontaneous cheer. a sense of a culture and values being stolen. so, in that context, what matters, i think to audiences, does the story rick true? does what the speaker is saying -- does it feel emotionally true? and if it feels emotionally true, the kind 0 -- it's kind of factuality, whether it's literally true oar not may not matter. the probable witch the media is
debunking, fact checking and debunking individual statements by donald trump may well absolutely convince the readers of your newspaper or the viewers of c-span but they never believed him in the first place probably. those who do believe him, they think it's the elite media trying to shut donald trump up or to damage him because he is telling the truth. >> host: is there something about the assumption and -- by the media that our job is to present both sides to the story? which automatically assumes that the truth is somewhere in the middle, or hard to find, and so therefore -- seems that -- you trace nat in way -- about global warming. and anytime there's a debate on tv about global warming, the producers feel compelled to
include somebody who thinks global warming is a hoax or not man-made or whatever. so, that sense of somehow -- the idea of balance, what is scald the view from nowhere, what role has that played in the corruption of language that you describe so articulately in the book. >> guest: i think it's really interesting. unfortunately its complicated health bo both in the united states and the uk two traditions which are relevant here. one tradition is hustling, maybe a town hall with a number of candidates for a particular office, where each candidate is given ten minutes to make their case, and the audience can -- i agree that can often feel like maybe the truth lies between the candidates, but that's one example. the other example is court of
law in the court of law, both prosecution and the defense are given time to lay out their case, and a jury decides which way to vote the verdict. not because they think the truth is halfway in the middle but somebody is half guilty of murder because they either guilty of murder. let's hear thed and get to a firm conclusion. and i think that the role for the media is to use a phrase from the bbc's editorial guidelines is due impartiality. so, not impartiality definedded as absolutely balanced iten appropriate balance. a simple exam would be smoking. there is an overwhelming majority of medical evidence and opinion that smoking is seriously del tierous to people's health. it's not appropriate to give a
smoking advocate equal time over -- with the surgeon general. you calibrate how much time you give the skeptic. it seems to to me that silencing skeptics on climate change, not allow any climate skeptics to be heard at all, some scientists believe that the skeptics should not be allowed on the air at all. my honest view about that is that's how you start conspiracy theories. start trying to censor your opponent, think you begin to start the -- the public will start saying, waste going on here? they're not allowed to speak in maybe that's because they're tell thing right? so shouldn't be silent but i don't think that in the case of climate change, it's appropriate for it to be 50-50. but i have to say the challenge
in relation 0 to the presidential election is, it has to be 50-50 essentially in terms of, for example, the presidential debate. can't have a presidential debate where the produces over the program say we think candidate a is far more sensible than candidate b so we'll gee okayed a three times more air time. you have to be more even. >> host: in terms of time given but more -- in terms of, let's say, a reporter, taking a clear stand as to where they see the truth is, as opposed to impartially presenting both views on whatever topic. >> guest: i agree. i think in the uk there's been bitter criticism of the media for not critiqueing in particular the brexit side of the argument more closely. i have to say, though, i also think that much of the elite was
horrified by the results in the uk, and the thing they're really cross about is the way the public voted, and i think to some extent the media -- it's blaming the messenger. the media is getting criticism but a actually, honestly, in that referendum process, the brexit side, the leave side, fought a much more effective campaign than the remain side. >> host: but also, is there something about the media's refusal, whether in the brexit case or in the donald trump case, to use very simple and direct language? you know, that has contributed to the toxic political atmosphere. just, for example, instead of caughting donald trump's views racist, there was a story, actually in your own newspaper
that described him as a reactionist to ethnicity which is an elegant way to not say racist. so is there something about all establishment media that makes us hold back from using very direct language which would make it easier to preserve that kind of language. >> guest: george whorl would advice us all to use the simplest possible language you can. i want to say, again i, i think with labels -- racism -- i except racism -- the word means something and is also a label and is famously extensively used as an insult. it's maybe justified or not but racist is one of the things people shout at each other. i think if you start allowing yourself to use emotive labels, it's not obvious to me you'll increase understanding or you're
going to make the divisions in this country easier to work through. so, as a -- i'm no longer an editor, i'm an executive now, but i was cite resistant to labels like racism. think racism -- if politician a calls politician b a racist, of report that. but for journalists to themselves use liability like that, the risk is that as a journalist, you're beginning to tell people what to think, and i don't think it's the job of the journalists to actually -- i think our job is to give people the tools and the information they need to make up their own mind about what is going on, and one thing about donald trump he is an extremely clear speaker. you only have to listen to him to have a good idea his views are on a whole range of topics, including race.
i think the public can and will in november make up their mind. >> host: i think a significant point whether it is the role of journalists to clearly point out where the truth lies. >> guest: yes. absolutely. but the word racist is -- it's a very loaded term, where you bring judgment to bear. most of us would accept that within the broad concept of racism is different believe all of which are undesirable and morally unacceptable but range from unconscious prejudices, to out and out barbarism, murder, utter disadvantaging and brutality. and as i say, think the issue is
in the coverage of politics, is to me principally to help people foreign their best judgment, and of course, where something is completely clearcut, say it. but if we start trying to almost ape the language of o'tickss -- politicians and have a right to take partner political debate, that's for the opinion pages and in the news pages of "the new york times" and other publications. >> host: one more thing about the media and then we move to political language as you rite are write in the back. the report about the invisible primary in which basically they cass city -- castigated the media how the covered the -- giving the invisible primary to
donald trump long before he was the front-runner the polls or that. it was the use of language by the media during that process that did have an impact on the results. >> guest: i certainly think you could feel american media, particularly i would say television, struggling with the challenge of how to cover donald trump. i mean, he does represent an unexpected development in american politics, put it that way. and -- but also particularly in the context of television, which we spoke about -- i'm a tv producer by training -- utterly compelling viewing for a while. most politicians have a very good idea roughly what they're going to say and do. they're very familiar presences,
hillary clinton being an extreme example. very familiar voice, familiar policies, familiar way of speaking. not many surprises. that may frankly be, depending on your politics,ary very good thing but very familiar. donald trump, particularly given he was clearly sometimes ex-tome pourizing, kinds of just saying as he came into his head -- is very different and i think that you could see all of media, particularly television, messmerrized by this and it is an extraordinary phenomenon. it was not meant to work. the the playbook was to show a -- people thought that jeb
bush had a good chance know that wasn't very close to the mark. it was kind of white whale but an assumption that some, maybe marco rubio, that somewhat more established politician where trump's oddity would get founds out. didn't happen. think, say, utterly knew developments in politics. the media takes time to work out how to cover them. would say you can see between the primary process and the super -- bit the summer the coverage of donald trump is more thoughtful, more critical, and i think there's a reasonable chance that the u.s. media will equit itself really well in the formal election which has only begun this week. the formal campaign. but what i do think is that --
why that report is on to something. something we try to do in the uk during our general election campaigns, is to cover the issues which the public are asking questions about, even if the politicians aren't talking about them. so an example in the elections in the first decade of the century, 2000 2010 is the politics didn't want to talk about immigration, and that may well have been for good reason, or at least well-intentioned reasons. that they thought that it was an emotive subject. it sometimes did quickly verge into interracism and soing for. best not to talk about it. the trouble was, we knew, reported up and done the country talking to ordinaries members of the public, and looking at the point polls, it was very high on
the public's mind, and so we insisted on sometimes in interviews and the news programs, where actually doing days where we focus on immigration, not because he politicians were raisings them. bus the public were concerned about and it we thought it was right to ask the politicians how they would address the public's concern. i think sometimes the media does have responsibility to be, if you like, their on behalf of ordinaries voters and asking the questions which relate to what is in voters' minds. want to say more broadly that pretty clear -- not just in america but in britain and elsewhere -- that we haven't done as good a job -- the whole of me media in reflecting the breadth of issues and concerns of the public have had, and i think part of the responsibility -- only part of
it but part over the responsibility for the kind of breaking apart of the relationship between the politicians and the public, is partly because i'm not sure the media has done a good enough job in insisting the dialogue takes place. >> host: now moving from the media to governing you. write in the book about brave promises followed by glum disappointment. and how we now go back and forth between the peak of expectations to the trough of disillusion. what started at causing the disappointment and disillusion, are people wrong to expect changes from government, wrong to be disappointed? how do you see that cycle. >> guest: i think the first part of it is -- i understand why but politicians overpromise things.
i can see why. of course in a campaign, given politician might be tempts to try to bid up some claim. we're going to build a wall and going to get mexico to pay for a wall would be an example. we're going to close guantanamo, another good example. promising things which you have in idea how you are going to deliver, almost certainly -- if you do get elected you're go to disappoint the people who believed you when you said you were going to do it. the first thing is that promising more than you can deliver, which i think has -- i mean, politicians have always done that. go back to aathens 5 been years before christ, but doing so it
persistently and so widely, i think is a problem. i also think that the thing is that politicians have become across the west -- they've made this mistake of assuming if a accuses b of lying or failing, the public will just blame b. but to me it's a bit like one doctor accusing another doctor of medical practice. brings the whole profession down and i think there's a -- the politicians have not realized -- the obvious example in recent years in the united states is the way in which republicans, senators and members of the house of representatives, have constantly attacked washington, as if they weren't part of washington. and they shouldn't be surprised when people think less of them as well and regard them as part
of the problem, because people think, well, it's all politicians. and standing up as u.s. senator and saying, i hate washington -- what do you think a sensible person is going to conclude from that? why are you there? why too you stand for election if you think it's such a bad thing? i think in many ways the -- i would say that the left as well and the unrealistic promises that the left have made over decades about solving every social problem, getting rid of every inequality and every sort of injustice in society, when you look over decades at the results of the major programs of social intervention that were intended to eliminate poverty, to stop this advantage for -- disadvantage for minorities and
the very, very limited -- not negligeable but limited results. it's not surprising people have become fairly cynical outpromises that politicians make. >> host: talk about the use of political language to create a kind of consensus that would allow bigger and broader suingses to problems, and one of my favorite examples is actually disraley writing sybil and i remember reading that novel at cambridge and being amates here was a politician who knew that in order to create a consensus to address the growing inequalities in england at the time, he had to sort of capture the public's imagination and he wrote a novel to do that. that is an amazing example of using language to -- >> guest: i agree with that. i'm not just -- using that to
create a kind of world and bring a world to life. >> host: right. so in a sense, of course, the example here, lincoln using language to bring the public with him, are all great politicians have done that. why you admire in the book -- and what happened to that? >> guest: quite recently -- in the book i suggest that there was a moment in then 70s where the great tradition of public oratory, which takes you from the founding fathers to lincoln, all the way through pretty much the jack kennedy, john f. kennedy, begins to become harder, that modernity means it's hard to talk about swords and four score and -- all of those -- that language has been lost, and i say under kindly,
using richard nixon as someone strive took talk like that and can't. ronald reagan -- whenever you think of his pile ticks had hand aston-ingly strong register of voices and tone, miss chiefous and brutal -- he could be informal and -- are humor is won politics. >> host: the shining city on the hill. >> guest: you get from the people, i'm on your side, not their side, so eight before that anti-politicianing? to get there to be head of state and a very lofty turn of phrase, and magnificently the television address in the night of the
challengeer disaster, touching the face of god and all that, magnificent traditional references and could own it all and front it up, and by the way, many people still think of reagan as an actor who was saying other people's word sometimes he was but with some very, very good early speeches from reagan which are entirely written by him. an exceptionally good writer as well as good speaker. it's possible that bill clinton is an exceptional -- again, exceptional public speaker. even today, this year, talking about muhammad ali and elsewhere, and wonderful, wonderful speaker, and barack obama as could campaigner and indeed not just as a campaigner but set peace ore oratory and in some ways it's not the set piece. it's the fragment, the answers to questions, it's the -- turn
of a phrase and that's an area where the gap between barack obama the president and the great ex-opinion inept of change is- -- ex-opponent of change is very sharp. >> host: how -- in local politics. we tend to focus on the language of national politics but there are. >> things happening in cities, and i always -- are we sort of ignoring that. >> guest: i do largely talk about national politics and international politicness the book. it's very -- i'm sure you're right that a lot of progress has been made in cities. i think probably a slightly lower glare of media attention, and also the fact that political
parties seem to be somewhat more relaxed about ideologyical purity at city levels and state level than at national levels. so the possibility of compromise is greater and the need to endlessly excoriate your political opponent is lower. having said that, i have to say -- i'm not -- haven't heard a great deal of local american political rhetoric. i'm more familiar with it in the uk, but you don't often hear memorable rhetoric in these circumstances. so, america continues to produce some very interesting characters for mayors who -- some of whom are extremely well spoken in public.
>> host: closer to the people and have to deliver results. >> guest: in the can boris johnson in one ways -- one of boris johnson's -- the moments where re heal is in a sense became a national character, are associated witch his years after mayor of london. mayor of lon don't is a very limited power but a platform, and boris used the platform to present this rather interesting persona, which by the way i don't know why. the persona is quite close to who boris johnson is but it's a political persona, half buffoon, half figure who speaks his mind. boris johnson is a bit like ted cruz, an interesting figure who is a mixture of main stream politician and anti-politician. the members of the establish. but genuinely playing with the
opposite of that. i think that can lead to very strange contortions. >> host: thing n this case historian -- comfortable with the english language so that's right that part, too. >> guest: and making mistakes and the other really interesting thing among agreed advantage the anti-politicians and these sort of inside-out figures like cruz and johnson, have got, is they're braver about sticking heir neck -- their neck out, saying things which they may later regret but much freer. the very controlled, chairfully focused groups, robotic style of speaking, again, is a very big turnoff for people. >> host: and more and more so now. >> guest: i think that's -- by
the way issue want to say, my book is about political language. other things matter. competence in office really matters. and broadly, like most people, i'd rather have the a competent person who was not a great speaker running a government depth or running a country that someone who is a wonderful speaker and can't christopher. >> host: if they're a wonderful speaker they're more likely to get there you have a wonderful chapter in the book about george orwell and his politics and the english language and of courses he famously wrote in "1984" that he felt corrupt language, can also corrupt. a central thesis of your book. >> guest: many people eject that and want think about language as bag surface thing. the policies and ideologies are
down here, the deep importance of fancy stuff and language is over the top but it's all tangled up. when we think about political policies, we're thinking of language. at one point george orwell kind of tries to claim we don't and it's possible to think about a political subject or some subject with wordlessly, but we don't -- you can't think about healthcare policy, wordlessly. it's not possible. >> host: but how would george orwell see this change, given what has happened since he wrote it? in terms of the internet and all that we're seeing, and what would have been different? >> guest: it's very interesting. we don't know. i think we don't know. clearly his fear, which essentially was that soviet communism was going to triumph
in the uk and western europe and across the entire world and that repression and brutal totalitarian jim was going to succeed and i think he believed that over the real danger. but that didn't happen. it didn't happen because our language got much better. didn't happen because it didn't happen. the politics didn't play out that way. and he doesn't talk much in his essay at all about the mass media, even though he does have instincts. he really, really was suspicious of radio. he worked in radio, worked for the bbc in radio, but the kind of fears, certainly in britain, and i think here as well, people think of the bbc and npr as being rather high-minded and much better than television and the internet in terms of thoughtfulness and space for culture and ideas.
orwell throughout radio was absolutely terrible and would destroy everything. and feared -- everyone feared the coming of television. thought it was like radio and even worse. orwell had deep worries, i think it's fair to say, about mass media. but the idea that giving everyone the power to put their opinions up and share them with the entire world, that would be -- that would lead so much to good things, genuine exchange of ideas, but also to so much hatred and viciousness and bullying and extremism. i don't think he quite saw that. he large eye saw the thread of being political and governmental. what was going to happen was --
the plurality could bring its own demons that in a way letting everyone say and do everything could have its dark side. >> host: isn't this partly our responsibility that we haven't dealt with the danger's anonymity? most of the dialect starts, that appears, is anonymously. and so if -- stop allowing anonymous comments, and more in the media or than the extensions of the media, took a harsher line onen anonymity it would dramatically change. >> host: it's complicated because i think most of us -- there was a kind of -- a chapter which i never wrote in end which is going to begin with graffiti. that in classical times and in
pre20th century times, preinternet times, anonymous graffiti is one of the very few ways in which people can do something really publicly, everyone is going site as they walk past it, but where the authorship and accountable -- it's complicated in repressive regimes we might rather support the protester who leaves the graffiti. that can feel like a cry for freedom and a kind of accountability, the emperor has no clothes, the government is corrupt, only the brave boy or girl with the aerosol can who can say it. our definition of freedom of speech, anonymous statements of protests and dissent are -- feel like they're -- they should be
in scope. they should be allowed. the hard thing is when you start mechanizing that, and you start getting these effects whereby there's a kind of race to bottom, the rage and the extremity of the expression -- if gave few examples in the book -- seems to accelerate and each side encourages the other and feels very dark. guess i'm pretty pure on freedom of speech. i believe in the end going to be overwhelmingly powerful reason wides you wouldn't let something happen and that pushing stuff on the ground doesn't make it go away. it festers. and so i guess i look more to whether something can be done around -- over time in education around media and civics so that
we reestablish sensible rule others the road, aisle econventions. one thing that has been lost only completely in much of the discower on be in the net is any concept of politeness. we get politeness. on the subway people understand that givingup are seat for someone who is a disabled person or helping someone who has got two children' and a dog to get in and out, people do that. we never see each other again, don't know each other's names we'll behave -- not always but often -- courteously and politely and that's just a convention. the thing about the internet is that something about the disembodied virtual nature of the experience means that these conventions are less strong. we famously -- people pick their
noses inside cars when they're driving because even though they can be seen, because they're cut off from the rest of the world they feel they account be see so they'll do things they wouldn't do in a room with other people. people simply forget. they find it very hard to be empathetic and sensitive in e-mails. you can't see the other person and therefore you make some sentence which is genuinely hurtful and rude to the other people becauseow don't see them. it's an e-mail. think all of that is greatly intensified in anonymous social media. >> host: what you said, that you don't have an editor deciding is this as wiesel blower who can be d a whistler who who can we protected or -- we just a have two minutes left.
i want to end with your ending which is that despite all your legitimate concerns about whether -- what's happened to political language you have a sort of modest hope at the end. you say that beer in net is not all 24-carat but gives you this modest cause for hope. what are the elements that -- >> guest: still people who care about knowledge and culture who are prepared to contribute to preserving it and helping it flourish and expand the entire polled, more broadly, i think that there are sign's kind of rebirth. i think the language of fairness over time, the argument about what fairness means, houston it should be applied but fairness, for example, applied to the
same-sex marriage debate feels like a powerful force in the world. think some of the marginal, almost kind of street derived forms of political language and protest, might -- i talk a bit about hip-hop. and about hamilton as way of using hip-hop to get to some uncomfortable truths about politics and i see force as rye generation as well and farceuse destruction. my the tis is that the causes for what is happening are deep-seated, are -- and complex and will not be simply resolved. i believe over time history suggests, not for certain but a new equilibrium will be found, part because of technology, social change, and our language is catching up, trying to reform
itself, and will reform itself with new conventions, new ideas, to meet the new reality. so i'm hopeful about the future. can't tell you when the new equilibrium will arrive. >> host: the internet is very form you. you say in your acknowledgment that george widen felt and the amazing publish who is a friend of yours and mind and was instrumental in their nexus that led to this book, and you quote -- quote him giving awe a -- guide to new york to describe it when you decided to take this job and move to new york:...
george had a desk in 1939, 1940, 41, close to george orwell. george had lived through the story i tell on both sides of the atlantic. when i think about the book, and i am sorry you didn't live. he died a few months ago. he didn't live to read the book, but he was a kind of inspiration for the book. his life story and his world, the world of literature and learning through politics and