Trump’s rhetoric: a triumph of inarticulacy

An interesting look here from the UK’s The Guardian newspaper at President-elect Donald Trump’s use of language*, and what it can tell us. I’m reminded of Austrian writer Karl Kraus’s observation that:

The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he.

The author of the article, Sam Leith, tells us that reading-level algorithms “found [Trump’s] speeches pitched at fourth-grade level, i.e. the comprehension of an average nine-year old”. By sheer coincidence, just before last Christmas and while browsing laboriously through my Sina Weibo feed (China’s answer to Twitter), I came across the following Weibo tweet:


which translates, roughly (and witheringly), as “One of the reasons why I like Trump is that I can understand his tweets with my fourth-grade English”.


*And an equally interesting article, published today, on Trump’s facial expressions and what they indicate, by psychologist Peter Collett.


“His spelling and grammar are disastrous, he contradicts himself, trails into incoherence, never sounds dignified or recognisably presidential – but none of it does him any harm. In fact…”

Source: Trump’s rhetoric: a triumph of inarticulacy


Exit the Predator

The Guardian newspaper published an article last month1, the topic of which was the rising number of people in the UK who identify as being of ‘no religion’. Geographical and demographic data pertaining to religious attitudes and affiliations had been collected by British Social Attitudes surveys over the course of roughly 30 years, and were analysed by Dr. Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. (The report did not consider data from Scotland or Northern Ireland, although comparable statistics on the former were broadly in step with figures from England and Wales.)

The findings were reflective of the familiar trend of rising Continue reading

The Guardian slams Larry Alex Taunton’s book on Hitchens’s “conversion”

How low does one have to stoop (or indeed, how lacking in basic empathic and human awareness need one be) in order to resort to scoring party political points on the back of the deceased? It says very little for the strength of an ideology, if it requires the manufacture of endorsement or participation from those who are not in a position to set the record straight, for example on account of being a child, being a third world citizen with more pressing concerns, or being dead.

Matthew d’Ancona’s article in The Guardian yesterday is absolutely on point: in the venerable tradition of the “hitchslap”, he both respects Hitchens’ memory, and exposes Taunton’s reprehensible attempt to appropriate something that not only is not his to appropriate, but that he has spectacularly and singularly failed to understand.

Why Evolution Is True

I’ve now read most of Larry Alex Taunton’s odious book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Famous Atheistand I stand by my judgment that Taunton is a vulture, profiting from picking at the corpse of a man who can’t respond. As you surely know, Taunton’s book was written to suggest that, at the end of his life, Christopher Hitchens was flirting with becoming a Christian, or at least adopting a belief in God. Those who knew Hitchens—his friends, associates, colleagues, and relatives—have universally decried this thesis. Hitchens, they say as one, was a diehard nonbeliever, who was simply interested in learning about religion. He didn’t know Taunton well, or for long, and the book’s thesis rests of a couple of long road trips and discussions Taunton had with the cancer-stricken Hitchens. Taunton has clearly misinterpreted Hitchens’s interest in religion, and in his traveling companion…

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