Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keeping It Simple is not Stupid

(Yahoo image)
A language maven analyzes why Donald Trump's speaking style has been so effective. [bold added]
First, he keeps it simple....Simplicity is not stupidity; making language easy to apprehend is intrinsic to making it appealing. Countless psychological studies have shown that what is easy to process is seen as more truthful. “I’m going to build a big, beautiful wall and Mexico is going to pay for it” may be preposterous, but it is easy to understand, and the human brain, in its weakness, likes easy things.

Another Trump tactic is repetition. This, too, may be incorrectly seen as childish. Mr Trump does often say exactly the same thing several times in a row in a crude, hammer-blow fashion. But in more sophisticated guise, repetition is a venerable rhetorical tool. Mark Antony sarcastically repeats the taunt that Brutus is “an honourable man” after Brutus murders Caesar. Winston Churchill rallied Britain with, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…” And the most beloved rhetorical repetition of the 20th century is the great refrain, “I have a dream.” Mr Trump is certainly no Martin Luther King, but he knows how to leave an audience remembering what he said.

he does not give speeches. Instead, he talks....Mr Trump, as noted above, repeats many tropes. But he also genuinely speaks off the cuff, avoiding the standard sunny string of clich├ęs, which makes him fascinating to journalists. A Trump speech may actually make news...

This unscripted quality is powerful. Even a valid argument is weakened if it sounds canned. Even an invalid one sounds stronger if it appears spontaneous, especially to voters disgusted with the professional politicians.
It's difficult even for experienced speakers to repeat the same themes and come up with fresh insights or examples. And to do it while sounding "spontaneous", not "canned," requires exceptional skill. The cognoscenti may well be mistaking Mr. Trump's crudity and simplicity for a lack of intelligence.

Keep laughing at the barbarians and their leader, but come November they may be the ones laughing last.

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