Infamous Speeches. From Robespierre to Osama Bin Laden

Infamous Speeches. From Robespierre to Osama Bin Laden

Bob Blaisdell (ed.), Dover

Infamous Speeches is an anthology of really nasty public addresses by public figures: including French Revolutionary leader Robespierre (“terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible”), Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Nixon, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and James Jones.

If I was handing out awards for the creepiest speech I would have to give it to James Jones who urged parents to kill their children while music played and their children cried.

“Free at last. Keep — keep your emotions down. Keep your emotions down. Children, it will not hurt. If you’d be — if you’ll be quiet. If you’ll be quiet.”

I thought I would analyse the speeches to see if I could see some similarities; many of the people there were obviously “brain washed” so I wondered if there were any patterns, if the speakers used the same tricks to manipulate them. I found that they often did.

  • There was lots of use of repetition and where possible, alliteration.
  • Questions were asked to appeal to the listener’s belief systems, particularly their beliefs in religion and or nationalism.
  • Some of the sentences were very long; in fact so long that the sentences became difficult to understand. One of Robespierre’s sentences was over 130 words.
  • The pronoun our was used continuously, such as our people, our party, our rights, our struggle and our babies.
  • There was name dropping and quoting of important people and ordinary people.
  • Adjectives were used liberally.
  • The media were maligned.
  • The speakers claimed to speak the truth and the enemy, who were usually referred to as they, were accused of being liars.

I found a combination of these devices made the speakers appear very educated and/or very wise. I also suspected that they really believed what they were saying, which is very scary.

Infamous Speeches is a fascinating book.

Katy Gerner

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