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.