Saturday, December 5, 2009

Age of the Orator is Over

I hereby paradoxically proclaim, from my exalted pulpit, that the Age of the Orator is officially over. De-throned, debunked, dead.

What killed the idolizing of the golden-tongued orator?

First the web, then blogs, and now Twitter.

All you could do at old fashioned websites was stare at them, read a few things, maybe buy something. No more. Now we expect to post a comment, ask a question, contact the author, add our critique or praise, contribute something to the topic, enrich the discussion with our anecdote or expertise.

The old broadcast model of communication, advertising, and propaganda is dying fast. Democratic formats, where all who wish to say something are enabled to do so, are replacing the authoritarian, command-and-control format.

Twitter is a great example of decentralized discussion.

Nobody dominates the conversations. Someone says something provocative or controversial. Others RT (retweet) the statement, while some respond via @ (replies) and a lively debate results. Or people will add their own insights, examples of what happened to them, or requests for clarification.

We want to join in and participate, not absorb and regurgitate. We don't mind listening to you, if you'll also listen to us.

We demand to assert our own opinions and knowledge in discussions, not keep silent and passively consume lectures. From the President of the United States to televangelists, we're sick of it, all that blabbering, that fancy speech-making that bores us to death and leaves us depleted.

"Shut up and listen to me" is the standard mode of hypnotism, brainwashing, and cult indoctrination. It's being phased out and replaced by free conversational modes, where everybody gets to say something and to respond to what others say.

Oratory no longer moves us.

We aren't motivated, educated, or entertained.

We don't get inspired, excited, or pumped up.

We despise it. We'd rather be anywhere but there, in the auditorium or pew, politely smiling, sporadically clapping because the speaker says something we agree with. We hate being talked at, no matter what the topic may be.

Applause ruins speeches. Clapping and hooting are a barbaric form of minimal interactivity. It can be seen as a sort of "positive heckling". Applause often comes between one important statement and a vital follow-up to that statement, which is why the speaker often has to stop in the middle of the second remark, to allow the cheering to occur.

Applause is a butt-kissing interruption that says, "We approve of that statement and want to show you our approval. We clap to show our support for that idea you just expressed. Your other ideas were okay, maybe, but this one was great, exactly what we wanted to hear! It pleased us. We want you to know that this particular statement is very much part of our belief system. We enjoy hearing things we agree with."

But that leaves in question the statements that are not applauded. Hopefully, the speaker's final remark will result in a standing ovation, the seal of an audience's approval for the entire speech.

Speakers sprinkle easy-to-agree-with statements, composed in "soaring rhetoric", into their speeches, with the express purpose of eliciting some gratifying reactions from the crowd. The clapping and cheering acts as a boost to the speakers fragile self-esteem, it affirms his worth and propels him to keep droning on and on and on.

All an orator usually accomplishes is inflating his ego. Secondarily, he hopes to represent or express what the audience believes or wants to hear. He goes on and on and on, about whatever, while the subdued and docile audience soaks up the information like sponges, goes to sleep, or fidgets in their seats, seeking an escape.

Speeches don't solve problems. Speeches rarely enlighten anyone. We dislike one person getting up and acting like they have all the answers, while we are seekers or students or lemmings seeking leaders to follow like dumb lazy sheep.

If you want to reach people, shut up once in a while and let them say something. Let them interrupt you, heckle you, challenge you, enhance your understanding, and chime in with their own viewpoints.

This democratic, non-hierarchical communication platform is being realized in social media, blogs, and Twitter. It's not an opinion. It's an emerging reality that's usurping the old way of conveying information and achieving a consensus.

Think about how your website, sales staff, conferences, and marketing strategy could be improved by paying attention to this major, profound shift toward interactive communications.

1 comment:

matt Searles said...

Err, mind if I speak heretically?

The rise of a priestly class dates back to.. well about the time we began to see geometric patterns on pottery.. when societies began getting complicated.. divisions of labor, and specialization emerged.. and one of those divisions was the priestly class..

I've always argued that there's a roll for an elite.. but I perhaps define elite differently.. that is.. we can all be elites.. elite being someone who specialized in a particular area.. and as such we should weight there authority in that area differently then someone who doesn't specialize in that area.. and there's no escaping that each of us, without even trying to.. specializes in all sorts of areas..

The other issue is "the big dream" That's moses with his commandments.. big dreams.. they get bestowed upon elites.. people who dedicate they lives to following a muse.. the muse eventually, if the follower is lucky and deemed worthy by the muse, get a boon bestowed upon them.. wether or not anyone in our world will recognize the value of the boon.. is another matter...

So I see a roll for the elite and.. for that matter oratory.. but as with you, I'm hopeful of revolutionary upheavals.. that might disturb the balance of power.. and lead us to a little more sanity...

I'm not anti hierarchy though.. I believe some things have more value then other things.. at least along certain vectors.. I just want to see the hierarchy be as much of a meritocracy as possible.

I also think.. oratory as a one way conversation.. it depends on how you frame it.. I think its a bit like inhaling and exhaling.. oratory being the exhaling.. somewhere else there must be an inhaling.. so the conversation must not be all one way.. I suppose it's always not one way.. just that in the past there's been mediation.. so we.. the rabble I guess.. aren't mediated out of the equation..

I suppose then.. I see it more like a shift it the organizational structure of systemic forces.. and all this creative destruction just a manifestation of this...

It's true however.. that my understanding of much of this comes from slightly extreme leftists like Foucault and Theodor Adorno.. which I suppose is part of what has me enjoying your anarchical take so much.. it seems so right for our times