Tonight, Wednesday September 21 at 7:00 p.m. Mark Thompson, the CEO of the New York Times will beat the Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library to discuss his new book, Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics?” It’s a subject on everyone’s mind this Presidential election year, and Thompson is uniquely qualified to give us some answers. He was a long- time journalist with the BBC and eventually became Director General of the BBC. He has been the CEO of the New York Times since 2012. He’s been on the frontline, and he’s seen it all.
Why does public language matter? In Enough Said Thompson argues that the character of our public language is not merely a symptom of deeper and more formative forces in our culture and politics. He writes, “I want to place it at the heart of the causal nexus. As much as anything, our shared civic structures, our institutions and organizations, are living bodies of public language, and when it changes so do they. The crisis in our politics is a crisis of political language.” He tells us what is at stake, “For some, the instrumentality, the leaching away of substance, the coarsening of expression are essentially cultural disappointments—evidence of some wider dumbing down and failure of seriousness. For me, the critical risk is not in the realm of culture but that of politics, and in particular, democracy—its legitimacy, the competitive advantage it has historically conferred over other systems of government, and ultimately its sustainability.” Now that’s something that ought to get your attention.
Thompson takes a critical look at the particular politicians and candidates we expect would be in his purview, but his praise and criticism extend across the political spectrum. His perspective is independent, his judgments are even-handed. His tools of analysis are derived from classical rhetorical theory, not politics. He is unwilling to single out any group—politicians, the public, journalists, or new media technology—as the party to blame for the dismal state of affairs. In a sophisticated analysis of a problem that has no simple origins or solutions, he traces the dynamic between these groups and parses their share of culpability. It will not surprise the reader that there is plenty of blame to go around. Thompson argues for the restoration of rhetoric as “critical persuasion,” and he speaks with eloquence and passion about the role of journalism in sustaining a viable public language.
This is an event not to be missed for Burbank’s civic-minded citizens. The event is free to the public. You can get a copy of Enough Said at a deeply discounted price at this event, and the author will be happy to sign your book.