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January 18th, 2021


There is a manner of speech prevalent today, and likely prevalent since the invention of language that consists of incredibly persuasive rhetoric with absolutely no substance.  We listen to far more than just the words and the compilation of their aggregate meaning when someone talks.  We listen primarily to the way someone talks, far more than the woven thread of meaning that may or may not exists through their sentences.


Tone of voice, volume, speed of speech, and if the speaker is visible, their facial expression, the tension of their eyes, the pose and movement of their body.  All of these combine to create an experience that isn’t necessarily in line with the words being said.  And if in fact nothing of any real substance is being said, than all these other methods of conviction still function.  An audience can be won over and grant a speaker legitimacy based on metrics that have absolutely no real meaning or relation to their words.  


This happens because all of these attributes that frame spoken words perform a second message which is in constant dialogue with the feelings of those listening.  A powerful voice that speaks words with a sense of certainty evokes a particular feeling in an audience.  Jordan Peterson is a speaker with this sort of urgency and force, but then again, so was Hitler.  Crowds are swayed not by words but by the way such words are framed with tone and volume, physical stature and fascial expressiveness.


All of this framing aside, the clearest litmus test for meaningless speech is to ask if such words can be acted upon.  Do they translate to something actionable in the tangible world?  Or if the speaker relying on the nebulous quality of certain vague words so that a message can be open to a wide interpretation?  Such language is often employed to assuage many view points, concealing exactly where the divisions and disagreements might exist.  Politicians and salesman speak with such vagueness to evoke a certain feeling, because it’s a feeling that casts the vote and spends the money.   Vague speech can inspire action without explicitly stating that action.  In this way speech can comprise of absolutely nothing and it can also describe via the same relative absence of subject.


Such speakers can be deactivated by simply asking for clarification and more clarification until the speaker corners themselves with only an absence of real message to point at.



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Podcast Ep. 1009: Too Vague

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