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During the 2000 debates, George W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.7) and Al Gore at a seventh-grade level (7.6).
In the 1992 debates, Bill Clinton spoke at a seventh-grade level (7.6), while George H.W. Bush spoke at a sixth-grade level (6.8), as did H. Ross Perot (6.3).
In the debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the candidates spoke in language used by 10th-graders.
In the debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas the scores were respectively 11.2 and 12.0.
In short, today’s political rhetoric is designed to be comprehensible to a 10-year-old child or an adult with a sixth-grade reading level. […]
Voltaire was the most famous man of the 18th century.
Today the most famous “person” is Mickey Mouse.
America the Illiterate
Chris Hedges — Nov 10, 2008 (pg 2)
I think, I’m detecting some sort of trend here …
So it would seem, the political discourse in America is kind of on a downhill trend, wouldn’t you say. That is, if sophistication of Debate Language is any indication.
We seem to be on a downward spiral, one fueled by Republican advisers, think tank consultants, and speech-writers, in search of that “Lowest Common Denominator.” And if the rhetoric of the Health Reform national discussion, over the last year, is any guide — it seems they are already have … (hit that rock bottom that is …)
America the Illiterate
Chris Hedges — Nov 10, 2008 (pg 1)
The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed.
They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans.
Images and slogans are all they understand.
We live in two Americas.
One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth.
The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés.
The ability to magnify these simple and childish lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives these lies the aura of an uncontested truth. We are repeatedly fed words or phrases like yes we can, maverick, change, pro-life, hope, or war on terror.
It feels good not to think. All we have to do is visualize what we want, believe in ourselves and summon those hidden inner resources […]
The upshot of all this?
When Images and Sloganeering are the Coin of the Media Realm — perhaps we should get more well-versed in How to create those Sound Bites — those ‘Word Sandwiches” that can reach that segment of population, who’s perpetually stuck in that 6th Grade conceptual world.
There, Imagery often matters more than Facts.
And Emotional Slogans stand in as the essence of the Idea, the only thing that actually sticks.
‘We got to keep Granny safe from Death Panels’, don’t ya know?
In film and broadcasting, a sound bite is a very short piece of a speech taken from a longer speech or an interview in which someone with authority […] says something which is considered by those who edit the speech or interview to be the most important point.
It is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that deftly captures the essence of what the speaker is trying to say.
Classic examples of Sound Bites include:
Ronald Reagan’s demand that “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
“The only thing we have to fear is – fear itself.” (the most famous phrase in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address in 1933)
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” (the most famous phrase in John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address in 1961)
“Read my lips: no new taxes“, delivered by United States presidential candidate George H. W. Bush
“Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” said by Lloyd Bentsen as a retort to Dan Quayle’s comparison of himself to Jack Kennedy in terms of political experience
“Elvis has left the building!” was an announcement often heard on the public address system after an Elvis Presley concert to disperse crowds lingering for an encore.
Sound bites are the phrases that most People remember, most.
Sound bites are the “kernel of meaning” that get rewound/replayed by our push-button Media.
Sound bite ‘Editors’ are NOT looking for Collegiate Facts — BUT they ARE looking for 6th-Grade Imagery!
One Problem though — most Democratic Speakers are intent on showing off their College Educations. They mostly speak in tangles of Facts, that the few can follow, and the even fewer will remember.
Word Salads, Dry Facts, and a Stack of Statistics — may be factual True, BUT still NOT CUT through the Clutter of Misunderstanding … ravaging the heartland.
When all the while, a simple 6th-grade slogan, would have done the trick:
[One] of the most famous slogans ever created:
Where’s the beef? – Wendy’s
Slogans are memorable phrases
5 essential tips on how to write a killer slogan
1. Start From The Logo
2. Give the Project the Time It Needs
3. Keep It Simple
4. Make It Funny, If You Can
5. Stay Honest and Don’t “Trump Up” Your Product
And for a more recent example of how effective Sloganeering and Sound Bite creation can be, one needs only look to Alan Grayson — one Democratic Speaker who KNOWS HOW to Make a Point, AND how to Make it Stick!
“The Republican health care plan: don’t get sick,” he said. But, he added, “The Republicans have a back up plan in case you do get sick … This is what the Republicans want you to do.
If you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly!
If only we had a thousand more like him, Dems who can speak directly, in simple, image-filled sentences.
Sound Bites that get repeated, ad infinitum … Something’s got to fill that Media’s endless News Void.
Afterall, those endless loops of ‘Mickey Mouse’ will only go so far, in that 24/7 messaging machine!