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What Gaga & Lincoln Have in Common: A Review of Joe Romm's Language Intelligence

Posted: 08/20/2012 6:15 pm

You may wonder why so many progressive leaders -- from Van Jones to Al Gore -- are lining up to endorse Joe Romm's new book.

In part, of course, it's because we admire what he's done at Climate Progress. He's not just turned it into by far the most important blog about climate science -- he's modeled the way forward for focused blogs of all types. And he's done it despite the fact that climate science can be difficult, technical, and depressing: his skill as a writer and editor is to clarify, to repeat, to make vivid.

Which leads us to this book, and the other reason people are endorsing it so enthusiastically. We know that progressives haven't been very good at what (dully) we call "messaging." We've watched for years as a string of right-wing mediocrities have somehow convinced millions of people to vote against their interests and for the policies that have led to both economic inequality and ecological peril. The only thing they've had going for them is a command of some of the simple, deep, and time-honored techniques that Romm describes in this fascinating new book.

Rhetoric used to be one of the standard subjects for any educated person. Techniques like "anaphora" and "chiasmus" were the staples of any preacher or politician -- Lincoln knew what he was doing. Now, when they're employed, it's by instinct or accident; hence Lady Gaga.

But Romm's simple volume will let anyone in on the secrets. You may not be a Demosthenes overnight, but there aren't many Demosthenes out there. All you have to be is better than some blow-dryed fellow with a list of GOP talking points. And that's well within your grasp, as long as you've got your hands on this book.

 

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