Medical Tuesday Blog

The Inarticulate Society

Apr 16

Written by: Del Meyer
04/16/2016 5:48 AM 

Notable & Quotable: Florence King

From a 1995 Journal review of the book

‘The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America.’

From “Dan Rather and Other Enemies of Civilization” in the July 31, 1995, Journal, a review of Tom Shachtman’s book “The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America” by writer Florence King, who died Jan. 6 at age 80:  WSJ | Jan 14, 2016

The book’s pièce de résistance is Mr. Shachtman’s sardonic tracing of the decline and fall of TV news, and how it has destroyed eloquence.

On Aug. 29, 1963, the “CBS News With Walter Cronkite” aired its first half-hour edition. Everyone sounds like an Oxford don, speaking in complete sentences with so many dependent clauses that they have to take a breath before the end. There is almost no action footage or graphics, and the uncreative commercials, mostly written testimonials, always parse.

The edition of Oct. 27, 1972, was Mr. Cronkite’s first lengthy perspective on Watergate. We see more graphics, visual aids and film; one-breath sentences now prevail, but they are still complete, except for the serpent in the garden, Dan Rather, who reports from the White House: “Nine vetoes today, more promised tomorrow.” . . .

On Nov. 9, 1989, “The CBS News With Dan Rather” features the collapse of German communism and English metaphor. “The Berlin Wall is still standing, but it doesn’t stand for much,” Dan begins, explaining against a backdrop of busy visuals that the world is “racing to stay ahead of the curve of history.” Cut to George Bush, who says, “I’m not going to hypothecate that it may—anything that goes too fast . . .” Then back to Dan for the final word: “The Berlin Wall is obsolete tonight.” The commercials are frantic, and the show ends with an invitation to join Dan later on “48 Hours” for a discussion of sex and teenagers. . .

His solutions are impossibly idealistic—hire only well-spoken baby sitters, give networks tax writeoffs for cultural programs that do not get high Nielsen ratings—but one at least filled me with venomous glee: “Among the first orders of business ought to be the abolition of teachers’ colleges and teaching degrees.”

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