Zero Squared #52: Political Self-Censorship

Glenn Loury is a reformed neo-conservative “man of the left” with some serious reservations. He is a professor at Brown University, a one time contender for Undersecretary of Education, the author of the book The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, the host of the Glenn Show, as well as a regular contributor to the New Republic. This week we discuss his 1994 paper “Self-Censorship in Public Discourse.”

In his paper Loury points out that:

When speakers are choosing words intended to stimulate a particular response, strategic listeners cannot simply accept the literal content of an expression as its meaning-in-effect. To take the speaker literally is to behave naively, and thus to risk being deceived. Sophisticated listeners must look behind what is spoken or written, in an effort to discern all that is implied by the act of speaking or writing in a given way.
At the same time, being aware that his speech act is subject to such interpretation, and wanting to create a desired impression, a skillful speaker will structure his message mindful of the inferences which listeners are inclined to make.

Before I plunge into this episode I do want to mention the passing of the pop icon David Bowie, certainly not to inform anyone about it, nor to merely mark my own shock and horror to realize that such a mythical man can be brought down and extinguished, but also to point out that some of the best analysis on Bowie’s legacy are available at Chris O’Leary’s blog “Pushing Ahead of the Dame.” O’Leary is a Zero Books author and is, according to the cultural critic Mark Dery, the uncontested dean of Bowie studies.

In this episode you’ll hear excerpts from Steve Martin comedy routine as well as clips from the film In the Loop, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and a stretched version of the Vitamin String Quartet’s cover of Life on Mars?