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The Power of The Pen is Mightier Than The Spoken Word?

  • Category(s): Politics Essays
  • Created on : 24 April 2015
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


R.M. Lamb Esq. declares unequivocally for the spoken word’s pre-eminence above the written word, on account of the driving unforgettable force of these speeches, whether they be righteous or malevolent. We learn our history by these modern records of the oral delivery. The camera does not lie nor does the radio broadcast or sound track.

1. The Start

I begin with the proposition so much enunciated that the sword is less strong than the written word. All the great writers down the ages from the Classical times to our Modern era prove the sword is a blunt and costly instrument of man. The problem is that men and women do not universally read these writers and abide by their thinking.

2. The Lesson of History

Clearly we may not rely on the written word to win battles, defend against the aggressor and to overcome tyrants and their tyrannical regimes. In the final analysis these battles are won by Generals and Commanders and their Navies, Armies and Air Power. The written word gives the Chronicler later his role. Yes this written word provides the lesson of history (modern) and drives us forward to make the stand and attain victory, in both war and in the peacetime political field. Without “the sword” we are powerless. We have nothing to fight with: The written word is spineless if we will not “unsheathe our swords” and use them in war or debate. If we do wield our “sword” in the name of the great modern historians: liberty and its associated virtues will reign supreme, otherwise freedom will crumble around us. Yes I have no hesitation: the pen is nothing without “the sword” of combat or contested argument in speech. The “sword” will always defeat the pen of which written work may be used to emasculate the power of “the sword” by clever polemicists in their writings. Equally “the sword” thrust in polemic: oral is vital to uphold the truth.

3. What Next in my Overview? Wartime and Peacetime

So I say the spoken word fits strongly into our peacetime debates. The oral address is capable of inspiration and instilling a brave and courageous attitude to wrong doing in the listeners. Moreover such orators may by persuasion spoken turn a nation to stand up to another State as Churchill did in 1940 with the British and the German enemy. His wartime radio broadcasts are legendary to this day with their quietly determined espousal of the fight to the death against the Wehrmacht in 1940. He had to reach out to England, Wales and Scotland and the one sincere and true way was by these speeches of his as our Prime minister.

Essentially to this day some people will read the written composition and some will react. However to rally the public to the cause and create an unstoppable surge for a wartime or peacetime political stand, it must be done by the power of the delivery of the message orally. The aeroplanes dropping leaflets exhorting the enemy to give up have no effect. e.g. Our British RAF aircraft leafleting the Germans in the phoney War of September 1939 – April 1940 on their positions before their Ardennes breakout in May 1940. As wars are won by “the sword” on the ground the political and military leadership to drive those campaigns forward is founded on verbal communication and exhortation not Hansard and newspapers. Of course the written battlefield orders are vital order I concede, but without a nation in harness behind those soldiers and officers the order will never succeed. Only the leader’s spoken word can result in that cohesion. (The address to the nation.)

4) The Connection Between the Leaders and the Nation (Britain and Germany 1939-1940)

Clearly the analogy I draw is with Churchill, the British and her armies: 1940-45, and the civilians and our leaders of the present era 2015-2025. May we achieve the same level of action in unison as Churchill did in the Second War and, dare I say it, Hitler and his Cabal did in a militarised Germany in 1940-45. The Germans are obedient – The British much more prepared to argue the matter especially in peace. Unity is to be constructed on understanding and free will, not the slavish economy and politics of Nazi German in WWII. Hitler is famous for his guttural and manic speeches at the Nuremberg Rallies (filmed) unlike Churchill’s carefully measured tones on the BBC radio. Both leaders relied heavily on those broadcasts and films. They each succeeded in converting their Countrymen to their cause. Nothing was certain in 1940. Churchill’s broadcasts were absolutely crucial in silencing those who wished to make peace. Munich and Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time” was barely two years previous in 1940. Hitler’s clique had a tight grip on Germany from 1933, yet even he could have been overthrown by senior Generals in 1939. His tirades breathed fire and mesmeric adulation into ordinary Germans, and this flattered the senior military figures. Hitler, although not born German, traded on his “Germanic” persona.

5. The Spoken Word in Private

You are no leader if you may not elucidate both manners of delivery: The inner Council which was the English Cabinet in 1940. Many decisions are made there and real policies hammered out in peacetime. e.g. The Thatcher years of strong government and she had to react to unforeseen difficult positions: The EU Budget, the miners’ strike, and the Argentine seizure of the Falkland Islands. That was Cabinet government at work. Hitler destroyed his credibility in his rages to his Generals in the Wolf’s lair in East Prussia (Rastenberg).

6. Johnson (President of the USA) and the Vietnam War (1960’s)

President Johnson conducted an unpopular war without doubt in Vietnam. But there was no mutiny under his leadership. Not all Marines were drafted into the war in Vietnam. In the 1960’s many volunteered as in 1939 for WWII, but before the USA was a belligerent in that World War. By his leadership which must have been done by broadcasts on TV to the American Nation he secured a landslide in 1964 and support for this war by the silent majority, despite the vocal barracking from the opposition anti-war party. Like Churchill, Johnson knew how to address his audience but in his case in the all important post war United States. He built his call to arms on the anti-communist cause and totalitarian menace in the East.

7. Conclusion

My case is clear – the spoken word in war and peace outdoes the written word by a long chalk – if properly crafted and uttered: It is the present that counts – history will do the rest. One also thinks of the great Advocates: Sir Norman Birkett KC (1920’s and 1930’s) and later Sir Michael Havers QC, a great Crown Counsel of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. With those two Advocates their strength was their ability to improvise and the sudden impetus upon the Defendant or witness in cross examination: They had to grasp the opportunity of the dropped guard. Churchill wrote his own speeches like all great orators and spontaneously the words came to all of them, whether beforehand or once they took the stand. There can be nothing of greater value than these senior Counsel I refer to and Johnson, Kennedy, Martin Luther King or Churchill in action. They spoke in tones: controlled and decisively. They commanded complete attention from their hearers even by report now. Of course Nelson Mandela joins them. The words and emphasis ring in our ears with their accents. The two Counsel were less known accepted.

There is no substitute for the truly and sincerely spoken word, whether in the private or the public domain. We are privileged to have heard any of these men who spoke with authority undimmed to their audiences. If these words spoken sounded the drum in wartime, let us not be so timid as to neglect to beat this drum in peacetime, if we believe the occasion for it has arisen. I, for one, believe this moment has come and those are to hand to follow the example of our illustrious forbears I have mentioned. Yes it is: -

“Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears!”

In Shakespeare’s words so famous