Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The SOTU Is Stupid And You Know It!


If you’ve followed me for a long time, you should know by now that I don’t give a flying buck about the presidential State Of The Union address. Not one bit. It’s nothing more than a preening politician pontificating pretentious platitudes to prompt praise from pandering plebs.

If anyone is honest with themselves, they would admit that they share the exact same opinion. Gawker’s Alex Pareene has in his recent column “The State of the Union Is Dumb Hacks Writing Garbage Speeches.” I recommend you all give it a read. It puts to words what I and pretty much everyone else sincerely believes about this annual charade. But here’s the main gist:
I am not arguing that any untrained schmo off the street could write a State of the Union address. Modern political speechwriting is certainly a skill, and one that requires experience and practice to master. It is not, however, a literary endeavor. It is marketing, and not even particularly imaginative marketing. Advertising people who call themselves "creatives" do more actual creative work than political speechwriters. Do the people who write statements of risk for pharmaceutical ads walk around swishing single malt in tumblers and comparing themselves to The Lost Generation? (Well, they probably do, but they are wrong.)

Political speechwriting is an exercise in the proper arrangement of cliches and platitudes, with a bit of "messaging" of policy ideas to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Speeches like the one the president will deliver tonight are designed to deliver pleasant inanities (The State of the Union is Strong) and sell certain carefully audience-tested proposals as vaguely (or misleadingly) as possible. The State of the Union is less written than it is designed, structured and organized around applause prompts and camera cues.