cover image Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics

Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Language of Politics

Mark Thompson. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-05957-4

Thompson uses his unique vantage point as president and CEO of the New York Times Company and former editor-in-chief of the BBC to assess the deterioration of political language and the current state of the media landscape. Liberals and conservatives agree that the quality of political rhetoric has declined in recent years, and Thompson wants to understand exactly what has gone wrong. He looks back to the era of Thatcher and Reagan to trace how these leaders shaped their public rhetoric differently from each other. Thatcher’s serious-minded discussions of policy represented the “stately old world,” while Reagan showed the way toward a new one with his penchant for witty one-liners. In Thompson’s argument, the downward trend of style over substance eventually led to Sarah Palin’s claim of “death panels” and the vacuous speeches of Donald Trump. Thompson then goes back even further, to Thomas Hobbes and Aristotle, to try to understand how the state and society should deal with the limits of religious tolerance and free speech. His advice for journalists could also serve as a guide for any informed citizen hoping to cut through the spin and counterspin that dominates the news. Thompson’s writing packs a high percentage of insights per page and his book manages to be an exemplary investigation, a history, an autopsy, a practical manual, and a cautionary tale all at once. (Sept.)