Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies

Diana Senechal. Rowman & Littlefield, $34 (192p) ISBN 978-1-5381-1516-9
Based on a series of courses on the intersection of rhetoric and philosophy, this manifesto from educator Senechal (Republic of Noise) seeks to defend serious, thoughtful discourse from internet memes, managerial groupthink, and other examples of what George Orwell called “the slovenliness of our language.” Senechal debunks many of the intellectual clichés that cloud thinking, such as the “pocketable answer” or “takeaway” (“It is the tourist trinket, the mutterable motto”), and in particular criticizes TED talks as directed more toward “selling concepts” than toward disseminating ideas. Subsequent chapters take on the idea of change as inherently good, the current fascination for workplace “teams,” the predilection for labeling contrary opinions “toxic,” and even the humble pronoun we, which Senechal observes is often deployed to allow one person to speak for another. In each case, she argues that these trendy phrases distract from the hard work of thinking clearly and deliberately. “A life without buzzwords [and] pat solutions,” she states, “opens question after question, insight after insight.” While ignoring some of the more corrosive forms of internet speech (conspicuously, there is no discussion of trolling), this concisely argued book will nevertheless be of interest to anyone who wishes to deconstruct the truisms that infect so much public discourse. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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