Sunday, March 15, 2009

How You Say it Matters

This blog is primarily a written medium. But I often write about the spoken word in talk radio. People who pretend that it is only about WHAT you say and that HOW you say it doesn't matter are being disingenuous at best. (See how I capitalize those two words? Did you hear a little more emphasis in your head when you read those two words? Sure you did. It's a crude form of what I could do with my voice and I'm counting on you, the reader, to add the tone. Not all of you will do it the same way, but you will do it because that is one of the conventions of writing.)

I watched a lot of Maria Bamford comedy this weekend and as you will hear (and see) HOW she says things impacts the meanings of her words. In her case it makes them funnier. That contrast between her usually little girl voice and her phony high status voice is very funny to me.

Tone can convey all sorts of things that people respond to. You can, with your tone, convey the exact opposite of what you say. You can, with your tone, show people a level of contempt that reasonable person could not miss.

When Rush Limbaugh does his lisping voice is very clearly sending a message that goes beyond just what he says. And his audience and his non-audience all GET IT. We as children have grown up to understand tone. The lisping voice Rush uses is the audio "wink" to this listeners saying, "Democrats are homosexuals! Homosexuals are weak. I can't come out and say that so I'll just do a lisping voice and everyone will get the message. And if they challenge the lisping voice then they are being overly sensitive and 'politically correct'."

For people in the medium to pretend that how you say something doesn't add meaning is just ridiculous.


Blogger Jim said...

I think you can skip the homosexual reference and go straight to the lisping voice being weak and democrats are weak. Other than that of course the medium matters. it was back in the 60's that McLuhan said "the medium is the message"

By the same token liberal talk show hosts always seem to pull out the big angry man voice when they are portraying conservative points of view

8:03 PM  
Blogger spocko said...

But Rush could use a different voice to connote weak, could he not? Elmer Fudd? Droopy Dog?
His conflation with a stereotype gay voice is very clear.

I probably should have been more specific about why I was even going on about this. You have usually been very fair with your comments and I do appreciate them.

I was talking a lot about a certain talk radio host that was recently pretending that the medium didn't matter. He's not Rush, he's local in SF.

Unlike you, he isn't intellectual honest.

And yes the big angry man voice is used by liberal radio hosts. I suppose that can be offensive to blustery angry men everywhere who are oppressed.

BAM (Blustery Angry Men) Chapters probably write the hosts all the time. :-)

8:37 PM  
Blogger Metro said...

The BAM voice is Rush Limbaugh's contribution to political discourse, methinks. It's exactly what he sounds like.

Whereas Mike Savage and Anne Coulter sound like waspish WASPs who've found a very small turd in their martinis.

As a communications professional, I'm entirely behind this idea. The wingnut radio hosts spew poison on air, and when they're caught out they wave their hands and say "Whaaaat? I was just jokin'--Can't you take a joke?"

However, since the underlying conditions that cause conservatism destroy the sense of humour, they should be more careful in what they say.

After all, their audience are also wingnuts, and may respond to their "jokes" with acts likethis, which are oddly appropriate to the expressed "humour."

3:43 PM  
Blogger spocko said...

Metro, the "It's a joke!" line is so lame.

4:26 PM  

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