Monday, February 08, 2010

A Calrification for the HP

I may be reading more subtly than I ought, but if I take the HP's invocation of Kung-Fu-Tsu (that's Confucius for you myopic Eurocentrists) as a gentle reminder, I am moved to revisit the text with which I conclude the original quibbling post, and to offer the following clarification.

I offered the following by way of conclusion:
Saying things like what the excellent bishop of Cardiff said may score you some points in a faculty coffee room debate, but it will also get you murdered in the press, and that last is the only one that counts, if your goal is to protect the rights of the Church and serve the real interests of society.
My point in these lines is most emphatically not to disparage the professoriate as such, nor much less to deny the centrality of the university (properly understood as a privileged place for the life of a community dedicated to free inquiry into the truth) in the Western civilizational project. Indeed, I think Hobbes had it right when he said that those who control the schools control everything (or words to that effect).

Rather, I wish with those lines to convey a rhetorical point, to wit: know your audience, and speak to them. The bishop of Cardiff offered excellent fodder for faculty discussion, and, had he been in a faculty lounge or even a Downing Street smoking room with other prelates, priests and MPs, his point would have been well made. He was, however, speaking at a press conference, to people whose job it is to write news articles and opinion pieces for concerns, the only purpose of which is to sell ad space at the highest possible rates, a purpose they accomplish by increasing circulation, which they accomplish by featuring scandalous and tittilating headlines.

The issue is basically one of rhetoric: it was not the bishop's invention that failed, but his disposition and elocution; he made a valid point, though he made it at the wrong point in the conversation, to the wrong audience and in the wrong terms. However clearly stated his argument might have been in action, it was ill-advised to give it then and there, for there and at that moment the only thing that counted was, well, something else.


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