Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Liberals in the broadest sense are those who write plain and candid prose on the assumption that those to whom they write, or in whose presence they write, are gentlemen and ladies who share a common commitment to fairness, truth, evidence, good humor, good sense, and courtesy. This style goes back to Horace writing epistles from his Sabine Farm as a pal of Maecenas and Augustus. It was picked up and perfected for English by Dryden in the essays drawing on the conversational style of the English coffee house. You see it in the virile plainness of Ben Jonson, and is reflected in news writing of Addison and Steele, who again wrote as if for good citizen friends around a beer or a coffee. You saw the style again in the heyday of the New Yorker in the Talk of the Town columns of E.B. White. And that style with some footnotes and academic starch, dominated Anglo-American arts and letters in figures like W.K Wimsatt, G.E. Moore and J.L. Austin. You see it defended in Swift for sermon oratory, and you see it in the blog of AKMA, in the same easy going high church style, brought down to daily doings of the parsonage, as if Sterne still wrote, awaiting his birth as his father winds the clock. The liberal writes as an honest man or woman to other members of that club, assumed in some sense to be universal. Now, of course, that plain style can be faked. Nothing is easier. The spy can write like an honest man, as can the Terrorist, or CIA plant. Information presented with a counterfeit of openness, trust and candor can be disinformation, as when provided by marketers, lobbyists, politicians, or as a public service by think tanks. The plain style is the mark of Knave and Dupe alike. more...


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