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Umberto Eco in the 1950s

Rhetoric: the skill in using language effectively and persuasively.

Shortly after fascism fell in Italy, Umberto Eco, who had previously attended political rallies during fascism, attended his first post-fascist political rally as a young eleven year old boy. What struck him most was that, in the new post-fascist Italy, the main difference from the previous period was that the speeches were matter of fact and lacked the rhetorical ornamentation that was a necessary element of political speeches during fascism. Eco learnt through personal experience, to mistrust any political speech that is embellished by rhetorical skill rather than a direct explanation of policy, he found that the difference between fascism and what came after in politics could be found in the lack of rhetoric.

In the same spirit of Eco, we should ignore rhetorical speeches of politicians, no matter how good they sound, or much we would want to believe even messages of hope and change, & judge only policies and action, not speeches. As Eco taught us, the biggest political fraud is rhetorics. So let’s leave the storytelling to the artists, poets, writers and filmmakers, and look for policy instead in our politicians. Do not confuse art with politics or you will fall victim to political fraud. Unfortunately in my experience it is exactly those who work in the arts who are the first to confuse art or rhetoric with actual policy.

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