Thursday, December 08, 2005

Harold Pinter, With the Bark On

Harold Pinter let the U.S. have it in his Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech yesterday. The Brit playwright, in very poor health because of throat cancer, nevertheless displayed "moral vigour" in a speech that was videotaped and played remotely to the folks in Sweden (and to the rest of the world).

The NYTimes has a quote-rich article this a.m., but we take the descriptive passage below from The Guardian (there's bound to be a full text available later today):

"...At one point ... Pinter argued that 'the United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the second world war.' He then proceeded to reel off examples. But the clincher came when Pinter, with deadpan irony, said: 'It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest.' In a few sharp sentences, Pinter pinned down the willed indifference of the media to publicly recorded events. He also showed how language is devalued by the constant appeal of US presidents to 'the American people.' This was argument by devastating example. As Pinter repeated the lulling mantra, he proved his point that 'The words "the American people" provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance.' Thus Pinter brilliantly used a rhetorical device to demolish political rhetoric .... At one point, Pinter offered himself as a speechwriter to President Bush -- an offer unlikely, on this basis of this speech, to be quickly accepted. And Pinter proceeded to give us a parody of the Bush antithetical technique in which the good guys and the bad guys are thrown into stark contrast: 'My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians.' Pinter's poker face as he delivered this only reinforced its satirical power...."

ADDENDUM: Here's the full text.

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