I was watching Steve Bannon, Laura Ingraham and Dr. Sebastian Gorka making speeches yesterday. Steve Bannon was quite impassioned, angry about freedoms that were being taken away – but not giving examples of such freedoms.
I didn’t watch the whole speech, so for all I know he might well have produced a long list of lost freedoms at the end of his speech. I’ll watch the rest sometime or other.
I’m pretty sure Steve Bannon smokes cigars.
Tallahassee is about as far as you can get in the U.S., geographically and psychically, from the circus of the presidential campaign trail. That’s why Bannon chose to locate the Government Accountability Institute there—that, and the fact that Schweizer had moved down from Washington. “There’s nothing to do in Tallahassee, so I get a lot more work done,” Schweizer jokes, on my recent visit. GAI is housed in a sleepy cul de sac of two-story brick buildings that looks like what you’d get if Scarlett O’Hara designed an office park. The unmarked entrance is framed by palmetto trees and sits beneath a large, second-story veranda with sweeping overhead fans, where the (mostly male) staff gathers every afternoon to smoke cigars and brainstorm.
So why didn’t he cite smoking bans as an example of a freedom that was being lost? If he’s a smoker, he’ll have felt that particular loss of freedom many times. And if he’s an angry smoker, he’ll be particularly angry about that particular lost freedom. And so will a great many of the people who were listening to him.
But as I watched, it occurred to me that Steve Bannon couldn’t mention smoking or smoking bans. After all, Everybody Knows that smoking is bad for you. It’s probably the most unquestionable dogma of out modern era. You can’t question it. Or if you do, it’s a bit like telling people that you think the earth is flat, and babies are brought by storks, and they can tap their heads knowingly, and smile.
Or, to put it another way, Steve Bannon didn’t know how to talk about smoking bans. He wasn’t articulate enough. And as I listened to him I found myself thinking that, for all his passion, he wasn’t really very articulate. Or rather, that he was no more articulate than Donald Trump, for whom he has been a close confidant for the past year. Because Donald Trump is pretty inarticulate too. Although he’s highly articulate in an inarticulate sort of way.
But is anybody articulate? Is anybody very good at putting things into words? In the USA someone like Ron Paul seems to be highly articulate. And Sean Hannity. And Tucker Carlson. And Ann Coulter. And Thomas Sowell. They’re all people who can talk, put things into words, construct criticisms and arguments. And the rest are inarticulate. And so they only sit and listen.
I often complain about the way most smokers never complain about smoking bans. But there may be a very simple reason for this, which I have only just stumbled across, which is that they don’t know how to talk about them. They’re lost for words.
And in fact, everyone is lost for words about smoking bans. Because nobody, including Ron Paul and Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter and Thomas Sowell, ever says anything about smoking bans. Even the one single man who perhaps epitomises the smoker – Nigel Farage – hardly ever says anything about them. He’ll talk eloquently and at length about EU and US politics, but says next to nothing about smoking bans, although I know that he feels strongly enough about them to have, as one example, campaigned against the street smoking ban proposed in Stony Stratford. Even the late (and highly articulate) Tony Benn had nothing to say about smoking bans, and only expressed his mute anatagonism to them by smoking a pipe on camera (something few politicians allow themselves to do these days, it seems).
I’m beginning to think that whoever manages to put their finger on the real problem of smoking bans, and express it in simple words, will break a spell that holds everybody – absolutely everybody – presently tongue-tied. Because nobody seems to know how to do it. And that’s why nobody ever speaks about it.
Of course I try. I try every single day. And sometimes I manage to put something or other into words in some new way. I know I succeed because people have printed off and distributed some of my writings for other people to read. Every day, writing this blog, is all about trying to find a way to put things into words in ways I’ve never yet managed.
It’s a bit like playing Doom or Tomb Raider, and fighting your way from room to room, but never managing to get past Level 7, because you haven’t figured out what to do about the fire-breathing dragon that comes out of the shadows there.
A childhood homily comes to mind:
If at first you don’t succeed.
Try, try, and try again.