Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Debate Tuesday - The Orator and his Audience

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Who is to blame when bad things happen?

...Oratory exists above the ordinary; it is prepared with passion, infused with creativity, and masterfully crafted to offer a sublime experience. Read more on Oratory...

So we had some friends over during the weekend and this discussion cropped up.  One guy regaled us with anecdotes of competitions at a Toastmaster's conference and how those with good oratory skills - which according to all indices boils down to arousing emotion in your audience - won. The discussion led to other orators past and present, including Martin Luther King, Obama, and some of the pastors in Nigeria. It is no secret that the latter, most especially, Adeboye, Oyedepo, Oyakhilome, TB Joshua and Adefarasin, control millions of people in the country, maybe even up to half of the Christian population.  I was not happy about how these pastors misuse their power for personal gain, are unaware of their clout or simply ignore how they can use it for social gains for the whole country.Anyway, that is a topic for another day.

Today, I want us to talk about another part of the discussion. It is obvious that by it's very use, oratory or simply the gift of the gab, can be used for bad too. So when things go bad, who is to blame? The good speaker or the people who bought what he was selling? Some examples;

Hitler used his so-called sweet tongue to get most of the Germans to support him during World War 2 and the persecution of the Jews.

Rev. King, a self-styled Nigerian pastor used his charisma to do terrible things to his church members, including murder, rape and fraud, etc.

Jim Jones, an American preacher some decades ago, convinced all his members to move to a different country and while in the jungle, he led them to commit mass suicide.

Ade Demi, a fictitious person, convinced 5 women he was in love with them simultaneously. Not only did he leave 3 of them with babies and/or pregnancies, he also swindled all of them of their life savings. He is yet to be found by the British police.

What say ye? The orator or his audience?


  1. The audience.... How can people be so foolish? No matter what someone says, your good senses ought to kick in somewhere. No matter how slick the tongue, it's always the audience that decides what to do, unless they are forced.

  2. Both... but ultimate responsibility lies with the audience.. when people refuse to use their brains.. and allow themselves be hoodwinked.. they only are to blame IMO..

  3. eesh Myne this is a toughie, I am going to stay mum on this one. Its really hard to say I am not in their shoes

  4. I would like to be thoroughly akward and suggest a third factor to blame - the ENVIRONMENT in which the orator and audience exist.
    'Religion is the opium of the masses' (Karl Marx). These pastors prey on the vulnerable, the weak, the poor. Same as Jim Jones did

    Similarly, Hitler latched on to a German society that was hungry to believe the illusion that they were 'special' and the Jews were 'leeches'.

    Again, Obama came at the right time - to an America that was sick of the 'old guard' and desperate for change.

    Not familiar with the Ade Demi case but I can bet he chose his victims carefully - or similar women responded (those who wre made to feel special by him)....

  5. @Joanna, hahaha...you are excused.

    @Naijamum, I guess that is also a genuine factor. Still in your examples, it goes back to the audience IMO. Ade Demi is not a real person, just a name I made up for all players out there, and some are women too...

  6. Listen to someone's Oratory abilities can be very deceptive and I'm a victim,I've been cajoled to say things that were top secrets and it almost cost me my life,but then you can only blame the orator if such a person is not of age or not matured enough to decipher good from bad or right from wrong,or probably ignorant about such a thing or situation,like maybe a JJC,but otherwise stated,every man should be able to hear all but do some,no matter how sweet it sounds,the head was meant for thinking,think it thro.
    Great post,Ma mentor.

  7. @Myne re: Ade Demi
    Aaaah...understood. I did wonderif I had missed some hot gist.
    A question back at ya Myne - Do you think people are convinced because they want to be convinced i.e. people hear what they want to hear?
    Might be why women forgive serial adulterers.....?

  8. Well said Gretel, I also agree that one needs to think about whatever they hear.

    @Naijamum, certainly I think so. And in such a situation, anyone can fall victim. Most of us have some baggage, insecurities that make us vulnerable.

  9. Of course they are both responsible, but the question to ask is - who has more power in the situation? Who has the control? Who dictates the outcome? Who is more responsible?

    Of course it's the orator.

  10. For now, let me speak about religion especially the Christianity part. While humans are all looking for answers and solutions, the bible refers to the Bereans as noble because they searched the scripture themselves to see if what Paul (their "Pastor") said was true. So while we may be sitting under the voice of great orators, the audience can have the ability to refuse to be brainwashed, the wisdom to decipher right from wrong, the ability to check if what they are being told is true, and hopefully the right to say "no".

    I like Gretel's clause on when to blame the Orator...so it appears to be an either or situation...

  11. I'm kinda with Naijamum on this one. It's hard to blame one or the other...especially the audience. Yes, in some cases people should know better. In other cases they are truly hoodwinked.
    At the end of it all ONLY the orator knows the reasoning behind why he stands and speaks....only he knows if he's being true or malicious.

    So maybe it really is a case of who has more power like Tola suggested.

  12. Interesting debate, Myne. So many concepts to take on board here - individual responsibility, morality and use of power.

    I think it's ultimately about all of these...The orator cannot be absolved of their individual responsibility to act honorably towards others just because their audience is gullible.

    The audience must also take individual responsiblity for their own actions/reactions. People can choose how they wish to react in any given situation. They can choose to exercise good judgement or they can choose not to.

  13. this is a masterpiece myne, ...Don't blame the preacher, blame it on the gullibility and lack of discerning spirit/mind of the audience, it is very common here in Naija though it's a world phenomenon.

  14. Myne, I'm with Rita on this one.

  15. The environment, the audience and the orator are to blame.

    The environment has its part in creating the perception of need. For instance the environment in say Germany or China will not accept fake miracle evangelists that African environments do.

    The audience has its parts to blame for seeking quick fix solutions to needs or not accepting their shortcomings.

    The Orator for their level of manipulation and cunning

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  17. Ah, I typed almost a page and the silly browser crashed. So I'll summarise, it depends on the oarator and audience and the situation.

    P.S Wife of the Gods is a fantstic read

  18. interesting perspectives, some of which I had not considered. I guess when I point to the audience to be responsible, same goes to the speaker. And again, of course the environment or situation that makes the listeners more susceptible to the sweet talk of the orator.

    @Juanita, sorry about that. I am enjoying the book. Nice mystery indeed.

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  20. I was going to say mum but i will speak in all three contexts:

    1. Hitler worked with the greed of the people. He got poor people whom he promised to help move up.

    2. As par Rev King, he worked with people who did not know the word of God. I understand the place of spiritual authority and it does not extend to physical, sexual abuse or murder. The audience should draw the line but they were following a man and not God because the nature of God is clearly written in the bible. If your leader acts contrary to God, you can refuse the teaching. Now if only they had read their bibles.

    3.For the preacher Jimmy whatever, if you jump into fire does not mean i will jump into fire, where does the word say i should jump into fire. The word says, 'He loves me with an everlasting love...'

    As for Ade Demi, you must have the Holy Ghost to discern spirits and obey when you hear. A Christian cannot live a victorious life without the spirit of God.

    I go with Rita...

    and some guy said something about having a discerning spirit.

  21. Thanks for that comprehensive reply Tisha, especially the part on Rev King. A discerning spirit is very important in such spiritual matters.

  22. Interesting debate Myne. I'd blame the receiver, who chose to believe without investigation.
    In some other situations, I'll blame the media, the government and 'we' the objective onlookers; who refuse to raise alerts when we see something not right. Eg there was this story about a British woman duped by a Naija boy. I could forgive the woman but I felt her daughter who recognised the dupe for what it was did not try hard enough. I would have seized her laptop, blocked her account, written to interpol etc before matters got out of hand like they did. my 2 pence...

  23. Very simple..
    It's the audience and the choice they make after listening to the orator..
    Cause no matter how good or skillful the orator is, he can't go far or succeed in his quest without the choices the audience would make to either swallow everything hook,line and sinker without question or do it with some form of caution..

    Who's to blame?
    The audience of course..

  24. @Ginger, Shade and 2cute, It's nice to get these different opinions in a debate, and that's why I enjoy these posts. Thanks for sharing..

  25. BOTH!....i mean,GOD has given us a wonderful gift apart from life which is FREE-WILL! So everybody is responsible for what he /she decides to listen to. So if an individual decides to use sweet-mouth to begin brain-washing someone for selfish reasons, it's up to the person to cry out & the orator would be brought to order! or simply walk away! Infact, i just finished discussing a similar issue regarding the church with someone this morning.weldone, an enjoyable debate.

  26. I find myself reluctantly yet inevitably blaming the audience. I have found myself blaming the audience because to do otherwise could potentially open the floodgates. Where would we draw the line? Human society needs to rest upon that basic principle. What basic principle? The principle that says every human is responsible for his/her actions. To venture away from the principle and blame the orator is the start of a journey down a dangerous path. Why? Well, I suppose governments can be viewed as potential Orators and citizen’s audiences… No matter whom the Orator is he/she will always present their case, tell their story, or share their opinion. However the audience will at a minimum have a set of independent facts to hands and innate sense of moral judgment and survival. They will be at least aware that the orator is asking them to make a conscious choice to go against the norm. At this point they have a choice. The orator is only to blame when the audience is totally and utterly oblivious to the fact that they have a choice and when they are unaware of what the norm is. This is a rarity so in the first instance I blame the audience.


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