On Speech and Crowds

Twittering into tyranny.– The thrill of pith has been universalized, thereby infinitely diminishing the value, not to mention the standard, of pithiness. Today, men may become leaders of nations, or the favorites of millions, merely by saying “I hate them,” or “I love you,” at an opportune moment — particularly by saying it loudly, witlessly, and condescendingly. In such a universe, the man who speaks in ordered, quiet thoughts, offers reasons, and as often as not ends with a question, is dismissed as boring, weak, and irrelevant. The democratization of the aphorism entails the reduction of language to a blunt instrument for striking men down — a tool of hand-to-hand combat to be wielded by obedient mobs for the sake of mass coercion, and nothing more.

Great man.– From the fact that somebody is “a big man” we cannot infer that he is a man; perhaps he is merely a boy, or a chameleon of all the ages of life, or a bewitched little female. [Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Walter Kaufmann translation, §208]

Today, everyone drinks, so I do not drink, lest I be mistaken — or worse, lest I mistake myself — for everyone. The same formula may be repeated with regard to my position relative to any number of today’s delusional comforts and fake fulfillments. I refuse. I abstain. I reject — not as a “statement” or a histrionic display, but merely because the prospect of being immersed in Today is profoundly unappealing to me. I stand apart from the great circle dance — outside the circle, where I may be laughed at or scoffed at by the dancers. Both sounds, the laughing and the scoffing, please me a little as reminders of my separation, and of the reason for it.

The only speaker worth hearing is he whose voice is not joined to the chant of a crowd, for he is the only one whose voice may be presumed to be expressing a thought. And one must never confuse the leader of a chant with an independent speaker; such a leader is merely a glorified functionary of the crowd. Chanting in all its forms, however dispersed or complex, is the antithesis of speaking. Genuine speech is connected, both essentially and etymologically, to the Greek logos. Chanting is not. The chant derives either from the gods or, as in our nihilist-populist age, from the many — which, to retrace the chain of causality to its ultimate sources, means from the State.

To move the crowd.– Must not anyone who wants to move the crowd be an actor who impersonates himself? Must he not first translate himself into grotesque obviousness and then present his whole person and cause in this coarsened and simplified version? [The Gay Science, §236]

You may also like...