Received Pronunciation – Received Propaganda.

Sir Robert Menzies (@MenziesPM) | Twitter
Sir Robert Menzies..Prime Minister of Australia 1949 – 1966.

You’d be right to ask what radio broadcasters, Cambridge Analytica, Lord Haw Haw and “received pronunciation” all had in common and perhaps be not a little surprised if I tell you it was to win political approval and/or elections.

“Received Pronunciation”…now, I have been around for a good many years, but I had never heard that expression before…perhaps, although it is no secret code or anything, it is an expression more familiar within the circles of radio broadcasting and English language pronunciation..being once the “preferred accent” for radio broadcasting on both the BBC and our own ABC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Received_Pronunciation . One such popular program presenter..: Arch McKirdy went on to become a voice trainer and mentor to many well-known presenters on the ABC..:

“ McKirdy became a voice teacher and mentor to many ABC presenters, including Norman Swan, Margaret Throsby, Geraldine Doogue and Fran Kelly, teaching them not only how to speak with the received pronunciation of standard English but how to speak naturally “in groups of words, breathing and pausing naturally” and speak to their audience as if they were talking to a personal friend.” (Wikipedia).

Which brings us to Lord Haw Haw and his Nazi propaganda broadcasts in WW2..: “ Joseph Goebbels, German propaganda minister, called the radio the “eighth great power”, noting the influence of radio in promoting the Third Reich. Goebbels approved a mandate in which millions of cheap radio sets were subsidized by the government and distributed to citizens (Oh dear!…shades of school computers? ). Germans also delivered their messages to occupied territories and enemy states. One of their main targets was the United Kingdom where William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) regularly broadcasted. In the United States, there were Robert Henry Best and Mildred Gillars (Axis Sally).” (Wikipedia). Of course, the tone and accent of the voice the Irishman William Joyce (aka; Lord Haw Haw) used was pure “received pronunciation… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI3IjZ5Ut9g .

“For he (Lord Haw Haw) was something new in the history of the world. Never before had people known the voice of one they had never seen as well as if he had been a husband or brother or close friend….and there was a rasping yet rich quality about his voice which made it difficult to not go on listening, and he was nearly convincing in his assurance. . . “ (Rebecca West : “The Meaning of Treason”

For this is the “secret” of propaganda…that it is done with a tonal quality of voice so reassuringly familiar to the listener so that the natural suspicions that come with botched pronunciation that tells us the approximate birth-nation of the speaker and creates instant caution to any truth in their words…after all, haven’t we all been warned to be wary of “the stranger”?…so along with the attachment to the comforting accent of spoken word, comes the added security (at least for the broadcaster) of anonymity..for how could one be expected to have confidence in a person that was not of at least one’s own “skin”…be it colour, definition of form and /or familiar characteristic gesticulations.

Which continues our journey into the known with that nefarious group named “Cambridge Analytica” and this delving into the propaganda importance of anonymity.

In an age of social media, where one’s name and face can be projected as one desires over many platforms of social connection, so it would seem that anonymity is the last thing on most people’s mind..yet here was this group gathering personal information from people’s social media pages and anonymously collating profiles on millions to use as a propaganda disinformation tool in elections…AND itself choosing to be ABSOLUTELY anonymous in its activities. So we have to ask the question as to whom benefited from their activities?..and the names of several right-wing govt’s leap off the page.

So why all this use of such tools of propaganda by what seems exclusively – in the West – right-wing political parties?..after all, was not the original plummy accent of “received propaganda” derived from the talk of a very low percentage of English speakers of the Aristocracy…a now defunct demographic of social privilege?…and why did it make it’s way to Australia to be used as preferred-speak on our radio broadcasts and if memory serves me well, it just happens that Sir Robert Menzies used that same tonal quality, if with the homely touch of Aust’ vernacular in his radio broadcasts..: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9NHrVlLzxE ..I suspect the use of “received pronunciation” as the base familiarity for the broadcast of false, misleading and demoralising news and information, along with the anonymity ( no facial identification alongside the voice) when broadcasting allows the use of such propaganda tools to have maximum effect when wanting to persuade or at least confuse the listeners to bring them around to one’s particular point of view without the intruding identification of facial expression, colour or any other distraction..and I would claim that broadcasters like John Laws and Alan Jones would have had  much shorter careers had they been on public television rather than behind the security of the radio microphone..after all, does not “familiarity breed contempt”?

After all, how many times have YOU been frustrated and flummoxed when trying to convince  close friend or relative of a fact in conversation and they refuse to believe you and you hear yourself shouting or at least pleading in a plaintive voice all to no avail?…something you rarely if ever hear from a trained speaker of “received pronunciation” and THOSE speakers seem all the more convincing for it!

So when we hear of such and such a politician or their party maintaining their popularity with the voting public of certain demographics, think NOT on so much as what is detrimental about their policies or person, but rather on the dulcet tones the few favourable things that they deliver to the populace is served across airwave and social media platform in the shape of that familiar voice that. . .:

“. . . Never before had people known the voice of one they had never seen as well as if he had been a husband or brother or close friend….and there was a rasping yet rich quality about his voice which made it difficult to not go on listening, and he was nearly convincing in his assurance. . . “

Or :

“. . . teaching them not only how to speak with the received pronunciation of standard English but how to speak naturally “in groups of words, breathing and pausing naturally” and speak to their audience as if they were talking to a personal friend.”

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