Have you ever listened to a politician or mainstream celebrity speak? Is there a school where people learn to rely on empty platitudes? To speak and basically say nothing of substance at the same time? Is there a cadre of PR professionals coaching these people on how to say nothing? I always wonder if it’s something they learn as they climb up the ladder into social prominence or an innate skill they need to have as a precursor to minor fame. These seem to be questions without answers.
I think the more interesting question is why we ask them certain questions at all. There is a journalistic imperative to collect primary source material in the form of quotes so it can form the foundation of a story, but it’s hard to understand what value those quotes provide when someone is saying nothing at all. When a politician is asked about a nuanced policy debate and talks in sports analogies or answers a question that wasn’t asked it wastes our time. When an actor is asked about their role in a new film we get the empty answer we all expect. When an athlete is asked to break down some play or their mental framework in a moment, we know they will use the language of coaches or base their answer on some idyllic description of teamwork.
We know what they will say and yet we ask them anyway. We air or print those words so they can be copied by those that come next. If I could offer a remedy, which I never do, I would suggest we stop asking. We don’t want artists to explain their work. Instead it stands for itself. Politicians and celebrities and athletes should also let their actions speak for themselves because the explanation is almost always a lot of nothing.