I’ve said before that there are three things you should never talk about on the internet: religion, politics, and race. I’ve already broken one of those rules by talking about race in a previous post, and I’m about to break another one in this post. This time, however, I’ll be talking about politics. Like many people, last night’s presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden has left me with more questions than answers. The debate was fraught with interruptions, exclamations, and other unprofessional occurrences of the like. Most notably, Mr. Trump interrupted Mr. Biden a total of 128 times last night. Although it may have seemed like madness, there might have been a strategic undertone to it. Apparently, these frequent interruptions are a means of making one’s opponent seem less authoritative called face-threating action. The idea behind it is that we don’t tend to interrupt people in positions of power, and that if we do interrupt someone, then they must not be in a position of power. Whether Mr. Trump’s interruptions were strategic or not I can’t say, but his use of face-threating action did seem to comply with his usual strategy of attempting to appear strong and powerful. Mr. Trump wasn’t the only one attempting to gain the upper hand in the debate. Mr. Biden appeared to be using another subtler form of face-threatening action when he attempted to call the validity of Mr. Trump’s statements into question. Mr. Biden also seemed to be using a lot of informal language. The effect of his use of informal language was to equalize the power differences between him and the President. Now, if we characterize Mr. Trump’s speech as blunt and direct and Mr. Biden as slightly more polished and having the tendency to equivocate, would it make sense to say that their speeches were analogous to the parties they represent? I certainly think so.
Hi, I'm Om, the author of Lingua Franca.