Opinion: The Babbling Brood


The famed Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once mused that, “To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”

Much like his music, Mozart makes the point here in a both concise and eloquent matter.  Like many artists, he has keen insight into the human condition.  We tend to be a talkative lot.  From the very youngest age, we learn that our ability to communicate enables us to gain control of the world around us.  Mom, Dad and big brother will help us fulfill our desires if we can only convince them to do so.  It is like having control over a platoon of giants!

As we grow a bit older, and taller, we find that nuanced language can be a powerful tool to achieve even greater influence over, to paraphrase theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, the hearts and minds of men.  We come to know the authority that is found in an effective turn of phrase.  To be sure, folks can only be influenced if they generally have a predilection to follow a belief.  But some of us have become trained experts hired to affect public opinion.  For a fee, we are willing to craft messages designed to carefully manipulate what is thought about a person, place, or thing – think political candidates, Carmel roundabouts, or school funding referendum.

If Mozart is on to something, can we talk too much?  Can we brow beat our fellow humans into disagreement simply by demanding their compliance with too great a fervor?  And in the noisy world of nearly universal Internet access and social media, do we ensure that the messages carried are increasingly shrill?  Since the babbling brood of “experts” is unlikely to shut up, is it best simply to tune out?