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Walter J. Ong Tells It Like It Is

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Walter Ong
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 31, 2020: On December 25, 2020, the pseudo-intellectual Dr. James Lindsay (born in 1979; Ph.D. in mathematics, University of Tennessee, 2010) published a lengthy pseudo-intellectual-article in the pseudo-intellectual-magazine he founded, in which he failed to mention President Donald ("Tweety") Trump and his most ardent fans even once, because he (Lindsay) is so preoccupied with certain political-correctness pseudo-intellectuals in academia: "Psychopathy and the Origins of Totalitarianism" in New Discourses:

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However, figuratively speaking, the political-correctness pseudo-intellectuals in academia that Lindsay critiques are small potatoes compared to Trump and his most ardent followers.

Besides that, there is a far more intelligent and reasonable way to describe and explain the paranoid style in American politics (in Richard Hofstadter's terminology) on the right and the left than the pseudo-intellectual thought that Lindsay deploys in his lengthy essay.

Now, in my first and only 2014 e-book titled Walter J. Ong: How and Why Things Are the Way they Are, I described and explained the thought of the American Jesuit renaissance specialist and cultural historian Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955). As my subtitle indicates, Ong perceptively tells it like it is - and explains how and why things are the way they are.

Consequently, I was fascinated recently with Dr. Joanna Gardner's insightful online essay "The Politics of Literacy and Orality" (dated December 19, 2019), which is primarily a critique of Trump's basically oral style, but balanced out with favorable assessments of political leaders in the past who significantly used hallmark features of literacy in their oral public presentations (such as former Presidents Abraham Lincoln [Republican], John F. Kennedy [Democrat], and Barack Obama [Democrat]):

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Dr. Gardner perceptively draws on Ong's thought in his summative 1982 book Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (Methuen), his most widely translated book. In my estimate, her carefully nuanced discussion is not an inaccurate representation Ong's thought. Consequently, I would urge you to read her insightful online essay as a counterbalance Lindsay's dismal essay about certain political correctness pseudo-intellectuals in academia. In effect, she aligns what Hofstadter refers to as the paranoid style in American politics with the oral spectrum of features that Ong discusses in his summative 1982 book.

But for further relevant reading about Ong's thought, see his 1967 book The Presence of the Word: Some Prolegomena for Cultural and Religious History (Yale University Press), the expanded version of Ong's 1964 Terry Lectures at Yale University.

Briefly stated, Dr. Gardner's perceptive Ongian observations pertaining to the oral spectrum of features discussed by Ong are equally applicable to the paranoid style in American politics past and present, including President Trump and Senator Barry Goldwater (Republican of Arizona) and Senator Joseph McCarthy (Democrat of Wisconsin); to the fascist paranoid style of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Francisco Franco; and to the communist paranoid style of Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh.

Now, for further reading about John F. Kennedy's view of Senator Joseph McCarthy (Democrat from Wisconsin), see Fredrik Logevall's new 2020 book JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 (Random House; see the index for McCarthy for specific page references).

But also see my OEN article "Fredrik Logevall's New Book About JFK, 1917-1956" (dated December 28, 2020):

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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