Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Some dictators don’t know how to talk. They know how to speak, of course. They are able to use language. They utter words, but they don’t say anything. Hosni Mubarak, the current president of Egypt (at least at the time of this writing) recently made a speech in an attempt to quell the street protests and demands for an end to his despotic regime.
You might say it was an airy speech, draped in the finery of general principles, wafting lightly on the breeze of abstraction. He uttered sentences such as, “There is a fine line between freedom and chaos and I lean toward freedom for the people in expressing their opinions as much as I hold on to the need to maintain Egypt's safety and stability.” That's a truly amazing sentence. My favorite part is when Mubarak lets us in on his own deepest feelings and commitments. Mubarak “leans toward” freedom for the people. But wait. He leans toward the freedom of the people only as much as he “holds onto” the need to curtail that freedom in the name of safety and stability. In fact, the sentence ends up denying the very thing it started to affirm. It cancels itself. We know nothing, at the end of the sentence, about what Mubarak intends to do. We don't even really understand where he draws the line between freedom and chaos. He gives no opinion on accusations that he runs a corrupt and despotic regime. The people of Egypt have accused Mubarak of failing them and he responds with thin abstractions about the nature of freedom and chaos. Rarely, in fact, did Mubarak directly address the people of Egypt at all in his speech. It was a speech ejected over the heads of the people, launched from the room of an interior ministry somewhere, to be immediately filed away in a drawer labeled “Speeches to Suppress Civil Discontent and Remind the People of the Glorious Future, 2011.”
The tin ear and woolly mouth of this dictator is rather amusing given the fact that the very word “dictator” comes from the Latin verb “dicere,” meaning “to speak.”