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Shut up, Fintan!

The Courts belong to the public world. The speech (and writing) of the courts is public speech and public writing.

Consequently, we in our office occasionally nominate the late Conor Cruise O’Brien as our preferred witness (on any topic, in any case).

He excelled at public speech and writing. He was wonderfully combative and would not suffer fools gladly. In short, he would have made mincemeat of most counsellors. (That’s a good US word to describe a “trial lawyer”).

His gifts were self confidence and familiarity with the public world. Most witnesses lack both to some degree, especially the latter. They are vulnerable, consequently, to mendacious forms of cross-examination.

Conor Cruise O’Brien himself demonstrates this to some degree. He remarked that he recognised his enemies by their approbation of the ideas of Rousseau. This was a harsh standard. Few people know the source or sources of the ideas they use to prop up their speech, not to speak of their lives. To take everything they might say as defining them perfectly is just wrong. To challenge them to defend the propositions inherent in their speech is also, generally, unfair. After all, Rousseau, among other things, undermined the “Ancien Regime”; he pointed to the fact that social conditions were the product of bad government, not the fault of the populace in misery. These opinions would not generally be considered contentious now (among Social Democrats, anyway). Likewise, they are not rebutted by being paraded for inspection with some other doctrine of Rousseau’s, now, perhaps, considered indefensible.

What is the defining characteristic of real troublemakers is their failure to allude to any form of idea in their speech or writing. They seek instead to give the impression that they are simply representative of a general current view, undefined.

They speak in terms of the title to this post.

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  1. By Red Links 19/01/10 | Alexia Golez on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    […] On the best sort of witness. […]