Stand Out

Is David Starkey a racist? Maybe but I wish he’d just get some manners

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In all of the blah blah blan about Mr Starkey’s appearance on ‘Newsnight’ to discuss the riots and their causes, there’s one point that both sides miss. It’s Starkey’s lack of courtesy, generosity and charm that makes him easy to dislike and difficult to listen to. On ‘Newsnight’ last week he was pretty well behaved compared to his ‘Question Time’ and many other appearances on the BBC, but he still managed to come over as detached and slightly deluded.  But he has a right to his opinions doesn’t he?

I loathe the pompous ass, but on reviewing the debate, I think that he made some serious points that were worth hearing, so why wasn’t he ‘heard’?  Starkey has provided such views, stridently, repeatedly and unapologetically on almost every occasion he’s been asked.  He’s been the BBC”s acceptable ‘right wing loony’ for years, and Starkey’s presenting ‘style’ is based upon his self-righteous, rude and dismissive presence, that seeks to explore the ‘wrong’ in another’s argument rather than the ‘right’. Typical bloody historian (I’m one myself). And for the record I don’t think that he’s any more racist than most white, middle-aged men living in the UK.  But he’s hard work to listen to, because he’s so unpleasant socially. He’s that typical obnoxious type that has high status (conferred upon him by others and in his own head) and low social skill.  We shouldn’t be surprised that he’s in trouble now as he’s courted controversy and publicity for years. So why has he been successful? Because TV producers want controversial opinions strongly expressed. But it’s his ‘tone of voice’ that’s the problem here.

Listen to what he said here and decide for yourself whether someone modest, calm and reasoned, delivering the same words in a moderate tone would have provoked the same response.  Of course they wouldn’t.  It was Starkey’s spit-flecked delivery and his complete lack of grace that multiplied the power of what he was saying.  He looked and sounded like every Guardian reader’s idea of a racist and so most of us stopped listening.  But then he’s built his TV career on that rabid approach so who cares?  Let him take the flack, for his vanity and lack of flexibility in debate, if for nothing else.

The lesson for professional presenters though?   Simply this- those of us who have to speak against the grain in life and business should make sure that we speak softly, and courteously when we do.  Otherwise the other side won’t hear us and that makes us redundant in every way.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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