Although the content of the speech was highly political, especially in its clinical dissection of post-war US foreign policy, it relied on Pinter’s theatrical sense, in particular his ability to use irony, rhetoric and humour, to make its point. This was the speech of a man who knows what he wants to say but who also realises that the message is more effective if rabbinical fervour is combined with oratorical panache.
At one point, for instance, Pinter argued that “the United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the second world war”. He then proceeded to reel off examples. But the clincher came when Pinter, with deadpan irony, said: “It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.” In a few sharp sentences, Pinter pinned down the willed indifference of the media to publicly recorded events. He also showed how language is devalued by the constant appeal of US presidents to “the American people”. This was argument by devastating example. As Pinter repeated the lulling mantra, he proved his point that “The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance.” Thus Pinter brilliantly used a rhetorical device to demolish political rhetoric.
Michael Billington, writing in the Guardian on Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture, delivered from a wheelchair.
Lovely phrase that — “voluptuous cushion of reassurance”. Must remember it.