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Sunday, September 20, 2020
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Shelf confidence

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IN these lockdown days, politicians are routinely interviewed at home via a remote TV link – and many are seen smugly sitting in front of shelves lined with impressive-looking books.

The weighty volumes usually highlight the apparent erudition and intelligence of the interviewee. They are displays of shelf confidence, you might say. Or, as one writer superbly puts it, they are ‘The Credibility Bookcase.’ 

Have the MPs actually read any of those books? I doubt it.

Some viewers make a game during these interviews of ignoring the politician’s words – no great loss there – and instead try to make out the titles of the tomes on the shelf. 

The eagle-eyed can spot a book that’s never been read. An indentation on the cover is a sure sign that until the interview it was propping up a wobbly table leg. A mark on the spine shows it was used as a doorstop. A splattered insect on the cover indicates use as a fly swatter, while tea stains are testimony to its service as a coaster. 

But MPs still insist on being posed in front of their home libraries as they pronounce and pontificate. 

It would be brilliant if a brave TV presenter called their bluff . . .

‘Thank you, minister, for your views on the latest coronavirus developments. One final question. I see one of the books on your shelf is Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory. Tell me, what is your view on the validity of the transverse Doppler effect and the Lorentz Factor in experimental investigations of Special Relativity?’ 

 ‘Er . . . ’

‘And you have a copy of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Can you give me your take on his argument against the epistemological emphasis of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant?’

– ‘Er . . . well . . .’

‘Thank you, minister, most revealing. Now back to the studio.’

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Weaver Sheridan
Weaver Sheridan is an amateur local historian and wannabe best-selling novelist.

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