…. After they finished and the moderator opened the floor for questions, the usual thing happened. The questioners by and large had no questions. Instead they offered up prolix piles of words that led nowhere in particular. Some sought to show off what they mistook as their own superior knowledge. Others scolded. A few got lost in their own labyrinths. The closest we came to a question was the j’accuse rhetorical jab more or less in the form, “Don’t you agree that you are an ignorant buffoon?”
Some of the questioners were deliberately abusing their opportunity. That’s bad manners and an erosion of the civility that is needed for worthwhile public debate. But a good many of the questioners simply didn’t know how to ask a question. They were caught in the fog between wanting to communicate something that seemed to them urgent to declare and the need to ask.
You really have to read the whole thing (it’s not long). The author gives an excellent list of advice for, well, how to ask a question…
I’m reminded of Tom Lehrer‘s (whose birthday it is today!!) opinion on communication –
“Speaking of love, one problem that recurs more and more frequently these days in books,and plays,and movies and so on, is the inability of people to communicate with the people they love. Husbands and wives who can’t communicate; children who can’t communicate with their parents, and so on. And the characters in these books, and plays, and so on – and in real life – I might add, spend hours bemoaning the fact that they can’t communicate. I feel that if a person can’t communicate the very least he can do is to shut up.”