It’s early November and the climax of the election season is almost upon us. At times like these, it’s not surprising that Chesterton would have some advice for those who are pushing one candidate or the other.
Don’t say you are not going to say a thing, and then say it. This practice is very flourishing and successful with public speakers. The trick consists of first repudiating a certain view in unfavourable terms, and then repeating the same view in favourable terms. Perhaps the simplest form of it may be found in a landlord of my neighbourhood, who said to his tenants in an election speech, “Of course I’m not going to threaten you, but if this Budget passes the rents will go up.” The thing can be done in many forms besides this. “I am the last man to mention party politics; but when I see the Empire rent in pieces by irresponsible Radicals,” etc. “In this hall we welcome all creeds. We have no hostility against any honest belief; but only against that black priestcraft and superstition which can accept such a doctrine as,” etc. “I would not say one word that could ruffle our relations with Germany. But this I will say; that when I see ceaseless and unscrupulous armament,” etc. “Please don’t do it. Decide to make a remark or not to make a remark. But don’t fancy that you have somehow softened the saying of a thing by having just promised not to say it.
– G. K. Chesterton, A Miscellany of Men