Excerpt from his new book.
Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.
He wants endless debate on protecting the nation but only action on global warming. Inherent in his philosophy is the idea that debate takes time and we have all the time in the world to sit and contemplate the people trying to kill us, but we must protect the pretty polar bear now.
For example, hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake. Yet, incredibly, all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious.
More closed questions. Hardly anyone thinks it was a good idea to stop a madman before he developed a nuclear weapon, which George Tenant says in his new book would have been operational by 2007.
In the world of television, the massive flows of information are largely in only one direction, which makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They hear, but they do not speak. The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience." Moreover, the high capital investment required for the ownership and operation of a television station and the centralized nature of broadcast, cable and satellite networks have led to the increasing concentration of ownership by an ever smaller number of larger corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America.
Shallow from the man that invented the internet where media is more interactive than ever before. The Left never decried media ownership and one-directional information when liberals were the only voice in media. Now that talk radio is dominated by the Right and FoxNews offers an alternative to “Republicans are starving children” message, we’re in danger.
In practice, what television's dominance has come to mean is that the inherent value of political propositions put forward by candidates is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based ad campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. The high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in politics—and the influence of those who contribute it. That is why campaign finance reform, however well drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the dominant means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue in one way or another to dominate American politics.
We critics of campaign finance reform said up front that money will never leave politics, the criminalization of money in politics will only create more independent counsels. If Gore wants ideas to flourish and image-based ad campaigns to end then he needs to support term limits. If people are coming and going in Washington then the only thing that is constant will be ideas.
As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government. In the study, I pointed out the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason.
This is a valid point, but if you want logic and reason to be the keystone to political debate then you have to behave differently during a debate. Thomas Sowell made an astute observation back in March. He says that there is no longer interaction in these forums of debate.
Usually either the hosts or the guests have predetermined positions on issues, and they are not about to change them.
Regardless of what the issue is, do not expect either a liberal or a conservative to say: "You know, I never thought of it that way. I agree with you."
That could leave a lot of silence, unless somebody had another topic ready to go. More important, whoever went over to "the enemy" would lose his standing as a liberal or conservative.
If either a guest or the host has a pointed question that cuts to the heart of the issue at hand, the first thing the person on the receiving end is likely to do is sidestep the question, saying something like "That's not the real issue" -- and go back to expounding his prepackaged talking points.
All that you learn from watching these kinds of "debates" is how clever some people are, how fast on their feet, and how big a supply of rhetoric they have.
We must create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. We must stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo-studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the rule of reason.
Earlier Gore wants a debate and now he wants to end debate by eliminating people who don’t approach problems with his worldview. They’re cynical and they confuse people who want to agree with him. He has all the answers.
Wouldn’t reason suggest that if we try and try a particular approach and fail the approach doesn’t work? Where is the reason behind having government continue to run failing schools? Why do we keep trying to spend money to end poverty? Why does Gore say Bush’s tax cuts cost money when revenue increased?
If Gore is serious about “respect for the rule of reason” he needs to fight to eliminate the excesses that Democrats and the welfare state have contributed. He calls the other side cynical but will tell you that the government can run the best schools and spend their way out of poverty when practice has shown that neither works. Who is really clinging to superstition when it comes to the welfare state?
Let’s have some fun with a paragraph:
And what if an individual citizen or group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television?
Why must it be television? Are there no other ways to express one’s self?
Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion.
Back in the old days before media conglomeration, citizens had their own TV channels where they could opine for hours. Now, we have to “resort” to raising money.
But too often they are not allowed to do even that. MoveOn.org tried to buy an ad for the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast to express opposition to Bush's economic policy, which was then being debated by Congress. CBS told MoveOn that "issue advocacy" was not permissible.
Gore spoke to a group of captive Chinese during his global warming movie and didn’t even remind the viewer that Chinese audiences are told what to think. Gore opposed the liberation of Iraq where in millions of former slaves now practice free speech. No, real free speech is what one is allowed to say during the Super Bowl.
Then, CBS, having refused the MoveOn ad, began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the president's controversial proposal. So MoveOn complained, and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporarily, I mean it was removed until the White House complained, and CBS immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the MoveOn ad.For a guy that’s pining for reasoned debate, Gore plays a trick here. You’d have to read this section a few times before you realized that Bush didn’t run an ad during the Super Bowl he ran ads on CBS at other times. Gore is saying that since Bush’s ads run at other times, MOVEON should be able to run their’s during the Super Bowl. Let’s move back to 1992 when a Special 60 Minutes ran right after the Super Bowl where Bill and Hillary were allowed to spend 30 minutes refuting the bimbo eruptions. His campaign was sagging and that saved him. What Republican was ever given such a boost by CBS?
The other thing Gore does here is refer to the White House running ads. The White House is a branch of government, they don’t run ads. Bush’s campaign funded by the same kind of people that fund MOVEON provide that money. Gore who wants an end to chicanery is trying to create a David and Goliath image where none exists.
Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.
Doesn’t he realize that having a government that caters to your every need is why people are so apathetic? You have to be a contributor, a tax payer to appreciate the mechanizations of government. How does he expect these neophytes to participate? Are they not asking him for enough goodies? Ah, they aren’t angry enough about global warming.
Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.
Get this. It’s not that people have become more sophisticated about politics and political power, but they have become too cynical to listen to his “experts.” Wasn’t this the party and generation that promoted the idea of “Question Authority?” Now that they are running the show, we need to shut up and follow like sheep.