Thursday, May 17, 2007

A New Book by Al Gore

Time Magazine calls Al Gore "the perfect stealth candidate for 2008" in their article which excerpts from his new book The Assault on Reason. I've read the excerpts but the book won't be available until next week. Gore says some wonderful things toward developing an understanding of how the media has failed us and what we can do to change the process.
It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong.
One-way media, TV, enables manipulation of public debate which leads to cynicism, doubt and lack of participation.
Unfortunately [there is] 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.

So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way—a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.
I've blogged many times about Gore's point of view (which I share) on this subject. In the area of political dialogue, it might be called the “pollster-consultant industrial complex” [coined by Joe Klein] that has had the same effect in political dialogue as manipulative commercial advertising has on the buying public: lack of spontaneity, test-tube bromides, insipid photo ops, and idiotic advertising combined to pass for political discourse. In the current Time excerpt Gore is less dramatic and confrontational than he was last year when he said:
The conversation of democracy has been desiccated [pulverized; lacking in energy or vitality]. To bring it back to life, break the monopoly of broadcast and cable television.
Is there hope in what he writes? Does he propose a plan to take back the airwaves and enable real awareness and discourse? Here's what he writes:
...broadband interconnection is supporting decentralized processes that reinvigorate democracy. We can see it happening before our eyes: As a society, we are getting smarter. Networked democracy is taking hold. You can feel it. We the people—as Lincoln put it, "even we here"—are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy.