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Al Gore surprises
October 6, 2005 12:37 PM   Subscribe

A surprise from Al Gore: I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions. How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"? I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.
posted by Shanachie (80 comments total)

 
Not to knock his words, but is this really a surprise statement from Gore?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2005


Any show of spine from anyone high up in the Democratic party is a surprise, albeit a highly welcome one.
posted by jonson at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2005


He could have been this awesome, you know, five years ago. It might have mattered then.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2005


I don't know. He makes some good points, but whenever Gore starts talking about how everything's going wrong, I always want to ask him why he didn't do anything about it. Until he lost/was cheated out of the election, he was a political insider. He did nothing about the problems he's talking about. He did not, for example, do anything to halt the "hollowing out of America's industrial base", in fact, the Clinton administration accelerated it. He complains that no one debated the Iraq war, while ignoring that the reason that it wasn't debated was that his own party backed the Republicans' war intitiative. The problem with Gore was that he was a good little party cog until he lost, and had no power. Then, magically, he sees that there's something wrong with the system. I agree with a lot of his ideas, but I'd be more impressed if he'd had the courage to do something when he had the chance.
posted by unreason at 12:47 PM on October 6, 2005


Al Gore? Al Gore... The name doesn't seem to ring any bells.
posted by LarryC at 12:47 PM on October 6, 2005


Any show of spine from anyone high up in the Democratic party is a surprise

Too bad Gore doesn't fit into that group anymore.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:51 PM on October 6, 2005


it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

of course he feels like that. poor Al. he'll never recover.

and by the way, how funny that the only Democrat who actually speaks his mind is the one who doesn't have a career anymore
posted by matteo at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2005


This Al Gore... he thinks?
posted by pmbuko at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2005


Is there anyone out there that needs to hear this kind of message that would actually consider Al Gore someone worth listening to at this point? I mean, the choir he is preaching to isn't exactly fully sold on him as a politician, let alone the stalwart Repubs or whoever that believe Saddam Hussein is linked to 9/11. Isn't the usual response from the middle and right a belly laugh when Al Gore is mentioned?
posted by spicynuts at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2005


How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?

You know what, Mr. Gore, ask the other half of Americans how they feel. They'll probably give you the same answer, but for opposite reasons.

That's the problem with this rhetoric when you're preaching to the choir.
posted by sbutler at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2005


What? People putting their own ideology and whatever propaganda that supports it, ahead of the facts? NO WAY.

I suppose this is something we've all known for a while, political discourse is disingenuous. No one cares about logic and having a consistant philosophy, they care about their position(s). People know what result they want, and come up with whatever specious reasoning they can to support their position. Kinda reminds me of a book I saw this weekend on Tim Russert's show.
posted by SirOmega at 12:58 PM on October 6, 2005


Well, his Current TV network isn't exactly doing much about it.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 PM on October 6, 2005


The heart of Gore's critique seems to be the idea that the media have been complicit in a general decline in the level of discorse in the US. Fine.

A bit problematic, however are the long range implications of this concept. Gore remarked that the founders of the United States were the most litterate generation in history and crafted discourse and policy in accord with the principles of reason. Since then, the country has arguably become more democratic, enfranchising the masses, not just the land-owning elites.

Now that our country is no longer run by 'philosopher kings,' our public discourse has suffered. This means that democracy works better when the populace is as enlightened as possible, or when they are mediated by an enlightened bureaucracy.

I agree the media is doing a terrible job, but there seems to be an inherent philosophical conflict in the American democratic system.
posted by pieisexactlythree at 1:01 PM on October 6, 2005


Al Gore? Al Gore... The name doesn't seem to ring any bells.

Uh, hello...how 'bout singlehanded inventor if this here internets?!!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2005


"and by the way, how funny that the only Democrat who actually speaks his mind is the one who doesn't have a career anymore"
See, that's what happens when most of the country is full of douchebags, on both left and right.
posted by klangklangston at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2005


The heart of Gore's critique seems to be the idea that the media have been complicit in a general decline in the level of discorse in the US.

Actually, it's that television makes it difficult to carry on a serious conversation. I think he has a point. See Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and Joshua Meyrowitz's No Sense of Place.

Personally, I was amazed to see Gore referring to Habermas. What kind of politician reads Habermas?
posted by russilwvong at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2005


Now that our country is no longer run by 'philosopher kings,' our public discourse has suffered

The whole idea that the last couple of decades has seen a decline in the quality of debate offered by the media is ridiculous to me and indicative of a very short memory. If I wasn't at work, I could reference some things, but did we not have large scale purveyance of yellow journalism during large stretches of our history? I seem to remember quite a few chapters alluding to this fact in the book Gotham. As I can recall, there has always been a circus atmosphere to a large chunk of media in the country.
posted by spicynuts at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2005


Al Gore is Brian Oblivion!

Reading this makes me so sad. I think about another universe that's existing in parallel with our own, a happy land where the president can write his own speeches, and write them well.

Good for Al Gore. It's a shame no-one will listen to him.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2005


Well, his Current TV network isn't exactly doing much about it.

Yep. To hell with Gore, because in less than a year his attempt to actually proactively do something about a problem that has developed over the course of more than 50 years hasn't yet made a big enough impact to be widely reported in the news media. What a loser he must be.

'Cuz, you know, we want our revolutions fast, fast, fast. Pretty, too.
posted by davejay at 1:21 PM on October 6, 2005


First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.

Information takes many forms. He has a belief that somehow FMV is the secret to distributing information. How he can berate television with one hand and then coddle it with the next is beyond me.

Let's start asking why bright, flashy things take attention away from important information. Why is it that a 30 second commercial is going to get more attention than a pamphlet mailer or website? Why is there a fixation on television (and not just in the US) and how do we curb it?

How do you make the public care about what's going on in the world? Why is everyone a spectator and no longer a participant? Is it laziness? If it is, how do you motivate people to get up off their ass?

Gore shouldn't be discouraged by the lack of FMV on the internet. His message came through fine by just reading the text (the distribution of which costs very little, in terms of bandwidth).
posted by ruthsarian at 1:22 PM on October 6, 2005


'Cuz, you know, we want our revolutions fast, fast, fast. Pretty, too.

Super-sized and with a coke, please.
posted by ruthsarian at 1:24 PM on October 6, 2005


He could have been this awesome, you know, five years ago. It might have mattered then.

I think he's starting to learn from his past mistakes. I think he's going to be a lot more motivated now than he was during his presidential run. I also think he got caught up in the Democratic machine that tried to direct his efforts away from the controversial so as to not allienate people and lose the election.

I think he knows that was a mistake now. And if he keeps up this kind of energy, I think it'd be great to see him run again and stir things up a bit.
posted by ruthsarian at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2005


Al needs to get back to his real work.

posted by brownpau at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2005


That's the best thing I've read in a long time.
posted by bshort at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2005


Hollywood's greatest invention in the past 10 years, reality television, is no match for the media's greatest invention of the past 20 years, consolidation.

Consolidation has permitted a singleness of purpose for support of one thing: more consolidation.

At the expense of all else, all truth, and all hope for political discourse, the media conglomerates have supported the political machine which serves their purpose, more consolidation, less competition of ideas, less competition for votes.

When convergence is complete, and your phone network becomes also your ISP and your TV network and your only source of news, the game will be over for the US. Then our only hope will be for a cultural recognition that US TV sucks, US culture is not to be emulated, and some foreign lead is taken in development of entertainment and media.

The sooner Hollywood is destroyed and the sooner the US entertainment advantage is surrendered, the sooner we can hope for fresh competition of ideas.
posted by surplus at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2005


Nice to hear, but considering the source it rings a mite hollow. Change doesn't come from a few snarks on the sidelines. It needs a concerted effort. He went from the man in the wings to the man who disappeared completely.
posted by uni verse at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2005


... so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politics. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

amen.
posted by whatnot at 1:37 PM on October 6, 2005


Add "reality television" to the standard list of oxymorons. It's a surreally antonymic term for proposterous staged piffle stocked with garroulous imbeciles the way a lake is stocked with trout. And that's just the news.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:38 PM on October 6, 2005


Ya know, one of the few bright spots I thought there would be as a result of having our current Commander-in-Chimp would be not having to listen to this doucebag and his censoring wife anymore.
posted by phearlez at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2005


Yeah, phearlez, it's just all-Gore, all the time now. Terrible the way this speech was broadcast on all media and you couldn't escape it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:47 PM on October 6, 2005


Political-minded developers could make voting easier by helping voters look up politicians real ideology (based on records, donations) by making a non-profit website. That would be something. I have seen both donations and history out there, but not together, and not anywhere near usability standards. It would need volunteers, but I'm sure it would be a hit.
posted by uni verse at 1:48 PM on October 6, 2005


"...studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online." This is pretty hard to believe. Are you watching TV right now?
posted by grahamwell at 1:48 PM on October 6, 2005


I enjoyed reading this quite a bit, and I don't personally find a damn thing wrong with Al Gore. He's a great example of how citizenship should be lived.

He places a lot of blame on the media, but, just to repeat,
It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse

I don't think he's talking about the Metafilter commentary. When I read that, I thought of a lot of what I've overheard in my day to day life. It really is surrealistic.
posted by nervousfritz at 1:49 PM on October 6, 2005


Before Nov. 2000, when I thought of Al Gore it was as Tipper's husband; after then it was as "that weakling" -- not that I thought either he or Bush should win, but as with Kerry, if he didn't want to be President he should've stayed on the porch. Al Gore is what happens when someone who is temperamentally an intellectual feels he has to go into the family business; Kerry was just a minor hack who didn't whoop for the TV cameras.

I still think a Nader presidency would have been interesting, if only because the US's right-wing "media pundits" and "intelligence community" would have been too busy at home to bother with Hugo Chavez.
posted by davy at 1:58 PM on October 6, 2005


Well, I'll at least give him props for referencing Galbraith. The Affluent Society is like a much less wing-nutty version of Chomsky's argument about the rise of the PR industry and it's role in "manufacturing consent."

It would at least be exciting to see him run as an independent next time and say the things you can't say when you're working for the DLC (no, I'm not suggesting that this will happen and yes, I realize the potential for a Perot-like split of the left...just sayin').
posted by leecifer at 1:59 PM on October 6, 2005


Gore: "It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse."

nervousfritz: "I don't think he's talking about the Metafilter commentary."

But dammit I'm trying so HARD!
posted by davy at 1:59 PM on October 6, 2005


Well, Gore is still trying to run from his failures but one thing I've noticed about him is he still, ocassionally makes some good points. I'm glad I didn't hear the speech, Al can be so hard to take but reading it was worth while.

I wouldn't say we've entered an alternate universe but I know a lot of people who share the view that the great American machine might be winding down.
posted by j.p. Hung at 2:02 PM on October 6, 2005


"...studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online."

Most Americans are simultaneously watching telelvision no matter what they're doing.

I know a lot of people who share the view that the great American machine might be winding down.

NO WAY! R U yahoo serious?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on October 6, 2005


"...studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online." This is pretty hard to believe. Are you watching TV right now?

I think they meant downloading.
posted by srboisvert at 2:15 PM on October 6, 2005


I now defer to the honorable John Perry Barlow:

"You now have two distinct ways of gathering information beyond what you yourself can experience. One of them is less a medium than an environment -- the Internet -- with a huge multiplicity of points of view, lots of different ways to find out what's going on in the world. Lots of people are tuned to that, and a million points of view have bloomed. It creates a cacophony of viewpoints that doesn't have any political coherence at all, a beautiful melee, but it doesn't have the capacity to create large blocs of belief.

The other medium, TV, has a much smaller share of viewers than at any time in the past, but those viewers get all their information there. They get turned into a very uniform belief block. TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I've ever seen. Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch. Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob."
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 2:19 PM on October 6, 2005


"Far from being "neutral," television itself predetermines who shall use it, how they will use it, what effects it will have on individual lives, and, if it continues to be widely used, what sorts of political forms will inevitably emerge.

It was only after a long while and many half-steps of change in viewpoint that I finally faced the fact that television is not reformable, that it must be gotten rid of totally if our society is to return to something like sane and democratic functioning."
-J. Mander
posted by mrgrimm at 2:22 PM on October 6, 2005


Perhaps if we give the iraqis cable tv........hmmmmm
posted by IronLizard at 2:32 PM on October 6, 2005


I know a lot of people who share the view that the great American machine might be winding down.

Well, considering the American Machine is now assembled mostly in Mexico and China, it's really a moot point.
posted by wakko at 2:35 PM on October 6, 2005


I...(sigh)... I dunno. Al Gore? Damn. He should stay inert.

If there was one thing WORSE than Gore for the Democratic Party and progressives it was John Freak'n Kerry.

Name one thing Gore did that merited him being president, OR vice president, or even a senator? I can't. Other than living on planet earth, being tall, rich and the son of a connected family and NOT being George W. Bush I can't think of reason he deserved the nomination in 2000. But why is this guy piping up now? Where the hell has he BEEN? What a coward. He should have been raising holy hell after the 2000 election. He should have never shut up about it. But no. Two wars, another suspicious election, an illegal occupation later and here we are.

Goddamn the Democrats are stupid. They are unleashing Gore now? Let us never speak of him again, ok.
posted by tkchrist at 2:41 PM on October 6, 2005


ruthsarian: Let's start asking why bright, flashy things take attention away from important information. Why is it that a 30 second commercial is going to get more attention than a pamphlet mailer or website? Why is there a fixation on television (and not just in the US) --

That's easy. TV is way more entertaining than a pamphlet.

and how do we curb it?

My plan (for when I become Emperor) is to outlaw everything on TV except cartoons. That way people would realize that they shouldn't take anything they see on TV seriously.
posted by russilwvong at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2005


... You could still have TV news, of course. It'd just have to be read by cartoon characters.
posted by russilwvong at 2:59 PM on October 6, 2005


tkchrist writes "But why is this guy piping up now? Where the hell has he BEEN?"

He's spoken on the subject many times since 2000, and every goddam time people ask that question.

America, land of ADD.
posted by clevershark at 3:03 PM on October 6, 2005


He could have been this awesome, you know, five years ago. It might have mattered then.

Yes, it would have mattered the first time - when I had finally begun to feel the beginnings of pride in the Democratic Party again (for the first time in 30 years).

And it would have even mattered the second time with Kerry.

I was raised to be a yellow-dog-democrat - I just never realized they took the "yeller" part so seriously...

Now? I'd eat dog before I'd vote Democrat again.
posted by muckalucka at 3:09 PM on October 6, 2005


Al Gore, Howard Dean, Rick Santorum, Dick Cheney. Discuss.
posted by eatitlive at 3:11 PM on October 6, 2005


Name one thing Gore did that merited him being president, OR vice president, or even a senator? I can't. Other than living on planet earth, being tall, rich and the son of a connected family... I can't think of reason he deserved the nomination in 2000.

Feel free to replace "Gore" in this statement with the proper name of any other president in the past...fifty years? A long time, anyway. The traits you mention are the traits that Americans have almost always looked for in a president. Anything above and beyond that is icing, these days.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:18 PM on October 6, 2005


Why is it that a 30 second commercial is going to get more attention than a pamphlet mailer or website? Why is there a fixation on television (and not just in the US) and how do we curb it?

...

Gore shouldn't be discouraged by the lack of FMV on the internet. His message came through fine by just reading the text (the distribution of which costs very little, in terms of bandwidth).


It came through just fine, but only to the exact people who don't need to hear it.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 3:22 PM on October 6, 2005


He's spoken on the subject many times since 2000, and every goddam time people ask that question.

...and WHY is that? Wait. Don't answer. Because nobody was listening.

Because Gore was a total insider, an empty suit, and always WAS part of the problem. He could never convince anybody otherwise. His passion was false, his credibility low, his principles transparent.
posted by tkchrist at 3:24 PM on October 6, 2005


You know what, Mr. Gore, ask the other half of Americans how they feel. They'll probably give you the same answer, but for opposite reasons.

If you read what he's written, you'll see that his points aren't particularly partisan.
posted by Slothrup at 3:48 PM on October 6, 2005


He has a belief that somehow FMV is the secret to distributing information. How he can berate television with one hand and then coddle it with the next is beyond me.

Yes. Thus far, FMV is the secret to *avoiding* the distribution of information.
posted by Slothrup at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2005


What an idiot. He missed his true calling as an insurance salesman, or something equally banal.

It baffles me when people (such as Gore) complain and whine that there wasn't any public debate on whether or not to liberate Iraq. Were these people asleep from 9/11 until March of 2003? There was PLENTY of debate and discussion about Iraq, from all sides.
posted by davidmsc at 4:16 PM on October 6, 2005


How is this a surprising lecture from a journalism professor?

Also, more beards on politicians, now!
posted by eustatic at 4:22 PM on October 6, 2005


There was PLENTY of debate and discussion about Iraq, from all sides.

davidmsc, many of us would disagree about that.
posted by eustatic at 4:28 PM on October 6, 2005


There was PLENTY of debate and discussion about Iraq, from all sides.

Disagree. The debate was parameterized into supporting/not supporting the president, which turned the republic into a monarchy.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:32 PM on October 6, 2005


All this would be saner, more boring, and probably fiscally responsible if Liberman would have been elected..
posted by Balisong at 4:35 PM on October 6, 2005


Name one thing Gore did that merited him being president, OR vice president, or even a senator? I can't. Other than living on planet earth, being tall, rich and the son of a connected family... I can't think of reason he deserved the nomination in 2000.

Feel free to replace "Gore" in this statement with the proper name of any other president in the past...fifty years?


Whatever you might say of Jimmy Carter, he had a degree in nuclear physics. Bill Clinton was the son of a single mother with few "connections." However you consider their relative successes as presidents, they are both very intelligent men who worked very hard to earn their positions.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:38 PM on October 6, 2005


"a November 2004 Gallup survey found that a third of the public believes the Bible is the actual word of God that should be taken literally and that 45 percent think God created human beings "pretty much in their present form" within the last 10,000 years."

One Grand Canyon, two different tour guides -- alternate universes. The separation seems to be somewhere around the front of the eyeball ...
posted by hank at 5:05 PM on October 6, 2005


What mrgrimm said.

Carter had very high integrity and solid principles. He graduated from Naval Academy in Annapolis serving seven years in the Navy. Carter was progressive when it was down-right dangerous to be so. Carter has EARNED respect.

Clinton... well not so much. Though he oozed charisma - that I can attest to seeing him in person twice. You go to Clinton talk or rally wanting to call him to the carpet. Suddenly your face to face with the man. Time stops. He shakes your hand. Wham. You love the guy and you feel dirty about it. It's like voodoo. (Now I know how my wife feels about Orlando Bloom - in a strictly hetero man-crush sort of way)

Clinton did actually WORK for what he got, unlike Gore or Bush.
posted by tkchrist at 5:13 PM on October 6, 2005


Let's face it, people - Gore and Kerry lost because nobody loved them. A Republican can be elected based on fear. For a Democrat to be elected, they must be loved.
posted by afroblanca at 5:27 PM on October 6, 2005


Maybe the U.S. needs a good Stalin.
posted by davy at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2005


I would say it needs a good Asswhuppin, but I don't want to get the FBI after me (and I think the whuppin's coming anyway, economic-style).
posted by mrgrimm at 5:40 PM on October 6, 2005


Turtles: Uh, hello...how 'bout singlehanded inventor if this here internets?!!

Sigh. Must you perpetuate six year old media spins? If there's a thing that scares me most about the US, its how easy public thinkers are made irrelevant with such canards.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:36 PM on October 6, 2005


I dont think you people are giving enough dis-credit to the right. I mean, you talk about the strangeness of public discourse... don't you think that FOX News and talk radio in general contribute a lot to that? I sure do.

Of course, as soon as one says that, conservatives say that both sides do that. But that's not actually true. The left hasn't anything like the Swift Boat Vets. Or Michael Savage. Or Bill O'Reilly. Or... you get my point.

But I don't know what can be done about it... Gore says American democracy is in grave danger. There a a lot of people who are glad about that, as long as their side gets to pick up the pieces.
posted by herostratus at 7:05 PM on October 6, 2005


Name one thing Gore did that merited him being president

Ummm, winning the popular vote in 2000?
posted by beth at 8:04 PM on October 6, 2005


This is spiraling into retarded political pissing matches.

Gore is an intellectual, in the uncharismatic slightly superior way that so many people dislike. But he's no moron. As someone who has little to lose in a future career, I tend to trust what he's saying a little more.

The reason Gore hasn't been dancing up and down and doing all the charismatic things that some expect him to is that firstly, he's obviously no good at it, and secondly, that news networks don't want to put that kind of thing on television for precisely the reasons Gore mentions in his email.

Re-feudalization, that's my new word for the day.
posted by anthill at 8:26 PM on October 6, 2005


email = speech. I've obviously been getting too much news from the web...
posted by anthill at 8:26 PM on October 6, 2005


al, have you ever heard that people get the government they deserve? ... guess what? ... they get the media they deserve, too

the average american doesn't want political debate ... they want political entertainment ... like rush and michael moore ... guys who'll say funny outrageous things that they can laugh at, agree with or scream themselves hoarse at

clinton knew this ... bush knows this, although he's not that good at it ... you haven't got a clue or you just don't have the goods

there are those of it who hate it ... we've found a simple solution to it ... we've quit watching ... the more of us who do that, the less power they have

that's probably not going to change a lot ... but at least we can be sane and well-informed
posted by pyramid termite at 8:55 PM on October 6, 2005


Or Michael Savage.

Have you listened to Randi Rhodes? Jesus, the women's shrill liberal hysterical hyperbole almost pushed me back to the republican party!
posted by prodigalsun at 8:59 PM on October 6, 2005


"The sooner Hollywood is destroyed"

HEY now just a minute! Hollywood is only two blocks from my apartment. I can see the sign from our roof. I can almost throw a rock all the way to Hollywood. My grocery store and laundromat are there!

Please don't destroy it! Where will I wash my clothes? Yer messin' with my turf here, buddy!

Oh and Randi Rhodes was Ozzy's greatest guitar player, and his death was a real tragedy.

...

What?
posted by zoogleplex at 11:06 PM on October 6, 2005


"They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments."

heh heh. Nice turn of phrase there...
posted by First Post at 11:54 PM on October 6, 2005


Um. This is probably off-topic, but speaking as someone from across the Atlantic, until very recently American politics always seemed an exotic and faintly ridiculous sport - like Sumo or Kabbadi. I could never quite work out why the American right hated Clinton quite that much. Obviously he was the enemy, but he didn't seem to have been that bad a president. He didn't seem to have done anything particularly wrong.

tkchrist's post brought it home - they hate him precisely because he was good at it. In addition to (as far as I can tell) running the country perfectly adequately, he had the quasi-mystical quality of "Presidentiality" in spades - far more than anyone else in the job since World War II with the exception of Kennedy and Reagan. If he had actually managed to achieve anything lasting he could have been up there with the Rushmore-ites. But (as far as I can tell) he didn't. By rights, the left and centre-left should hate him an awful lot more than the right.

(He also must have been the least corrupt President in a while - after all, the opposition spent millions of dollars looking for some sign of wrong-doing and all they managed to find was a blow-job, or at least verbal chicanery around a blow-job. A bit like Homer Simpson having a certificate on his wall to prove that he's sane.)

Sadly with the exception of Bill, the U.S. elections usually resemble reruns of that short, classic animation Bambi vs. Godzilla.
posted by Grangousier at 2:01 AM on October 7, 2005


I think it's fair to say you will continue to be fucked with, up until the point where you get an objective and questioning mainstream media. Or, more likely, people like myself in the rest of the world, will continue to be fucked.

Because the world is fucked when the most powerful nation in the world can start a completely illegitimate and unjust war, without any reaction from the public.

Three quarters of the US population belived that Sadam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

In no country other than the U.S. did opinion polls show a majority of the population was in favor of the war when it started.1

When the US president outright said he wanted to torture prisoners, it was not mentioned in any major news source.

The world is fucked, because the US media is fucked.

It's not about TV being a undemocratic medium by nature. It's about the undemocratic nature of american TV. Why doesn't George W ever have to answer for his actions, in a form other than a white house controlled press conference? Why have I never ever seen the him in an actual debate? (The two-person pre-election presidential debates do not count). There is no two-way communication between the people and the most powerful man in the world, the US president. This is not common practice in any country the US would like to compare itself with.
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 7:01 AM on October 7, 2005


Al Gore is not president for the same reason Adlai Stevenson never was. Americans want movie stars and cowboys as presidents, not dull intellectuals who so arrogantly presume to know how to run the country better than the average person.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:27 AM on October 7, 2005


"...that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?"

I don’t think it’s a coincidance that Lex Luthor is president in the DC universe.
http://www.dccomics.com/features/lex/lexwins.html

That said, I find it odd each time I encounter the situation, particularly on MeFi or other places with a high percentage of blog/internet savvy people, that there is still some focus on the old rules of discourse.
Obviously we have bluster and anger, etc, but these things are belly and gonad centered.
I mean the fixation on the messenger or particulars about the messenger rather than the message.
(The old - ‘on the internet no one knows you’re a dog’ schtick)

One of the things I so enjoy here is that I rarely get arguments because I tend to be an intimidating individual. I don’t often hear what people actually think of my ideas. On the web, people take issue with what I say and my intellect and cogency is regarded (for better or worse) not my stature or demeanor.

I grant in this particular instance (and some others posted here) the issue is not simply what Gore said. But I would like to see less focus on the messenger (no “I’ve been on metafilter longer than you” type pissing contests as a simple example).

Or do we all cede that the commercial marketplace has wholly usurped the marketplace of ideas?

I would argue that a “marketplace” of ideas never existed. I would further argue that the first amendment recognizes this in spirit in the sense that it artificially creates a vacuum for free discourse and that early newspapers were very much like the internet is today (fractured, biased, etc).

We do need an artificially created and maintained media free from economic realities so that, like the “no one knows you’re a dog” concept, it is irrelevant what your socio-economic standing is and only the validity of your ideas matter.

HOW to do that I have no clue, but I think Gore outlined some ways to start.

(Thanks for the links to Neil Postman BTW)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2005


(Thanks for the links to Neil Postman BTW)

No problem. Here's a couple more links: Neil Postman Online. CBC interview.

Q. But what is the consequence of the image taking over from the word? What's the danger in images being more important than words?

A. Well I think it makes people dumber. I mean to put it in a gross sort of way. De Tocqueville, when he wrote his famous book, Democracy in America, said that the politics of America is the politics of the printed word, it was a pretty serious politics. I mean people read books, they read newspapers, magazines, broadsides, pamphlets. They were always dealing with ideas, and alternative possibilties for living a life. When you get an image culture, let's say in relation to politics, then you get the kind of thing that we have in the States that passes for a debate on television so that in the last campaign you have Bush and Dukakis in front of a television camera and one of the reporters says, tell me Vice President Bush, what do you think is the reason for the problems in the Middle East and what solutions can you offer, you have two minutes in which to answer after which Governor Dukakis will have one minute for rebuttal. Well if we were a sane people Bush should turn to the reporter at that point and say how dare you ask this question in that form giving me two minutes to reply and Governor Dukakis a minute to rebutt. What kind of men do you think we are? Or he might have said, what kind of audience do you think this is that they would imagine that this question could be addressed seriously in two minutes.


Postman cites a contrasting example in Amusing Ourselves to Death: the Lincoln-Douglas debates would last for hours at a time. At one point it was getting on to suppertime, so they suggested that they take a break so that the audience could go home, have supper, and then come back for a few more hours.

Internet debates can be like that, but as Gore points out, it'll be hard for the Internet to displace television.
posted by russilwvong at 12:10 PM on October 7, 2005


Without commenting on the substance of Gore's speech (I'll do that, if I do it at all, on my blog), I will say that having been 10 feet from him when he gave it, I didn't think his presentation was all that hot after the first few minutes. I mean, read the text: If I were giving that speech and really believed what I was saying, I'd be shouting, gesturing, raising hell. I won't say his tone was that of a senator discussing a minor amendment to a minor tax bill, but it wasn't much better than that.

But audio is here, so you can judge it for yourself.
posted by lexalexander at 7:22 AM on October 13, 2005


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