The Groaning of Al Gore
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/20/2007 8:00:00 PM
Al Gore hasn't even gotten into the presidential race, and he is already beating up on the media—in this case, television—which is interesting because, as a part owner of Current, he himself is a television executive. Nonetheless, Gore blames television for most of the ills of the world in his new book, The Assault on Reason, excerpted in the May 28 edition of Time.
In one impassioned portion, he writes, “The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by the empire of television.” Jeez.
He argues that it's too easy to blame just President George W. Bush and his administration for getting us into the war. We should also blame the TV-addled public whose marketplace of ideas has been overrun by misguided electronic media. Instead of paying attention to important matters, the public has been titillated with “serial obsessions” ranging from the O.J car chase to Paris and Nicole. Thanks to big, bad TV, we were all gazing at Britney's navel, and meanwhile the country was marching to war. Who knew?
There is no doubt in our mind that TV did mishandle the run-up to the war, as CBS' John Roberts conceded to B&C in an interview last week. But flawed Iraq-war coverage was not a TV exclusive. The New York Times published what amounted to an apology on May 26, 2004, for its gullibility. Blaming television for for this lousy war, rather than blaming the Bush Administration and blaming weak politicians of both parties—Congress voted for this war—is ludicrous.
Gore opines that the reasons legislators aren't hanging on the every word of their fulminating colleagues—all those empty seats in the House and Senate chambers during speeches—is that they are out raising money to pay for TV commercials. But the biggest impediments to election reform are politicians themselves. He also asserts, “The news media seldom report on Senate speeches anymore.” What? C-SPAN reports them wall-to-video-wall. And the Sunday political-affairs shows are more aggressive than they were in the good old days of television that Gore imagines.
Yet, Gore decries consolidation and lays into “media Machievellis” who are “hollowing out our Democracy” to make room for their “propagandistic electronic messaging.”
Assuming for a second that Gore is absolutely right on the mark, how in the world did Gore's old boss, Bill Clinton, get raked over the media coals for 24 hours a day during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and still maintain the support of the majority of the electorate?
Gore ought to be embarrassed by The Assault on Reason, whose title alone is a good, one-line assessment of its overall jingoistic message. His essay is the rant of a politician who has just discovered what millions of intelligent, in-touch Americans already know: We watch TV. Maybe we watch too much TV. We don't know enough about the world around us.
Television didn't create this situation. It is there to be watched, or not. It can be tuned to Spike or PBS. Al Gore concludes that the “well-informed citizenry” is in danger of becoming the “well-amused audience.” There are some “inconvenient truths” in Gore's media screed. There's also a load of hyperbole.
This sounds like a book you could pass on in favor of sitting down with a good TV show.
In America today there is a price for everything... A price for life and a price for death, a price for truth and a price for lies. All our troubles can be laid at the feet of the people, just as in ancient Rome, Americans have gotten lazy, fat, obsessed with pleasure visual, and physical. If we had real patriotism in this country, there would be hundreds of thousands of people demanding truth in there newpapers and in the media....our founding fathers could not have foreseen the wealth and power of America, nor could they forsee the degree that corporations would go to reamin powerful at the cost of working Americans. One might ask was the dream that the founding fathers had unrealistic? no outside enemy or terrorist is destroying America but it is Americans themselves with their own apathy and ignorence. Gore''s book is one voice. But like so many other voices who speak truth, is it too much trouble to read the truth, or hear it, or to find it out? Isn''t it much easier to believe a nicely packaged lie or half truth, a lie dressed in preconceptions and easy prejudices?...no outside terrorist could do the damage that is being done to our country right now by men and women who call themselves Americans and who sit in seats of power. Healing has to begin with truth, even if that truth costs someone thier jobs.
Robert Stanley - 5/25/2007 8:04:00 PM EDT
Your criticism is off base and like it or not, Gore's concerns are right on the money--but have most to do with media consolidation. Your editorial is so defensive that you sound silly--like you don't "get" how important it is to steer television and all media more toward being better watchdogs for citizens to help our political and day-to-day situations.
Be it media consolidation, an increasingly dumbed-down audience preferring Paris Hilton or whatever? The "watergate"-breaking, upstanding, at-least-sort-of-independent, Vietnam-in-your-living-room compelling media must collectively find itself again.
MAJOR KUDOS to those doing the job right for the public because it's so hard to do with all this big business consolidation hanging over our heads.
I'm no Gore groupie but give a guy with good points due credit. Hope more high profile types find a fricken soul.
Marcia - 5/23/2007 12:38:00 PM EDT
Your point about Current TV is idiotic, guys. The whole point of his network is that it's user-oriented and user-driven, much like the internet (which he was prescient in supporting). The problem he sees in normal TV is that it's controlled by a select few and reaches millions upon millions.
AdamA - 5/22/2007 8:03:00 PM EDT
And thanks for keeping my email address private like I opted for. Not that it really matters, but still...
Michael G - 5/21/2007 12:39:00 PM EDT
â€œAssuming for a second that Gore is absolutely right on the mark, how in the world did Goreâ€™s old boss, Bill Clinton, get raked over the media coals for 24 hours a day during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and still maintain the support of the majority of the electorate?â€
Iâ€™m a bit unclear with this. Are they implying that, if for some reason Clinton was eligible to run in 2000, he would have won? Isnâ€™t that a bit presumptuous?
I have to admit my memory is getting a bit fuzzy, but when Clinton launched those missile strikes against al Qaidaâ€¦ did the TV networks and cable news put any effort into finding out the legitimacy of the al Qaida threat, and not the â€œWag the Dogâ€ arguments that soon followed? If not, thatâ€™s an awfully wobbly soapbox on which Anon. was standing.
And shouldnâ€™t everyone, including B&C, be concerned on some level â€œthat the â€˜well-informed citizenryâ€™ is in danger of becoming the â€˜well-amused audience,â€™â€ whether itâ€™s as imminent as Gore says or not?
Michael G - 5/21/2007 12:33:00 PM EDT
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