Gore on the Threat to American Democracy

Gore on the Threat to American Democracy

He may be a lousy speaker but this was a compelling speech. I looked for a passage to pick out but they seemed too trite out of context. Really suggest giving it a read.

That kicked a metric ton of ass. However I could do without the self-promotional references to his own TV channel. Kinda undercuts the sincerity of the call to arms when it’s interrupted with advertisements and from what I’ve read, though I’ve never seen it myself, Current is filled with infotainment. Perhaps not “dumbed down” but certainly “tarted up.”

I couldn’t get past the first few lines: America is in Danger. You can’t ignore it, something. It’s strangeness.

Wow. Thank god this guy is off the political stage. And he can retire at Middle Tennessee State University.

America is in danger. And it’s from a category of mediocre leaders that stretch across the spectrum of political parties.

Al Gore at least seems to get it, although it’s a bit weird as he’s had some hand in bringing about the problem. It really is scary how uninformed the American public is; some polls show that as many as half of the US continues to believe the propaganda about connections between Iraq and 9/11 for example. It’s baffling to me how the truth sells so poorly, and everyone is tied up in all the television they “have to watch”.

The media we have clearly doesn’t serve any purpose beyond making itself money, and something should change. Why do we let our government and politics revolve around their greed? I agree with Gore that campaign financing really misses the point; perhaps some sort of mandated air time for political candidates, provided gratis by the networks? Seems to me they owe us a pretty big debt, considering who paid to get them started in the first place.

Thank God the American public doesn’t have such a pathetical short attention span. Wait…

Some interesting thoughts, but I disagree with some of his fundamental arguments. The biggest one is his contention that the printed word constitutes public debate. Like television, the printed word is a one-way means of communication. I suspect that the majority of people in the time of the founders did not actually have easy access to printing presses, and more importanly, most did not have the means of widely distributing anything that they might print. The idea that, in the time of the founders, the average guy on the street could speak to the public in the same way that the newspapers (and the wealthy elite) could is, I suspect, a piece of nostalgic fiction.

He also assigns a nostalgic nobility to the printed word that is factually unwarranted. Shocking irresponsibility in the media is hardly a product of the modern era; we had yellow journalism long before television saturated the airwaves.

That said, I do agree with his assessment of contemporary journalism, and with many of the other points that he makes.

I started to read it, then decided I would just wait for the movie to come out…

I could be wrong, but I don’t think Gore was putting the printed word on a pedestal for the sake of it being the printed word. His idea, if I recall correctly, was that distribution and access to printing presses was a democratizing factor because there weren’t central sources for one-size-fits-all points of view. Anybody could start one up and print handbills. We’re not talking unwieldy, archaic, Gutenberg presses or modern digital printing complexes but a few boards, some letters and some ink. I seem to recall that many countries, and even The Church, tried to regulate the ownership of printing presses for fear of what could happen if “the wrong ideas” were circulated.

These days I doubt anything that’s not an advertisement, “shocking” news about a missing blond girl, or celebrity dish will ever see much in the way of circulation. Because media’s become centralized, into a few hands, mass media we have a analytical race to the bottom in terms of quality in order to attract quantities of viewers. The most desireable viewers, for advertisers, are self-indulgent morons who’ll max out credit cards to buy useless crap.

To the extent there’s any “prestige” journalism left it’s because some few advertising buyers are looking for a smaller, better connected, market - but even then it’s mostly product positioning rather than a serious attempt to expand marketshare. The rest of it, the vast majority of cable news, is simply reality TV packaged up as “news” with lots of flashy graphics.

The marketplace of ideas? It’s a whorehouse of sensationalism and profit-taking out there.

Sure, yellow and biased journalism are nothing new. But we’re supposed to know better, right? We can look back and see how that worked out for us, right? If not, why not?

So, does the proliferation of blogs and web sites with a wide variety of views serve somewhat as the modern day equivilent of the person handing out leaflets that he printed on his small personal press?

I am one of the biggest media critics, as seen in other posts, but I think we’re better served with a wider variety of sources than with 3 networks and a couple of a big newspapers. I think there should be a blatantly conservative news channel, a blatantly liberal news channel, and everything in between. If the argument is that the American people are too stupid to discern and figure things out for themselves, then we have a problem that is deeper than the media.

It does, almost. The circulation still isn’t very broad, and competing with the attention getting power of TV is something that print didn’t have to do “back in the day”. Gore seems to think this may change once broadband is fat enough to stream video comparable to TV, but I’m not sure this is so clear.

Shocking irresponsibility in the media is hardly a product of the modern era; we had yellow journalism long before television saturated the airwaves.

Indeed:

Yes and no. The biggest problem with most blogs, as they exist today, is that they’re not actually out there doing the reporting. They mostly are analyzing the reporting of the traditional media.

I’m not sure splitting everyone into their little ideological camp is good for Democracy. If all I do is consume liberal or conversative media, that’s the only point of view I’ll ever see. I’d have to make a concerted effort to see a single story critical of my viewpoint. How is that a good thing?

A democracy gets the leaders and media it deserves. It’s not because media’s become centralized that we have this problem. It’s because it sells. When Nancy Grace (and her missing-blond-girl-of-the-month) is the highest rated news program in the entire country, it illustrates one unarguable fact: people are dumb. You shouldn’t blame media for giving people what they clearly want. You should blame the people for wanting it.

I’d be comfortable blaming the public only if I believed news should only be driven by profit and ratings instead of public interest. Ratings should only be an issue for entertainment, and news isn’t entertainment. So I’m comfortable with blaming the media for betraying the public trust.

[quote=“Dave_Markell”]

A democracy gets the leaders and media it deserves. It’s not because media’s become centralized that we have this problem. It’s because it sells. When Nancy Grace (and her missing-blond-girl-of-the-month) is the highest rated news program in the entire country, it illustrates one unarguable fact: people are dumb. You shouldn’t blame media for giving people what they clearly want. You should blame the people for wanting it.[/quote]
Sure, but I tend to think that if there were still news broadcasts that weren’t focused on selling advertising as much as they were on, say, the news we’d have people that would be better informed in the first place and have a somewhat higher standard for what constitutes news. Sure, there’s always been some sensationalism. But I’ve not only read entire essays by journalists and journalism professors but seen myself the news just become another entertainment show. Gore’s right. Times are strange.

How odd is it we’ve seen two of the greatest disasters in American history but mass culture and consumerism just plods on along - as long as the cows have cud to chew on everything’s just fine. That goes double for politics. There’s some insane crap people are getting away with on a scale that dwarfs anything we’ve seen before. But it doesn’t seem to make a dent in anyone’s consciousness. And journalists, until very recently and with only a few exceptions, just nodded along like bobbleheaded dolls. What’s going on in this country seems surreal to me.

Maybe it’s always been like this. Maybe people have always been oblivious, selfish and stupid. But I’m very skeptical about that point. I’m not the only one. Just read what historians, economists, political scientists and media critics are saying. We’re really in a bad place that’s getting worse but the idiot box keeps telling us everything’s fine as long as we keep shopping and send money to Red Cross. I really think we do deserve better than this and I can only blame the Fourth Estate for screwing up the job as it becomes less and less about aggressive investigative reporting and more about bottom-lines.

It’s not?

Before I answer that, I’ll just point out that the solution to “biased journalism” isn’t particular difficult… don’t lie, pursue and honor truth, focus on what’s important, self-determine reality, etc. etc. You’ve heard it before. I don’t think the solution is some great secret. If people aren’t pursuing it something else is going on. Journalistic ethics have been around for a long time. Its not like they are just being worked out NOW.

To answer the question…

If the problem overwhelmes the individual…

Its a combination of factors. One of the first things you do (if you want to achieve a culture of despair) is to define a lot of human action as crime, so that the state can closely regulate said actions. This depresses and confuses the individual, just as it shelters and protects them and makes them beholden to the protector.

Its also to define a lot of human action as bad, to do the same thing but with a greater degree of subtlety.

If you’re convinced that humans are bad, then it really doesn’t matter what you, or anyone does, because bad will win out. Hence, despair. And then you might as well take your piece of the pie, take what you can, and enjoy the final days.

Another thing you do is create lots of tensions and hostilities among people, isolating them. Pit one group against another, create a lot of mistrust, etc. If possible you want to maintain this culture of mistrust without having it boil over. Or then IF it boils over you blame everyone, saying how bad people are and that they need more regulation. A self-perpetuating, self-deepening cycle.

You’ll find that humans involved in this culture are mean, greedy, vindictive (they take revenge upon a fallen world), shallow (no sense in depth in a non-continuing world), naive, childlike, and amoral (often confused as immoral). You’ll find that humans SCARED of this culture will often seek to become just the opposite. The cold adult of grim propriety… the aloof ascetic… the perky optimist.

They’ll say one thing, think another, and do something else. They are called irrational or hypocritical, but thats really abusing those words. In truth, they have lost all moorings and just grasp at what they can… in their thinking, WHILE they can. Opportunists to the core, for shallow gain.

Much of it is subtle. They follow patterns, follow social norms, but without understanding. Without care.

They are abusive out of revenge and manic or depressive as the day serves them, they truly live day to day. The honest ones pretend insanity, the less honest create a facade while fearing that their true inner evil will someday be revealed, and the least honest revel in being “fun-seeking bad boys”… in none of the events is any pleasure found, and even the pain is a dull old ache they cannot be rid of.

But boy do they try. “The world exists to alleviate my pain”.

Another major effect besides this one (but related to this) is the perceived loss of morality. There might be some moral stance which is unpopular. A human might decide its not worth it to take the moral stance and just does what boss tells him to do. He represses his own morality.

One thing that really is happening in the US is a loss of morality among the ruling class (owners of large wealth in a capitalist society, also shareholders and smaller owners to some extent). Take SpoofyChop for example, who was apparently told for the first time in his life that buying stock is a moral choice (when he talked about buying McDonald’s stock). In fact, other than my statement there I have NEVER heard anyone else talk about stock in terms of morality… according to humans the morality of business is dependent solely on its legality. Another mistake in their stupid black and white world. I think morality isn’t something business likes to talk about… they’d rather discuss how their stock is cool because its going to go up in price. I’d rather discuss exactly what happens to the world when their stock goes up in price.

The ruling class is no longer about ruling… its now about exploiting. Get as much money without being shut down for being illegal or without having poor public relations. Its purely political, purely a factor of money. There is no vision of human improvement except where that improvement can be monetarily exploited.

In our quest for Democracy we’ve thrown away the old rulers because they were arrogant pricks who thought they knew what was best. At least, however, they THOUGHT THEY KNEW WHAT WAS BEST. Now we have “democracy” with no rulers and all hustlers, who work the system in the best possible way for themselves at the expense of whoever is not working the system as effectively. Democracy has descended into a kind of purely political social system… without ideals. Or I should say, the marriage of Democracy and Capitalism is ending and Democracy is on an extended vacation.

Now the people we call “rulers” don’t care about what’s best… they care about manipulating the world to funnel wealth into their pockets. I suppose in their defeated mind they’ve decided that is indeed what’s best.

Instead of seeing human improvement and finding ways to build effective financial models around that they start with seeing a money flow and build effective political structures that enable its continuation. Its, lets say, a different approach to life and one that I at least think is much worse.

If you don’t have ideals, you have money grubbers. Either money serves ideals or ideals serve money.

And you know, who knows. I say this now, and maybe five years from now we’ll all laugh and talk about how my fears came to naught. Nothing is “over”, the learning goes on, the examination goes on, the fight goes on.

Absolutely positively the most relevant / readable Koontz post I have ever read, and I even agree with the majority of it. Scary…