Al Gore on The Threat to American Democracy

zimv20

macrumors 601
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
4,388
7
toronto
link

Remarks by Al Gore as prepared
Associated Press / The Media Center

October 5, 2005

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.

At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.

Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?

On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?

Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason."

Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press.

Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.

And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.

When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

(more)
jesus, what a smart and eloquent guy. i bet he could speak intelligently on sovereignty.
 

Sayhey

macrumors 68000
May 22, 2003
1,690
2
San Francisco
zimv20 said:
jesus, what a smart and eloquent guy. i bet he could speak intelligently on sovereignty.
I like the post-election night 2000 Al Gore more and more every time I hear from him. It's sad that our political system dumbs our politicians down to the level of thirty second ads that can be sold like cornflakes. When they're free of the fundraising and working to win the next election, some of them can be down right inspiring.

I'm particularly glad to read Gore's reclaiming of the revolutionary generation for the advocates of the Enlightenment they really were. Nowadays, the attempt to reshape our country's history into that of a "Christian Nation" that has strayed from its roots is a sickening and frightening rewrite of the real historical foundations of our revolution. It's good to read Gore's words challenging the fundamentalist revisionists.

While not very enthusiastic about Gore's venture into TV land with Current TV, I'm convinced his criticisms about the degeneration of TV journalism into entertainment and the critical role access to this medium has for our democracy are right on the mark.

Thanks for the post, zim.
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
And some people thought he would be a bad President. What a terrible, awful shame that he isn't. This- coming from me, an independent who never liked him in the first place. He would have been so much better than what we have now- a shameless buffoon.
 

scem0

macrumors 604
Jul 16, 2002
7,028
1
back in NYC!
Thanks for the audio, it's downloading as I type.

Very good speech. Wish I could force people to hear it. ;)

_Emerson
 

PlaceofDis

macrumors Core
Jan 6, 2004
19,232
4
leekohler said:
And some people thought he would be a bad President. What a terrible, awful shame that he isn't. This- coming from me, an independent who never liked him in the first place. He would have been so much better than what we have now- a shameless buffoon.


i think we would be in a much different world had be actually won, and he did win the popular vote, sometimes i hate this country.
 

Xtremehkr

macrumors 68000
Jul 4, 2004
1,897
0
zimv20 said:
aghhhh!!!!! i hate bad audio. i can't listen to anything that distorted. why must audio suck so often? <grrrrrrr>
I agree, video would have been even better.
 

solvs

macrumors 603
Jun 25, 2002
5,693
1
LaLaLand, CA
And if only this was the Al Gore we could have gotten to know during the 2000 election, he might have actually won. Well, technically he did, but you know what I mean. I wish I had voted for him. Didn't vote for Bush either, but I know a lot of people who did who would like to take it back.

Think all those who are defending Bush would have defended Gore in the same situations? Me either. Mostly because I doubt he would have done the same stupid things.
 

zimv20

macrumors 601
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
4,388
7
toronto
Xtremehkr said:
I agree, video would have been even better.
video doesn't help if the audio still sucks.

signed,
a disgruntled audio guy

.......

seriously, i am an audio guy and this crap just drives me nuts. for the non-audio engineers here, does this stuff bother you? i ask out of professional curiosity.
 

Mike Teezie

macrumors 68020
Nov 20, 2002
2,205
1
Jeez, that's an excellent speech. Printing this one out to keep - thanks zim!!

Ah, but I'm foregoing the audio, as I can't stand to listen to bad audio either.

(btw - what is your line of work? i'm terribly interested in the recording arts...)
 

zimv20

macrumors 601
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
4,388
7
toronto
OT audio stuff

Mike Teezie said:
(btw - what is your line of work? i'm terribly interested in the recording arts...)
still technically a hobby, but i've had a home studio for ages and record my band and others. sometimes i do sound design for theater, and soon i'll be part of a project recording live audio for TV broadcast (shhhh! it's a secret!).

if you're into the mashup scene at all, you should know i do all the vocal engineering for this guy's sister, plus i'm involved in this songwriting/recording project.
 

Xtremehkr

macrumors 68000
Jul 4, 2004
1,897
0
zimv20 said:
i'm more of a "form and function should be balanced" guy. :)
It has served its purpose, given the surprising lack of media coverage given to such a topical speech.

I am sure parts of it will be dubiously quoted by certain pundits before too long. Perhaps arguments made out of those dubious quotes will appear here before too long.
 

pseudobrit

macrumors 68040
Jul 23, 2002
3,418
4
Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
zimv20 said:
video doesn't help if the audio still sucks.

signed,
a disgruntled audio guy
I have trouble listening to Al Franken's podcasts because they're so distorted. Especially in the higher frequencies. Which is, ironically, usually represented as being on the right side of the audible range.
 

Thomas Veil

macrumors 68020
Feb 14, 2004
2,435
5,527
OBJECTIVE reality
Wow. Al Gore said all that?? :eek: Cool!

It speaks to something that I said at in another thread: that the Democrats need someone to stand up and SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID.

No one running for office or already in it has the balls to say it. They're too afraid of losing votes. And frankly, I thought Al Gore was too squishy and too involved in his new business ventures to say anything.

But this is a different Al. I agree, if he'd shown this side of himself, instead of playing it safe during the 2000 election, the guy would probably be prez right now.

I hope, I pray, I plead that someone will consistently speak out in this manner. Some time ago, I thought it would be Nader, and although Nader has been consistent, he's also marginalized himself. I thought it might be Howard Dean, but the Democratic leadership wants Dean to keep quiet. Then I thought it might be Bill Moyers, but Moyers has been oddly silent lately.

I just really think that we need someone of notoriety to speak this message loudly and consistently. It might be our last, best hope for keeping this country from going down the sewer.

For 229 years, this country has shown a remarkable knack for self-correction. Right now we face our most dire threat ever: collapse from within. In a word: ROT. I think the people are extremely hungry for someone that stands for principles, someone they can believe in. There is a huge throng of disaffected Americans out there looking for someone to speak for them.

We need a crusader.

I don't know if Al Gore is it. He's a principled man, I'm sure, but he made a very conscious decision to withdraw from politics after the 2000 election. Perhaps, as he says, he's finally had it and can stay silent and inactive no longer.

Of course, being truthful is just part of the solution. We also need people we can vote for. For. With some enthusiasm. Not just what we do now, which is picking the lesser of two evils.

Maybe Al will get back into politics. I'd love to see it happen.

But whatever the outcome: well said, Al.
 

Chaszmyr

macrumors 601
Aug 9, 2002
4,265
76
The first time I read this thread's title I read it as "Al Gore is threat to american dictionary"... How weird is that? But if that was the case, I suppose it would be Dan Quayle, not Al Gore :p
 

iSaint

macrumors 603
solvs said:
And if only this was the Al Gore we could have gotten to know during the 2000 election, he might have actually won.
Precisely why he didn't win. He's simply a politician with no background in the business world (unless you count his creation of the internet) who changes with the political winds to gain voice. This is simply a speech written by those who are measuring what will be best heard now. There is no backbone or intelligence in Al Gore.

Let the attacks (on me) begin...
 

mactastic

macrumors 68040
Apr 24, 2003
3,647
661
Colly-fornia
iSaint said:
Precisely why he didn't win. He's simply a politician with no background in the business world (unless you count his creation of the internet) who changes with the political winds to gain voice.
Which is what many here seem to be saying...

This is simply a speech written by those who are measuring what will be best heard now. There is no backbone or intelligence in Al Gore.
And how do you feel about Bush's speeches? I'm listening to him right now giving his anti-terror speech. Would you say it is simply a speech written by those who are measuring what will be best heard right now?

Would you say that there is no backbone or intelligence in George Bush because of this?
 

leekohler

macrumors G5
Dec 22, 2004
14,162
19
Chicago, Illinois
mactastic said:
Which is what many here seem to be saying...

And how do you feel about Bush's speeches? I'm listening to him right now giving his anti-terror speech. Would you say it is simply a speech written by those who are measuring what will be best heard right now?

Would you say that there is no backbone or intelligence in George Bush because of this?
I would.
 

Thomas Veil

macrumors 68020
Feb 14, 2004
2,435
5,527
OBJECTIVE reality
iSaint said:
He's simply a politician...who changes with the political winds to gain voice.
I don't know about that.

I do know he listened to bad campaign advice which told him to check the political winds before offering an opinion, instead of being himself. Significantly, his pre-election popularity rose when he stopped trying to play it safe.