Al Gore rocks.

Al Gore made a guest appearance on the Daily Show this week to talk about his book, The Assault on Reason. (I didn’t get to see it when it was on TV, as we suffer from a cable deficiency, and don’t get Comedy Central.) You can see a pretty complete transcript of the interview here, but the clip is worth watching:

Gore has some interesting things to say about the media, and also about The Daily Show¹:

Actually, if you want to get through a lot the nonsense, and get to the heart of the most important news of the day is, this is one of the places to go to get the straight story. And it’s ironic.

He also goes on to make an analogy to court jesters of the Middle Ages, who were in a unique position to criticize the court through jokes. And he uses the term highfalutin, which I just don’t get to hear often enough.²

One point that comes up (by both Gore and Stewart, who also rocks) is that the internet is a means by which the money-driven zombie-producing powers of TV news can be counteracted. Gore says of the internet:

It is the single greatest source of hope that we will be able to fix what ails the conversation of democracy.³

So, here’s to the conversation.

And here’s to Al. (Ah, how different the world might have been…)⁴


¹ Please note that Jon Stewart did not hound Gore with questions about the horserace.

² And by the way, the spelling of this etymologically mysterious word seems to be not terribly conventionalized. We also get high-fallutin’, hifalutin and high faluting, to name some of the possibilities.

³ Please also note that the first 3 comments on this YouTube post are apparently written by 12-year-olds. Which demonstrates some of the flaws of the internet as a medium for serious discourse.

⁴ I like to use footnotes in my posts. Footnotes are cool.

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10 thoughts on “Al Gore rocks.

  1. Indeed, footnotes are cool, are way cool².

    While I partly like the idea of the internet more or less levelling out the playing field and facilitating the ‘conversation’, I have a few qualms.

    There seems to be an increasing recursiveness of information and sources. What I mean is that bloggers (who I’d suggest are the conversationalists that Gore refers to) write about something and provide a link, usually to a news item¹. This is a pretty simple formula. But sometimes the link is to another blog, who may have got his information from… another blog. There have even been cases, I’ve heard, of two blogs citing each other as sources for the same unverifiable claim. This is bad because, according to my stats page, not all that many people actually check sources on a blog (perhaps I’m just completely trustworthy as a journalist).

    So, the blogosphere is just as bereft of the facts and the truth as the traditional corporate print media, which was the motivation, as Gore says, for having to balance the media with what is basically grassroots journalism.

    I still think the best ‘solution’ to the problem of the lack of reason in policy-making is to have a strong, independent, publicly funded media that is completely free of commercial interests or political interests, which is why just about everything I cite goes back to the ABC news website (Australian Broadcast Commission). Now, some would maintain that the ABC is decidedly left-wing, but I reject that contention. State media and public service just attracts more left-wing conducive people, but it’s demonstrably the case that state media is not institutionally biased, unlike, say, News Corporation, whose editorial opinions are directed straight from Murdoch, editorial opinion that affects and channels the way in which news is collected and presented.


    ²Who said they have to be in numerical order though?

    ¹This is already troublesome though, right? Because part of Gore’s point was that the traditional media is being thwarted by certain political and financial pressures that can affect content. If the blogosphere is still contingent on this, then in theory, those problems would percolate into the ‘conversation’.

  2. How could anyone possibly take GW Bush more serious than Al Gore?

    Anyone who has seen Gore on talk shoes like Leno, Letterman , Stewart, knows that he is smart, witty an cool. On those same shows GW Bush looked like Mortimer Snerd.

    On Chris Mathews Hardball, Gore handled a grilling the likes of which GW Bush would not have lasted 10 seconds.

    GW Bush was a drifter with a drinking problem until he was 40 and then a serially failing businessman until the Neocons propped him up as their front first in the largely ceremonial post of Texas Governor and then in the White House where he carried out the agenda of the Neoconservative think tank PNAC.



    1. Al Gore’s for running such a lame campaign in 2000 and not using Clinton’s help.

    2. Ralph Nader for proving the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    3. Americans as a whole for being more interested in things like Joey Buttafuco and Lacey Peterson and Jon Benet Ramsey that srious issues facing this country.

    4. The GOP for putting their stamp of approval on GW Bush who was so obviously incapable of holding any responsible position at all much less President.

  3. I saw Al being interviewed about this book on Charlie Rose, and I agree that he rocks. How nice for him that things have come full circle, and America loves him more, probably much more, than if he had become president.

    I think we’re too quick to blame the media, though. You can’t exactly blame a commercial enterprise for doing what sells. If people wanted in-depth analysis of political issues rather than loudmouth pundits and celebrity gossip, then we’d get that type of news. But it just doesn’t sell. Which is why Jangari is right, I think, that publicly funded media is so important. Significantly fewer people probably watch Bill Moyers and Jim Lehrer, but thank goodness that those who want that type of news have a place to go.

    I do get the sense that Gore does place some of the responsibility on the American people and that he’s not just blaming the media. I guess I’ll have to read the book to see what he has to say about this. But you know what I thought spoke volumes in the Stewart interview? The fact that Gore felt compelled to *apologize* for bringing up a historical fact (“this will sound kind of weird , kind of high fallutin'”). I think that said way more about the mindset of America than anything else he had to say. God forbid you actually come across as intelligent, or worse, *shudder* intellectual. In fact, I would hazard to say that appearing “too smart” was what did Gore in more than anything in the 2000 election, and maybe now he’s trained himself to buffer unforgivably smart things like knowing about medieval court jesters. Anyway, until we do something about this attitude, I’m not sure we’re really going to get anywhere.

  4. Whoa…quiet time only lasts so long, so I can’t read the comments above, but I will say this:

    a) I LOVE highfalutin’ and use it all the time (as well as my third, unconvential spelling). We should hang out!

    b) You can also watch the clip here on Comedy Central’s website. It might be a little better quality.

    c) And here’s to you, alejna, for your part in the conversation.

  5. The kind of causal/evidentiary loop that Jangari cites is a serious problem in old media journalism. The widespread use of anonymous sources is a common cause of these loops, and has been willfully exploited by any number of bad-faith actors. Chalabi, for example, would provide a source to the government, and then provide the same source to a reporter. The reporter would follow up with their own government sources, who would say, “Yeah, we heard that, too,” without attributing their own source. Bingo: multiple source confirmation. Chalabi would then go onto the talk shows and cite the newspaper reports as independent confirmation of his claims.

    The Bush Administration has raised anonymous sourcing to an art form, with anonymously sourced officials providing their own confirmation, but the problem’s been around for a while: what Digby said. (Check out the section on Jeff Gerth’s Wen Lo Hee reporting, and Trulock serving as his own source.)

    All this to say, even though I’m no Internet triumphalist, internet reporting might actually have an advantage here. Even though the links might not be followed, the plain fact that they exist does give the potential for a chain of accountability.

    I’ve got other, related qualms about the balkinization of news sources on the net. It’s very easy for people to find sources that will only reinforce their own point of view, and not provide any “exploratory” reporting. But again, you see similar things happening with mainstream media: witness the rise of Fox News (damn all Australians! :-) ). But the internet does allow for a point of view to be tailored to fit, which I think is problematic.

  6. Jangari-
    Yes, having publicly funded media does seem important for getting more facts and information out to the public. And there certainly is plenty of bogus information being circulated on the net. At the same time, the net, whether it’s blogging or commenting on blogs or other online discussion forums, does offer opportunities for just that: discussion. We get opportunities to question the news we are fed, and have multiple avenues for interpreting “the truth” or “facts”.

    Thanks for weighing in on the conversation. (I sense that you have some unresolved frustrations.)

    I’m not sure it’s necesarily about blaming the media, exactly, or at least about blaming the media alone. Are the excesses (and deficiencies) of the popular media the disease, or just a symptom? I guess I’d wager that the root problems are more systemic in our society and culture.
    I like your point about Gore feeling the need to apologize for a public display of intellect and education. It is very telling. And very, very sad.

    a) yes, let’s hang out and talk highfalutin stuff, b) thanks for the added link and c) again, thanks. I have to say that it’s starting to feel like more of a moral obligation to join in the conversation.

    Thanks for making the point about the circularity problems that are still at work in traditional print media, too. Another reason to keep questioning. (And I hadn’t realized that Fox News had roots in Australia…)

  7. I am frustrated in that there is so much visceral disdain for Al Gore who besides being a good person , with good ideas for the USA and is intelligent and hardworking.

    I am flabbergasted that anyone can take George W. Bush seriously- even otherwise intelligent people.

    After the OJ rial there were a significant number of people who still thought that he was innocent. That number, I believe , is less now. The truth will eventually out.

  8. Gasdocpol:

    You know, I feel really sad and bitter every time I see Gore, probably for the same reasons you do. I listen to him, hear an intelligent, competent, passionate individual, and really long for what could have been. Likewise, I have an extremely difficult time even listening to W., whose “regular folk” pandering disguises sheer incompetence and disdain.

    But looking at what Gore’s talking about these days, I think that he’s pushing for a more important conversation than just a rehash of the 2000 election or the Iraq lead-in. Part of what we have to do to achieve real progress is to reset the conversation, so that electoral and policy decisions have a chance of being based on reasoned discussions and judgement, instead of what color suit the candidate’s wearing.

  9. gasdocpol-
    Thanks for coming back. I share your frustrations. I never understood the disdain for Gore, myself. And I am feeling moderately optimistic that attitudes towards him are changing. Even more, I am hopeful that the message that he is spreading will catch on, and that people will focus on the issues.

    Yes, you said it. It’s about time the people start demanding substance over style.

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