Monday, May 21, 2007

Al Gore and the Media

The appalling state of the US media is a pet peeve of mine. Now, Al Gore rushes on the scene like a breath of fresh air. In his new book, he decries the absence of serious debate about the Iraq war, noting that "all of the evidence and arguments necessary to have made the right decision were available at the time and in hindsight are glaringly obvious." So what went wrong? Who or what is to blame for this travesty? More Gore:
"[T]he Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us?"
Gore thinks he has an answer:
"American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.

At first I thought the exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial was just an unfortunate excess—an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. 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: the Michael Jackson trial and the Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy, Britney and KFed, Lindsay and Paris and Nicole."
Of course, Gore is correct. It's not just a crass and shallow media, it's the complete abrogation of responsibility that contributed to a completely uninformed public, prey for the empty sound bites of the Bush administration. Lest we forget, "more than five years later...nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack." Had the media done its job properly, would there be a difference? Undoubtedly. And it certainly bears some of the blame for what happened.

As an aside, we can be fairly certain that a Gore presidency would not have wallowed in the intrinsic evil of torture. And I'm pretty sure abortion rates would not have risen either. So where does that leave us....?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gore is a living example of why the 18th century electoral college should be replaced with the popular vote. But hey no big deal. Back to Paris & Britney.