Al Gore Unleashed and Slightly Feisty

File under: Always a good show. Hope he screams. Where’s the beard?

Mostly pouty, yet entertaining, Al Gore, sans beard, spoke of the grave dangers facing American Democracy in New York City on Thursday.

“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”?

(Maybe that was Tipper? Just a guess.)

“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.”

(Huh?)

“Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens…”

(I wonder if he saw that on a kid’s show? Kid’s book?)

“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.”

(He’s mad! Worse than I thought. Hasn’t he read Koz lately? Seriously!)

It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the “Public Forum” in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and “restructured” beyond all recognition.

And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the “strangeness” that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a “Public Sphere” , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America’s earliest decades.

(I like sphere.)

“Unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television’s domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that – at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.”

“The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as “the refeudalization of the public sphere.” That may sound like gobbledygook,…”

(Yes.)

“As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. — including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine – though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.”

(Ahh, now were getting somewhere! It’s that blasted Limbaugh! He ruined it for everyone!)

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter – and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments.

(But, thank God the democrats had the courage to “out him” and put a stop to that nonsense! Now he can get back to his past profession.)

Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush’s Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress.

(Was this when they lied about eliminating overtime? Or was is the sinking soldier? or was it the “Bush is Hitler” one?)

“I don’t know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi- way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas.”

(Well, Good Night! Hope things go swell with that meritocracy.)

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