Bush and Gore both gave major speeches recently. If nothing else, they should make us happy about the 2000 election result.
Bush made the case
, yet again, for staying the course in Iraq. The argument is so obvious that it almost shouldn't be necessary. (I've been over it several times in this blog, so I won't repeat it--here's a transcript
.) Yet, because there's such constant, mindless sniping against the war, it's always good to hear it made, and made well, especially at the top. (Unfortunately, though it's widely available, most people won't hear it or read it. This is the way it goes in a democracy, as confusing as that is to George Clooney or Al Gore--it makes you wonder if they'd prefer a system like Venezuela's or Cuba's, where the leader completely takes over all communication any time he feels like it, and feels like it often.)
To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, we have Al Gore's speech
at the Media Conference in New York. Now I admit to a prejudice against Gore. But after reading this speech, where he is only a step away from a raving lunatic, I must ask if he's always been a crackpot or if it's a recent addition to his bag of tricks.
I don't have time to Fisk the whole thing--and it's rich enough that each paragraph deserves attention--so I'll try to stick to the highlights.
He starts off saying our democracy's in grave danger due to our faulty public discourse. The grave danger line, putting it charitably, is hyperbolic. And while the marketplace of ideas never functions with 100% efficiency, whining about it is the hallmark of the loser.
Unbelievably, he's still dining out on that years-old poll where a large portion of Americans who supported the war said Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. As usual, he misreports the results--actually, the poll showed about 1/3 believed Saddam was behind it, 1/3 thought he might be, and 1/3 thought he wasn't. At the time, those numbers made sense. A lot was uncertain. (For instance, Senator Gore sure was insistent on removing all the WMDs from Iraq--and who knows, he may have been right.) Gore claims to have newer numbers which I can't confirm (he refers to a couple of studies not specifically named), but that's neither here nor there. The main point is those against the war tend to believe falsities which reassure them as well. It would be just as easy to devise a poll showing such people are woefully ignorant of the connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, or Saddam and WMDs.
This much is obvious if you think about it. Gore has chosen not to think about it. Instead, he uses the pointless results to show something is wrong with our marketplace of ideas. As if people in Democracies have always been well informed until recently. The truth is the general public has always had trouble getting their facts straight, and there are different pockets of ignorance among different groups. It makes no sense for average people to spend hours and hours studying all the issues, since they only get a vote now and then and not much more. They have lives to lead, which take up enough of their time already. Sure, politicians and pundits spend a lot of time keeping up to speed (and even then greatly disagree with each other on many issues), but that's because it's worth their time.
I know enough about, say, my computer, or my car, or even my body, to work with it and even fix it if something's obviously wrong. But I'm not an expert--I have better ways to spend my time, and if I need special help, I'll hire an expert. I wouldn't expect Al Gore (even if he invented the internet) to be an expert on fixing my computer. So why does he expect everyone to be an expert in his arena?
Let me put this in a way that even Al can appreciate. If you really think, due to faulty public discourse, that people don't understand what's going on well enough--and that this is a NEW problem--then let's give people current events tests before deciding if they can vote. The Democrats wouldn't take a state in the next election.
Then he bemoans the lack of debate before the invasion of Iraq. Funny, I remember people and politicians talking about it at great length for about a year. Perhaps Gore was out of town. (Of course, we'd been talking about it vaguely since the Clinton-Gore administration, when overthrowing Hussein became our official national policy.) We certainly gave Hussein plenty of warning. Too bad he trusted his French friends at the UN, who told him they'd make sure we didn't do much.
Gore feels we're lethargic as citizens, and no one feels they're taking part in what the government does. However, there is a sign of hope. As he puts it:
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.
Get it? At a time when the media, big and small, were wrong in almost everything they reported, we finally were doing a great job. The subtext is obvious--Bush-bashing is good at any cost.
Who does he quote to back himself up? You won't believe it:
As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."
Yes, poor Dan Rather, "forced out" of his job because he tried to put over a massive fraud on the American public--and still won't admit it. (Why should he admit it, when important people like Al Gore are either so dishonest or ill-informed that they can pretend it was the White House that did him in?) Gore, in general, believes the media are intimidated by Bush, which puts him in the category of people who haven't read a paper or watched TV in three years.
Gore wants an America where the people openly converse. This is odd, since he backs campaign finance reform, which allows the government to directly regulate where and how people can make political points. Furthermore, Gore thinks we're at a point where the people's voice can't be heard. This is pretty funny, since we're in the internet age, where anyone can put out their views for everyone to see. Gore instead is nostalgic for the old days--I guess he means when you were told the truth by the three networks, and if you didn't want to listen to Walter Cronkite, you had nowhere to go.
Forget the internet, Gore still believes the airwaves are where we get our info. Fair enough. So you'd think he'd cheer the rise of a new media on radio, where an alternative to the mainstream is being heard. But you'd be wrong. Gore actually wants the return of the Fairness Doctrine, where the government can (and has) effectively shut up any significant discussion of politics.
As to TV, you might think he'd cheer that news coverage is better than ever, with several stations going 24 hours a day, so no one has to wait for a spoon feeding from the networks (unless they choose to), not to mention the no-nonsense C-SPAN format. But you'd be wrong. Aside from Jon Stewart, who mostly makes jokes from a Democrat's standpoint, Gore has surveyed the situation and seen nothing he likes.
This is why he's starting a channel, to let the people speak. Of course, we already have this. It's called public access. No one watches because no one cares, whereas other alternative formats have been wildly popular because they gave the public what they wanted, not what Gore wanted.
See, the trouble is logistical. Though we watch a lot of TV--too much, really--there are about 300 million of us. No matter how hard you try, you can only hear a small percentage of what people are saying. You need some sort of gatekeeper, because if everyone gets to talk, it'll just be a lot of noise. If Gore thinks he can break through all the noise, good luck--though I'd say it's already being done on the internet. Just remember, everyone can talk, but only a few can be at the top--that's a real free market, Al.