Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wisdom from Al Gore

While I'm here in New York dealing with the heartrending business of attending to my mother's last months/weeks/days on Earth, I have not been able to blog much, but I've been bitch slapped so hard about my own political echo-chamber thoughts -- and how insulated I was in even my little ghetto home of East Palo Alto from much of the grassroots -- that I am in for months of reflection.

Which is why this speech, which I saw on DailyKOS from Albert Gore, Jr., really moved me. Primarily because he speaks out about something I've been talking about for the past five years, the deterioration of the ability of most people in this country to engage in political discourse with folks holding different views, and the resultant fracturing of the nation - - a fracturing which really should scare folks, given that we are now seeing the holes in the dike of the Bush Administration's facade.

Here's a link to the video: Al Gore's Speech to The Media Center

And to the transcript: Transcript

Here are some rich nuggets for thought:

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. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world.

To me, the money quote is its opening paragraph, and the subsequent discussion of how the "marketplace of ideas" (however flawed) served as a mediating force against a singular voice grounded in the politics of wealth and power. That discussion, which is but a part of a larger and well-thought out speech about the state of the media, makess clear that had Albert Gore, Jr. -- wooden, stiff, and seemingly too hoity toity to sell to the heartland -- had not been screwed by partisanship on the United States Supreme Court out of the title "President" that he earned in 2000, we'd not be now facing everything from the collapse of the American economy from fiscal hubris, the systematic elimination of the middle class with the bulk being absorbed into the working poor, and certainly not national shames such as our complicity in torture and mayhem in Iraq - or at least, we'd not be facing them with the comparable silence and lack of outrage that the American people as a whole are currently demonstrating:

. . .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.

I feel you President Gore. This is wisdom - understanding that how we as Americans talk to each other, something that used to be taken for granted despite clear differences in political opinion, both supports and defines what made America different, what made America strong. And that the destruction of that ability to dialogue, even if imperfect, is a harbinger of the destruction of the idea of America itself.

It's just a shame that you have to abide these cautions before the Media Center instead of on the national stage that this type of wisdom deserves.


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