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Does Gore hate TV because he's not good at it?

Al Gore’s attack on the mainstream media is somewhat legitimate, but the role media plays is much more complex than Gore gives it credit

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'Mass media persuasion campaigns'
May 29: Al Gore discusses Iraq and his new book, "The Assault on Reason."
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Al Gore on 2008
May 29: Keith Olbermann continues his conversation with former Vice President Al Gore.
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Steve Adubato
Media analyst

Former Vice President and unsuccessful presidential candidate Al Gore has a new book called “The Assault on Reason.”  In it he blasts the mainstream media, particularly television and radio, for what he describes as an obsession with the superficial, trivial and sound bite-oriented coverage of the political process.  According to the New York Times, Gore’s primary contention is that “logic, reason and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America makes important decisions.” As examples, Gore describes the failure of the Bush administration to see the “clear warnings” of a real terrorist threat before 9/11.  He also says the president is “out of touch with reality,” and calls the Bush White House “extremely incompetent and weak.”

Gore argues that it is the current media climate consumed by 30-second political television ads and our addiction to pithy sound bites that are big contributors to the problem.  Gore passionately argues that our democracy is in serious trouble because citizens are poorly informed, don’t vote, and are overly cynical about politics. Further, he says television news has allowed public figures to manipulate public opinion and impede citizen participation on serious issues. 

Gore is on a press tour making his case.  A couple of weeks ago, he appeared on “Good Morning America” with Diane Sawyer, who had the nerve to ask him if he was trying to lose weight and whether that was a sign that he might be looking to make another run at the White House.  An irritated Al Gore (who gets irritated easily) said, “I think, you know, millions of Americans are in the same struggle I’m in on that.  But listen to your questions.  The horse race (focusing on whose ahead), the cosmetic parts of this– Look, that’s all understandable and natural, but while we’re all focused on Britney and K-Fed and Anna Nicole Smith and all this stuff, meanwhile, very quietly, our country has been making some very serious mistakes that could be avoided if, we the people, including the news media, are involved in a full and vigorous discussion of what our choices are.”

MSNBC video
Al Gore on politics
May 30: Keith Olbermann continues his conversation on politics, climate change and public discourse with former Vice President Al Gore.
More recently, Al Gore made many of the same attacks on the media in an in-depth interview on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC. As usual, Gore was articulate, filled with facts and seemingly more passionate than he ever showed in the 2000 presidential campaign.  He does raise some legitimate points of those in the media who are obsessed with celebrity and image and the so-called “horse race.” 

However, what Al Gore continues to misunderstand is the importance of the human piece of the equation when it comes to connecting with the American public.  Much of this happens through the media, especially television.  Gore attacks radio in his book, saying that it contributed to the rise of power of such people as Stalin and Hitler.  He says that radio allowed these charismatic but clearly brutal dictators to capture the attention and imagination of the masses to pursue clearly disastrous goals.  He argues now that television is doing something similar.  Yet, he says that the Internet promotes what he calls a “more open communications environment” which will promote a more productive public dialogue. 

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