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


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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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Here’s the rub—my gut tells me that Al Gore really hates television because he’s not that good when he’s on it.  Gore often comes across as the exacerbated kid who is the smartest student in the class but has to make sure that everybody knows it.  He tells you you’re wrong just because you disagree with him.  He also discounts the importance of the messenger being as important as the message.  Simply put, Al Gore is a terrible messenger, even when he has compelling logic and facts to back him up.  And as I said, he can be irritating, and it is hard to imagine having a beer or a cup of coffee with him.  One reason Gore lost in 2000 was because he acted in a way that turned off many voters.  We saw it in the televised debates and interviews and in his 30 second spots that never connected on an emotional or personal level. 

Television is not bad in itself.  It’s how we use it that matters.  So since Gore doesn’t connect on TV, it must be bad in his mind.  The Internet doesn’t require the same degree of personal face-to-face connection, so it’s ironic that Al Gore thinks this medium is the best we have to offer. 

But television can be used for good as well.  Dr. Martin Luther King connected with millions of Americans because of his passion, his conviction, and his ability to communicate through the media— more specifically television— and changed the course of American civil rights.  Countless other public figures have learned to communicate through television.  Some of them have used these skills to pursue positive ends, and others clearly not.  The fact that Al Gore turns many people off with his style is not a minor point.  Style does matter, but so does substance.  It’s a delicate balance.  The problem with Al Gore’s mostly logical argument is that he ignores the style piece of the equation and figures if he inundates you with enough facts, you are going to surrender and say “Ok Al, you’re right. I’m an idiot, tell me what I should do.” 

But the art of persuasion doesn’t work that way.  People don’t work that way.  Al Gore’s attack on the mainstream media is somewhat legitimate, particularly when he talks about our obsession with celebrities and our over simplifying complex issues for the sake of ratings. Yet, the role that we in the media play is much more complex than Al Gore gives us credit for.  I sense that Gore would be a lot more understanding and supportive of  television news plays if he were better at it.  But he’s not and that’s a shame, because he does have some compelling ideas (particularly on global warming) even if he’s really irritating when he’s sharing them. 

Write to Steve Adubato at

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