You have to give Al Gore credit for one thing: Truth in labeling.
His new book, “The Assault on Reason,” is precisely that — a relentless assault on reason, as well as science, history, Republicans, news media, the president, corporations, the wealthy and any ignoramuses who do not fall in line with his soft-core socialist friends.
It is a 320-page daisy-chain of platitudes, sophomoric clichés punctuated by vaguely relevant quotations ripped straight from the pages of “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations” and smatterings of pseudoscientific citations to prop up lame contentions.
The former veep makes sweeping generalities such as “hardly anyone now disagrees that the choice to invade Iraq was a grievous mistake.” Reminds one of the liberal journalist who was shocked Richard Nixon got elected because she didn’t know anyone who had voted for him. That’s what you get when you surround yourself with sequacious lefties.
His grasp of history is a bit slippery, too. “It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did,” Gore writes. “In spite of the dangers they confronted, they faithfully protected our freedoms.”
Yep, our ancestors faithfully protected freedom with the Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus, jailing of people who argued the draft violated the 13th Amendment, Japanese internment, the Smith Act and various red scares and blacklistings.
The man sees the world through a liberal prism that distorts reality. He actually says — despite the liberal editorial pages of most newspapers, the left-leaning broadcast and cable networks other than Fox — that the administration has developed a “highly effective propaganda machine” to embed certain mythologies.
“This coalition gains access to the public through a cabal of pundits, commentators, and ‘reporters’ — call it the Limbaugh-Hannity-Drudge axis,” Gore declares. “This fifth column in the fourth estate is made up of propagandists pretending to be journalists.”
This axis of evil is force-feeding right-wing talking points, according to Gore. And I thought people voluntarily tuned in and clicked on. Of course, he laments the demise of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan, because that denies his ilk the ability to force-feed their brand of talking points.
In a chapter called “The Politics of Wealth,” the man whose family wealth springs from oil and tobacco concludes simplistically and without a shred of evidence, “Greed and wealth now allocate power in our society …”
Perhaps the funniest part of the book is the psychoblather from the apostle of the gospel that global warming is an irrefutable scientific fact. He cites something called “attachment theory,” which postulates that children not properly nurtured socially become sociopaths, and tries to make it a metaphor for society.
Then he prattles on about vicarious trauma, how our brains are hard-wired for the constant motion provided by television and how television makes us more prone to fear. This sets up a bizarre segue into a tale about how as a boy he hypnotized chickens by circling his finger around their heads.
You could use the hypnotized chicken as a doorstop, he explains, but not as a football. “Something about being thrown through the air seemed to wake the chicken right up.”
This paragon of reason and scientific rigor and flinger of fowl empirically concludes, “I’m not saying television viewers are like hypnotized chickens. … I remember times in my youth when I spent hours in front of a TV without noticing how much time had passed. My own experience tells me that extended television watching can be mind numbing.” Rather like reading certain self-absorbed, tin-eared writers.
So, what is Gore’s solution for a nation of fearful, ignorant, propaganda puppets falling into perdition?
Why the Internet, of course.
“Today, reason is under assault by forces using more sophisticated techniques: propaganda, psychology, electronic mass media,” Gore grandly declares. “Yet democracy’s advocates are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques: the Internet, online organizing, blogs, and wikis. I feel more confident than ever before that democracy will prevail …”
This paean to the collective wisdom of the Web comes just a few pages after he noted his friend and journalistic mentor John Seigenthaler is a critic of wikis, but Gore never says why.
The reason is: A “citizen editor” once plugged into Seigenthaler’s Wikipedia bio the outlandish claim that he was directly involved in the assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy. It was difficult to get it corrected.
Sorry, Al, as a card-carrying fifth columnist in the fourth estate, I don’t see the cacophonous blogs and wikis as the voices of reason that will save democracy from creeping ignorance and mesmerism.
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press and First Amendment principles. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.THOMAS MITCHELLMORE COLUMNS