Bozell Column: Al Gore, Media Scholar
Al Gore’s new book "The Assault on Reason" has definitively established one fact: Al Gore is still the sorest loser in American politics. Even liberal book reviewers are wincing at the tone of his jeremiad against the Bush administration. The book should have been titled "They Should Have Elected Me Instead: How Much Better America Would Fare With President Gore."
He seems to believe his own silly "Saturday Night Live" skit from last year, the one in which he pretended to be president and gas was 19 cents a gallon and the budget surplus was $11 trillion. He even implies he would prevented 9/11.
Like many liberals with the itch to micromanage our lives, Gore clearly believes the American people are ignorant to the point of endangerment. So he’s become a media scholar, and unloaded his communications theories in a book excerpt hyped by his friends at Time magazine.
One reason for general public ignorance, he believes, is the celebrity-obsessed world of television news. Political junkies of every stripe – left, right, and center – can nod their heads that the news isn’t substantive enough, that it focuses too much on trivial stories like Britney Spears shaving her head. More voters can name Homer Simpson’s cartoon kids than Supreme Court justices. Gore can get an Amen on that.
The networks will reply that politicians in general bore TV bookers to tears, outside the Sunday morning newsmaker shows. As a matter of fact, despite his newly found celebrity, Al Gore is a good example of a sleep-inducing self-impressed wonk. Thus, the number of politicians and cabinet ministers showing up on the network morning shows has dropped like a stone. The old format, watching a Republican and a Democrat squabble on a morning show, is almost non-existent on ABC, CBS, and NBC today.
But then Gore leaves the reservation of clear thinking in favor of liberal cant. He complains that the dearth of substantive TV news means the news shows don’t have the same impact now that 30-second political commercials do. This is a common (and self-interested) liberal complaint: Why pay attention to those horrendous Republican ads when you can, and should, focus your attention on the worldview of Katie Couric?
But Gore takes this argument one arrogant step further: when voters lose an argument (read: election), it is proof that the voters are ignorant and/or distracted. We went to war in Iraq because we were too distracted by Paris Hilton news. We’re cooking the planet with global warming because ignorant people gave Bush the presidency and left poor Al Gore with an Oscar as a consolation prize. Gore thinks the right choices on Iraq and the environment were "glaringly obvious," but the voters weren’t instructed well enough in the facts that prove him right.
It’s a common liberal conceit: liberalism is the very definition of sweet reason, so an attack on liberalism is an "assault on reason." Democracy is only truly democratic when the Democrats are in charge. Debates aren’t truly informative unless the liberals win the argument. The same holds true for elections.
Time magazine highlighted Gore’s excerpt with this sentence: "The world of television...makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation." How ironic. Isn’t it Al Gore who’s been wandering throughout the media telling them it’s way too late for a "national conversation" on global warming? That the people who disagree with him aren’t really part of a debate, or players in a democracy, but an evil array of corporate publicity tools who have no belief in Science (and Reason)? That only foster confusion? There’s very little difference between Al Gore and Hugo Chavez on a censor-conservatives creed.
Perhaps the oddest part of this book tour is how masochistic the liberal media have become in response. Look no further than the 15 minutes ABC’s "Good Morning America" awarded Gore to plug his book. One segment was devoted to beating up the media, and ABC host Diane Sawyer willingly explained that Gore thought the media were distracting the public just as farmers can hypnotize chickens. ABC put these words on the screen: "Al Gore’s Media Assault: Is The News Hypnotizing You?"
But Gore wasn’t about to be paired with a conservative who would disagree and – gasp – challenge him. That kind of balanced "national conversation" is apparently not on ABC’s agenda. ABC would rather risk a ratings meltdown with 15 minutes of Professor Gore’s Sunrise Semester than let a conservative talk about media failings on their set. To Gore and his liberal media friends, Reason is a one-way street.