Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Al Gore’s Take on the Media and Democracy

Here’s some good news and bad news:

The good news first – Al Gore’s speech today on the state of American media and the threat to American democracy is brilliant and illuminating.

The bad news – he’s not the President of the United States.

The decline of the public discourse, through the printed word, which has brought us to this day of entertainment/news, is the subject of Gore’s thesis that our country’s freedoms depended on this “check and balance.”

“Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere," or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades.

In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the
authority of government.”-- Remarks by Al Gore as prepared Associated Press / The Media Center October 5, 2005

Gore’s clear and brilliant discussion of how the state of discourse has been reduced to a one-way path through the advent of radio, television, and advertising, covers familiar ground but creates new synthesis along the way. That is the intelligence of the thesis, and its clarity is the reason for the bad news that such boorish and garish greed for power instead inhabits the leadership of our nation.
“It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.”-- Gore
Gore’s conclusion is that in the internet lies the possibility of the rebirth of the “public discourse.” The entire speech is worth reading, but as many of the commenters on the sight indicated, you may come away less with the message that Gore is promoting, and more with the feeling that the speaker himself represents a greatness of mind and spirit that is absent from American politics.

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