Gore on the Cowardly, Vacuous, Catch-Penny Political Press

In case you missed it, here is more of what Al Gore said during a discussion at the 92nd Street Y before the weekend about the shortcomings of the media when it comes to covering political campaigns.

Gore first starting articulating the theme of a dysfunctional political press a few years ago, during an earlier book tour.

What follows are excerpts of his conversation with moderator Charlie Rose:

"Actually, the public forum is now crowded with triviality, banality, commercial messages and exploitive strategies for gluing people’s attentions to the screens in order to sell them things. And what is pushed out, even from the major network news casts is a serious discussion of what is at stake. What the invasion of Iraq had in common with the climate process is that in both cases is that there was voluminous evidence well available, well understood in sufficient quantities to convince any reasonable person that the decision that is appropriate and correct is the complete opposite of the decision that was in fact made."

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"When reason is drawn, is pulled out of the public sphere, it creates a vacuum. And what rushes in is ideology, and extreme partisanship and fundamentalism and extreme nationalism and people who assert they have a direct pipeline to the almighty who has this particular policy to this particular party and that is blasphemy and American herecy."

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"Not only the politicians, but also a lot of the journalists were actually scared, really scared, that they would be branded unpatriotic."

ROSE:

"If they do what?"

GORE:

"If they gave ample exposure to the well-reasoned arguments to present, for example, when Senator Byrd made that speech, 70 percent of the American people believed that Saddam Hussein was principally responsible for flying those planes into the World Trade Center towers. And the contrary views were given short shrift and it is amply documented, amply documented, news programs, networks, others were advised that if they gave too much exposure to those kinds of arguments, they would lose viewers, lose ratings and lose money."

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"For the first time in more than two hundred years, general George Washington’s prohibition against torturing captives has been overturned by White House directive. And the outcry was so weak and timid that the Congress affirmed the policy, in effect.

"Let me give you the second example. The second quick example of the same thing; we have had mass eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants, as required in the constitution, without the news media making any fuss about it, particularly, without enough outrage to convince the congress to stop it. Again the Congress affirmed this violation of civil liberties. And to me, it’s troubling that this White House would make those two decisions, but it’s much more troubling that our democracy, as it is currently operating, is so shockingly vulnerable to that kind of abuse and that kind of intimidation."

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"I think that we ought to insulate news divisions from entertainment divisions and allow the reporters and the editors to decide what is news rather than putting on these trivialities."

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"The television reporters that you and I know have a common phrase: if it bleeds, it leads. And you will have crime; there have been plenty of studies of people who watch television news that have the impression that violent crime is two or three times in their community as it actually is. Not to minimize the seriousness of that problem, but the choice of putting car chases or victims of armed robbery or murder leading the news night after night after night after night to the exclusion of choices that we have to make in our democracy.

"Look, the people have to be part of the process of self-government or else it is completely manipulated by those who give access to the pools of money necessary to buy these propagandistic little commercials that manufacture the consent, to use Walter Lipman’s phrase from 1920s as the age of radio began, to manufacture the consent of the government rather than to seek it in a process that has integrity."

Gore on the Cowardly, Vacuous, Catch-Penny Political Press