Sunday, June 03, 2007

On Not Reviewing Al Gore

What do you do when a former Vice President writes a book warning that modern politics is becoming a sound and light show in which reason and meaningful participation are increasingly marginalised? That what Al Gore has done in The Assault on Reason.

And the response has been all but unanimous. Let's not discuss the book's argument, let's have a pop at silly old Al Gore. If he says there is no room for serious debate in the modern media, let's wildly over-simplify his argument ('His latest book goes over a lot of well-tilled ground about Mr Bush's "faith-based politics"' - good work there from the Economist; let's ignore the fact that Gore believes that 'is is truly power that is key to understanding the cynical manipulation of faith and the assault on reason' and that Gore says very little about Bush's Christianity or lack of it).

If he suggests that technology might have an impact on political culture, let's denounce him for his 'technological determinism'; if calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned deliberation then he is of course a Vulcan, and a 'radical technological determinist' (stand up David Brooks).

And my personal favourite; writing on the Guardian web site, Richard Byrne pauses to acknowledge that 'Gore's right' about the trivialising effect of tabloid television and moves briskly on to the 'deeper question' - whether 'Al Gore is the right messenger'. That's the way, Richard. Never mind the content of a claim, let's concentrate on the person making it. Isn't that after all what the Enlightenment was all about?

(ps A helpful copy editor had headlined the piece 'Kill the Messenger' - so perhaps the lights are still on in EC1)

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If you've seen the Gore clips in the Spin documentary, you'll find his book even more surreal.

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