Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Transcript: Gore On The Threat To Democracy

Expand Messages
  • Ram Lau
    http://algore.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=300&Itemid=78 Wednesday, 05 October 2005 by Al Gore Remarks as prepared I came here today because I
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 6, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      http://algore.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=300&Itemid=78
      Wednesday, 05 October 2005
      by Al Gore
      Remarks as prepared

      I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in
      grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of
      our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels
      that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's
      fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

      How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in
      the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered
      "an alternate universe"?

      I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans
      said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking
      us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a
      third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for
      planning and supporting the attack.

      At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial
      was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from
      the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But
      now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of
      serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks
      at a time.

      Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does
      it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the
      practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of
      whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out
      in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor
      is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income
      families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our
      role as citizens?

      On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest
      serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate
      floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"

      The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with
      virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few
      days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt.
      General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will
      turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

      But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's
      question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was
      saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to
      have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the
      choice between war and peace?

      Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over
      time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the
      Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that
      what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any
      more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere
      else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests
      in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election
      campaign.

      In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a
      short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public
      discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists -
      that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk
      with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But
      then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

      In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was
      consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders,
      probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words
      with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

      Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on
      their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they
      placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be
      well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the
      marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

      The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had
      grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after
      Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval
      information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the
      Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

      Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish
      was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire
      of Reason."

      Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient
      Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public
      forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which
      individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in
      the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with
      their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed
      word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic
      right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of
      protecting the freedom of the printing press.

      Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial
      fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first
      half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas
      Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our
      Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.

      Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing
      press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that
      America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something
      other than words in print.

      And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed
      since the majority of Americans received their news and information
      from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for
      the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation
      numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country
      but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and
      occupied by television.

      Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie
      for our attention - but it is television that still completely
      dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact,
      according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch
      television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90
      minutes more than the world average.

      When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep
      and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost
      three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American
      has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.

      The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is
      important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television.
      Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually
      simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an
      important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers
      in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few
      minutes.

      Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of
      information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the
      television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by
      faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession.
      Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.

      But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news
      and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint
      continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political
      consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly
      described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on
      television, it doesn't exist."

      But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been
      pushed to the sidelines. And the most prominent casualty has been the
      "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected
      by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

      It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public
      matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders
      searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been
      grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.

      And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of
      ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts
      our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.

      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.

      The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas
      were:

      1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save
      the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied
      not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to
      contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was
      available to all;

      2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most
      part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market
      to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the
      individual responsible for them;

      3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were
      all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That
      is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.

      What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling
      new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge
      regularly mediated between wealth and power.

      The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all
      humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of
      God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

      It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human
      spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet
      become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther
      frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and
      eventually, we still dream, for all.

      And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power,
      self-government was understood to be the instrument with which the
      people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason
      under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.

      But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including
      especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned
      collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design -- depended on
      the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it
      operated during the Age of Print.

      Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates,
      and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead
      of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the
      national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of
      television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part
      in what passes for a national conversation today.

      Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America.
      They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset
      essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

      Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely
      inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in
      ideas contributed by individual citizens.

      Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more
      people than any source of information has ever been in all of history.
      But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one
      direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.

      The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community
      and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite
      spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a
      few. The production of programming has been centralized and has
      usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other
      reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control
      virtually all of the television programming in America.

      Soon after television established its dominance over print, young
      people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of
      democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join
      the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of
      expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality
      theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the
      television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed
      words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American
      people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on
      national television.

      So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the
      printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in
      television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change
      that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not
      coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and
      information network in all of American television.

      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.

      The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened
      as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like
      gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The
      feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized
      knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in
      which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where
      knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the
      people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.

      It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over
      this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for
      damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when
      the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United
      States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on
      democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if
      control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation
      can be free."

      As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. --
      including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and
      the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they
      were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush
      Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.

      And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place.
      Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie
      "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as
      a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed
      into the news business, which became the media industry and is now
      completely owned by conglomerates.

      The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public
      interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen
      as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly,
      to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a
      small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets,
      less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more
      vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on
      government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy
      is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists
      is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their
      profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have
      been trained to do.

      The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control
      and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They
      placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a
      reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at
      crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press
      releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it
      in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons
      of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is
      critical of the President.

      For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a
      comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in
      the world. And that too seems strange to me.

      Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media,
      the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism
      profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional
      events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated
      by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after
      angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and
      tarted up."

      The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race" and
      little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local
      television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which some
      disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks.")

      In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America
      agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.

      Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the
      American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs
      to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you
      have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The
      Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride.
      The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings,
      and on and on and on.

      And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate
      crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of
      America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public
      questions that need to be addressed by the American people.

      One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in
      hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had
      happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man
      who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was
      interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.

      This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The
      Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a
      distinction between news and entertainment.

      And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment
      seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism
      that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed,
      they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent,
      corrupt, or both.

      One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political
      ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in
      30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form
      of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our
      elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to
      purchase these ads.

      That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for
      candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their
      own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are
      now filling up with the wealthy.

      Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the
      main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political
      dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money
      will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s.
      And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.

      And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to
      enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since
      they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted
      to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their
      opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

      Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's
      Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were
      told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks
      that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the
      White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon
      complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By
      temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and
      the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to
      present the Moveon ad.

      The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of
      television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which
      modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In
      the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which
      advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and
      demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the
      marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were
      beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers
      never knew they wanted, much less needed.

      The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is
      now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace
      for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions
      put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant
      compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of
      voters.

      Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are,
      in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially
      created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of
      consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of
      democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved
      enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no
      longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."

      Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to
      human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans
      must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and
      create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative
      conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist
      on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must,
      for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science.
      We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to
      be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's
      ability to discern the truth.

      I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I
      am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a
      multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates
      according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more,
      we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.

      We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are
      made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public
      would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate
      more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public
      interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out
      to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.

      The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and
      accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV
      relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which
      individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared.
      We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have
      every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the
      decisions on programming our network.

      I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on
      creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices
      into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits
      and wish you every success.

      I want to close with the two things I've learned about the Internet
      that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having
      here today.

      First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most
      powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its
      packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide
      variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile"
      to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of
      full-motion video.

      Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a
      powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are
      hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of
      vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our
      evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million
      years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look
      are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the
      genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And
      that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously -
      sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the
      industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than
      a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why
      Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.

      It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the
      Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is
      making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what
      the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television
      watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to
      replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for
      carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in
      spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and
      satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and
      probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in
      America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe
      that America's democracy is at grave risk.

      The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the
      Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any
      limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they
      wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect
      to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must
      be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of
      corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television
      marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace
      as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.

      We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's
      future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas
      that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of
      freedom.
    • THOMAS JOHNSON
      I canceled my cable after the 2004 elections. I could no longer put money into a corrupt system that ran the Swift Boat story as the lead story for the entire
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 6, 2005
      • 0 Attachment
        I canceled my cable after the 2004 elections. I could
        no longer put money into a corrupt system that ran the
        Swift Boat story as the lead story for the entire
        month of Aug., even though it had been debunked by the
        print media a couple of days into the controversy.
        Kerry/Edwards campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said
        that that was the single most important determinant in
        eroding a consistent 7 point Kerry lead and swinging
        the election.

        Tom




        --- Ram Lau <ramlau@...> wrote:


        ---------------------------------
        http://algore.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=300&Itemid=78
        Wednesday, 05 October 2005
        by Al Gore
        Remarks as prepared

        I came here today because I believe that American
        democracy is in
        grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the
        strangeness of
        our public discourse . I know that I am not the only
        one who feels
        that something has gone basically and badly wrong in
        the way America's
        fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

        How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a
        family member in
        the last few years remark that it's almost as if
        America has entered
        "an alternate universe"?

        I thought maybe it was an aberration when
        three-quarters of Americans
        said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible
        for attacking
        us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years
        later, between a
        third and a half still believe Saddam was personally
        responsible for
        planning and supporting the attack.

        At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage
        of the O.J. trial
        was just an unfortunate excess that marked an
        unwelcome departure from
        the normal good sense and judgment of our television
        news media. But
        now we know that it was merely an early example of a
        new pattern of
        serial obsessions that periodically take over the
        airwaves for weeks
        at a time.

        Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners,
        and if so, does
        it feel right that we as American citizens are not
        outraged by the
        practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing
        discussion of
        whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is
        being carried out
        in the name of the American people? If the gap between
        rich and poor
        is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting
        for low-income
        families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and
        lethargic in our
        role as citizens?

        On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq,
        our longest
        serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood
        on the Senate
        floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these
        halls silent?"

        The decision that was then being considered by the
        Senate with
        virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a
        fateful one. A few
        days ago, the former head of the National Security
        Agency, Retired Lt.
        General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I
        believe, will
        turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S.
        history."

        But whether you agree with his assessment or not,
        Senator Byrd's
        question is like the others that I have just posed
        here: he was
        saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't
        we supposed to
        have full and vigorous debates about questions as
        important as the
        choice between war and peace?

        Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched
        it change over
        time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two
        questions: the
        Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators
        don't feel that
        what they say on the floor of the Senate really
        matters that much any
        more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators
        were somewhere
        else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from
        special interests
        in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next
        re-election
        campaign.

        In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at
        least for a
        short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of
        focus in our public
        discourse that reminded some Americans - including
        some journalists -
        that vividness and clarity used to be more common in
        the way we talk
        with one another about the problems and choices that
        we face. But
        then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.

        In fact there was a time when America's public
        discourse was
        consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our
        Founders,
        probably the most literate generation in all of
        history, used words
        with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of
        Reason.

        Their faith in the viability of Representative
        Democracy rested on
        their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed
        citizenry. But they
        placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public
        could be
        well-informed. And they took great care to protect the
        openness of the
        marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow
        of knowledge.

        The values that Americans had brought from Europe to
        the New World had
        grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and
        knowledge after
        Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant
        medieval
        information monopoly and triggered the Reformation,
        Humanism, and the
        Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule
        of Reason."

        Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the
        audacity to establish
        was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager
        as "the Empire
        of Reason."

        Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the
        Agora in ancient
        Athens. They also understood quite well that in
        America, our public
        forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy
        in which
        individual citizens would participate not only by
        speaking directly in
        the presence of others -- but more commonly by
        communicating with
        their fellow citizens over great distances by means of
        the printed
        word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly
        as a basic
        right, they made a special point - in the First
        Amendment - of
        protecting the freedom of the printing press.

        Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as
        the proverbial
        fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States
        in its first
        half century knew nothing but the world of print: the
        Bible, Thomas
        Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of
        Independence, our
        Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record,
        newspapers and books.

        Though they feared that a government might try to
        censor the printing
        press - as King George had done - they could not
        imagine that
        America's public discourse would ever consist mainly
        of something
        other than words in print.

        And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40
        years have passed
        since the majority of Americans received their news
        and information
        from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging
        readers and, for
        the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate
        their circulation
        numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only
        in our country
        but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has
        been invaded and
        occupied by television.

        Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other
        media all now vie
        for our attention - but it is television that still
        completely
        dominates the flow of information in modern America.
        In fact,
        according to an authoritative global study, Americans
        now watch
        television an average of four hours and 28 minutes
        every day -- 90
        minutes more than the world average.

        When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to
        eight hours of sleep
        and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and
        commute, that is almost
        three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the
        average American
        has. And for younger Americans, the average is even
        higher.

        The internet is a formidable new medium of
        communication, but it is
        important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle
        to television.
        Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet
        users are actually
        simultaneously watching television while they are
        online. There is an
        important reason why television maintains such a hold
        on its viewers
        in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to
        that in a few
        minutes.

        Television first overtook newsprint to become the
        dominant source of
        information in America in 1963. But for the next two
        decades, the
        television networks mimicked the nation's leading
        newspapers by
        faithfully following the standards of the journalism
        profession.
        Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession
        in raising the bar.

        But all the while, television's share of the total
        audience for news
        and information continued to grow -- and its lead over
        newsprint
        continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young
        political
        consultant turned to an older elected official and
        succinctly
        described a new reality in America's public discourse:
        "If it's not on
        television, it doesn't exist."

        But some extremely important elements of American
        Democracy have been
        pushed to the sidelines. And the most prominent
        casualty has been the
        "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so
        carefully protected
        by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.

        It is not that we no longer share ideas with one
        another about public
        matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in
        which our Founders
        searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of
        Reason has been
        grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all
        recognition.

        And here is my point: it is the destruction of that
        marketplace of
        ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now
        continually haunts
        our efforts to reason together about the choices we
        must make as a nation.

        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.

        The three most important characteristics of this
        marketplace of ideas
        were:

        1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers
        to entry, save
        the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial
        to add, applied
        not only to the receipt of information but also to the
        ability to
        contribute information directly into the flow of ideas
        that was
        available to all;

        2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals
        depended, for the most
        part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those
        judged by the market
        to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth
        or class of the
        individual responsible for them;

        3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the
        participants were
        all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general
        agreement. That
        is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.

        What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise
        was a startling
        new development in human history: for the first time,
        knowledge
        regularly mediated between wealth and power.

        The liberating force of this new American reality was
        thrilling to all
        humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn
        upon the alter of
        God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny
        over the mind of man."

        It ennobled the individual and unleashed the
        creativity of the human
        spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what
        they could yet
        become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore
        the farther
        frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for
        women, and
        eventually, we still dream, for all.

        And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and
        power,
        self-government was understood to be the instrument
        with which the
        people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The
        Rule of Reason
        under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.

        But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this -
        including
        especially the ability of the American people to
        exercise the reasoned
        collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design
        -- depended on
        the particular characteristics of the marketplace of
        ideas as it
        operated during the Age of Print.

        Consider the rules by which our present "public forum"
        now operates,
        and how different they are from the forum our Founders
        knew. Instead
        of the easy and free access individuals had to
        participate in the
        national conversation by means of the printed word,
        the world of
        television makes it virtually impossible for
        individuals to take part
        in what passes for a national conversation today.

        Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost
        everywhere in America.
        They were easily accessible and operated by printers
        eager to typeset
        essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.

        Television stations and networks, by contrast, are
        almost completely
        inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always
        uninterested in
        ideas contributed by individual citizens.

        Ironically, television programming is actually more
        accessible to more
        people than any source of information has ever been in
        all of history.
        But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible
        in only one
        direction; there is no true interactivity, and
        certainly no conversation.

        The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in
        each community
        and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast
        and satellite
        spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource
        controlled by a
        few. The production of programming has been
        centralized and has
        usually required a massive capital investment. So for
        these and other
        reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations
        control
        virtually all of the television programming in
        America.

        Soon after television established its dominance over
        print, young
        people who realized they were being shut out of the
        dialogue of
        democracy came up with a new form of expression in an
        effort to join
        the national conversation: the "demonstration." This
        new form of
        expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially
        a poor quality
        theatrical production designed to capture the
        attention of the
        television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with
        a few printed
        words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the
        American
        people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for
        expression on
        national television.

        So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in
        the wake of the
        printing press, there is virtually no exchange of
        ideas at all in
        television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are
        trying to change
        that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps
        not
        coincidentally, we are the only independently owned
        news and
        information network in all of American television.

        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.

        The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes
        what has happened
        as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That
        may sound like
        gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of
        meaning. The
        feudal system which thrived before the printing press
        democratized
        knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was
        a system in
        which wealth and power were intimately intertwined,
        and where
        knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The
        great mass of the
        people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born
        of their ignorance.

        It did not come as a surprise that the concentration
        of control over
        this powerful one-way medium carries with it the
        potential for
        damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as
        the 1920s, when
        the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in
        the United
        States, there was immediate apprehension about its
        potential impact on
        democracy. One early American student of the medium
        wrote that if
        control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a
        few, "no nation
        can be free."

        As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in
        the U.S. --
        including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time
        Provision, and
        the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later,
        in 1987, they
        were effectively repealed. And then immediately
        afterwards, Rush
        Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the
        airwaves.

        And radio is not the only place where big changes have
        taken place.
        Television news has undergone a series of dramatic
        changes. The movie
        "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976,
        was presented as
        a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism
        profession morphed
        into the news business, which became the media
        industry and is now
        completely owned by conglomerates.

        The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving
        a public
        interest and were subsidized by the rest of the
        network - are now seen
        as profit centers designed to generate revenue and,
        more importantly,
        to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of
        which they are a
        small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories,
        smaller budgets,
        less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment,
        more
        vulnerability to influence by management, and more
        dependence on
        government sources and canned public relations
        hand-outs. This tragedy
        is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation
        of journalists
        is the best trained and most highly skilled in the
        history of their
        profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the
        job they have
        been trained to do.

        The present executive branch has made it a practice to
        try and control
        and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to
        Newsweek. They
        placed a former male escort in the White House press
        pool to pose as a
        reporter - and then called upon him to give the
        president a hand at
        crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony
        video press
        releases and paid cash to some reporters who were
        willing to take it
        in return for positive stories. And every day they
        unleash squadrons
        of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any
        journalist who is
        critical of the President.

        For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently
        found in a
        comprehensive international study to be only the 27th
        freest press in
        the world. And that too seems strange to me.

        Among the other factors damaging our public discourse
        in the media,
        the imposition by management of entertainment values
        on the journalism
        profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated
        sources, fictional
        events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As
        recently stated
        by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his
        anchor job after
        angering the White House - television news has been
        "dumbed down and
        tarted up."

        The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the
        "horse race" and
        little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most
        local
        television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which
        some
        disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it
        stinks.")

        In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue
        state America
        agree on is that they don't trust the news media
        anymore.

        Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer
        to inform the
        American people or serve the public interest. It is to
        "glue eyeballs
        to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell
        advertising. If you
        have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert
        Blake trial. The
        Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The
        Runaway Bride.
        The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various
        celebrity couplings,
        and on and on and on.

        And more importantly, notice what is not on: the
        global climate
        crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing
        out of
        America's industrial base, and a long list of other
        serious public
        questions that need to be addressed by the American
        people.

        One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news
        programs in
        hopes of seeing information about an important world
        event that had
        happened earlier that day. But the lead story was
        about a young man
        who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must
        say, it was
        interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I
        didn't see was news.

        This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant
        host of "The
        Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there
        should be a
        distinction between news and entertainment.

        And it really matters because the subjugation of news
        by entertainment
        seriously harms our democracy: it leads to
        dysfunctional journalism
        that fails to inform the people. And when the people
        are not informed,
        they cannot hold government accountable when it is
        incompetent,
        corrupt, or both.

        One of the only avenues left for the expression of
        public or political
        ideas on television is through the purchase of
        advertising, usually in
        30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the
        principal form
        of communication between candidates and voters. As a
        result, our
        elected officials now spend all of their time raising
        money to
        purchase these ads.

        That is why the House and Senate campaign committees
        now search for
        candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the
        ads with their
        own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls
        of Congress are
        now filling up with the wealthy.

        Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted,
        often misses the
        main point: so long as the only means of engaging in
        political
        dialogue is through purchasing expensive television
        advertising, money
        will continue by one means or another to dominate
        American politic s.
        And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and
        power.

        And what if an individual citizen, or a group of
        citizens wants to
        enter the public debate by expressing their views on
        television? Since
        they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them
        have resorted
        to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which
        to express their
        opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.

        Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express
        opposition to Bush's
        Medicare proposal which was then being debated by
        Congress. They were
        told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one
        of the networks
        that had refused the Moveon ad began running
        advertisements by the
        White House in favor of the President's Medicare
        proposal. So Moveon
        complained and the White House ad was temporarily
        removed. By
        temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House
        complained and
        the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still
        refused to
        present the Moveon ad.

        The advertising of products, of course, is the real
        purpose of
        television. And it is difficult to overstate the
        extent to which
        modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped
        our society. In
        the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the
        way in which
        advertising has altered the classical relationship by
        which supply and
        demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of
        the
        marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern
        advertising campaigns were
        beginning to create high levels of demand for products
        that consumers
        never knew they wanted, much less needed.

        The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the
        commercial marketplace is
        now the dominant fact of life in what used to be
        America's marketplace
        for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political
        propositions
        put forward by candidates for office is now largely
        irrelevant
        compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the
        perceptions of
        voters.

        Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of
        the voters are,
        in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products
        is artificially
        created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the
        manufacture of
        consent...was supposed to have died out with the
        appearance of
        democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact,
        improved
        enormously in technique...under the impact of
        propaganda, it is no
        longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of
        democracy."

        Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of
        America's gift to
        human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright,
        we Americans
        must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the
        public forum and
        create new ways to engage in a genuine and not
        manipulative
        conversation about our future. Americans in both
        parties should insist
        on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of
        Reason. We must,
        for example, stop tolerating the rejection and
        distortion of science.
        We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo
        studies known to
        be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the
        public's
        ability to discern the truth.

        I don't know all the answers, but along with my
        partner, Joel Hyatt, I
        am trying to work within the medium of television to
        recreate a
        multi-way conversation that includes individuals and
        operates
        according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like
        to know more,
        we are having a press conference on Friday morning at
        the Regency Hotel.

        We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way
        decisions are
        made in the television industry, and it may well be
        that the public
        would be well served by some changes in law and policy
        to stimulate
        more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for
        the public
        interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace
        by reaching out
        to individuals and asking them to co-create our
        network.

        The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a
        vigorous and
        accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet.
        Indeed, Current TV
        relies on video streaming over the Internet as the
        means by which
        individuals send us what we call viewer-created
        content or VC squared.
        We also rely on the Internet for the two-way
        conversation that we have
        every day with our viewers enabling them to
        participate in the
        decisions on programming our network.

        I know that many of you attending this conference are
        also working on
        creative ways to use the Internet as a means for
        bringing more voices
        into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as
        kindred spirits
        and wish you every success.

        I want to close with the two things I've learned about
        the Internet
        that are most directly relevant to the conference that
        you are having
        here today.

        First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks
        the single most
        powerful characteristic of the television medium;
        because of its
        packet-switching architecture, and its continued
        reliance on a wide
        variety of bandwidth connections (including the
        so-called "last mile"
        to the home), it does not support the real-time mass
        distribution of
        full-motion video.

        Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes
        television such a
        powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all
        vertebrates - are
        hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in
        our field of
        vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look.
        When our
        evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African
        savanna a million
        years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones
        who didn't look
        are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on
        to us the
        genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the
        establishing reflex." And
        that is the brain syndrome activated by television
        continuously -
        sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is
        the reason why the
        industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is
        actually more than
        a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the
        reason why
        Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a
        half hours a day.

        It is true that video streaming is becoming more
        common over the
        Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of
        streamed video is
        making it possible for many young television viewers
        to engage in what
        the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize
        their television
        watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth
        connections continue to
        replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's
        capacity for
        carrying television will continue to dramatically
        improve. But in
        spite of these developments, it is television
        delivered over cable and
        satellite that will continue for the remainder of this
        decade and
        probably the next to be the dominant medium of
        communication in
        America's democracy. And so long as that is the case,
        I truly believe
        that America's democracy is at grave risk.

        The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure
        that the
        Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens
        without any
        limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the
        content they
        wish regardless of the Internet service provider they
        use to connect
        to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for
        granted. We must
        be prepared to fight for it because some of the same
        forces of
        corporate consolidation and control that have
        distorted the television
        marketplace have an interest in controlling the
        Internet marketplace
        as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that
        to happen.

        We must ensure by all means possible that this medium
        of democracy's
        future develops in the mold of the open and free
        marketplace of ideas
        that our Founders knew was essential to the health and
        survival of
        freedom.





        SPONSORED LINKS

        President bush
        President george w bush
        Supreme court justices
        President
        Supreme court


        ---------------------------------
        YAHOO! GROUPS LINKS


        Visit your group "prezveepsenator" on the web.

        To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        prezveepsenator-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

        Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo!
        Terms of Service.


        ---------------------------------
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.