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Re: [prezveepsenator] Transcript: Gore On The Threat To Democracy

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    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 1 of 2 , Oct 6, 2005
      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.


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

      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.

      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

      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
      probably the most literate generation in all of
      history, used words
      with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of

      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
      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
      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

      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

      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
      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
      continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young
      consultant turned to an older elected official and
      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

      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
      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

      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,
      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
      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 -
      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
      virtually all of the television programming in

      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
      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
      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

      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
      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

      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,
      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
      television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which
      disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it

      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

      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

      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
      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
      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

      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
      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
      put forward by candidates for office is now largely
      compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the
      perceptions of

      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,
      enormously in technique...under the impact of
      propaganda, it is no
      longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of

      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
      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
      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
      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

      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


      President bush
      President george w bush
      Supreme court justices
      Supreme court


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