A POSITIVELY GOREWELLIAN SPEECH
At a time when President Bush leaves me feeling somewhat depressed to be a Republican, former Vice-President Gore comes along to remind me to be glad that I am not a Democrat.
Gore's speech yesterday
is itself a microcosm of what is wrong with the leadership of the Democratic Party and why as a result Bush is free to make all kinds of boneheaded mistakes without much fear.
Gore focused primarily on the dangers to American democracy posed by a lack of national debate to inform the American people of their government's policies:"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?"
You can read this statement essentially as " Because my party lost this debate, therefore it did not happen". I'm not sure where Mr. Gore was in the year prior to the invasion of Iraq but I saw little else in my newspapers, magazines and in the blogosphere than debate about the war - very passionate debate on both sides - across the country and the world. This is a bizarrely counterfactual assertion by Gore."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."
No. The Democratic Senators did not make a case because they had none to make, other than the ones committed out of long political philosophy to an antiwar Left position. The Clinton administration, of which Mr. Gore was part, came very close to toppling Saddam in 1998 with Operation Desert Fox and helped drive Slobodan Milosevic from power with the Kosovo War in 1999 ( which I favored incidentally) with strong support from Democratic senators. The real underlying beef these senators had was the political affiliation of the incumbent in the White House, not any matter of principle or even foreign policy objective since regime change was already U.S. policy before Bush came in to office. The Clinton administration also fiddled around with some CIA orchestrated coups ( using Ahmed Chalabi no less) against Saddam but after goading the Kurds into revolt, left them hanging under Republican Guard fire and ( unsuccessfully) tried to pin the blame on the low-level CIA field operative in Kurdistan.
Wonder if Al had any fingers in that debacle ? Never mind, back to the speech...."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. "
Translation. The coverage was virulently anti-Bush. To an extent this was deservedly so but the MSM was also very inaccurate and wildly sensationalistic but I suppose " a higher truth" was being served and that's what counted."...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"
What the big three networks news divisions followed faithfully into even the 1990's was the lead of the editorial page of The New York Times
. A stance closely associated with the Eastern Establishment and the Democratic Party since at least before the New Deal - so closely in fact that in foreign capitals the NYT was read for many years as the " unofficial" line of the U.S. government.
And not entirely inaccurately either.
I'm giving Mr. Gore an extra-long snippet here because it is an excellent illustration of how to set up a " stolen concept" argument that turns the literal meaning of words on their head."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."
Seldom has liberal nostalgia for indirect government and big corporation censorship of news and political debate been so brazenly portrayed as an argument for a free exchange of ideas. This is really something out of Orwell.
Mr. Gore is lamenting the Reagan-era repeal of " The Fairness Doctrine
" and related legal strictures that gave the Democratic Party and the Eastern Establishment elite interests ironclad control over public debate. And well he should, as the Fairness Doctrine was a tremendous built-in advantage for people like himself to dictate the parameters of acceptable public discourse free from any effective competition whatsoever.
Once upon a time ABC, CBS and NBC had an actual oligopoly on television news coverage in the United States, which as I mentioned earlier usually accepted a similar editorial frame for the news as the NYT, sometimes taking a leaf from the Washington Post or a major news magazine like TIME. This stance, which certainly communicated a partisan worldview along with factual news content, was legally defined as being objectively neutral under the Fairness Doctrine. You did not see or hear " hate -mongers"[ sic] like Rush Limbaugh giving alternative views because a conservative or pro-Republican viewpoint was legally defined as being subjective and partisan, requiring that a station affiliate provide free " equal time" to "the other side". TV and radio stations prosper by selling commercials, not by giving free air time to amateur cranks to rebut the hosts of their scheduled programs. Thus there was an enormous financial incentive to muzzle conservative commentary and content. So you didn't see guys like Rush in the media unless you counted the two minutes of Paul Harvey at 4 a.m. after the morning hog report.
And these corporate behemoths were supplemented by government funded entities like PBS and NPR. High quality broadcasts, certainly. Objective, hardly. Public broadcasting is even further to the Left than the networks despite the fact that a majority of the American public is to the Right of their tax dollar supported news programs.
These old glory days for which Mr. Gore so obviously pines can be described as many things but a "marketplace of ideas" isn't one of them. Unless your idea of a marketplace is the old Soviet GUM department store. Returning the FCC to a role of a media GOSPLAN would be a utopia for Gore and Al Franken - who can't seem to make their dream of an all-liberal station format competitive with Rush Limbaugh without the heavy hand of the state to tip the scales.
What Gore seems not to realize is that this media echo chamber he lauds fatally undermined the ability of the Democratic Party to actually wage a battle of ideas the same way having the ref on your side undermines the playing skills of a basketball team. The intellectual edge is dulled by a recourse to shutting up opponents instead of debating them. The information feedback loop is corrupted which is why liberals who won't read anything to the Right of Paul Krugman wake up dazed on election day to find Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush re-elected and their guy rejected by an enormous geographic swath of the nation. Deliberately cultivating cognitive dissonance is a dumb political survival strategy
A good history lesson for the aforementioned Mr. Bush, whose current difficulties are a result of a disconnect created by firewalling himself off from all contrary viewpoints and unwelcome news.