Pardon me for not realizing before now that Al Gore is really smart
Okay, though it tends to bring in the trolls, here is another post about something that’s hotly discussed on general political blogs…
I’ve been reading Al Gore’s new book, The Assault on Reason, and I have to admit that I had underestimated him, simply because he has been successful in politics without widely communicating even a few of the insights about the world that are in his book.
There isn’t much in the book that is new to me, or probably to you if you are reading this. The reason that I’m bothering to post about it in Library Juice is that in this book Gore takes up many of the topics that have been the meat and potatoes of Library Juice since 1998, and brings them to a truly wide audience, with the authority of a national leader. If you’ve been following Library Juice you will notice that many of the intellectuals Gore cites, quotes, and mentions in his discussion of what is going on in the world have also been discussed here: Jürgen Habermas, Neil Postman, Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman, Louis Brandeis, Jerry Mander, George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Larry Tye, Seymour Hersh, and Lawrence Lessig. Gore puts the problems of the Bush administration in the context of the effects of television media, public relations, the effect of money in politics, print culture and its relationship to reason, and the transformation (or death) of the public sphere.
American liberalism as a political philosophy, as everybody is saying, is in need of revitalization and clarification, and I think Gore’s book does a lot to help liberals find their footing. I think it is very helpful that a book that states the case against Bush as solidly as this also provides a coherent view of the contemporary world. Gore really puts it all together in this book. I am very impressed, and a little embarrassed, because until reading this I just thought of him as a more or less typical politician. No, he is a very intelligent person whose engagement with world issues led him to take on a role of political leadership. I will also add that in a world that has taken such a disastrous wrong turn, the fact that Gore can write with not only a broad comprehension of contemporary society but with an apparently well-grounded direction forward is inspiring, and much needed at a time when it is such a challenge to find hope. Before this I’ve never felt that a “leader” (a politician) of my own time was actually a leader…
Now, I have some deep disagreements with him politically, but I could get behind him despite those because of the qualities that he has and the things he understands.
One sad note: Right winger’s have dinged the book for lacking footnotes; Eric Boehlert, who comments on the media, refutes this by pointing out the books 273 endnotes. Footnotes, endnotes; the sad note is that while the publisher did include the 273 endnotes in the book, it deleted all the textual references to them, at least in the edition that I am now reading. So there are no numbers in superscript throughout the text that point to the clearly numbered endnotes. I don’t know what Penguin was thinking….