Can the internet save democracy? Al Gore thinks so. What do you think?
Just reading the cover piece on Gore in Time, and the excerpt of his new book, The Assault on Reason. Gore says the American public has become disengaged from public issues, government and participating in democracy, largely because we’ve entertained ourselves into a passive flat-line Paris Hilton stupor.
There’s little public discussion of public issues in Congress, he says. Mostly there’s whoring after money so politicians can afford the content-free 30-second ads that have replaced the Lincoln-Douglas debates as today’s public discourse. He blames the media, television’s paralyzing of the brain’s thought, logic and reasoning centers, both parties, and all of us.
More important, he points to a solution. Gore says the internet “is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge.” American democracy needs “new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future,” and “the re-establishment of genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way — a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.”
The internet is a “platform for reason” and a way to talk to one another, listen, and get off our intellectual and citizenship asses. My language, that last, not Al’s.
What do you all think? Austin’s buying a round. Does the internet get people engaged, thinking, analyzing, participating? Or is it another self-indulgent distraction?
More locally, is what we’re doing on The Same Rowdy Crowd part of what Gore’s talking about? We five who put this together hoped the blog would get people thinking and exchanging ideas, arguments, cheers and insults. It’s been great fun to read what you all have to say. But is it changing anyone’s mind? Is it making you think? Is it going to save the world?
Gore probably relies too heavily on reason as the driver of human progress. That may be why he was such a flat campaigner in 2000. Passion, conviction, spirituality, the magnetic charisma of leadership, and gut instinct play a huge role in how people relate to each other, the world and the great mysteries of life. So democracy needs more than smart people debating in togas. But Gore raises a challenging vision of the internet as an enabler of government of, by and for the people. I hope he’s right, and that’s one of the reasons I keep tapping away at this keyboard.
(And, of course, there’s the great political theater of Gore, on the fence, being implored by many people to run, losing weight, coming out with another book just at the right time… He was such a dreadful candidate in 2000, so terrified of the aftershocks of Clinton’s penis problem that he dared not claim the benefits of eight years of good government. And he was advised to death. The Time piece claims 2000 was a crucible for him that burned away the caution and has left a passionate human being doing what he cares deeply about. I admire him for not becoming a victim and a whiner after 2000, but moving forward instead and making a difference. I personally think Obama is the leader for this time, but, who knows — we may get a chance to re-elect Al Gore.)