Thursday, October 06, 2005

The dying art of statesmanship

I’ve often remarked that America feels like an “alternate universe” to me. Interestingly, former VP and the winner of the 2000 election, Al Gore, mentioned that very phrase in a speech he gave on Wednesday.

Gore has become an intriguing figure and member of the elite landscape, albeit, offering an alternate viewpoint than the current wisdom in vogue. While I don’t intend to lionize him, he’s given some extremely provocative and dead-on speeches over the past year or two. I’m not sure why he didn’t fare better in his run for president in 2000? I mean, he did actually win, but my point is, why did someone with his obvious intelligence end up in a photo finish race with El Dumbo? Then again, we are living in a time when intelligence and analysis are liabilities, rather than assets. Hence, his great oratory and keen analysis are ignored by our friends in the MSM.

Not surprisingly, Americans, like the citizens of Rome, have given themselves over to “bread and circuses,” i.e. the pursuit of the trivial and mindless self-gratification. As Gore notes in his speech, our democracy is now threatened by the general ill-informed citizenry that now constitutes our nation. Gore speaks directly to the role that media plays in this dumbing down of understanding.

“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.")”

As a reader of history, there is a certain sense of déjà vu that occupies my thinking, observing the American experiment increasingly resembling that of the Roman Empire, as it began to unravel and eventually implode.

As Juvenal, the Roman satirist noted, the empire’s glory days were behind, as his fellow citizens had become so preoccupied with entertainment and personal pleasures that they no longer cared about the great civic virtues of the past. They were content, as his famous phrase that we refer to states, with “bread and circuses” and blindly following the weakened succession of civil authority. How is that any different from where we find ourselves in our time?

Gore’s speech is worth reading in its entirety. Rarely, does one hear a leader and someone from the ruling class speak with clarity and truth any longer. Gore, for whatever reason (maybe he actually cares about the future of our nation), has seen fit to speak some truth to those in power—hopefully someone is still listening.


weasel said...

The difference being that the Romans didn't have thousands of nuclear warheads and an isolated position on their own continent with which to greet the barbarian hordes that brought down the walls of the city state. I would argue history that there is no cycle to history (sorry marxists) but rather historical trends are like the contents of a lava lamp- essentially the same throughout time but continually reforming and recombining to produce a range of always different results.

Beware of historical parallels- like train tracks they force you to run in one single direction.

Jim said...

I recognize the dangers of historical parallels--however, there are certainly similarities in a civic sense.

While our warheads offer a difference from ancient Rome, the world is a smaller place and the "barbarians" certainly can access our shores via any modern method of transport. I'd also argue that many other nations now have the capabilities to manufacture warheads or already possess them.

My greater point ties into what Gore had to offer and how little play what he has had to say on various occasions has received, outside the ghetto of left-leaning blogs and marginalized media (Air America).

I do like the lava lamp analogy.

weasel said...

Bear in mind that it is in Gore's best interest to talk about the paucity of current media offerings as he has recently launched his own multi-million dollar TV network (which I learned about in the MSM Time magazine). Someone with money to invest must like him (Murdoch also did him a favor and gave him a good slot on his satellite network).

That said, he often makes good points now that he is out of office. I sometimes wonder though if his cowardice while an elected official helped contribute to this deepening mess? With a few notable exceptions the history of America's mass media has been one of corporate interest- the bottom line has always been provide a product that is salacious yet comfortable enough to draw readers/viewers/listeners and thus expose them to advertising. Indeed, the BBC- a government mandated monopoly- was established in reaction to the unseemly free-for-all that resulted from the issuing of the first radio licenses in the US. Nothing to do but read around the subject I guess- there seem to be enough sourse out there, given that so many people know enough is wrong to be yelling about the state of the media.

And those pesky Romans- my concept to ponder is this; the Romans weakened themselves from the inside, but it took massive outside intervention to bring down the walls. And then the rump Empire relocated to Constantinople and thrived for another 900 years. So did it really fall at the end of the Italian part of the empire, or when the republic gave way to dictatorship, or when Constantinople fell to Islam? Hmmm.

Jim said...

I'm not trying to be a Gore apologist; I'm not sure what you are referring to regarding Gore's "cowardice". There are plenty of things that tick me off about the man, primarily how he allowed himself to be handled ala Naomi Wolf, in 2000.

My main point is that he's given some very good speeches that have been concise on the issues of the day, this one being the corporate control of the media.

We'll have to continue this discussion or others, on Saturday, my friend.

weasel said...

I'm not calling you a Gore apologist, its just that when someone has a dog in the hunt (Gore and TV) we should question his motives for speaking out now rather than when he had the power to affect change (hence his moral cowardice).

ChefDunn said...

I'm not sure that a children's television network (that my 2 year old won't even watch) would be considered as media.

Jim said...

I agree with the comments--talk is cheap. However, I'm willing to stand behind a leader who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. I bet the 270 folks airlifted out of N.O. are, also.

There are things about Gore that drive me nuts; however, I think he's done some soul-searching since losing in 2000, and is honestly trying to find a way to make a difference.

weasel said...

So Gore gets his midlife crisis and attack of concience 5- even perhaps 13- years too late; great.

He's a good soul trapped in a politician's body, I'll give you that.

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