Friday, October 07, 2005

Poor Man

Once, again, Al Gore has lost it.

He seemed OK at one point. Heck, during the '80s I almost thought he was on our side on certain issues, like abortion.

But ever since loosing to W in 2000, he has become positively unhinged.

There was the speech during which he ranted and raved like, well, Howard Dean. It wasn't so much what he said, although that was pretty loony too, as how he said it. As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, even Maureen Dowd mocked him for that one.

This time he's gone paranoid.

In a speech the other day at a media conference he said that American democracy was in "grave danger" because...conservative views are now voiced in the media.

I kid you not.

Ok, he didn't exactly say that word for word, just like he never exactly said that he "invented the Internet". But the meaning is plain enough.

He started off by reminiscing about the good old days when we had a "marketplace of ideas" in the media. Those days, according to Gore, were when Americans got virtually all of their news from the print media.

This "marketplace of ideas", he says, was "open to every individual", was based on a "Meritocracy of Ideas", and the "participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement."

So let me get this right. Back when in order to be heard you had to either work for a newspaper (still subject to your editor's whims), start a newspaper, or get a letter-to-the-editor published, this was a freewheeling "marketplace of ideas"? You've got to be kidding.

According to Gore, this is what went wrong:

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 completely 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.

Television stations, Gore says, "...are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens."

I'll certainly be the first to agree that television is not exactly the source for news, whether you're watching Fox News or CNN. But a threat to our democracy?

And while they may not be directly accessible to individual citizens, in recent years we have seen that they can certainly be held accountable, so Gore is flat-out wrong here. To pick one example, CBS and Dan Rather were raked over the coals for the fake documents on George W Bush.

The reason Gore thinks television is so bad is because "...three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible" for 9/11. That and the O.J trial (Jonah Goldberg has the scoop on where Gore that that 3/4 figure. It's from some group called the Program on International Policy Attitudes). But again, a "threat to our democracy"? Come on.

Gore doesn't come out and say it, but it would seem he's talking about Fox News. As Goldberg says, " hear this from liberals all the time."

Earth to Al Gore: Televison is not a recent invention. It has been around for decades. Let's just be honest; the reason for your complaints is that you liberals lost your monopoly on it. No longer do we just have the big 3 and PBS. Fox News is beating CNN and MSNBC hands down in the ratings(hat tip USS Neverdock). And now we have the Internet to hold the rest of the liberal media accountable.

What exactly does Gore want to do about all this? He doesn't really say, other than that 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."

As if anything on the Internet other than child porn is going to be limited. Maybe he's against letting the UN get their hands on it, but he doesn't say.

Maybe he wants to bring back the so-called "Fairness Doctrine", which was anything but fair. Who knows.

Poor man, you do have to kind of feel sorry for him.

Speaking of the Media

This from today's Washington Times:

Robert Maginnis, a retired Army colonel and frequent military analyst on radio and TV, is touring Kuwait and Iraq, compliments of the Pentagon, to see how things are going firsthand.

After a dinner last night with Army soldiers, Mr. Maginnis reports to us:

"The soldiers expressed frustration with the fact that most of the U.S. news coverage about Iraq is bad, which contradicts their firsthand view. Two of those soldiers have children stationed with combat units in Iraq. These proud parents appreciate the importance of their Kuwait support mission. A lieutenant colonel volunteered that the American people support the troops but probably don't understand our mission, which explains why national support for the war is declining. A sergeant offered that support would increase if more people served and suggested that returning to a draft might help universal understanding."

Evening Update

I had to run off to work this morning before finishing, and the juxtapositon of Gore's speech and Maginnis' comments should perhaps be explained (though most will get it).

Gore evidently things that the American people are being brainwashed by conservatives on the television news. He evidently believes that if only ordinary citizens had more opportunity to contribute to our national discourse, to speak out, then the lies of those dastardly conservatives would be exposed.

Maginnis' remarks, however, show just how far from reality Gore is. I've read this time and again, how when soldiers return home they are amazed by the press coverage, and how it differs from what they saw.

Unfortunately, Gore is not the only one who has become unhinged.

Dan Rather has also gone paranoid:

Rather spoke at the Fordham University School of Law in New York, and according to the Hollywood Reporter, he "said there is a climate of fear running through newsrooms stronger than he has ever seen in his more than four-decade career." The article said that Rather was "occasionally forcing back tears" while commenting how "politicians 'of every persuasion' had gotten better at applying pressure on the conglomerates that own the broadcast networks. He called it a 'new journalism order.'"

Walter Cronkite thinks we're all stupid:

We're an ignorant nation right now. We're not really capable of making the decisions that have to be made at election time and particularly in the selection of their legislatures and their Congress and the presidency of course. I think we're in serious danger.

-- Walter Cronkite, on Larry King Live

I think we're in danger too; of having to listen to you more.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lessons from history

A few days ago, Condoleezza Rice delivered a speech at Princeton university. The most important lesson to be drawn from this speech, can be summarized into two simple words: be patient!

The inspiration for this lesson, as for so many things in life, is history. Let us go back to the years shortly after the end of WWII. The Cold War, the conflict between freedom and communism, broke out. The signs for the outcome of that conflict didn’t seem favourable.

After all, in 1946, the Germany Reconstruction was still failing and Germans were still starving. Japan lay prostrate. In 1947, there was a civil war in Greece. In 1948, Germany was permanently divided by the Berlin Crisis; Czechoslovakia was lost to a communist coup. And in 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule; and the Chinese communists won their war. In 1950, a brutal war broke on the Korean Peninsula.
60 years later, we know better. Germany and Japan have become prosperous, democratic countries. Germany is reunited. The Czech republic and Slovakia, just like the other countries of Eastern Europe have escaped the domination of the Soviets and have joined the European Union. The Sovietunion is no more. China has a capitalist economy and a communist government. South Korea has also become a democratic and prosperous country after the civil war.

Who would have imagined that? Even, on the eve of the revolutions of 1989 no one thought this would be possible. The years after WOII were also the years of the Marshall-plan and the establishment of NATO. Those decisions have laid the path to success many years later.

Right now, we are living turbulent times: terrorist attacks happen regularly like the one this weekend on the island of Bali - again. In Iraq, there is talk of civil war, Islamic theocracy and another Vietnam quagmire. Success in the war against islamofascism seems far away. Yet there have been big successes: Afghanistan en Iraq have been liberated from the domination of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, the influence of Syria in Lebanon has been considerably reduced, in Egypt and Saudi-Arabia the first very timid steps toward democratization have been made.

Of course many challenges remain: the violence in Iraq and Iran’s nuclear program, just to name two of them. But also there progress has been made: Al Qaeda in Iraq more and more feels the pressure of the coalition. Some say that Zarqawi, their leader, cannot stay in Iraq forever and will be forced to leave, e.g. for lawless Somalia, where Al Qaeda is establishing a presence. Concerning Iran, the international atomic agency has adopted a resolution which allows to eventually refer Iran to the Security Council. You could say this is insufficient, but at least progress is being made.

So patience is everything. These are turbulent times, on the way there will be setbacks. But, to conclude with the words of Dr. Rice

if you are true to your values, if you are certain of your values, and if you act upon them with confidence and with strength, it is possible to have an outcome where democracy spreads and peace and liberty reign.
History has learnt that it can be done.

Update 03/10/05: following the terrorist attacks on Bali, Mark Steyn again says - to those who would have forgotten - what it is all about for the terrorists: "the Islamist way or no way" (hat tip: LGF)