Al Gore Addresses We Media

The destruction of democratic discourse

| October 13, 2005


To Al Gore, it seems as though America has slipped into 'an alternate universe.' As cool as this sounds, it isn't a good thing. Rather, Gore believes the country's democratic system is in a tailspin. In a speech delivered at the We Media conference in New York City earlier this month, Gore expounded on why he thinks the nation's public forums, television in particular, are fundamentally flawed and are corrupting American democracy.

According to Gore, America's earliest decades were a time when a 'marketplace of ideas' thrived, when open public discussion was seen as central to the success of democracy. He argues that as the primary form of public discourse shifted from print to television, that 'marketplace' collapsed. Cheap metal printing presses once ubiquitous and readily available to many were, over time, replaced by television networks controlled by conglomerates and almost entirely inaccessible to individual citizens.

Quoting the German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, Gore describes what's happened as 'the refeudalization of the public sphere.' The result is a situation in which most Americans sit on the sidelines while a wealthy few control the news and advertising outlets and, in turn, politics. Gore claims that such a radical reconfiguration of the 'marketplace' has fogged and unfocused the public discourse and has profoundly hindered America's abilities to reason and make choices. As a solution, Gore wants to return public forums to the people. Recently, he launched Current TV, an independent news and information network where average citizens participate and 'the meritocracy of ideas' reigns.
-- Archie Ingersoll

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