The Messenger: Al Gore Saw the Future

The Messenger: Al Gore Saw the Future

If you think there’s no substantive difference between Al Gore
and George W. Bush, don’t blame the politicians. Blame television.
Confused? Just ask Al Gore.

In a recent essay, FEED editor Steven Johnson reaches
back 30 years to Al Gore’s 1969 senior thesis, and finds that the
Vice President may have been more visionary than you’d think.
Gore’s thesis, titled ‘The Impact of Television on the Conduct of
the Presidency: 1947-1969,’ is a careful retelling of television’s
integration into the daily routine of the executive branch, from
the first televised press conference through Lyndon Johnson’s
awkwardness on camera.

But Gore’s most insightful argument, says Johnson, ‘goes beyond
what plays well on TV and starts grappling with how the medium
changes the content of politics. Mass media, [Gore] argues,
has a heavy center: ‘Given the opportunity to speak to ‘all of
America’ for the first time, the president was forced to find a
political language that emphasized commonalities over differences.
The medium drew its politicians towards the center.’ — Leif
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