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Al Gore considers US democracy in grave danger due to news media

Fellow Fulbrighter Harry recommends a speech by former Vice President Al Gore who promoted his Current TV network at the "We Media" conference. Al Gore's speech began with the dire warning:

American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions. (...) More than four years [after 9/11], between a third and a half [of all Americans] still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack. At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media.
 
Al Gore talked about this marketplace or public sphere as envisioned by the founding fathers and it's refeudalization by TV networks and then blasts the Bush administration and apparently compares rightwing bloggers with Nazis:


They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President. For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.

He criticizes the "imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession" and the "tabloidization of mainstream news."

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.") In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore. (...) One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news. This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.

Al Gore also quoted the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, saying "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."

Breitbart has the full text of Gore's speech via the Associated Press.

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Martin on :

The media slowly wakes up and complains about scripted and rehearsed photo Ops: "Andrea Mitchell and David Gergen reported that the Bush administration uses the troops for PR more than any other administration before them." See the NBC Nightly News video here: http://www.crooksandliars.com/2005/10/14.html#a5368

ROA on :

Is there any evidence the White House deliberately placed Jeff Gannon/James Guckert in the White House press pool? I thought the phony press releases had also been done by the Clinton administration also and that cash was paid to opinion columnists/subject experts rather than straight reporters, not that I approve of either practice.. As far as the digital brown shirts, does this include the bloggers that exposed Dan Rather? Gore also forgot to mention that Jon Stewart was the only reporter that asked John Kerry about his Christmas in Cambodia fantasy. Gore has no interest in a free press, he is just upset that it is not totally biased in favor of the Democrats.

JW on :

How did someone with Gannon/Guckert's journalistic credentials get into the WH press pool? By accident? How much cash did the Clinton administration give to journalists in comparison to the Bush administration? I don't know what bloggers Gore referred to. Exposing Dan Rather's typewriter mistake was easy. Great job by bloggers, who shamed the professional journalists. Stewart was soft on Kerry (and Sanatorum and others), but isn't it sad that you expect a comedian to conduct critical interviews with politicians? Isn't that the job of the news media?

ROA on :

How did someone with Gannon/Guckert's journalistic credentials get into the WH press pool? By accident? My understanding is that he got a day pass rather than a permanent pass and much less checking is required for a day pass than a permanent pass. How much cash did the Clinton administration give to journalists in comparison to the Bush administration? They gave less, but it still seems hypocritical for Gore to criticize the president so harshly for something his administration also did. I don't know what bloggers Gore referred to. Exposing Dan Rather's typewriter mistake was easy. Great job by bloggers, who shamed the professional journalists. It’s nice that we agree on something. Stewart was soft on Kerry (and Sanatorum and others), but isn't it sad that you expect a comedian to conduct critical interviews with politicians? Isn't that the job of the news media? You’re right it is the job of the news media. The problem is that Stewart was about the only one asking Kerry that question. Almost none of the supposed “real” journalists bothered to ask.

Martin on :

ROA, you have a tough understanding of hypocrisy. I like that. I do, too. But in todays world, everybody apparently is hypocritical. In my first comment I mentioned a NBC News report about the scripted and staged video conference between the prez and some troops in Iraq, which the administration billed as "spontaneous" and "give and take." Now, NBC has made a silly photo op as well. A shallow reporter paddling in a canoe during a live report about flooding in Wayne, N.J. While she talked, two men walked between her and the camera _ making it apparent that the water where she was floating was barely ankle-deep... http://www.crooksandliars.com/2005/10/14.html#a5377 So you could either say NBC is hypocritical as well and I would agree. Or we just say, this is how the cookie crumbles. Everyone is hypocritical. We acknowledge the criticism, and appreciate even hypocritical criticism if the criticism is valid, but will not hold those in high regard who express the criticism, i.e. Al Gore and NBC. Works for me. What Al Gore said about unleashing digital brownshirts is stupid. The German media is terrible as well. TV news are constantly getting shallower. It's only a matter of time till we will see such staged events and photo ops as well.

ROA on :

I never understood NBC’s criticism of the president. From what I have read, the soldiers were aware of the questions he might ask, but had not received any guidelines concerning their answers. Does that mean any executive who develops an agenda for a meeting he conducts is just staging a photo-op and would be better off walking in with no idea of what he wanted to learn? To me, it would be disturbing if the soldiers had received the answers they were supposed to give. My personal test concerning hypocrisy will occur when Democrats return to power, and Republicans change their positions in the same manner Democrats are now doing.

JW on :

1.) I watched the NBC video Martin recommended in his first comment. After 1:45 minutes Deputy Assistant Sec of Def Allison Barber tells the captain: If the president gives a question "that we have not scripted," then you, Captain Kennedy, have the chance to impress us all. What do you make of that? US soldiers have a very tough job in Iraq. They should feel free to tell the president honestly what they think about the situation in Iraq. They should not be abused for advertisements for president Bush, but this seems to have been the only purpose of such a "dialogue." Do you see any other purpose? 2. Re your hypocrisy test: You don't need to wait for the Democrats to return to power. You could look at Republican statements, when they were in opposition. Today, many Republicans accuse Democrats of not supporting the president in times of war and not supporting the troops etc, but look at what they said during the Kosovo war. The two wars are very different from each other, but these statements still reveal hypocrisy in my humble opinon. "You can support the troops but not the president" -Representative Tom Delay (R-TX) "American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy." -Representative Tom Delay (R-TX) "Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" -Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99 "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) These and more quotes are here: [url]http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/6/18/161016/461[/url]

ROA on :

If the soldiers were really told what their answers should be, I agree with you. What I have read does not indicate that was the case: http://278medic.blogspot.com/2005/10/speaking-with-president-bush.html As far as Republicans changing their tune, I think 9-11 had a lot to do with that. In president Bush’s case you could also have quoted his statements concerning nation building, another area where he has changed his mind. I have my own list of Democratic quotes concerning Iraq: "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country." -Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." -Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002 "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." -Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002 "The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..." -Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002 "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002 "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction." -Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002 "He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do" -Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

JW on :

> If the soldiers were really told what their answers should > be, I agree with you. What I have read does not indicate > that was the case: > > http://278medic.blogspot.com/2005/10/speaking-with-president-bush.html He does not deny it (but he says he does not like the media reports). And he says: "First of all, we were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President." What is preparing facts? Anyway, I am not at all insinuating that they were told to lie or make propaganda, but I believe the PR folks listened to what they prepared to tell the president and made sure that there was nobody in the group, who would dare to ask the president a question like a marine did one or two years ago. He asked Rumsfeld, why aren't there enough armoured vehicles. This was a major blow to the administration. As far as I know, a journalist suggested to this marine to ask the question. Thus I can understand that the administration wanted to prevent something like that again. Bush backing FOX News wrote: "The questions pitched to the troops by Bush were choreographed on the president's goals for the war in Iraq and the upcoming vote this weekend on a new Iraqi constitution. Privately, at least one senior military commander told FOX News that he's outraged by the way the young soldiers were coached. Others pointed out that despite efforts behind closed doors at the Pentagon to spin what happened, the tape of the event tells the story of soldiers who were being 'scripted' and given answers that had been 'drilled through' — in the words used by Deputy Secretary of Defense for Internal Communications Allison Barber on a tape that captured her 45-minute practice run of the event. (...) Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said. "If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."" [url]http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,172262,00.html[/url] I think what makes the media angry is that this event was announced as a spontaneous and give and take video conference with the president, who wanted to hear from the troops with firsthand knowledge about the situation what was really going on. I think that is not possible if you give each soldier so little time to speak his mind. I think the purpose of the photo-op was to do something for President Bush, not for the troops. > As far as Republicans changing their tune, I think 9-11 had a > lot to do with that. In president Bush’s case you could also > have quoted his statements concerning nation building, > another area where he has changed his mind. It makes sense to change one's mind on nation building after 9/11. That's why I did not mention this flip-flop. However, I don't understand why having an exit strategy was important before 9/11, but isn't now. And I don't understand why you could support the troops but not the president before 9/11, but can't make this differentiation now. It is my understanding that the senators you quoted claim that they received the wrong intelligence information.

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