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« My Local Zoning Board: Conflicts of Interest | Main | Tempting Faith, by David Kuo »


The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore

By an everyday book reader
June 1, 2007

"I believe that 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." - Al Gore

How did we get here? How much damage has been done to the functioning of our democracy and its role as steward of our security? Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from national security to the economy, from issues of health care, social safety nets and the environment.

As this book shows us, we have precious little time to waste.

The Assault on Reason
by Al GoreBook Picture

Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9781594201226, 1594201226
Penguin Press HC
May 2007

This book provides us with a visionary analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the degradation of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason.

Gore's larger goal in this book is to explain how the public sphere itself has evolved into a place hospitable to reason's enemies, to make us more aware of the forces at work on our own minds, and to lead us to an understanding of what we can do, individually and collectively, to restore the rule of reason and safeguard our future.

Drawing on a life's work in politics as well as on the work of experts across a broad range of disciplines, Al Gore has written a farsighted and powerful manifesto for clear thinking.

"... for all its sharply voiced opinions, The Assault on Reason turns out to be less a partisan, election-cycle harangue than a fiercely argued brief about the current Bush White House that is grounded in copiously footnoted citations from newspaper articles, Congressional testimony and commission reports -- a brief that is as powerful in making its points about the implications of this administration's policies as the author's 2006 book, An Inconvenient Truth, was in making its points about the fallout of global warming." - Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times

With The Assault on Reason, former vice president Al Gore presents more than a vigorous jeremiad on the decline of rational public debate. He also offers pathways to open inquiries about inconvenient truths.

Al Gore provides this message to readers:

I've dedicated my book, The Assault on Reason, to my father, Senator Albert Gore Sr., the bravest politician I've ever known. In the 1970 mid-term elections, President Richard Nixon relied on a campaign of fear to consolidate his power. I was in the military at the time, on my way to Vietnam as an army journalist, and I watched as my father was accused of being unpatriotic because he was steadfast in his opposition to the War - and as he was labeled an atheist because he dared to oppose a constitutional amendment to foster government-sponsored prayer in the public schools. The 1970 campaign is now regarded by political historians as a watershed, marking a sharp decline in the tone of our national discourse - a decline that has only worsened in recent years as fear has become a more powerful political tool than trust, public consumption of entertainment has dramatically surpassed that of serious news, and blind faith has proven more potent than truth.

We are at a pivotal moment in American democracy. The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, has reached levels that were previously unimaginable. It's too easy and too partisan to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes.

Reasoned, focused discourse is vital to our democracy to ensure a well-informed citizenry. But this is difficult in an environment in which we are experiencing a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time - from the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.

Never has it been more vital for us to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from the climate crisis to the war in Iraq to the deficits and health and social welfare. Today, reason is under assault by forces using sophisticated techniques such as propaganda, psychology, and electronic mass media. Yet, democracy's advocates are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques: the Internet, online organizing, blogs, and wikis. Although the challenges we face are great, I am more confident than ever before that democracy will prevail and that the American people are rising to the challenge of reinvigorating self-government. It is my great hope that those who read my book will choose to become part of a new movement to rekindle the true spirit of America.

We live in an age when the thirty-second television spot is the most powerful force shaping the electorate's thinking, and America is in the hands of an administration less interested than any previous administration in sharing the truth with the citizenry.

Related to this and of even greater concern is this administration's disinterest in the process by which the truth is ascertained, the tenets of fact-based reasoning-first among them an embrace of open inquiry in which unexpected and even inconvenient facts can lead to unexpected conclusions.

"I believe that 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. I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11th, 2001. But more than five years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack." - Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore is chairman of Current TV, an independently owned cable and satellite television nonfiction network for young people based on viewer-created content and citizen journalism. He also serves as chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm that is focused on a new approach to sustainable investing. Gore is a member of the board of directors of Apple Computer, Inc., and a senior adviser to Google, Inc. Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years. He is the author of the bestsellers Earth in the Balance and An Inconvenient Truth. He and his wife, Tipper, live in Nashville, Tennessee. They have four children and two grandchildren.

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The blog post previous to it is titled "My Local Zoning Board: Conflicts of Interest"

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