Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Al Gore's Insolent Assault on Reason

Al Gore's Insolent Assault on Reason

Yahoo! News ^ | May 23, 2007 | Robert Tracinski

Early coverage of Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, has focused on the fact that the book is largely an assault on the Bush administration. But they have glossed over the most significant and alarming theme that Al Gore has taken up: his alleged defense of "reason" includes a justification for government controls over political speech.

Judging from the excerpts of Gore's book published in TIME, his not-so-subtle theme is that reason is being "assaulted" by a free and unfettered debate in the media--and particularly by the fact that Gore has to contend with opposition from the right-leaning media.

Developing a dangerous theme that the left has been toying with for years, Gore says that reason is being suffocated by "media Machiavellis"--that's a veiled reference to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Bush political advisor Karl Rove, the twin hobgoblins of the left. According to Gore, these puppet-masters take advantage of "the clever use of electronic mass media" to "manipulate the outcome of elections."

Now here's the really ominous part. This "manipulation" is rendering our representative government "illegitimate" because it only has the public's "consent"--he repeatedly puts "consent" in scare quotes, just to emphasize the point that this consent is not, in Al Gore's superior judgment, genuine or legitimate. As he puts it, "the 'consent of the governed' [has become] a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder."

Presumably, this is Gore's fallback explanation for why he didn't really lose the 2000 presidential election, not "genuinely," not "legitimately." That election makes an appearance in Gore's whining complaint about his loss in a televised debate against George W. Bush: "[T]he controversy over my sighs in the first debate with George W. Bush created an impression on television that for many viewers outweighed whatever positive benefits I might have otherwise gained in the verbal combat of ideas and substance." I remember that debate, and I can tell you that Gore lost because his sighs gave him the impression of being the kind of condescending know-it-all who views a debate as "verbal combat" in which he shoves his preferred notions down the public's throat.

His new argument doesn't do anything to reverse that impression. His basic theme seems to be: if the left isn't winning in the marketplace of ideas, there can't possibly be anything wrong with their ideas. It must be the marketplace itself that is "broken," and the left needs to use the power of government to fix it--in both senses of the word "fix."

This is by no means a new theme on the left; Noam Chomsky has been peddling this stuff for years. We only think that we are free to write and to speak and to make our minds up for ourselves, the left tells us. But behind the scenes we're being manipulated by the big corporate media, so the votes we cast and the consent we give to those who govern us is artificially "manufactured." We need to be liberated--by having the left take control of the media and manage it in our best interests.

The specific form of control Gore favors is indicated when he complains about "the increasing concentration of ownership by an even smaller number of large corporations that now effectively control the majority of television programming in America." This leftist conspiracy theory--the view that "big corporations" control everything--has a specific target: not the left-leaning news shows offered by the big three broadcast networks, but Rupert Murdoch and Fox News Channel, the successful cable television home of the right-leaning media.

The upshot of this complaint is the threat that the government will use the antitrust laws or FCC regulations to block Murdoch's plans for expansion of his media business, or to break it up--both actions that have been threatened by Democrats in Congress--unless he chooses to use his media influence in a more "responsible" and "public-spirited" manner.

Lurking in the background are the other prongs of the left's veiled threat against freedom of speech. Campaign finance controls restrict political speech during elections--precisely when the maximum freedom of speech is needed--by targeting the funding of political speech. Meanwhile, attempts to revive the misnamed "Fairness Doctrine" seek to suppress conservative talk radio by forcing broadcasters to give an equal amount of air time to the left, whether or not it can win an audience. This is the measure known as the "Hush Rush Bill," because its first victim would be Rush Limbaugh, who would presumably be forced to share his audience of millions with failed leftist talk-radio hosts like Al Franken.

This is the American left's version of what strongmen like Vladimir Putin and Pervez Musharraf call "managed democracy." The "marketplace of ideas" can be trusted to work--so long as everyone agrees with them. But if the public obstinately persists in disagreeing with the left, then the marketplace of ideas must have been "broken" by meddling troublemakers like Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch and Karl Rove--and we know how to "fix" those guys, don't we?

More broadly, this is what the left has traditionally meant by "reason." For decades, the left has dominated the intelligentsia: the media, the universities, and the other institutions that provide credentials for "experts"--another term Al Gore has been harping on. This leads the left to act as if the latest consensus among its favored experts--whether it be the superiority of socialized medicine or the imminent threat of global warming--must be what every "rational" and well-informed person thinks, because it is the consensus of the elite.

Thus "reason," as Al Gore uses the term, refers to the ability of the leftist elite to impose its conventional dogmas on the national debate, without the need to persuade or convince others.

In reality, a genuine respect for reason starts with an absolute respect for the mind and judgment of the individual. A respect for reason requires the subordination of coercion to persuasion through the strict limitation of government power. A respect for reason requires a commitment to liberty above all else.

Al Gore stands for the exact opposite. His environmentalist crusade is dedicated to the suppression of the material products of the human mind--our advanced industry and technology. And now, in his new book, he is promoting a ratonalization for the suppression of free political debate.

To do this while billing himself as a defender of reason is an act of supreme insolence.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Dummies Over At Media Matters (re: Rush Limbaugh)

Media Matters is the liberals version of a media watchdog group.

While doing some surfing, I came across this on their site:

"Discussing Giuliani's son, Limbaugh recalled media "zone of privacy" for Chelsea Clinton but ignored his own smear"

However, Limbaugh did not mention his own comments regarding Chelsea Clinton during the program. As media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted, in 1993, on his former television show, Limbaugh referred to Chelsea Clinton, who was 13 at the time, as "the White House dog."

He didn't mention it for two reasons. 1) The incident in question didn't happen like that. So why should he mention it? 2) As he mentioned on his radio show ten years later, he had sworn off refering to the real incident which went like this:

Copyright 1992 Multimedia Entertainment, Inc.
November 6, 1992, Friday 11:15 AM

LIMBAUGH: Thank you. This show's era of dominant influence is just beginning. We are now the sole voice of sanity, the sole voice of reason. We are the sole voice of opposition on all television. This is the only place you can tune to to get the truth of the opposition of the one-party dictatorial government that now will soon run America. Oh, I mean, we are only beginning to enjoy dominance and prosperity. Most of these things on the in-out list are not even funny, but a couple of them--one of them in particular is.

David Hinckley of--of the New York Daily News wrote this, and what he has--he's got--it's very strange. He says, In: A cute kid in the White House. Out: Cute dog in the White House.' Could--could we see the cute kid? Let's take a look at--see who is the cute kid in the White House.

(A picture is shown of Millie the dog)

LIMBAUGH: (Voiceover) No, no, no. That's not the kid.

(Picture shown of Chelsea Clinton)

LIMBAUGH: (Voiceover) That's--that's the kid. We're trying to...


Naturally "FAIR" has it wrong (their source is Molly Ivins who also had it wrong), and Media Matters is making a big mistake in citing it as a source for this particular incident.

Speaking of which, notice how Chelsea's page on wiki mentions this incident:

"Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh compared 13-year-old Chelsea to a dog:

On November 6, 1992, three days after her father won the elections, when Chelsea was still in braces, Rush Limbaugh said the following: "Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat; Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?"[5] [6] [7] He then pointed to a video monitor, which switched to a picture of Chelsea."

Now, let's see that:

He then pointed to a video monitor, which switched to a picture of Chelsea.

Yet according to their source, number 5:

"Rush Limbaugh took this shot: "Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat," said Limbaugh. "Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is also a White House dog?" And he held up a picture of Chelsea."

Now which is it? did he "hold up a picture of Chelsea"? Or did he "point to a video monitor, which switched to a picture of Chelsea"?

I already know the answer to this question: He did neither. But I find it funny how liberals are contradicting each other.

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