Although saying it often results in snickering and accusations of tin-foil haberdashery, Al Gore won the 2000 election. Historians will point to Bush v. Gore as the very instant our nation went nutty bananas cuckoo.
By no means a perfect candidate, every speech Gore’s given in the five years since offers a glimpse of what might’ve been if the Supreme Court didn’t interfere where they didn’t belong. His recent speech on the media says much more eloquently what I’ve been saying about the media ever since I started to take an interest in things other than filling an empty growler.
I tend to be more angry with the media than Republicans because I don’t expect anything out of the GOP. They are for corporate rights, not giving a shit about their neighbors, and stomping as many queers as they can in their free time. They suck, but being douchebags is encoded in their DNA. Expecting anything better out of them is like expecting your chimp not to rip your balls off. It’s just nature’s way.
The media however, is supposed to be a more productive part of our society. But instead of doing their fucking job, they’ve been gobbled up by a few corporations and become nothing more than a delivery medium for boner drug ads.
Gore’s speech is rather long, and I know a sizable portion of you won’t even read one of my comics if it has too many words, so here are the excerpts that resonated with me:
Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the “demonstration.” This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.
This didn’t even occur to me, but the media’s stiffling grip on public discourse actually created hippies! Way to go media! Now I hate you even more.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no “meritocracy of ideas” on television. To the extent that there is a “marketplace” of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.
A pretentious and self-righteous asshole like myself dreams of a meritocracy. In a world where Two and a Half Men, Will and Grace, and CSI reign supreme in the Nielsen ratings, the fantasy of a meritocracy is all that keeps this wannabe TV writer from slitting his wrists.
Somewhere in the speech, Gore mentions how Guttenberg’s press revolutionized Europe. He explains that before the press was invented,”The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.” And that’s pretty much where we are today. Except people’s ignorance today is part willful ignorance and part slanted coverage. What’s really sad is that most people today don’t even realize they’re powerless. They’ll gladly give a tax cut to their rich fucker of a boss and even ask for more.
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.
Everyone who complained that Gore was too uptight is a fucking moron. This paragraph proves he has a sense of humor. And if FOX didn’t fuck with its schedule, his appearance on Futurama would’ve convinced all but the lamest of lame-Os that he was more than affable, and able to laugh at himself.
One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.
Finally! Someone in politics mentions this. All the money goes to advertising. Why? Because the fuckers in broadcasting couldn’t give two shits about presenting their audience with the wide variety of opinion.
If each station was obligated to broadcast an equal number of ads from all reasonable candidates, (Let’s say those who poll above 5% , to eliminate the odd LaRouche wingnut who craves attention.) they’d have to give up valuable ad space. The only reasonable solution would be to refuse all ads and cover the campaign like a fucking news story, not an advertising war. And that’s not going to happen unless a law explicitly makes them do that.
Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.
This is why I’m indifferent to all current forms of campaign finance reform. Until money is no longer required to get your message out there, it’s a stupid exercise to regulate how you get that money. However, any fundraising malfeasance that puts DeLay behind bars is fine by me.
Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains – like the brains of all vertebrates – are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn’t look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call “the establishing reflex.” And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously – sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, “glue eyeballs to the screen,” is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.
Can you imagine King Stupid saying something like this? Of course not. Elect a moron, get a bunch of moron, talking point laden speeches.
Obviously Gore doesn’t have all the answers. I don’t think Current.tv has a chance. It lacks the immediacy of the internet and the production quality of television. But at least he’s trying something. If Clinton’s disastrous telecom act can’t be repealed, something like that is the only way anything resembling public discourse can be restored.