Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Assault on Reason (eBook edition)

After The Manny I need something a little more substantive. . . Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason certainly fit the bill!

Here is fiery Al Gore, not the careful politician of 2000 or the rather pedantic professor in “An Inconvenient Truth.” I could almost like this guy; he thinks, he has a sarcastic sense of humor, and he cares. And ten pages into it you KNOW that he wrote himself; you can actually hear his voice.

In ths book he is again concerned with the environment -- specifically the political environment. The book makes powerful case for the devastating implications of the current administration’s focus and policies. But more importantly it is a rallying call to the American voter to “restore democracy”.

We, as citizens and voters, must demand more than 30-second TV ads and proactively take part in democracy for it to really work. He points to the Internet as a place to create a “marketplace of ideas”.

I do worry about the Internet part. The net is full of rumor, innuendo and outright lies side by side with the truth. Yet, for all of its flaws the Internet is a great equalizer, a builder of community and offers us an avenue for change.

It’s a little heavy, but worth the heft. . .

Here is the official stuff:

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

At the time George W. Bush ordered American forces to invade Iraq, 70 percent of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11. Voters in Ohio, when asked by pollsters to list what stuck in their minds about the campaign, most frequently named two Bush television ads that played to fears of terrorism.

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.

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 and social welfare to the environment. As The Assault on Reason shows us, we have precious little time to waste.

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.

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