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The Assault on Reason

af Al GORE

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An analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has created an environment dangerously hostile to reason. We live in an age when the 30-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. Of even greater concern is this administration's disinterest in the process by which the truth is ascertained--an open inquiry in which unexpected and even inconvenient facts can lead to unexpected conclusions. Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges. Gore aims 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 to safeguard our future.--From publisher description.… (mere)

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Flipping through these pages can be tragic when you read the level of intelligence behind the words and begin to wonder what the world would be like today if Al Gore had served George W. Bush’s two terms in office. Would there be milk chocolate fairies delivering candy and fountain-style root beer floats to children throughout the heartland of America? No, absolutely not. Yet I would wage a healthy amount of money that the U.S.A. would not have been in the geopolitical crapper as it was when George W. Bush finally walked out of those hallowed doors with one of the lowest approval ratings in history. His one-time opponent, Al Gore, tries to explain and extol on the reasons things went so badly off the rails.

The Assault on Reason is written by former Vice President Al Gore and details chapter after chapter the numerous areas where the Bush years, and some of those before, have displayed an incredible and frightening trend replacing science and reason with faith and narrow-mindedness. The government we once knew, the one begun all those years back, has been systematically dismantled, pulling the power from the people as a whole and concentrating it into an increasingly small number of hands. Those chosen few have since done everything in their power to eliminate reason and intellectual debate in favor of religious rhetoric and cowboy posturing in face of any and all opposing evidence. In essence, readers feel the true power of the American people slip further and further away with each turn of the page.

Before even opening the book, it must be noted the context in which these words live. Al Gore lost the Presidential election back in 2000 in one of the most contentious, and in some minds demonstrably corrupted, rulings in history. This man was a single breath away from the oval office and seven years later he writes a book about how terrible a job his former opponent is doing. So it is impossible to view this book without a small sense of bias on the part of the author. Yet, although the book does sometimes fall too far into “political slam-book” territory and reaches a slight whiny tone, Gore checks himself and within a few pages brings it back to a place where he backs up each and every criticism with solid, reasonable and irrefutable facts. In those passages when he cites source after source and charts out the trends which we should be so afraid of, that is when Gore is at his most effective.

The real power of the book is not as a weapon against the Bush-era style of politics and power grabbing, but the entire political system hierarchy and its continued growth away from the general public. Gore points out numerous occasions, pre-Bush, that also helped lead to the dangerous place we are today with so much control centralized into the office of President and not spread out amongst the three co-equal branches of the government as intended by those who set it up all those years ago. Yet, Gore even expands on this to the rest of the planet as well when talking about nuclear proliferation, detailing other nations and how they followed the missteps of the American powerhouse. In one of his most eloquent moments in the book, Gore writes:

“As a world community, we must prove that we are wise enough to control what we have been smart enough to create.”

In my mind, that is the central thesis to his entire argument. His textual intent is to warn us of the danger of nuclear arms being in the hands of people who block out reason in favor of belief, religious or otherwise, but sub-textually I believe the statement also shines lights on the creation of our government. Power should never be wielded only by one man alone; that is the antithesis of our democratic style of government. The balance between the three branches has been slowly ebbing away and the person sitting in the oval office has been the silent beneficiary of it all. Both sides have played their parts in the dismantling of that balance, but the Republicans took more giant steps on that march towards an iron-fist government between 2001-2008 than ever before in history.

What we can learn from this book is how to regain that balance, if you can filter out Gore’s “I wouldn’t have done it that way” tone in various portions. Science, reason and factual proof are slowly making their way back into governing politics, but there is a long way to go and more people who live by that credo need to find their way into the hallowed halls of the capital buildings. I’m not suggesting no one of any faith should be in government, just that they no longer turn a blind eye to anything that doesn’t follow in lockstep with that belief. Important choices should only be made after the most rigorous of debate and unfortunately, as you will see in these pages, our last President was not a huge fan of differing points of view. Even though this was written while Bush was still in office, many of the policies and laws enacted during that time are still in effect and Obama has yet to find the spare time to return some of that balance the government so desperately needs. Let’s help remind him.

This is a well written and well researched book on the state of our government and the dangerous path it is on. Although not exactly a page turner and it gets randomly embroiled in mudslinging and overly scientific terminology, the final result is still impactful and important. ( )
  LukeGoldstein | Aug 10, 2021 |
Written in 2007, before the Obama - McCain Presidential election, it's now somewhat dated in 2010. I initially thought the book would describe how the "News" is more about celebrity and the sensational, and less about any serious debate of the facts behind the important issues of the day. Gore starts off telling how Madison Avenue is more important in elections than the message of the candidates, but soon narrows down to the downside of the Bush - Cheney Administration. Those stories are well documented by now, and are better told by serious newsmen and journalists. The book would have been more relevant if Gore had selected any number of other possible examples rather than focusing so significantly on the shortcomings of the Bush years. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Quite the interesting read, though somewhat uneven. Gore discusses how television, through its one-way content distribution, has reduced/eliminated our capacity to discuss politics and other rational topics. Instead, it triggers our fears. Some discussion of how the brain works, some discussion about how the internet may be the solution (note date of publication is 2007) -- and then quite a detailed discussion of how the Bush administration used fear, media, and deceit to manipulate the US people. Where I find the book difficult to follow is his idealistic discussion of what the "Founding Fathers" meant when they declared independence. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
A politician's polemic against the Bush administration.

* little that is new to anyone who's brain has not been taken over by CNNBCBS.

* compared to the extremely worth books now available - Family of Secrets, Tragedy and Hope - this is just tabloid fluff, a politician's rant.

* out of date, really. While what Al says is seems to be undeniable, often already known, occasionally a few new terrors about the Dubya swamp, it is ranting at past clouds.

TL;DR: there are MUCH better books covering similar subjects ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |
Solomon sez; I never spend money for political books for the same reason I never spend money for clothing with a logo on it. I write this now only because my creaky old Landlady rented Al Gore's DVD, "An Inconvenient Truth," and watched it. That experience got the ol' gal so het up that she laid out still more of her precious Social Security dollars for a copy of Gore's book, "The Assault on Reason" (New York: Penguin Press, 2007, $25.95).

After she got the book, poor old Landlady couldn't understand it. She brought it to me and said: "You read a lot. Will you read this book and tell me what you think of it? Please?

So I read "The Assault on Reason, and I told Landlady what I think of it and now I'm telling the world: She'd have done better to spend her money on a Molly Hatchet T-shirt -- one of those with a kick-ass, Frank Frazetta illustration silkscreened on the back. She'd look better wearing the T-shirt than carrying the book around town because, while Gore's book arguably makes a more high-toned visual statement, the shirt would cover more and cover it to a better purpose.

Not to say that "The Assault on Reason" is ENTIRELY WRONG. "Assault" does in fact have a couple of things going for it. One is that Gore's book has humor in it. On page 35, for example, Gore explains how to hypnotize a chicken -- a trick he learned while growing up on a farm in Tennessee. "There's a lot you can do with a hypnotized chicken," he wrote. "You can use it as a paperweight or you can use it as a doorstop, and either way, the chicken will sit there motionless, staring blankly.

I laughed as I imagined walking into the Gores' home and seeing hypnotized chickens act as doorstops and paperweights and (no doubt) performing other helpful tasks. I couldn't figure out how I grew up on a farm in Iowa without learning to hypnotize chickens. I laughed much harder when it came to me that I never learned to hypnotize chickens because I had a girlfriend. My laughter grew hysterical when I wickedly pondered how far the story about Al and the chickens might go toward explaining Al's relationship with Tipper.

I found more good yocks on page 95, where Gore quotes economist John Kenneth Galbraith: "Under capitalism man exploits man. Under communism it's just the opposite." Readers shouldn't fret if they're not laughing with me at Galbraith's quip. That the best jokes are never funny is simply one of those ironies that put me in stitches whenever I'm reminded of them.

Another good point about Gore's "Assault" is that it's built correctly. Gore divided his book of 308 pages into an "Introduction" and nine chapters of more or less equal length. The front of the book features a "Contents" section. At the end there is a brief "Conclusion," after which Gore pays his debts with some "Acknowledgements." The "Notes" are informative, though I can't say I care for the method of citation employed. The "Index" looks good if one doesn't actually try to use it. Start asking questions of the "Index," one finds that it is incomplete. Strictly regarding appearances, however, "Assault" includes everything readers expect from a competent author and a respectable press.

Gore's argument is straightforward. His contentions, stripped of the evidence with which he supports them, can be summarize in a few short paragraphs.

-- America's democratic republic, as the Founders conceived and designed it, relies upon our free press as a marketplace of ideas. It was supposed that intelligent, literate, politically conscious citizens would visit the marketplace, pick over the wares, inform themselves, and use what they learn to make rational decisions about politics and government. Problems arise when our free press abandons its duty to purvey useful information. If the press devotes itself instead to blind partisanship, inanity and fear-mongering, the marketplace of ideas becomes a poisoned well that cannot sustain our democratic, republican system.

-- The problem of silly, biased, fear-mongering journalism was bad enough before television, when America got the bulk of its news from print media. Today, when America gets most all of its news from television, the problem is much worse. That's because, in order to get the message conveyed by printed words, readers must engage in rational thought about what they are reading even as they read it. Television, on the other hand, is a medium that by[asses reason and appeals directly to the viscera.

-- Television advertising, in particular, is scientifically designed to play upon viewers' subconscious fears in ways that evoke a gut response of a certain sort at a rate of about once per second. The pace is hypnotic and is meant to be so: Minds mesmerized by fear can be taught to buy things they do not need, to fear things that don't exist, and to crave things that are not good for them. Advances in psychology and neuroscience are seized upon and put to use by advertisers, pollsters and media gurus, who work as hired guns for anyone who can afford them. Just as people can sell us things we didn't know we wanted, they can sell us political candidates, political issues, and ideologies we didn't know we liked.

-- In the early 1960s, television replaced print media as America's marketplace of ideas. Now, thanks to television, citizens who visit the marketplace to shop for ideas are increasingly illiterate, politically ignorant, and suffer from a diminished ability to reason. Thanks to television, America's marketplace of ideas has been captured and is now controlled by people whose agenda (to say the best of it) is elitist and anti-democratic. Thus television as we know it, Gore tells, threatens to destroy America's democratic republic.

Gore buttresses his argument by citing discoveries in neuroscience that explain how fear works on the human brain, how the brain is hard-wired so reactions prompted by fear are shunted around the reasoning process. He throws in evidence from psychology and from history and in sum, he makes a pretty good case.

At the same time, Gore tries to soften the impact of what he's saying on those who might be offended by its implications. "I'm not saying that television viewers are like hypnotized chickens," he wrote, "But there may be some lessons for us larger-brained humans in the experiences of barnyard hens." ("Assault," page 36)

No doubt. And no doubt there are any number of teletoobies out there who'll squawk like outraged chickens when they're told they don't have as much sense as some hillbilly birds that eat worms in Tennessee. Disregarding such objections, however, there's nothing new or wildly controversial in Gore's indictment of television. Scholars have argued for decades that TV makes fools of those who watch it. The honest public knows it's true. Folks don't call it 'the boob toob' for no good reason. Problem is they don't seem to care if it makes them stupid.

Having identified television as a bane of rational thought that poisons Americans' minds, Gore uses chapters 1 through 5 to indict the medium as an accomplice in various crimes against democracy. Chapter 1 discusses 'The Politics of Fear' (use of fear to gain power and manufacture consent); Chapter 2 is all about 'Blinding the Faithful' (hijacking and weaponization of religion for political ends); Chapter 3 explains 'The Politics of Wealth' (corruption, monopoly, media manipulation); Chapter 4 names some 'Convenient Untruths' (substitution of crank ideology for rational policy, use of mass deception to justify same, use of secrecy to duck responsibility for resultant chaos); Chapter 5 describes 'The Assault on the Individual' diminution, dilution and/or nullification of civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States).

Readers who are not teletoobies should find nothing new or wildly controversial in any of that, either. Americans who haven't spent the last 50 years in a persistent vegetative state have seen all of those evils at play in our national affairs. Honest readers (be they sane) must also agree with chapters 6 through 8, wherein Gore recounts ways in which George W. Bush and his GOP, using television as described in chapters 1 through 5, have damaged our republic and our democracy.

That's the last of the good news about "The Assault on Reason."

Problems with "The Assault on Reason" start on the very first page. There Gore wrote: "The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable."

Solomon sez: That's true enough but it overlooks the fact that, had American leadership always deemed falsehoods unacceptable as a basis for policy, the 'reliance' Gore laments would never have formed. I also feel compelled to say that, as a reader, I'm willing to credit Gore with being a sane person and with owning a reasonably good memory. But when I do so I am stuck with the fact that Gore is lying to me because, if Gore is sane and has a good memory, then he obviously hopes readers have forgotten the things he said, the 'facts' he employed, the rosy predictions he made -- "even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary" -- when in 1993 Vice President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton shoved the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) right up America's collective butt.

Gore commits the same crime on page 24, where he justly condemns the use of fear as a tool in American politics. And though on page 42 he writes that "the use of fear as a political tool is not new," he somehow forgets to remember that he and his allies exploited fear without scruple when, in 1993, they rhetorically gang-stomped Ross Perot in their rush to get NAFTA ratified.

Gore fudges again on page 81, charging that the Bush administration, in its 2003 rape of Medicare, used bribes and intimidation to extort 'yes' votes from congressional representatives. I know he's right. I also know that in the heat of the NAFTA haggle, the Clinton-Gore lobby twisted congressional arms and spent cash like drunken swabs in garnering votes to achieve their own corrupt ends. But Gore doesn't confess that.

Of course the Democratic Party was in bygone times the leviathan of American politics. Gore has always lived deep inside that ancient, fetid whale (Thank you, St. George Orwell!) and there, in his dank, dark, 'visceral prison,' Gore may not see well enough to find his own ass. So it may be ideological purblindness and not pathological dishonesty that causes Gore to overlook such small details. But bodies are buried in Gore's rhetoric nonetheless, and the reek of their rot doesn't flatter Gore a lick.

In his 'Introduction,' Gore shines up to journalism. He tells us that at the time of the O.J. trial, he thought "exhaustive, nonstop coverage of the trial was just an unfortunate excess -- an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgement of our television news media. Now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time." (Assault, page 3)

Solomon sez: "Normal good sense and judgment of our television news media? An early example of a new pattern?" We see there that Al Gore is truly full of hypnotized-chicken crap. Millions have complained; scholars and journalists themselves have written and wept about the imbecility of television news for decades. TV news may be exponentially worse now that it was in Ed Murrow's day but, being 70 years old myself, I don't recall that TV news was ever such a much.

Gore shines up journalism again on page 17, where he states flatly that "this generation of journalists is the best-trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are often not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do."

Solomon asks: How's about that one, historians? If Al Gore hadn't told us so, we might never have realized that Judith Miller is a better journalist than Ida Tarbell, that Sean Hannity is better than Ed Murrow, or that Cal Thomas is better than H.L. Mencken.

But perhaps Gore didn't mean it that way. What seems base flattery of the sociopathic careerists who shape mainstream coverage of our national news may be nothing more than an attempt to except or insulate news-media grunts from criticism, which Gore in the next few chapters fires at news producers themselves and at the financial interests that control them. If such an exception was Gore's intent, he should have written it plainly rather than couch it in an outrageous statement that raises doubts about his knowledge, his motives, his vision, his judgment, his courage and veracity. As it is, good readers can find good reason to question all those things in this hypnotized turkey of a book.

Regarding the so-called "War on Drugs," Gore passes up several opportunities to denounce the drug war or to call for an end of it. Instead he writes that ". . . the global challenge of defeating drugs and corruption . . . has never been more serious given the growing strength and sophistication of international crime organizations." (p. 163)

Regarding the War on Terror: Gore says "Our top priority should be preserving what America represents . . . and winning the war against terrorism first." (p. 177)

Coming from an influential Democrat, Gore's argument against television at first seems to hold a great deal of promise. But that argument and the hope it engenders soon get lost, buried beneath megatons of rage against the Bush regime. Between pages 102 and 238 (fully half of the book), the word 'television' gets no mention whereas Bush and his GOP get their asses kicked on virtually every page. When in Chapter 9 Gore finally returns to the subject of television journalism, he does so only to offer an uproariously stupid and utterly self-serving solution, which he claims will break the grip that commercial television and its army of brilliantly talented, professional liars now hold on the mind of America. I won't tell here what Gore's proposed solution is because -- if you're dumb enough to buy "The Assault on Reason" after reading this review -- you still deserve one good laugh for your money.

At the beginning of his "Assault," Gore serves up a caveat: "It is 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." (p.2)

Solomon sez: That's plain enough and it's correct in many ways. Yet I think it is insufficient because that caveat, like Gore's indictment of television, gets lost in the tenor and intensity of the Bush bashing that takes over the narrative in subsequent chapters. And while Gore frequently dips into history to add depth and weight to his arguments, his dipping too often works to puff himself up while the weight is used to beat Bush down.

Without defending Bush in any way (Nobody deserves a bashing more than George W. Bush.) I see clearly that the raw meat and red pepper which lard Gore's narration will impress uncritical readers with the idea that the criminal Bush administration is some sort of an aberration, a freak hatched from a cuckoo's egg nefariously laid in democracy's otherwise spiffy-clean nest. My heart is with the partisan Left when I say it's too bad those things are not so.

A longer, more informed view of history recalls Gore's caveat and would call readers also to the helpful realization that Bush and his criminal gang are symptoms, an outcome -- a fruit if you will -- borne by the tree of a republic that was poisoned over the course of two centuries by greed, corruption, dirty politics, bad legislation, stupid and lethal policies, monopoly capitalism, racism, jingoism, Red baiting, militarism, war, secrecy, a truly lousy education system, and a host of other toxins. The Internet (Assault, Chapter 9) will not save America from the sum of those evils, and one doesn't annul the effect of a 270-page anti-Bush rant by tacking two pages of airy rhetoric about Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King on the end (pp. 271-73)

With this book, with his indictment of television, with the political mojo he acquired from his stirring environmental advocacy, Gore could have led readers (especially including hard-core, rank-and-file Democrats) to see that getting rid of George Bush and Dick Cheney is merely the necessary first item on a very long list of urgently needed systemic reforms. Others can say what they will: Solomon says that -- multitudinous defects aside -- "The Assault on Reason" crashes on the rock of that failure alone.

When I was a young man, I found that going alone for two or three days into the vastness and silence of the Arizona desert deepened my understanding of my self and helped keep me sane in a world that makes no sense. Countless others, better minds by far than my own, have realized personal growth through immersion in solitude. Jesus, for one, famously spent 40 days in the wilderness and came back preaching the long view: "Repent!" he cried, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17) Al Gore, by comparison, spent FOUR YEARS in the political wilderness after his Y2K defeat and now comes back preaching: "The last two centuries have demonstrated the superiority of free-market economies over centralized economies and the superiority of democracy over forms of government that concentrate power in the hands of a few." (Assault, p. 100)

There it is, readers. Al Gore is incapable of the long view because Al Gore cannot see outside his smelly old, Democratic whale. One hopes for original thought and creative ideas for a mind like Gore's as one hopes to walk on water. America was clearly, tragically wrong to elect George W. Bush president in Y2K, and America was even more wrong to reelect Bush in 2004. On the other hand, America was right to reject Al Gore. For all he may be a technophile and an ardent environmentalist, "The Assault on Reason" clearly shows that Al Gore is NOT a man who could or would lead this nation to a democratic-republican renaissance.

Solomon sed.

Post Scriptum: For what it's worth, I threw the television out of my house in 1974, in the middle of the Watergate hearings, because the news coverage made me retch. My older sister thought she was doing me a favor when she gave me a portable TV for Christmas in 1988. I never watched it and, in 1994, it was still brand new in the original box when I traded it for an antique Royal, manual typewriter that I didn't want and still have not used. I keep it because it is a beautiful machine and something of a conversation piece. I'm forever surprised by how many folks have never touched one of those things.

My first exposure to literature about television's intellectual toxicity was Jerry Mander's excellent book: "Four Arguments for the ELIMINATION of Television" (New York: William Morrow, 1978). If you've made the effort to read this essay, you should read Mr. Mander's book, too. ( )
  NathanielPoe | Feb 20, 2019 |
Viser 1-5 af 38 (næste | vis alle)
Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. Echoing many reporters and former administration insiders, Mr. Gore says that the administration tends to ignore expert advice

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HEINEMANN, EnricoOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
PFLÜGER, FriedrichOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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An analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has created an environment dangerously hostile to reason. We live in an age when the 30-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. Of even greater concern is this administration's disinterest in the process by which the truth is ascertained--an open inquiry in which unexpected and even inconvenient facts can lead to unexpected conclusions. Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges. Gore aims 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 to safeguard our future.--From publisher description.

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