Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Assault on Reason (Book #52)

To anyone who happens to be reading my blog who doesn't already know my views: I don't talk politics here except when my reading diary necessitates it, but I'm a Democrat. I campaigned and voted for Gore in 2000, and if he entered the race today, I'd drop my tentative support for Obama to back Gore with such resources of time, money, and free speech as are at my disposal. I know this makes me somewhat of an oddity even within my own party, but I've always liked him.

The Assault on Reason (Al Gore, 2007) is a dry book in spots, but it's an important summary of everything that's gone wrong in the past six years. He doesn't come out and say it, but it must be maddening to be in his position. I know that whenever I have to sit by and watch someone handle something I do well ineptly or inefficiently, my hands all but itch to tear the reins from their hands and show them how it ought to be done. And that's with tiny stuff. Al Gore is in that position with the presidency. Not that he expresses regret or sour grapes. He just explains how it's supposed to work and everything that's gone wrong. It's truly stunning and depressing to see all of the current administration's abuses of power gathered in one place, and to realize they've by and large gotten away with it. Me, I'm pinning my hopes on 2008. If we can just get a good POTUS, of either party, who respects the Constitution and believes in checks and balances, I don't think it's too late for us.

I've seen reviews of this book that mock Gore's enthusiasm for the internet as a force for revitalizing democracy, but I think he's right. The internet is the ultimate public square. Sure, there are tinfoil-hatted nutjobs and assorted criminals online, but that's the dark side of any public square. Somehow I'm pretty sure the first agora had its first pickpocket, pimp, and crazy guy within days of its establishment. But the beauty of the internet is that it's the most open marketplace of ideas in history, and online communities kept open information and dissent alive when Congress and the press were falling down on the job.

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