10:00 am – New York City: OK. So Al Gore is speaking. (Yeah, yeah. Of course he’s speaking here, because he invented the internet.) He does gigs like this when he’s not busy saving people from disaster.
Opening Line: “I am Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States” (So close.)
Looks good, a little grayer than the last time I saw him. (A story I’ll tell later.)
American democracy is facing a grave danger; one that’s hard to describe in words. It’s no longer possible to not notice the strangeness of our public discourse. (You can say that again, brother.)
“It’s almost as if America has entered an alternate universe.” Thought it was at first an abberation when 75% of Americans said they believed Saddam Hussein attacked on on 9/11, but 1/3 still believe it.
“Serial obsessions” periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time. (O.J. trial was first, followed by “white women in trouble.)
Silent Senate on eve of Iraq war, because Senators believe that what they say on the Senate floor isn’t important anymore. They were at fundraisers, raising money to by 30 second television spots.
After Katrina, there was a kind of clarity and vividness in our public discourse that use to be more common.
Founders couldn’t have imagined that our discourse today would consist of something other than words in print, but more than 40 years have passed since most Americans have received their news in print. Newspapers are “hemorrhaging readers.” (And employees.)
Web aside, television completely dominates the flow of information. Web doesn’t quite match television yet. (In fact web users often watch television and use the web simultaneously. Yeah, he’s got me on that one.)
Average American watches 4 hours and 28 minutes of television each day; or 75% of discretionary time. The average is higher for younger Americans.
Three most important characteristics of marketplace of ideas.
- It was open to everyone, save for the requirement of literacy.
- Fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended on objective meritocracy of ideas.
- Accepted rules of discourse presumed participants were governed by unspoken duty to seek a general agreement.
Knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power. Self government was understood as the instrument in which the people embodied their reasoned judgments in the rule of law.
Rules of the present public forum.
- impossible for individuals to take part in national conversation (television, one way communication.
- television stations and networks are almost completely unaccessible to ordinary citizens; while programming is accessible to more people than ever; accessible in only one direction; no conversation.
- an ever shrinking number of large corporations control television content in America.
Demonstrations became an outlet for engaging in discourse via television.
Mentions CurrentTV as an attempt to change all the above.
Absence of two-way conversations equals an absence of meritocracy of ideas. (Of course unless “merit” is awarded by money. Then the most merit-able ideas are the most profitable or the most sellable.)
Dysfunctional journalism fails to inform the people, and if the people are not informed they cannot hold the government accountable if it’s corrupt, incompetent, or both.
Our democracy has been hollowed out. The opinions of voters are, in effect, purchased.
Two important things about the internet:
- Does not support real-time mass distribution of full motion video, because of package switching and broadband dependency.
- Must insure that the internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without limitation. (But it isn’t now accessible to anyone who doesn’t have the means to buy or get access to the technology.)