Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gore Speech

AP reports Here is the text of former Vice President Al Gore's remarks at the We Media conference on Wednesday in New York:

I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger.

The House, the Senate, and the White House are in Republican hands, and they don't like the fact that liberals have been "creating laws" in the Judicial branch. They want to go back to what the Founders created.
It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions....
The Democrats use to be able to control what everyone thought, through their domination of the media, but cracks in that control are beginning to occur, like Fox News. We used to be able to control what the children were taught through our friends in the Teachers Unions, but now more and more students are going to private schools, religious schools, or are even being homeschooled, where their parents are teaching them what they want, without our being able to control any of it. And this internet I invented is distributing news that our friends in the MSM have blocked.
Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers, and books.
And the schools taught children how to read.
Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print. And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.

Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.... The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online.
That is true, in fact I was listening to it when I started writing this post, but that did not prevent me from writing it.
There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.

Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar. But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist"....

The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:
  1. It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all;
    The same is true today of the Internet
  2. The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them;
    True today on the Internet. I started this blog less than 9 monts ago, and already I am a Large Mammal in the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem with over 100 visits a day
  3. The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement.
    I dont know much about the Left Side of the Blogosphere, I seldom go there, but until very recently, when Bush nominated Harriet Miers, the Right Side of the Blogosphere was pretty much in general agreement.
That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.... Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today. Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.
I suspect there are more Radio AND Television stations today than there were printing presses in colonial times. And there are more blogs today than there were PEOPLE back then.
Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.

Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation....
Which is why the internet is so important.
So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
Do you encourage conservatives to participate on an equal basis with liberal contributors?
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.... The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek.
The taxpayer pays for PBS. And it was bloggers that exposed what was happening at CBS and Newsweek, not the White House.
They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments.
The White House did not put him there; Talon News sent him to get Day Passes to the Press Room, and a Liberal Blogger got the first permanent press credentials.
They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.
If you think the White House controls the Blogosphere you are very wrong. If they did, why has there been all of the static about the Harriet Miers nomination?
For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.... I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi- way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas.... The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.... First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture,
You designed it (or at least you claim to be the one that did, even though we know the truth)
and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.
i can download full motion video, but I dont see why it is necessary.
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.

It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.
So should we get rid of television?
The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.
That may be happening in China and other authoritarian and totalitarian countries, but not here. I can reach the same websites with Cox Cable as someone with AoL (I just do it faster and less expensively)
We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.

OTB blogged As to the ability of ordinary citizens to get heard on a national stage, it is infinitely easier now than it was twenty years ago, let alone two hundred. How was a shopkeeper in Philadelphia to get his message out to the masses of Charleston in the 1770s? It was virtually impossible, in fact, unless one owned a newspaper. Nowadays, anyone can set up a free website on Blogspot or several other services and commence typing. Some get thousands of visitors a day. That was simply impossible for even the rich and powerful generations ago.

rmackinnon blogged When I worked for CNN, it was always the images that people remembered. They rarely remembered what I actually said.

Eric blogged The Internet -- whether accessed by cable, phone line, or WiFi, has shown itself rather tough to control, and although I am very worried about Google's and Microsoft's capitulation to government controls in totalitarian countries, I have seen no evidence that corporations (which by their nature only want to sell bandwidth), have any more interest in controlling the uncontrollable content which runs through it than any of the telephone service providers have over the content of what customers might discuss over the phone.

Bill Nienhuis blogged Just how many liberal talking points can one fit in a paragraph? Or a sentence for that matter. He’s covering everything he can possibly think of. This address is a moonbat smorgasboard. It’s a late night all-you-can-eat buffet at Shoney’s. In fact, this wasn’t a speech, it was just another AlGore rant. He’ll never get elected to any office if his position on the issues come off as nothing more than lefty ramblings.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Thank you very kindly for the link.

I like your blog!