#35 – The Assault on Reason

August 6, 2007

there’s a few things i’ve got to say, make no mistake i’m madIn the interest of disclosure, let me say up front that Al Gore is one of my heroes.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I think the fact that the American public watched the 2000 presidential debates and considered George W. Bush to be the winner is eventually going to be considered a forerunner of the worst era in US history.  So, just so you know, this review isn’t being written with any journalistic impartiality in mind.  Fair enough?  Alright.

The Assault on Reason is Gore’s very scathing, very specific reply to the policies and practices and Bush administration.  He’s concerned that by creating a climate of fear, exploiting the public’s patriotism and fear of retribution, and a near constant delivery of truthiness, America is becoming increasingly hostile to reason and rationality, and the neocons are consolidating their power as a result.  It’s a scary thesis, but also an undeniable one.  If you’re interested in reading this book then you’ve probably heard most of the facts Gore cites before in some form or another, but it’s always powerful to see them strung together to fill the big picture, like they are here.  When he lists all the lies, misinformation and manipulation that the last seven years have brought in a row, it’s impossible to understand how everyone involved hasn’t been impeached.

This is a furious book, and Al Gore is mad as hell.  I haven’t seen him this angry since he yelled at Fry for destroying the universe in Futurama.  Maybe it’s just because he’s not running for office that he feels free to speak so candidly about Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, DeLay, Gonzalez, and everybody else who’s slowly choking the US.  If so, it’s a sad statement on political discourse today, but it’s still refreshing to hear.  And he’s got plenty of reason to be angry, too: a government that’s sowing discontent and ignoring the looming environmental crisis, an executive that’s outmanoeuvring the legislature and strangling the judiciary, and (with apologies to Hollywood Heather) a media that focuses on meaningless gossip and flash in the pan stories without any true investigation.  By Chapter 8 of The Assault on Reason, when Gore argues that democracy itself hangs in the balance in America, it’s hard to disagree with him.

This is another book that ought to be read by everyone in the country, but is likely to be mostly read by people who are in the least need of Al Gore’s convincing.  My only complaint with it is that it can be very repetitive at times, with certain arguments and phrases repeated throughout.  I suppose, though, that when your opponents communicate with ad nauseum talking points, a little reiteration to drive his point home is just fighting fire with fire.

Finally, although most of the issues Gore addressed were familiar to me, there were still some surprises to be found in the text.  In addition to his insightful writing and his own personal touches, he uses a number of fascinating quotations to support his arguments; one of which I found so interesting that I’d like to share it verbatim.  From his chapter “The Politics of Wealth”, on the role of corporations in America today:

“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. . . . But I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.  As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.  I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.  God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.” – Abraham Lincoln, 1864


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