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Friday, May 25, 2007

Gore on America’s Lack of Reason

posted by on May 25 at 11:06 AM

Speaking at the 92nd St. Y in New York last night, and promoting his new book, “The Assault on Reason,” Gore said, among other things:

In one generation we went from a nation of readers to a nation of average Americans sitting motionless 35 hours a week in front of a flickering box.

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Yeah, things were so much better back in the sixties, when we spent pretty much the same amount of time watching TV, only it was a lot worse TV, and we were stuck in a horrible war, and we bought far fewer books than we do today.

Sorry, Al's a great guy, but there's a fine line between his schtick and "cranky old guy whining about the good old days" Greatest Generation bullshit.

Posted by Fnarf | May 25, 2007 11:26 AM

Gore may be cranky, but when was the last time you met a man in a bar that talked about a book he just read or was reading?

I met one this week, and it was very notable for it's rarity.

Posted by Tiz | May 25, 2007 11:29 AM

freaked out to read this as he sits in front of a computer....

Posted by Boomer in NYC | May 25, 2007 11:55 AM

It's been ages since I met a man, or a woman, in a bar. But I've got twelve books in various stages of progress right now. Many of them are about canals. People are not exactly lining up to talk to me about them, it's true.

Posted by Fnarf | May 25, 2007 12:02 PM

Dude, I'll talk to you about them. I'm given to understand that it's 200 times more fuel efficient per ton/mile to ship things on canals than it is to ship by truck. Is that true? And do you see any potential applications of canal technology in the modern age that would offer a reasonable return on the high capital outlays needed to establish and maintain a system of canals?

Posted by Judah | May 25, 2007 12:14 PM

Unless they are playing video games or staring at porn, I think a majority of people actually read and write at their computers.

No offense to your rare intellect, Tiz #2, but you misspelled "its" as "it's" at the end of your post.

Posted by Slip Mahoney | May 25, 2007 12:27 PM

What the hell is Gore thinking? People spend 35 hours a weekend in front of a flickering screen. That's less than half of that for a work week.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | May 25, 2007 12:31 PM

I'm embarassed. I swear, I always have to say its or it's out loud to see how to spell it, and well, I didn't.

Posted by Tiz | May 25, 2007 12:36 PM

I think Gore has a point but he just did not state it very well. As a society we tend to avoid really reading books or even websites that try to inform. He is probably fretting over the lack of thinking that is going on in the country (and lack of caring for that matter) and yeah, the red state folks DO watch a HELL of a lot of crappy TV shows.

We have become a nation that quotes talking points (from both liberals and conservative voices) and not a nation that forms unique and informed opinions for ourselves.

So with that let me just say Gore hates us for our freedom and we have to fight him over there so we do not fight him over here.

Posted by Just Me | May 25, 2007 1:08 PM

Ah, nostalgia. Of course, twenty years ago we all imagined the past far better...

Posted by Abby | May 25, 2007 1:26 PM

I hope he realizes that flickering box is the only reason anyone gives a shit about him right now.

Posted by Gomez | May 25, 2007 1:30 PM

just declare already.

the dance grows tiresome.

Posted by maxsolomon | May 25, 2007 1:53 PM

Judah: I don't know, that's not my area of interest. It seems unlikely, though; traditional canal boats have extraordinarily small payloads by modern standards. And regardless of the fuel costs the benefits of old-fashioned rail shipping, let alone trucks and containerization, have completely shattered whatever practical value canals once had as a shipping medium. The answer to your last question is yes and no; there are lots of very high-capacity canals in operation today that justify their cost a thousandfold; but a network of canals like the Erie Canal, or the ones that thread through England and Wales, wouldn't make any more sense today than steam locomotives would.

Posted by Fnarf | May 25, 2007 1:58 PM

It's interesting, because I'm writing a paper about this- and it IS worth noting that the difference in, say, news coverage has evolved greatly over the years, particularly political journalism. Back then, you had the Fairness Doctrine to encourage and enforce the coverage of controversial issues, which was in some ways a safety line for journalists. Nowadays, with the free market news, there's very little actual political debate or investigation by reporters, and far more pundit talking heads. If there's no market for a story (like a political investigation) then it won't be told.

The real issue with that is that for a long time, dollars have been the bottom line at the big networks. As long as it's a business and not a public service, how can it act in the public's best interest?

Posted by Victoria | May 25, 2007 2:10 PM

B-b-b-b-but -- news has always, always, always been a business, not a public service, in the US. Edward R. Murrow was a corporate employee. Nothing is different today; it just seems that way because you're young and the only exposure to the past you've had is through the telling of people with a vested interest in telling it a certain way.

Posted by Fnarf | May 25, 2007 3:55 PM

Meanwhile, in FactLand, teens are buying and reading books at the highest rate in decades.

Posted by gen x dad | May 25, 2007 4:08 PM

Yes, but what are they reading?

Posted by Jay | May 25, 2007 4:47 PM

Well, for 6+ hrs a day + homework, a hell of a lot more educational reading than most adults. The fact that they are reading outside of that is fantastic, even if it's "just" fiction. Al was suggesting we don't read. It's factually inaccurate. Then again, he's baby boom-o-rama, so it's always going to be someone elses fault.

Posted by gen x dad | May 25, 2007 5:08 PM

Gore needs to buy a Wii.

You won't be motionless, Al.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 25, 2007 5:26 PM

He's right but everyone is taking him too literally. Yes, people still read but I bet the majority do not.

Posted by JessB | May 25, 2007 6:22 PM

Also, BUYING more books doesn't mean we're reading more. There are two things to consider 1) what are we buying (cookbooks? decorating? coffee table pretty stuff with no words that we'll never even LOOK at?) 2) there are more of us.

As to rates of reading, well I'm a librarian and I can tell you that the RATE at which people read depends heavily upon how you are judging and what your locale is. Overall, according to SELF reports of the general population, when asked "how many books do you read per week" the average adult reads LESS that than they did 20 years ago, in books.

While many of those people may read online (myself included) that reading is very different, it's often more skimming and involves a much different relationship to facts, events, and knowledge, than that held with books. Those of us who read both can certainly attest that the relationships are different, leaving "better" aside.

Teens do read more that teens 20 years ago. 30-year-olds read LESS than 30-year-old did 20 years ago. So what is the constant? It's that generation of 28-43 years olds (I'm included here and it's my job to shift these numbers), who read less than any generation before or after them.

Posted by chuckles | May 25, 2007 6:58 PM

Oh, and some of us still live on canals.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 25, 2007 11:57 PM

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