Books: The Assault on ReasonWhy I am recommending this book:
This book is a wake up call!
The issues that confront us today are some of the most critical issues that we have faced in generations. Now is not the time for "business as usual" with regard to our politics. We can no longer afford the kind of complacency that continues to result in our being manipulated by fear and distracted by hatred. New possibilities for living are available to us right now if we are willing to take responsibility and to actively participate.
The first question many people ask when hearing of a new book from Al Gore is, "Is it about the environment?" The answer is yes, but it's not (or, rather, not only) the kind of environment he wrote about in Earth in the Balance and of course painted such a vivid picture of in his Oscar-winning documentary (and companion book), An Inconvenient Truth. It's the political environment he's concerned about in The Assault on Reason: the way we debate and decide on the critical issues of the day. In an account that balances theoretical discussion of the foundations of democracy with a lacerating critique of the Bush administration, Gore argues that the marketplace of reasoned debate our country was founded on is being endangered by a variety of allied forces: the use of fear and the misuse of faith, the distractions of our entertainment culture, and the concentrations of power in the national media and the executive branch. In his essay and answers to our questions below, he introduces the crisis he sees, as well as the opportunity for its solution he envisions in the open forums of the Internet.
A Message from Al Gore to Amazon.com Readers
I've dedicated my book, The Assault on Reason, to my father, Senator Albert Gore Sr., the bravest politician I've ever known. In the 1970 mid-term elections, President Richard Nixon relied on a campaign of fear to consolidate his power. I was in the military at the time, on my way to Vietnam as an army journalist, and I watched as my father was accused of being unpatriotic because he was steadfast in his opposition to the War--and as he was labeled an atheist because he dared to oppose a constitutional amendment to foster government-sponsored prayer in the public schools. The 1970 campaign is now regarded by political historians as a watershed, marking a sharp decline in the tone of our national discourse--a decline that has only worsened in recent years as fear has become a more powerful political tool than trust, public consumption of entertainment has dramatically surpassed that of serious news, and blind faith has proven more potent than truth.
We are at a pivotal moment in American democracy. The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, has reached levels that were previously unimaginable. It's too easy and too partisan to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes.
Reasoned, focused discourse is vital to our democracy to ensure a well-informed citizenry. But this is difficult in an environment in which we are experiencing a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time--from the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials to Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.
Never has it been more vital for us to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from the climate crisis to the war in Iraq to the deficits and health and social welfare. Today, reason is under assault by forces using sophisticated techniques such as propaganda, psychology, and electronic mass media. Yet, democracy's advocates are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques: the Internet, online organizing, blogs, and wikis. Although the challenges we face are great, I am more confident than ever before that democracy will prevail and that the American people are rising to the challenge of reinvigorating self-government. It is my great hope that those who read my book will choose to become part of a new movement to rekindle the true spirit of America.