Book Review: “The Assault on Reason” by Al Gore

Al Gore, following his success of “An Inconvenient Truth,” fired another warning shot to the American people that our way of democracy has fallen far away from the original intents of our Founders. There are lots of things that are going wrong that we may not be aware of. If we don’t do something about it, it may be too late for this generation and our future generations. Professor Gore kept going back to the American and foreign history, citing numerous precedences and evidences to reinforce his arguments.

My main take-aways:
1. Attack on TV Journalism. TV’s are to sell advertising; reasons are set aside. Political candidates can now “manufacture consents” by promoting his/her ideas on TV and/or influence what’s covered on TV, in other words, manipulating journalism like by having fake White House correspondents. Honestly, I don’t watch that much TV but I can imagine if people do spend 4+ hrs a day on the average, it can be a powerful influence. Of course, Al Gore did offer Internet as away to counter the force, provided we can keep the Internet from being tainted by false assertions.

2. Bush administration is “bad” and the main culprit in the assault on reason. He even equated George W. Bush to Nixon, having little tolerance for health/open debates and focus on concentrating power on the executive branch. Bush fabricated the evidences of Saddam Husein’s buying nuclear materials to make Nuclear bomb – weapons of massive destruction. The Bush administration used the Iraq war to benefit the oil industry lobbyists, while damaging the principles of this country in front of the international community and jeopardizing our military personnels by going against the Geneva Convention in the treatment of the “unlawful combatants.” He even cited a historical lesson of how Roman lost their democracy after Caesar marched in to Rome, against the Roman Laws made by the Senate.

3. This is a good civic class on how US democracy was born and the considerations given by the founders to preserve the check and balance. He emphasized that we are a country ruled by laws not people. The lack of written communication, due to TV, may serve as catalyst to deviate from the laws, fundamentally given in and interpreted from written words.

4. Democracy is fragile. Too much power concentration on the executive branch is a hazard. We could be in a long Iraq war and war against terrorism that may tilt the power to the executive branch for a very long time, jeopardizing the check and balance from the legislature and the justice branches. Citing Benjamin Franklin’s words when asked about the United States being a republic or an empire. He replied, ” a republic, if we can keep it.”

5. Legislature needs to have good debates. Most of the critical legislations are not being debated because senators/representatives are mostly absent – too busy raising funds for their own elections. He proposed to have TV coverage on debates so we can all make sure we understands all the pros and cons of each legislation piece. This is a good idea except no TV producers of the right mind would produce them due to lack of advertising.

6. Environment protection. Not only Bush administration went to the Iraq war for the wrong reason, Bush immediately dropped all the environmental protection clauses for the benefits of his political supporter. He mentioned a few things that’s already covered in his “an inconvenient truth” video, like the weather pattern change resulting in Katrina and potentially more refugees from the rise of sea level. Do we the courage to do the sensible/reasonable things? The era of consequences is upon us.

This book can be cut shorter by not taking on the Bush administration solely and by highlighting all the great things the Clinton/Gore administration has done. It’s a bit self glorifying – lose some credibility there. Also, Gore went to a lot of details about how the brains are vulnerable to the TV’s brain washing – as least he didn’t claim that he invented it like he did with Internet. 🙂

Overall, it’s not a bad book. I learned a few civic lessons about America and why our way of life may be very fragile if we don’t pay attention to protect it from the tyranny of the concentrated power in one particular branch because our lack of reasons. Perhaps, someday this book can be used to teach civics in schools. Hopefully, it’s not something we regretted haven’t heeded.