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The Assault on Reason The Assault on Reason by Al Gore
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“تشبه العلاقة بين الإيمان والعقل والخوف أحيانا لعبة الأطفال التي تسمى الحجر والورقة والمقص، فالخوف يزيح العقل، والعقل يتحدى الإيمان، والإيمان يغلب الخوف.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“بمجرد أن أمكن نقل الأفكار المعقدة بسهولة من فرد إلى جموع الآخرين - وما أن تمكّن الآخرون من تلقيها بسهولة، وأصبح بوسعهم الموافقة عليها - صار لكل فرد فجأة قوة السلطة السياسية الشاملة.
لذلك أعطى تدفق المعلومات الحر كل فرد منزلة أكبر في المجتمع - بغض النظر عن انتمائه الطبقي أو ثروته - ليطالب بقدر من الكرامة يتساوى مع الآخرين جميعا، وتمنح الأفراد القدرة على فحص استخدام السلطة من قبل من يعملون في الحكومة.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The rule of reason is the true sovereign in the American system.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“في السنوات الأولى من القرن الحادي والعشرين كان هنالك دوماً زعماء يرغبون في إثارة قلق الناس ,بغية تقديم أنفسهم بوصفهم حماة الخائفين. فالزعماء الغوغائيين يَعِدون دوماً بالأمن مقابل التنازل عن الحرية.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“إن حكام الغوغائية الجدد لا يوفرون أمناً أكثر من الأخطار ,لكن آراءهم وعباراتهم الساذجة ألاذعة المتكررة يمكن أن توفر الارتياح لمجتمع خائف”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“الخوف أقوى أعداء العقل، والخوف والعقل جوهريان لحياة الإنسان، لكن العلاقة بينهما غير متوازنة. فقد يبدد العقل الخوف أحيانا، لكن الخوف يغلق العقل دوما.
وكما كتب إدموند بيرك في إنكلترا قبل عشرين عاما من الثورة الأمريكية: "ليس هناك شعور يسلب العقل كل قوى التصرف والتفكير بصورة مؤثرة مثل الخوف" .”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“عندما يكون ما تقوم به الحكومة متاحا بالكامل لفحص مواطنيها وخاضعا للمناقشة والجدال الفعال، يصبح من الصعب إخفاء الاستخدام الفاسد للسلطة العامة من أجل مكاسب شخصية، وإذا كان حكم العقل هو المعيار الذي يقوّم به كل استخدام للسلطة الرسمية، يمكن عندئذ لجماعة المواطنين الواعية الكشف عن أشد خطط خرق الثقة العامة تعقيدا وضبطها، إضافة إلى ذلك فإنه عندما تصعد الأفكار أو تهبط حسب جدارتها، يميل العقل إلى دفعنا في اتجاه قرارات تعكس أفضل المتاح من حكمة الجماعة كلها.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Having a TV—which gives you the ability to receive information—fails to establish any capacity for sending information in the opposite direction. And the odd one-way nature of the primary connection Americans now have to our national conversation has a profound impact on their basic attitude toward democracy itself. If you can receive but not send, what does that do to your basic feelings about the nature of your connection to American self-government? “Attachment theory” is an interesting new branch of developmental psychology that sheds light on the importance of consistent, appropriate, and responsive two-way communication—and why it is essential for an individual’s feeling empowered. First developed by John Bowlby, a British psychiatrist, in 1958, attachment theory was further developed by his protégée Mary Ainsworth and other experts studying the psychological development of infants. Although it applies to individuals, attachment theory is, in my view, a metaphor that illuminates the significance of authentic free-flowing communication in any relationship that requires trust. By using this new approach, psychologists were able to discover that every infant learns a crucial and existential lesson during the first year of life about his or her fundamental relationship to the rest of the world. An infant develops an attachment pathway based on different patterns of care and, according to this theory, learns to adopt one of three basic postures toward the universe: In the best case, the infant learns that he or she has the inherent ability to exert a powerful influence on the world and evoke consistent, appropriate responses by communicating signals of hunger or discomfort, happiness or distress. If the caregiver—more often than not the mother—responds to most signals from the infant consistently and appropriately, the infant begins to assume that he or she has inherent power to affect the world. If the primary caregiver responds inappropriately and/or inconsistently, the infant learns to assume that he or she is powerless to affect the larger world and that his or her signals have no intrinsic significance where the universe is concerned. A child who receives really erratic and inconsistent responses from a primary caregiver, even if those responses are occasionally warm and sensitive, develops “anxious resistant attachment.” This pathway creates children who feature anxiety, dependence, and easy victimization. They are easily manipulated and exploited later in life. In the worst case, infants who receive no emotional response from the person or persons responsible for them are at high risk of learning a deep existential rage that makes them prone to violence and antisocial behavior as they grow up. Chronic unresponsiveness leads to what is called “anxious avoidance attachment,” a life pattern that features unquenchable anger, frustration, and aggressive, violent behavior.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“عندما اكتسب البشر تدريجياً مستوى أعلى من التفكير ,فإننا اكتسبنا ميزة القدرة على توقع التهديدات الناشئة ,واكتسبنا القدرة على تصور التهديدات بدلاً من إدراكها فقط .لكننا أيضاً اكتسبنا القدرة على تصور التهديدات (المتخيلة). وعندما تقتنع مجموعة من الناس بتصور هذه التهديدات (المتخيلة ),يمكنهم تنشيط استجابة الخوف لتصير بقوة الاستجابة نفسها للتهديدات الحقيقة .”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The flight insurance example highlights another psychological phenomenon that is important to understanding how fear influences our thinking: “probability neglect.” Social scientists have found that when confronted with either an enormous threat or a huge reward, people tend to focus on the magnitude of the consequence and ignore the probability. Consider how the Bush administration has used some of the techniques identified by Professor Glassner. Repeating the same threat over and over again, misdirecting attention (from al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein), and using vivid imagery (a “mushroom cloud over an American city”). September 11 had a profound impact on all of us. But after initially responding in an entirely appropriate way, the administration began to heighten and distort public fear of terrorism to create a political case for attacking Iraq. Despite the absence of proof, Iraq was said to be working hand in hand with al-Qaeda and to be on the verge of a nuclear weapons capability. Defeating Saddam was conflated with bringing war to the terrorists, even though it really meant diverting attention and resources from those who actually attacked us.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the reestablishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way—a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response. And in today’s world, that means recognizing that it’s impossible to have a well-informed citizenry without having a well-connected citizenry. While education remains important, it is now connection that is the key. A well-connected citizenry is made up of men and women who discuss and debate ideas and issues among themselves and who constantly test the validity of the information and impressions they receive from one another—as well as the ones they receive from their government. No citizenry can be well informed without a constant flow of honest information about contemporary events and without a full opportunity to participate in a discussion of the choices that the society must make. Moreover, if citizens feel deprived of a meaningful opportunity to participate in the national conversation, they can scarcely be blamed for developing a lack of interest in the process. And sure enough, numerous surveys and studies have documented the erosion of public knowledge of basic facts about our democracy. For example, from the data compiled by the National Election Studies on one recent election, only 15 percent of respondents could recall the name of even one of the candidates in the election in their district. Less than 4 percent could name two candidates. When there are so few competitive races, it’s hard to blame them. Two professors, James Snyder and David Stromberg, found that knowledge of candidates increased in media markets where the local newspaper covered the congressional representative more. Very few respondents claimed to learn anything at all about their congressional elections from television news.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: It leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Leadership means inspiring us to manage through our fears. Demagoguery means exploiting our fears for political gain.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The derivation of just power from the consent of the governed depends upon the integrity of the reasoning process through which that consent is given. If the reasoning process is corrupted by money and deception, then the consent of the governed is based on false premises, and any power thus derived is inherently counterfeit and unjust. If the consent of the governed is extorted through the manipulation of mass fears, or embezzled with claims of divine guidance, democracy is impoverished. If the suspension of reason causes a significant portion of the citizenry to lose confidence in the integrity of the process, democracy can be bankrupted.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The feelings of powerlessness are an adaptive function. The child adopts behavior that sets himself or herself up for more of the same. He or she becomes antisocial and stops evoking a feeling of warmth in other people, thus reinforcing the notion of powerlessness. Children then stay on the same pathway. These courses are not set in stone, but the longer a child stays on one course, the harder it is to move on to another. By studying the behavior of adults in later life who had shared this experience of learning powerlessness during infancy, the psychologists who specialize in attachment theory have found that an assumption of powerlessness, once lodged in the brains of infants, turns out to be difficult—though not impossible—to unlearn. Those who grow into adulthood carrying this existential assumption of powerlessness were found to be quick to assume in later life that impulsive and hostile reactions to unmet needs were the only sensible response. Indeed, longitudinal studies conducted by the University of Minnesota over more than thirty years have found that America’s prison population is heavily overrepresented by people who fell into this category as infants. The key difference determining which lesson is learned and which posture is adopted rests with the pattern of communication between the infant and his or her primary caregiver or caregivers, not with the specific information conveyed by the caregiver. What matters is the openness, responsiveness, and reliability, and two-way nature of the communication environment. I believe that the viability of democracy depends upon the openness, reliability, appropriateness, responsiveness, and two-way nature of the communication environment. After all, democracy depends upon the regular sending and receiving of signals—not only between the people and those who aspire to be their elected representatives but also among the people themselves. It is the connection of each individual to the national conversation that is the key. I believe that the citizens of any democracy learn, over time, to adopt a basic posture toward the possibilities of self-government.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Our political system today does not engage the best minds in our country to help us get the answers and deploy the resources we need to move into the future. Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve the problems we face, before it’s too late. Our goal must be to find a new way of unleashing our collective intelligence in the same way that markets have unleashed our collective productivity. “We the people” must reclaim and revitalize the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution. The traditional progressive solution to problems that involve a lack of participation by citizens in civic and democratic processes is to redouble their emphasis on education. And education is, in fact, an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of society’s ills. In an age where information has more economic value than ever before, it is obvious that education should have a higher national priority. It is also clear that democracies are more likely to succeed when there is widespread access to high-quality education. Education alone, however, is necessary but insufficient. A well-educated citizenry is more likely to be a well-informed citizenry, but the two concepts are entirely different, one from the other. It is possible to be extremely well educated and, at the same time, ill informed or misinformed. In the 1930s and 1940s, many members of the Nazi Party in Germany were extremely well educated—but their knowledge of literature, music, mathematics, and philosophy simply empowered them to be more effective Nazis. No matter how educated they were, no matter how well they had cultivated their intellect, they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilized them for evil purposes. The Enlightenment, for all of its liberating qualities—especially its empowerment of individuals with the ability to use reason as a source of influence and power—has also had a dark side that thoughtful people worried about from its beginning. Abstract thought, when organized into clever, self-contained, logical formulations, can sometimes have its own quasi-hypnotic effect and so completely capture the human mind as to shut out the leavening influences of everyday experience. Time and again, passionate believers in tightly organized philosophies and ideologies have closed their minds to the cries of human suffering that they inflict on others who have not yet pledged their allegiance and surrendered their minds to the same ideology. The freedoms embodied in our First Amendment represented the hard-won wisdom of the eighteenth century: that individuals must be able to fully participate in challenging, questioning, and thereby breathing human values constantly into the prevailing ideologies of their time and sharing with others the wisdom of their own experience.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.” He also said: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” But we are right now in a period of great vulnerability. As noted earlier, when television became the primary source of information in the United States, the “marketplace of ideas” changed radically. Most communication was in only one direction, with a sharp decline in participatory democracy. During this period of vulnerability for American democracy—while traditional television is still the dominant source of information and before the Internet is sufficiently developed and secured as an independent, neutral medium—there are other steps that can and should be taken to foster more connectivity in our self-government.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Just as the printing press led to the appearance of a new set of possibilities for democracy, beginning five hundred years ago—and just as the emergence of electronic broadcasting reshaped those possibilities, beginning in the first quarter of the twentieth century—the Internet is presenting us with new possibilities to reestablish a healthy functioning self-government, even before it rivals television for an audience. In fact, the Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for reestablishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. The ideas that individuals contribute are dealt with, in the main, according to the rules of a meritocracy of ideas. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. An important distinction to make is that the Internet is not just another platform for disseminating the truth. It’s a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It’s a platform, in other words, for reason. But just as it is important to avoid romanticizing the printing press and the information ecosystem it created, it is also necessary to keep a clear-eyed view of the Internet’s problems and abuses. It is hard to imagine any human evil that is not somehow abundantly displayed somewhere on the Internet. Parents of young children are often horrified to learn what obscene, grotesque, and savage material is all too easily available to children whose Web-surfing habits are not supervised or electronically limited. Teen suicides, bullying, depravity, and criminal behavior of all descriptions are described and—some would argue—promoted on the Internet. As with any tool put at the disposal of humankind, it can be, and is, used for evil as well as good purposes. And as always, it is up to us—particularly those of us who live in a democracy—to make intelligent choices about how and for what we use this incredibly powerful tool.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“This administration has not been content simply to reduce the Congress to subservience. By closely guarding information about their own behavior, they are dismantling a fundamental element of our system of checks and balances. A government for the people and by the people should be transparent to the people. Yet the Bush administration seems to prefer making policy in secret, based on information that is not available to the public and in a process that is insulated from any meaningful participation by Congress or the American people. When Congress’s approval is required under our current Constitution, it is to be given without meaningful debate. As Bush said to one Republican senator in a meeting, “Look, I want your vote—I’m not going to debate it with you.” When reason and logic are removed from the process of democracy—when there is no longer any purpose in debating or discussing the choices we have to make—then all the questions before us are reduced to a simple equation: Who can exercise the most raw power? The system of checks and balances that has protected the integrity of our American system for more than two centuries has been dangerously eroded in recent decades, and especially in the last six years. In order to reestablish the needed balance, and to check the dangerous expansion of an all-powerful executive branch, we must first of all work to restore the checks and balances that our Founders knew were essential to ensure that reason could play its proper role in American democracy. And we must then concentrate on reempowering the people of the United States with the ability and the inclination to fully and vigorously participate in the national conversation of democracy. I am convinced this can be done and that the American people can once again become a “well-informed citizenry.” In the following chapter I outline how. CHAPTER NINE A Well-Connected Citizenry As a young lawyer giving his first significant public speech at the age of twenty-eight, Abraham Lincoln warned that a persistent period of dysfunction and unresponsiveness by government could alienate the American people and that “the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectively be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the people.” Many”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“it’s rare to see a family-run media business with deep pride in its independence and a journalistic tradition that has survived over half a dozen generations. Such businesses are now part of conglomerates whose obligations involve meeting Wall Street’s expectations rather than the Founders’ expectations of the requisite for a well-informed citizenry. Now that the conglomerates can dominate the expressions of opinion that flood the minds of the citizenry and selectively choose the ideas that are amplified so loudly as to drown out others that, whatever their validity, do not have wealthy patrons, the result is a de facto coup d’état overthrowing the rule of reason. Greed and wealth now allocate power in our society, and that power is used in turn to further increase and concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“This is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. It affects the survival of human civilization. It is not a question of Left vs. Right; it is a question of right vs. wrong. Put simply, it is wrong to destroy the habitability of our planet and ruin the prospects of every generation that follows ours.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“There are only two kinds of politics. They’re not radical and reactionary or conservative and liberal or even Democratic and Republican. There are only the politics of fear and the politics of trust. One says you are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you. The other says the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped to the will of men.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“As we now know, of course, there was absolutely no connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. In spite of that fact, President Bush actually said to the nation at a time of greatly enhanced vulnerability to the fear of attack, “You can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam.” History will surely judge America’s decision to invade and occupy a fragile and unstable nation that did not attack us and posed no threat to us as a decision that was not only tragic but absurd. Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, to be sure, but not one who posed an imminent danger to us. It is a decision that could have been made only at a moment in time when reason was playing a sharply diminished role in our national deliberations. Thomas Jefferson would have recognized the linkage between absurd tragedy and the absence of reason. As he wrote to James Smith in 1822, “Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind.” I spoke at the Iowa Democratic Convention in the fall of 2001. Earlier in August, I had prepared a very different kind of speech. But in the aftermath of this tragedy, I proudly, with complete and total sincerity, stood before the Democrats of Iowa and said, “George W. Bush is my president, and I will follow him, as will we all, in this time of crisis.” I was one of millions who felt that same sentiment and gave the president my total trust, asking him to lead us wisely and well. But he redirected the focus of America’s revenge onto Iraq, a nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with September 11.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“If democracy seems to work, and if people receive a consistent, reliable, and meaningful response from others when they communicate their opinions and feelings about shared experiences, they begin to assume that self-expression in democracy matters. When they can communicate with others regularly, in ways that produce meaningful changes, they learn that democracy matters. If they receive responses that seem to be substantive but actually are not, citizens begin to feel as if they were being manipulated. If the messages they receive from the media feed this growing cynicism, the decline of democracy can be accelerated. Moreover, if citizens of a country express their opinions and feelings over an extended period of time without evoking a meaningful response, then they naturally begin to feel angry. If the flow of communication provides little opportunity for citizens to express themselves meaningfully, they naturally begin to feel frustration and powerlessness. This has happened all too often to minority communities who suffer prejudice and are not given a fair hearing by the majority for complaints. My generation learned in our youth to expect that democracy would work. Our frustration with the ineptitude and moral insensitivity of our national leaders in the last several years is balanced by the knowledge we gained in an earlier time and is influenced by the basic posture we adopted during our first experiences as citizens. Although many in my generation became disillusioned with self-government, most of us still believe that democracy works—or can work—and that communication and participation are the keys to making it work well. In the United States of America, the torch of democracy—to use John F. Kennedy’s metaphor—is regularly passed from one generation to the next. But what happens if the torch is passed to a generation that has learned to adopt a different posture toward democracy and to assume that their opinions are not likely to evoke an appropriate, much less consistent, response from the broader community? Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. In contemporary America, we have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of incredibly talented and resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Compare this with when our country was founded and only a handful of people had the modern equivalent of a college education—but when so many were vitally engaged in the historic task of bringing forth into the world an ingenious republic that embodied a new form of representative democracy.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“In the early days of America’s democracy, education and literacy were the prerequisites for establishing a connection to the body politic. In a world where communication was dominated by the printed word, those who learned to read also learned to write. Gaining the ability to receive ideas was automatically accompanied by the ability to send ideas, expressing your own thoughts in the same medium through which you took in the thoughts of others. The connection, once established, was two-way. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The art of printing secures us against the retrogradation of reason and information.” In practice, the use of the printing press was mainly by the elites in America’s early decades, and the scurrilous, vitriolic attacks of that age certainly rivaled the worst of any modern political attacks. Nevertheless, the easy accessibility to the printed word opened up avenues of participation in the dialogue of democracy for people like Thomas Paine, who had neither family wealth nor political influence—other than what he gained with the eloquence of his writing. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television—a distracting and absorbing medium that seems determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates. If the information and opinions made available in the marketplace of ideas come only from those with enough money to pay a steep price of admission, then all of those citizens whose opinions cannot be expressed in a meaningful way are in danger of learning that they are powerless as citizens and have no influence over the course of events in our democracy—and that their only appropriate posture is detachment, frustration, or anger.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“new techniques of mass persuasion. “We must shift America from a needs to desires culture,” Mazur said. “People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“As Jefferson wrote in a letter to Charles Yancey: “The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.” In the age of our Founders, this human impulse to demand the right of co-creating shared wisdom accounted for the ferocity with which the states demanded protection for free access to the printing press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. General George Washington, in a speech to officers of the army in 1783, said, “If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” But the twentieth century brought its own bitter lessons. The new and incredibly powerful electronic media that began to replace the printing press—first radio and film and then television—were used to indoctrinate millions of Germans, Austrians, Italians, Russians, Japanese, Chinese, and others with elaborate abstract ideologies that made many of them deaf, blind, and numb to the systematic leading of tens of millions of their fellow human beings “to the slaughter.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“Nazism, fascism, and communism were belief systems adopted passionately by millions of well-educated men and women. Taken together, all of the totalitarian ideologies were self-contained and delivered through a one-way flow of propaganda that prevented the people who were enmeshed in the ideology from actively participating in challenging its lack of human values. Unfortunately, the legacy of the twentieth century’s ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. In an age of propaganda, education itself can become suspect. When ideology is so often woven into the “facts” that are delivered in fully formed and self-contained packages, people naturally begin to develop some cynicism about what they are being told. When people are subjected to ubiquitous and unrelenting mass advertising, reason and logic often begin to seem like they are no more than handmaidens for the sophisticated sales force. And now that these same techniques dominate the political messages sent by candidates to voters, the integrity of our democracy has been placed under the same cloud of suspicion. Many advocacy organizations—progressive as well as conservative—often give the impression that they already have exclusive possession of the truth and merely have to “educate” others about what they already know. Resentment toward this attitude is also one of the many reasons for a resurgence of the traditional anti-intellectual strain in America. When people don’t have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they’re being “taught” in the light of their own experience, and share with one another in a robust and dynamic dialogue that enriches what the “experts” are telling them with the wisdom of the groups as a whole, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best. If well-educated citizens have no effective way to communicate their ideas to others and no realistic prospect of catalyzing the formation of a critical mass of opinion supporting their ideas, then their education is for naught where the vitality of our democracy is concerned.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. Modern advertising campaigns, he pointed out, were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed. The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America’s marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared with the image-based advertising campaigns they use to shape the perceptions of voters. And the high cost of these commercials has radically increased the role of money in American politics—and the influence of those who contribute it.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason
“The alienation of Americans from the democratic process has also eroded knowledge of the most basic facts about our constitutional architecture of checks and balances. When the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a broad survey on our Constitution, released in September 2006, they found that more than a third of the respondents believed the executive branch has the final say on all issues and can overrule the legislative and judicial branches. Barely half—53 percent—believed that the president was required to follow a Supreme Court decision with which he disagreed. Similarly, only 55 percent of those questioned believed that the Supreme Court had the power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. Another study found that the majority of respondents did not know that Congress—rather than the president—has the power to declare war. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute conducted a study in 2005 of what our nation’s college students knew about the Constitution, American government, and American history that provoked the American Political Science Association Task Force on Civic Education to pronounce that it is “axiomatic that current levels of political knowledge, political engagement, and political enthusiasm are so low as to threaten the vitality and stability of democratic politics in the United States.” The study found that less than half of college students “recognized that the line ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ is from the Declaration of Independence.” They also found that “an overwhelming majority, 72.8 percent, could not correctly identify the source of the idea of ‘a wall of separation’ between church and state.” When the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation conducted a survey of high school students to determine their feelings toward the First Amendment, they found that “after the text of the First Amendment was read to students, more than a third of them (35 percent) thought that the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. Nearly a quarter (21 percent) did not know enough about the First Amendment to even give an opinion. Of those who did express an opinion, an even higher percentage (44 percent) agreed that the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.” The survey revealed that “nearly three-fourths” of high school students “either don’t know how they feel about [the First Amendment] or they take it for granted.”
Al Gore, The Assault on Reason

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