The Assault on Reason by Al Gore

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Chapters

  1. The Politics of Fear
  2. Blinding the Faithful
  3. The Politics of Wealth
  4. Convenient Untruths
  5. The Assault on the Individual
  6. National Insecurity
  7. The Carbon Crisis
  8. Democracy in the Balance
  9. A Well-Connected Citizenry

Key Quotations

Some key quotations below usually include something from the opening and closing of each chapter.

Where a quotation refers to "this administration" it means the Executive of the USA in 2007, which is controlled by President George W. Bush and his Vice-president Dick Cheney. Where a quotation refers to "this president" it means the President of the USA in 2007, George W. Bush

Readability? Somewhat scientific in tone, Gore's book is above average on the challenge to readers, at least as indicated by the Amazon Text statistics (calculated from the text of the book), and compared with data for books in all categories:

Introduction

"More and more people are trying to figure out what has gone wrong with our democracy, and how we can fix it." [p. 1] .

"As a college student, I wrote my senior thesis on the impact of television on the balance of power among the three branches of government ... the growing importance of visual rhetoric and body language over logic and reason." [p. 9] .

" Chapters 1 through 5 ... identify and describe the enemies of reason ... the connection between the withdrawal of reason from the public sphere and the resulting vacuum that is filled by fear, superstition, ideology, intolerance, and obsessive secrecy as a means of tightening control over the information that a free society needs to govern itself according to reason-based democracy.

Chapters 6 through 8 assess the damage that has already occurred as a result of the progressive substitution of raw power and institutionalized corruption for reason and logic in policies important to our survival: national security, environmental security, energy security, the protection of our liberty, and the promotion of the general welfare.

chapter 9 ... a road map for restoring the health and vitality of American democracy and ... a strategy for the reintroduction of reason to its proper role at the heart of the deliberative process of self-government." [p. 21-22] .

1. The Politics of Fear

"Our Founders rejected direct democracy because of concerns that fear might overwhelm reflective thought. But they counted heavily on the ability of a 'well-informed citizenry' to reason together in ways that would minimize the destructive impact of illusory, exaggerated, or excessive fears." [p. 23] .

"Nations succeed or fail and define their essential character by the way they challenge the unknown and cope with fear. And much depends on the quality of the leadership. If the leaders exploit public fears to herd people in directions they might not otherwise choose, then fear itself can rapidly become a self-perpetuating and freewheeling force that drains national will and weakens national character, diverting attention from real threats deserving of healthy and appropriate fear and sowing confusion about the essential choices that every nation must constantly make about its future." [p. 24] .

2. Blinding the Faithful

"Though most of the American Revolutionaries never adopted the extreme anticlerical views of their French Revolutionary counterparts, they nevertheless felt keenly that organized religion in the old world had been a cynical ally of the political despotism they desired to overthrow. After all, many of them were descended from the immigrants fleeing oppression and religious persecution. Jefferson wrote that throughout history, the state-sanctioned religious authority 'has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot'." [p. 46] .

"When fear crowds out reason, many people feel a greater need for the comforting certainty of absolute faith. And they become more vulnerable to the appeals of secular leaders who profess absolute certainty in simplistic explanations portraying all problems as manifestations of the struggle between good and evil." [p. 47] .

"It is the love of power for its own sake that is the original sin of this presidency. ... But if either political party is ever so beguiled by a lust for power that it abandons this unifying principle [respect for the rule of law], then the fabric of our democracy will tear." [p. 71] .

3. The Politics of Wealth

"Capitalism and democracy ... both shared a common enemy: despotic rulers capable of using arbitrary power to confiscate property and restrict liberty." [p. 3] .

"Now that 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, so not have wealthy patrons, the result is a de facto coup d'état overthrowing the rule of reason." [p. 99] .

4. Convenient Untruths

"The last two centuries have demonstrated the superiority of free market economies over centralized economies and the superiority of democracy over forms of government that concentrate power in the hands of a few. In both cases, the root of that superiority lies in the open flow of communication." [p. 100] .

"For this administration, all too often, the truth hurts; it hurts, that is, when it is available to the American people. Consequently they have often sought relief by depriving the American people of access to information to which they have a right.

A government by and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people -- while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from governmental intrusion. This administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head. And in the end, its assaults on our core democratic principles have left us less free and less secure." [p. 128] .

5. The Assault on the Individual

"The diminished role of individuals in America's national conversation has been accomplished by a diminished respect for the rights of individuals — especially during the Bush-Cheney administration.

For example, he has declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen whom he alone determines to be a threat to our nation -- without an arrest warrant, without notifying them of what charges have been filed against them, and without even informing their families that they have been imprisoned." [p. 131] .

"In his famous book The Trial, Franz Kafka wrote about a fictional prisoner 'K.', who was put in a predicament eerily similar to the circumstances of some held in custody by the Bush-Cheney administration." [p. 133] .

6. National Insecurity

"The pursuit of 'dominance' in foreign policy led the Bush administration to ignore the United Nations, to do serious damage to our most important allies, to violate international law, and to cultivate the hatred and contempt of many in the rest of the world. The seductive appeal of exercising unconstrained unilateral power led this president to interpret his powers under the Constitution in a way that brought to life the worst nightmares of the Founders. In " [p. 161] .

"It is not too late for subsequent administrations [to that of G.W. Bush] to return America to the long-standing mainstream of its position in relation to the rest of the world. The damage to be undone is vast, but the cost of continuing to perpetuate that damage is literally incalculable." [p. 190] .

7. The Carbon Crisis

"All of the pathologies that have been explored earlier in the book -- deception, secrecy, the politics of fear, the appeal to a 'crusade,' and the substitution of raw power for knowledge and logic -- are on vivid display in our energy and environmental policies." [p. 190] .

"The United States should undertake a massive strategic effort to solve the climate crisis and the fossil fuel dependency crisis simultaneously. They are the same crisis." [p. 190] .

8. Democracy in the Balance

"The astonishing sophistication of our Founders' understanding of human nature included a penetrating insight into the vulnerability we all have to make reason itself a slave to ego. ... reason must be separated from the 'self-love' of the individuals using it, and focused instead upon the public good -- by ensuring that no individual or small group can exercise power without entering into negotiation with other who must be convinced that the proposed exercise of power meets the test of reason." [p. 215] .

9. A Well-Connected Citizenry

"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 be effectively broken down and destroyed -- I mean the attachment of the people.

Many Americans now feel that our government is unresponsive and that no one in a position of power listens to or cares what they think. They feel disconnected from democracy." [p. 245] .

"We the people -- as Lincoln put it, 'even we here' -- are collectively still the key to the survival of America's democracy." [p. 270] .

Conclusion: The Rebirth of Democracy

"Where there is leadership with vision and moral courage, the people will flourish and redeem Lincoln's prophecy at Gettysburg that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." [p. 271] .


All quotes are from the hard-copy 2007 edition