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Al Gore: 'Assault on Reason' Endangers Democracy

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Chris Jackson
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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Al Gore, who galvanized public opinion with his advocacy on global warming, sees danger in another poisoned environment, this one metaphorical: In his book The Assault on Reason, just published in paperback, he argues that what used to be called civil discourse is threatened by a combination of public apathy and political cynicism.

In our infotainment-mad culture, Gore writes, the public attention span is short, the media are easily distracted, and a politics driven by fear and uninterested in facts has undermined the essential functions of democracy.

"When evidence that any reasonable person can see and understand is completely ignored in favor of ideology and power politics, then the country suffers," Gore told NPR last year.

But he doesn't lay the blame entirely on Washington.

"I'm not pointing a finger at Bush and Cheney," Gore said when the book was published. "I am pointing to the cracks in the foundation of American democracy."

The former U.S. vice president is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management, which focuses on sustainable investing. He is also co-founder and chairman of Current TV, a television network geared towards young people.

Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work spreading information about climate change and encouraging individuals to take action against global warming. An Inconvenient Truth, his documentary about the threatened environment, won an Oscar for best documentary.

He talks to Terry Gross about a range of issues, including why he sees the combination of money, TV and politics as a threat to reasoned discourse; the precedent set by the "signing statements" aggressively used by the Bush administration; and the ongoing campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination — including the recent conversation about a gas-tax holiday.

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