Thursday, July 13, 2006

Billmon: Gore Agonistes

Billmon wistfuly reviews An Inconvenient Truth. But what he really is talking about isn't the show, but the theater:

At one point, Gore spoke of his initial confidence, back when he was just a junior U.S. Senator, that if he could put the scientific evidence before Congress and the public, they would do something about it. And he talked about how disappointed he was when he realized it wasn't so – not when virtually every industrial lobby in Washington had a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

I thought it was a telling moment, and it reminded me of a line from John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger, in which the angry anti-hero Jimmy describes his aging father-in-law as "an Edwardian plant, wondering why the sun doesn't shine any more."

I don't say this as an insult – or at least, not in the way Osborne meant it. I'm an old plant myself, increasingly out of place in, and out of touch with, this not-so-brave new world we now live in. I'm also enough of a policy wonk to admire Gore's slide show, which takes an enormously complex topic and turns it into a presentation that's both scientifically accurate and engaging enough to be worth a hundred minute movie. Al's fighting the good fight, and I salute him for it.

But there is something tragic, even a little pathetic, about Gore's stubborn faith in the ability of facts and reasoned argument to save the world. The scenes of him schlepping through airports – alone, laptop in hand, on his way to yet another city to show his slides to another room full of college students or environmental activists – hit the edge of bathos. They make Al look too much like Willy Loman. "Attention must be paid to this man."

This is the Al Gore the Washington political press corps never seemed to grow tired of mocking: The earnest wonk who takes serious ideas seriously, and assumes his audience does, too. Up on stage, in front of such an audience, Al is clearly in his element. He’s articulate, funny, even endearing – as when he rides an accordion lift to the top of the viewing screen to illustrate the soaring rate of increase in atmospheric CO2. It’s a reminder that Al’s at his best when he’s being himself, instead of imitating Bill Clinton’s folksiness (which only made him look like Salieri next to Clinton's Mozart) or playing the know-it-all bully of his first presidential debate with Bush.

But in our increasingly debased political and cultural climate, just letting Al Gore be Al Gore isn’t commercially viable, not even in an art house documentary.

I wish I could present a contrary view. But I can't. Like bacteria reacting to antibiotics, too many people have evolved a form of immunity to facts and reason. And, like bacteria, they are unable to recognize that they are killing their host.

I found Gore's movie compelling and motivational. But then, Edwardian plant that I am, I always was a sucker for logic.


Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Interesting stuff .. I have no idea how, but Mr. Gore's movie has finally managed to make it to my little corner of the world this week .. I'm going to see it today, and really looking forward to it

3:33 AM  

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