“Our democracy has been hacked,” Al Gore told a packed house at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, Monday night. “It’s not working the way it should.”

It was an odd image to choose in front of this crowd, which is more likely to think “hacker” means heroic tinkerer than digital thief. Indeed, by the end of the evening, Gore’s partner on stage — Napster cofounder and Facebook billionaire Sean Parker — was sounding a rallying cry for “hackers, engineers and progressive thinkers” to take back the U.S.A. from moneyed interests that are subverting democracy.

So let’s just say this was not an event with a finely tuned message.