Weisberg on Gore
Jacob Weisberg, Slate’s editor, has a piece up about Gore and An Inconvenient Truth. Ben Adler objects to the conclusion, which is: Gore may actually be better off working to change public consciousness as a private citizen than he would as president.
Adler finds that absurd. I’m not sure I do, at least not completely. What’s lacking now is bottom-up pressure on politicians to tackle global warming. As dutiful report readers know, for politicians, tackling global warming is all risk and no reward. What Gore is doing is explicitly attempting to build that kind of popular swell. I would have thought it would be an impossible task, but he’s been amazingly successful so far, and nobody else is doing the job … so why not keep him there? It’s highly unlikely Democrats will win the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress any time soon, and lacking that they won’t be able to force action on global warming, even with Gore in the top slot.
What I do find obnoxious in Weisberg’s piece is this ‘graph:
An Inconvenient Truth is flawed in a number of ways. For those who have read a substantial book on the subject, such as Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers or Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes From a Catastrophe, it will contain little that is new. It is afflicted with a number of inconsistencies and exaggerations, such as the suggestion that polar melt could cause sea levels to rise 20 feet and leave much of Manhattan underwater. It suffers from Gore’s labored, condescending manner and is cast too much in terms of his highly polished personal "journey" for my taste.
First, Weisberg should be attempting to forget he ever published Easterbrook’s smug, error-plagued spew, not linking to it. This is exactly how bogus conventional wisdom gets formed: Somebody (in this case Easterbrook) makes an absurd allegation (in this case, that Gore’s movie is ridden with "inconsistencies and exaggerations") backed up with factually flawed arguments. But it fits into what the chattering classes want to believe, so they just repeat it, linking back to the original without reading it. Eventually no link is necessary — it’s just something "everybody knows." Only it’s bullshit. This is how "Gore claimed to invent the internet" got started, not to mention 99% of his other alleged fibs and exaggerations. The only way to stop this stuff is to nip it in the bud.
Second, of course brainy media types like Weisberg aren’t going to enjoy those parts of the movie that follow Gore’s personal journey. They’re cynical as hell about politics, and they know all about Gore; they just want the facts on global warming. But Gore didn’t make the movie for brainy media types; he made it to appeal to ordinary people, and ordinary people aren’t going to tolerate a two-hour film purely about a scientific slideshow. They need human characters and a human narrative (Gore talks about just that in our interview). It would be nice if Weisberg (and Adler) tried at least a little bit to evaluate the film based on its own goals and not on their own highly biased gut reactions.
In other news, Roger Ebert has given the movie four out of four stars in an impassioned (if less than entirely accurate) review/screed:
In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.