Gore: The Medium Is The Leverage

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Al Gore ended his opening speech at SXSW Interactive here with some media spin, and a bit of politicking too.

He spoke about the transformation of our media society from the era of print to television and now the Internet as coming full circle in terms of democracy.

Put aside the non sequitur he made about radio being a tool for fascism in “Hitler’s Germany,” Gore said, “We have moved from one media ecosystem to another.”

Gore said the era of print enabled “democracy” to emerge in America, but that the era of television was a step backwards, noting:

“In the era of print, individuals had access to information, facts mattered,” but that, “television transformed citizens into an audience and into consumers -- one-way, instead of two-way. All of a sudden, gatekeepers were put in charge of granting access to people with great wealth.”

Gore described digital media as “act three,” noting, “The Internet is now replicating the kind of free flow of ideas and facts that we had during the print era. Look how we won the struggle for net neutrality at the grassroots.”

That last statement spurred a big ovation from the net-savvy audience here.

Gore then turned the conversation back to climate change, calling on the SXSW crowd to use digital media to “organize” and help “get the facts out there.”

“When politicians say you can’t even mention the words ‘climate change,’ call them out for that,” Gore said, adding, “Use the Internet, use social media.”

He ended by likening the mission to the race-to-space that John F. Kennedy sparked when he said Americans would land a man on the moon and bring him back safely.

He noted that the cheers that took place at mission control in Houston when that happened were among engineers who were around 18-years-old when JFK made that speech, and inspired them. So Gore went on to inspire the young folks at SXSW to take on an equally ambitious challenge of saving the planet.

“We owe it to today’s 18-year-olds to have a challenge that worthy,” he concluded.
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