29 May 2006

I've Got Your Inconvenient Truth Right Here

I saw An Inconvenient Truth.

And I expected to be frothing at the mouth about it, but I am not. The content of Gore's slideshow is similar to Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers, but the similarities end there. Flannery is anxious and powerless, and this makes every fact in his book sound insane. Gore, on the other hand, has a real gift for delivering bad news. Like everyone else, I like this guy better than I like the Gore who ran for office.

Gore does not feel powerless, and he manages to position himself as a leader. He got the presidency stolen out from under him; has had to watch the utter insanity of the Bush administration unfold and know that he would have done better; has been working for like 30 years on this global warming issue and has watched the US consumption of oil and coal skyrocket...

But he does not feel powerless. Sure, this movie collapses into gratuitous thoughtful looks, as Gore tippy-taps away at his ibook (product placement?). And he says so-democratic-party things sometimes, like opening up the fucking movie with the statement "I feel like I have failed." The stuff about his personal tragedies rings hollow and reminds us of Candidate Gore drumming up likeability points--it's not perfect. But if Al Gore--the one person who has personally suffered more than any other single person at the hands of George W. Bush and Karl Rove--does not feel powerless, then I should not feel powerless, either.

An Inconvenient Truth was kind of scary, but there was no hysteria. He largely avoided Tim Flannery's three scenarios for a sudden climate flip--a smart strategy. He managed to be extremely optimistic, and clearly framed climate change as a problem completely within our reach. He was smart to mention the fact that climate change will spur economic growth. It was soothing to watch him treat the audience like a bunch of smart people who have to make a choice, and present himself as a trustworthy steward on this issue. The montage of past sacrifices and important changes Americans have made stirred me, and made me feel like something really could happen.

In other words, I got my money's worth. I walked out of the theater nodding my head, along with all the other liberals who paid $11 bucks and an hour and a half of their free time to watch a lecture. All positive and clucking like a bunch of chickens, heads nodding, moving down the stairs at the Sunshine, talking about positivity and leadership.

And you know that summertime movie feeling? When for the first couple of minutes you are so blinded by the sun and your skin is still tingling from the air conditioning and you are in that space between the fantasy of the movie and the reality that it's really fucking hot and the sun won't go down for hours?

That's when it hit me that I went to a fucking movie. I paid for a simulation of how democracy should work, and I did it to feel better about reality. We, who streamed out of the Sunshine Theatre, are not substantially different from Dubya's vetted and screened audiences. Behold the choir. I realized that I left Farenheit 911 with a similar sense of righteousness and peace, only to find that not enough people who actually needed to see and believe that movie chose to hand Michael Moore their money.

Leadership means reaching out to everyone, not just people who are willing to pay for your message. If An Inconvenient Truth becomes this generation's The Day After, then I will stop being offended that Laurie David has decided to pimp out Gore as a leadership substitute in these desperate times and start believing all of this positive talk.


Blogger DilettanteVentures said...

Don't know if you read this blog or not...I trust you on this one and thought you might like to respond or at least read it...

29 May, 2006 14:14  
Anonymous Kit Stolz said...

Yes, "The Weather Makers" is a lousy movie. But that's okay--it's a book!

Scientists have the right; no, the obligation to talk about the facts, even facts that might discourage us.

It's different with movies and politicians, even former politicians. I agree that Gore did a wonderful job of telling this story, but he did allude to the danger of big climate shifts (with respect to Greenland ice) and I'm sure, if we were to ask him, that he would respect Tim Flannery's book. He is a fan of scientists, after all, and Flannery is a good scientist and a good writer.

29 May, 2006 17:08  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Hey Kit,
I am not arguing that people should be shielded from facts. What I am arguing is that Gore's rhetoric was more effective than Flannery's.

The fact content of The Weather Makers v. An Inconvenient Truth is quite similar. The difference is in the spin. Flannery focuses more on drastic events, like the extinction of 95% of all species, the big Ocean Fart, etc. His imagery is melodramatic, his tone alternates between anxiety and despair.

To contrast, Gore rescues the frog (and for that matter, uses an animation of a frog, the Groening cartoon, and other leaveners), only alludes to Greenland's melting and shutting down the gulf stream, and focuses much more energy on solutions.

While it is true that Flannery is a scientist and Gore is a politician, Flannery wrote a popular science book for the general public intended to spur us all to action. Flannery is entitled to write whatever he wants. My question is about the effectiveness of his words.

29 May, 2006 17:50  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Yeah, abstractdynamics has an even more cynical take on this movie than I do... weird. I thought I was being such an old lady. Not sure what to make of it yet, thanks for the tip!

Initial thoughts: propaganda is not inherently bad, the science is pretty freaking straightforward and evidence has been mounting for like 100 years...and sometimes really crazy, catastrophic things do actually happen.

30 May, 2006 08:28  
Blogger Jordan said...

I guess the problem is...we all are so much more open to a message that we already believe in. Many of us are also closed to listening and trying to objectively evaluate messages that by nature we don't like. Clearly Al Gore is preaching to the choir!

The problem is, Bush is also preaching to the choir. His choir is either larger then gores or at least showes up to the poles more frequently.

Michael Moore has the same problems. In order to start winning the hearts and minds of your ditractors you have to be a little more clever. You can't bowl them over with what you feel is obvious because they often miss the point.To change a world view takes subtlety as well as persistance...

The problem is no one likes a loser! When the Michael Moore's and Al Gore's of the world seem ineffective...the choir gets antsy! they don't show up to the poles and don't take action.

30 May, 2006 12:35  
Anonymous jec said...

I thought I had heard/read that Gore's plan is to train 100's of people to give his presentation around the country. I think his end goal is not to become a movie star, but to bring the information to as many people as possible.

Of course it starts with the choir, but I don't think it ends there.

I haven't seen the film yet, so won't comment on that. I did get to see Gore give the presentation in person a couple of months ago. It was amazing!

30 May, 2006 19:14  
Anonymous Eric said...

Or, rather than just going to a movie - you can do something about it. Rather than spending $11 on something you are already convinced about, use that money to help offset your carbon footprint over at carbonfund.org.

03 June, 2006 14:48  

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