Political News

Al Gore: We need clicks & bricks to save America

Posted August 6

Former Vice President Al Gore says social media is at its most powerful when it's backed up by physical action.

"You can connect with people on the Internet, but you have to have that physical contact where people form the deeper, longer-lasting ties," he told CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

"Clicks and bricks, as they say in the business world."

Gore credits this "click-and-brick" formula as being behind what he called the "popular uprising" that led to the failure of the Republican health care bill.

"It was a complicated set of issues. But these groups that organized on the Internet and then, crucially, met up together physically ... moved the political sentiment in this country to the point where it was political suicide to vote for that legislation," he said.

It's movements like these that Gore says help him stay optimistic about US action on climate change despite the Trump administration's efforts to roll back green initiatives -- most notably pulling out of the landmark Paris agreement, a deal Gore said "was a truly historic breakthrough."

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"In reaction to Trump and his ... rogues' gallery of climate deniers, there is a reaction now that is producing the greatest upsurge in climate activism, and activism for better health care and so forth, that I've ever seen," Gore said.

"We're seeing all over the country, mayors step up and say, 'No, we're still in the Paris agreement.'"

Asked for his take on the current administration and polarization in politics, the former vice president said he's "never" seen such chaos in the White House.

However, he says the polarization of politics has been decades in the making.

"I think our democracy has been hacked by big money long before Putin hacked our democracy," Gore said. "And I think the change is connected to a dramatic transformation in the last third of the 20th century in the nature of the information ecosystem in which our democracy lives."

Gore described how television gradually eclipsed the printing press until, "by the middle '70s, it was so thoroughly dominant that politicians had to begin devoting the majority of their time to begging special interests for money so they could buy the 30-second TV commercials.

"And these 30-second television ads are not the Federalist Papers. They're emotion-based, hot-button appeals -- most of them negative. And it has really had a destructive effect on America's political culture and on the operations of our democracy."

And we are now in the middle of another transition, he said.

"This year, for the first time, aggregate advertising revenue on the Internet surpassed advertising revenue on television in the broadcast satellite cable forms," Gore said. "The big advertisers still prefer television, but that, too, is beginning to change."

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He calls these "technology deployment curves" and likens them to big political and social revolutions like the civil rights movement, anti-apartheid movement and now, climate change.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Gore says "It's always impossible until it's done. And, we are right at that tipping point where the climate movement is concerned."

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