Al Gore will be on Terry Gross today. We might say that that sounds gross, and we’d be right, however repetitively we took our entendre. Those two certainly know how to repeat themselves, so Wow Much lectures Such tendentious Many neurotic Omg brenda jorett Very annoy will be one reason for me to skip this afternoon’s radio mass. The climate change-intersectional heat wave hitting the Northwest and the resulting 11:30 quitting time at the berry farm will also help me skip our daily dork assembly with Mr. Werman. Bill Buckley’s comment about preferring to be governed by the first 250 or whatever names in the Boston phone directory than by the top 250 Harvard faculty members is, at least in this case, bolstered by the traditional place of W in the English alphabet. Shit, we already tried that at the national level, and look how it turned out. The fuck, Buckley? Your section of the White Pages keeps letting us down, white boy.
“Zest for life” is a fucking obnoxious phrase, and I really ought to mention how much Buckley’s fellow highbrow Masshole Teddy Kennedy always loved to ride the Ducks, just to get the taste* out of our mouths (Go Sea Lions!) (*since when did anyone hanging around here have any?), but our old boy Billy, he had that zest. He’d have gotten Cheryl Crow trashed on Old Fashioneds by 11:30 and relished every bloody minute of it. The posh bugger was not conflicted or pained or guilty or tortured about his proper place in the world. Unusually among wealthy Americans, he was antifragile on account of his wealth and privilege. His fanciness, precisely because he relished it so heartily, was received at lower stations as a sort of reputable plainness, a living practice of modest, down-to-earth, unpretentious values more sincere and true than anyone would ever expect of a silver spoon.
As the lady from the Cleveland ghetto told her doctor when she was asked if she got depressed, “No, I gets de Plain Dealer.” With Billy B., we all gots de plain dealer. Those of us who felt uncomfortable or distrustful about the influence of the privileged didn’t have to convince anyone else that our lord William was anything but caricaturishly privileged. What we saw was what we got. What we saw was fucking surreal. And yet, because it was so unabashed and aboveboard, it wasn’t the least bit eerie.
William F. Buckley has not been available for interviews lately, but Al Gore has. The problem here isn’t a degradation of public thought; there were hideously stupid and vulgar public figures outcompeting Buckley for attention throughout his career, and there are still intelligent, eloquent people taking part in the public discourse in spite of the much greater attention and praise lavished on pathetic shitheads. That’s part of what I’m doing here, trying to elevate the discourse and bear witness to things that ought to be discussed. Another part of it is the serial canucksploitation of fine downeaster (upeaster?) Melissa Ann Shepard and others of her home and native land. #TeshTips: A romantic Atlantic boat ride with her isn’t a good idea, either. Coffee is to the broad middle class what liquor is to the upper and lower ones, but I’m sure not to get mine from her. *Point of clarification from Monty Robinson* Vodka and the simultaneous operation of motor vehicles in the vicinity of maritime bays are important parts of my culture, too. Are you calling the RCMP fancy now?
All of that is less disturbing than Al Gore. He’s the last place I’d look for some Fresh Air. I don’t have to listen to what he has to say to Terry Gross because I’ve heard it all before. It’s as predictable as the sunrise. Gore is a priest of the postmodern age, in the sense of a homilist so insufferable that even the bishop is out at parish hall Q&A sessions admitting that, yeah, we probably ought to do something to improve the preaching around here. As the line cook who eventually bought and took over Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew’s restaurant told us, “You can go to church on the internet now.” On the radio, too. I’m already missing Marco Werman as I write this, so I am not wasting my afternoon.
The sermonizing really is excessive. I underplayed my hand above, come to think of it. There are priests who are not only clunky homilists but also sexually repressed in a projectile way. For Al Gore, the great vice isn’t lust but a specific form of gluttony, one that ravenously devours fossil fuels. And yet, look at how that motherfucker lives, flying around the world on private jets to warn about the dangers of fossil fuel use when he isn’t luxuriating in a remote Tennessee mansion that would make the Branch Davidians think, damn, that’s a fine-ass compound. He lives in a state of chronic guilt, but instead of voluntarily living more ascetically (which, for him, could still be unfathomably luxurious for most people), he lashes out at everyone else to adopt a punishing austerity from which he is conveniently (hey, that word!) exempted by virtue of his own virtue as an advocate. That was a kind of crappy way to put it, but as I think over what I’m too lazy and literarily constipated to have the energy to edit, I think it was apt. There is a shitty recursiveness to Gore’s shtick. He’s virtuous because he talks about how virtuous he is for talking about the virtues that he never, ever practices in his own life.
Gore took a lot of flak, some of it disingenuous and antisocially snarky, for being a clunk speaker back when he was the vice president and a presidential candidate, e.g., SNL’s “lock box” ridicule. In that case, he had a really clumsy, uninspiring, annoying way of promoting the manifestly sound policy of securing FICA deductions exclusively for their intended uses (most famously Social Security, but also Medicare and other social insurance programs) and not dump them down the shitter whenever they felt like wasting some more public funds on pork barrel. Over time, I’ve come to think that he got an unfair shake in the media for the lock box, which was worlds more prudent and aboveboard than anything George W. Bush was scheming to do with Social Security.
The mainstream media encourage a degrading vanity on the part of public figures, and it ought to be resisted. To return to actual priests for a moment, one of the most hapless homilists I’ve ever heard was also one of the most perceptive and helpful confessors, and it would be a damned shame for someone like him to be sidelined within any organization just because his public speaking skills are mediocre. Al Gore has had a similar problem for his entire career, even when he hasn’t been doing anything phony, and it’s wrong for bullshitters to snark at him so.
His climate change advocacy is something else entirely. It’s one of the phoniest things ever. Caulfield, you following any of this? Gore would surely intone to our boy Holden about how he should consider walking or taking public transit because cabs contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Americans in particular chafe at this sort of hectoring. It might possibly fly in Europe or Japan; stateside, it inspires every possible conspiracy theory about liberal elites, one-world government, population control, and a bewildering variety of other shit, a surprising amount of it somehow true. Here’s some rich prick who lives in a mansion, flies all over hell on the lecture circuit, and has four children of his own, for those who are aware of the Darwinian angle, and he’s bothering everyone else about how we’re all gonna roast and also drown to death if we don’t tighten our belts and stop driving and flying everywhere.
It’s blatantly hypocritical. To many, it looks like a scam buttressed by a hoax. All the cool celebs in Hollywood are also up on their high horses about greenhouse gases and global climate change, and they all have Gulfstreams. There has to be some kind of ulterior motive to it. Right?
It’s hard to make sense of some of this shit. I still can’t figure out the psychology behind it, except to have no doubt that it’s profoundly disordered. Leonardo DiCaprio and a droning ex-veep flying around like the Criminal Minds team to lecture other people about how wasteful they are is unbelievably fucked up. What kind of twisted psychological profile does it require to keep this shit up month after month without breaking from all the cognitive dissonance and guilt? What profile does it take to be even publicly comfortable with the idea that one deserves endless absolution for one’s own profligacy while everyone else deserves another ominous lecture for being not a tenth as wasteful?
The notion that this is all a grand scam, say, to dispossess and marginalize the middle class and make more room for the ultrawealthy, isn’t all that farfetched. There probably are some outright psychopaths hanging around in the business. There are definitely legion amoral opportunists. Hollywood is involved, so there are definitely narcissists.
In Gore’s particular case, I think there’s an Occam’s Razor explanation, less grandiosely malevolent but hardly any less disordered, for the jet-setting in service to Gaia. I think he mostly just kind of fell into it, that he had a policy interest in climate change that mutated into its current grotesque form as all the starfuckers in public relations kept showing up to suck his cock and give him, already a scion of wealth who was unusually successful in his own right, more and more money and flattery for saying the right things about climate change and the need for personal and communal responsibility.
Gore used to be in politics, but he’s a full celebrity now. The levelheaded, competent, no-bullshit experts and career analysts who used to surround him when he wasn’t helping Bill Clinton turn the White House into the synthesis of a university development office and Dennis Hof’s Bunny Ranch, are gone. In their place, he has a metastatic entourage of show business bullshitters. The finest minds and most public-spirited souls never go into Hollywood public relations. Their prevalence in politics and policy is wildly exaggerated by outlets like NPR, but there are some reputable people in Washington. Hollywood has no higher purpose that it fails to pursue because it gets corrupted along the way. Its fundamental purpose is absolute, unadulterated shit.
I don’t mean the motion picture or record businesses specifically (I swear, I’m only 35, but I also got only, like, five and a half hours’ sleep in my Focus last night, so make what you will of my language); some of that is more or less reputable. I mean all the celebrity-fluffing horseshit that piles up around the studios and clings to them like so many barnacles of unspeakable filth. When Gore got started on climate change, as a high elected official, he was proceeding with a layman’s understanding of the science but was surrounded by professional scientists and extremely well-informed policy advisers. He’s still operating with an educated layman’s understanding, but now he’s surrounded by pig-ignorant shitheads from the entertainment business who would psych themselves up to say and believe absolutely anything if they thought it would let them make a good living.
There is no exaggerating how fucking vapid and amoral these people are. Al Gore is working with and around people who will say anything for a buck and have all the IQ of a celebrity gossip rag in the checkout lane at Walmart. As a guilt-racked silver spoon done very well by his own right who previously spent eight years under the tutelage and authority of Bill Clinton, he was more prone than most to go native in Hollywood.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what the hell the real purpose of this propaganda is. It may just be a gambit to fleece the Whole Foods crowd; if they’ll fall for Seventh Generation, it’s worth a try. Al Gore is the worst person climate change activists could take on and promote as a circuit lecturer if they actually want to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases. He is unbelievably self-discrediting and discrediting of everything he promotes that involves any sort of asceticism (say, not driving everywhere). My guess, under Occam’s Razor again, is that this is probably more a moneymaking scam than a dominance play by cunning superelites, although the self-righteousness clearly fits in well for the entertainment business’s hardcore narcissists. Gore probably isn’t as narcissistic as he looks.
The whole thing looks like a monkey trap, with these idiots furiously holding onto the rich fruit in the jar with a fist that they can’t fit back out through the neck. The ethical flaw, and hence the glaring credibility flaw, in their model is that everyone with the star power to back up a worthy cause like climate change activism by mere celebrity fiat is also wealthy enough to live like a god. The idea of having showboating narcissists who have bought themselves exemptions from all the normal rules lecture the little people about virtue is fucking ridiculous, but the crowd that thinks these brilliant campaigns up doesn’t think through them that deeply. Why on earth would Leonardo DiCaprio or George Clooney (layer of smug!) voluntarily forego opportunities to jet off to Crete to fuck around on a luxury yacht? This would require guys who are surrounded by entire staffs of sycophants and totally loaded to go against peer pressure and the pressure of every dipshit trying to live vicariously through them. Ain’t gonna happen.
Meanwhile, an aggressively advertised culture of what Jim Kunstler calls happy motoring has taken hold in most of the United States and large parts of many other countries. The US takes it to particular extremes with motorhomes nearly the size of Greyhound buses towing SUV’s the length of a standard European camping trailer. Who is Al Gore to tell a workaday retiree to forego these little creature comforts? We can ignore, as the retirees would like us to do, the possibility that they’re financial millionaires with multiple real estate holdings and $60k in combined CalPERS income. Al Gore travels; who is he to tell other people not to travel?
Who am I, for that matter, to call anyone out for driving around the country in Rascal Flatts’ tour bus with a State Department limousine in tow? I’m just a fruitboy loser who regularly sleeps in his Focus. That would theoretically give me some relative credibility, but being a poor would not. Any number of people who regularly commute by bus or light rail set a good example of austerity falling short of hardship, but they’re poors, too, and PR types don’t care for the poors.
The intractable problem that campaigns like Al Gore’s face is the huge culture of Ephesians 3:20 cargo cult fuckwits who don’t want a silver spoon elite liberal killing their vibe. The Kamping Krowd successfully codes itself as lower middle-class, further improving its own image relative to Gore’s. Upon examination, it looks much, much more affluent than it lets on (how else does it afford its rigs?), but reputation management isn’t done on second thought. It’s much more politically feasible to tell this constituency that the oil is still there and always will be there because, hey, we need it there pending the Rapture and God provides for those who believe, or that the liberal elites are running an evil conspiracy to deprive workaday Americans of the good life that they would never deny themselves, than to level with spendthrift boomers about energy return on energy invested and by the way we’re basically running our car in the garage with the overhead door closed.
Al Gore is mostly right on the technical points, but the optics of his austerity for thee but not for me IFL Science sermons sucks ass, and hence his entire message sucks ass. We don’t need that shit. Having him around makes Republican climate change and peak oil denialists who sound batshit crazy but are really just disingenuous and squirrelly an inevitability. He’s the shittiest messenger possible for his message, and Terry Gross shouldn’t be stooping so low as to dignify his stunt.
Hey, I still have nearly half an hour to listen to Fresh Air on the local affiliates, but I do wonder what Marco Werman had to say this afternoon. No, I don’t. I’m sure it was retarded.