Al Gore’s evangelical liberalism reconsidered.
by Bruce S. Thornton
Al Gore embodies a type that usually turns up in high school or university faculties, what we can call the evangelical liberal. These folks believe they have received the revealed truth about everything, and so are entitled to hector and harass the rest of us with blustering sermons whose real purpose is to demonstrate their righteousness and superiority. What is worse, their revealed truth does not come from God or a traditional faith, but supposedly from a rational examination of principle and empirical evidence. Thus they combine the worst traits of religious fanaticism and crackpot scientism.
It’s no accident that most of these people are also well off. I suspect that their conspicuous display of sensitivity to the plight of the downtrodden victims of oppression functions as camouflage for their own privilege. Remember, the liberal-leftist is supposed to be on the side of the “little guy” against the fat-cat plutocrats. Private jets and 30,000 square foot mansions are hard to reconcile with populist bluster about income inequality, excessive consumption, and corporate carbon footprints. And since the mainstream media and Hollywood are filled with the same types, this hypocrisy is seldom examined by the liberal media or made into predictable cinematic melodramas like those excoriating corporate “greed.”
So back in the day Al Gore was something of a crank. After all, he wasn’t as annoying and pernicious as another of this type, Jimmy Carter. And Gore’s environmentalism, as laid out in his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, was and still is nothing more than a tissue of worn-out Romantic clichés, bad intellectual history, and vaguely socialist complaints about industrial capitalism and the horrible life it has inflicted on us unfortunates, the sort of stuff one hears from a TA in a freshman English course. Gore’s prose is filled with sentimental embarrassments: he gushes like a schoolgirl over the “vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world,” the “deeper rhythms of life,” the “natural harmony that entails the music of life,” the “awe, wonder, a sense of mystery — a spiritual response — when one reflects on [nature’s] deeper meaning.” These bromides sound like the 19th century nature-love Flaubert satirized 150 years ago in Madame Bovary (“And doesn’t it seem to you,” Emma Bovary enthuses about the sea to her seducer Leon, “that the mind travels more freely on this limitless expanse, of which the contemplation elevates the soul, gives ideas of the infinite, the ideal?”).
Then came 2000, the “stolen” election, and the Bush administration’s subsequent rejection of the ludicrous Kyoto treaty. Now Gore’s wounded ego, his hatred of George Bush, and his romantic environmentalism all found the perfect public issue in global warming. It didn’t matter that Kyoto under President Gore would not have been ratified in the Senate, or that even if ratified it wouldn’t have made much difference in terms of reducing emissions enough to lower global temperatures. Kyoto became the perfect expression of irrational bigotry and hatred: against George Bush, against America, against the modern world and the technology that insulates us from nature’s brutal indifference and allows us to live like gods compared to previous generations. Moreover, these same prejudices dominate the media, the universities, and the EUrocrats beloved of blue-state America, insuring that Gore would have a sympathetic audience both at home and abroad.
So now Gore, previously in the news only for growing a beard or a gut, had an issue that allowed him more loudly to indulge his self-selected role as prophet, something he admitted to in Earth in the Balance: there he wrote that his purpose is “to fully search my heart and mind about this challenge to which I feel called — and in the process to summon the courage to make a full and unreserved commitment to see it through.” The rhetoric of evangelical Christianity is obvious. One wonders, though, how much “courage” it takes for a multi-millionaire and out-of-work politician to preach to a media choir that already shares many of the same prejudices and bigotries indulged by Gore. Seasoned with Bush hatred, Gore’s cinematic rants on global warming were a shoo-in for an Academy Award voted on by a cohort not exactly known for critical thinking skills, educational achievement, or even the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, as proven by the “documentary” award given to Michael Moore’s fictive pastiche Bowling for Columbine.
And now has come the global imprimatur of Western self-loathing, Bush hatred, and anti-Americanism, the Orwellian named Nobel Peace Prize. Jimmy Carter, who hasn’t met a dictator whose boots he won’t lick, got his in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq war, right after he scolded the President as a warmonger. Mohammed El Baradei — he of the impotent International Atomic Energy Agency, another Bush-scolder whose “diplomacy” has accomplished nothing other than giving the Iranian mullahs more time to get the bomb — got one too in 2005. Then there’s the literature Nobel awarded that same year to rabid lunatic Harold Pinter, whose anti-Americanism makes Iran’s Ahmadenijad sound like a Republican Rotarian on the fourth of July. And let’s not forget the most shameless Nobel of all, the one given in 1994 to Yasser Arafat, the corrupt thug with Israeli, American, European, and Arab blood up to his elbows. How anyone could feel proud being in that company defies comprehension.
This is Gore’s “vindication” the New York Times announced? This tainted prize used to express old Europe’s envy and hatred of the America that refuses to flagellate itself and defer to the supposed superior wisdom and cultural sophistication of an exhausted civilization? But here’s the worst: now we’re guaranteed even more of Gore’s narcissistic bluster, preening self-righteousness, and gaseous apocalyptic sermons. Isn’t Jimmy Carter enough punishment?
©2007 Bruce Thornton