The mad algorithms of scary Al Gore

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The Article

Vanity Fair‘s May, 2006, “Green Issue” lies somewhere between hilarious and terrifying. Never mind the disconnect of so much doom and gloom amid all the glossy ads for bling and Botox, it’s the glorification of intellectual vapidity and clinical alarmism as deep thinking that is so disturbing.

The issue’s cover features a green-tinted photograph of Julia Roberts as woodland nymph standing vacuously behind secular enviro-saints George Clooney, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and—the real star of the show—Al Gore (Ms. Roberts, we are informed somberly inside, takes a metal cup when she goes out for coffee and “religiously” returns grocery bags to the store for a nickel).

The Kryptonite shading reminded me that there has always been something slightly extraterrestrial about Al. Even his name, which seems more appropriate as one word—Algore—makes him sound like an enemy of Superman. However, Mr. Gore’s complex psyche makes him very human indeed. In fact, he is almost a case study of the psychological complexities and personal traumas that seem to drive so much environmentalism.

Former presidential candidate Gore is just now, once again, Hollywood’s flavour of the month, largely due to the ecstatic reception that his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, received earlier this year at the Sundance Film festival (Mr. Gore was reported by the Post’s Shinan Govani to be coming to Toronto this week for a sneak preview.)

The film—which opens in New York and Los Angeles on May 26—is based, somewhat improbably, on a presentation on global warming that Mr. Gore has allegedly given more than 1,000 times. The movie was backed by eBay millionaire Jeff Skoll’s Participant Productions, which last year helped finance Mr. Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck, and Syriana, respectively cinematic monuments to left-wing historical bias and political perversion. One of the co-producers of Mr. Gore’s film is “Gulfstream Liberal” (named after the executive jet, not the allegedly threatened Atlantic current) Laura David, humourlessly green wife of comedian and Seinfeld co-creator Larry David.

The title of Mr. Gore’s film says it all. The former Veep does not believe that he is dealing in scientific hypotheses, or any form of political debate about how best to deal with a possible environmental problem. He thunders self-righteously as a guardian of “The Truth” against the forces of evil/ commercial self-interest. That is, George Bush. But if President Bush should be criticized for anything recently, it is surely for sounding too much like Al Gore. Paradoxically, meanwhile, Mr. Gore’s guardianship of the truth involves him in telling endless whoppers.

Mr. Gore’s Vanity Fair contribution, a “Green Essay” titled “The Moment of Truth,” spews the kind of apocalyptic mush that first polluted the noosphere via his monumentally unbalanced 1992 book, Earth in the Balance. Science simply doesn’t come into it.

“We” are melting glaciers. Polar bears are drowning. Great sheets of polar ice threaten to raise sea levels by 20 feet. Species are being exterminated wholesale. Acid seas threaten to dissolve shellfish. And, most grandiosely, “We are … altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe.”

So perhaps Krypton does come into it after all.

Why do “our leaders” not take these threats seriously? Why can’t they hear the voices that reverberate around Mr. Gore’s overheated cranium? Too inconvenient. Or … they are mere tools of “special interests,” Big Oil and Big Coal.

As he did back in 1992, Mr. Gore associates himself and his environmental cause with the fight against fascism. Churchill and Abraham Lincoln are recruited to stand behind him.

The policy implications of Mr. Gore’s global masterplan are conspicuously absent apart from his desire for a vague environmental “Marshall Plan.” Mr. Gore elaborated in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal that all that is required to save the world is for some central authority to determine the “right” prices for resources and commodities. But policies are really petty details. The main objective is to climb aboard the hybrid Algorwagon, let your mind go and wait for Utopia. Not only, according to Mr. Gore, will the environment be mended, but so will HIV/AIDS, global poverty, Darfur, family dysfunction and the democratic deficit.

“Ultimately,” writes Mr. Gore, “it is not about any scientific discussion or political dialogue; it is about who we are as human beings.”

And here we may at last agree with Mr. Gore. Among our less attractive psychological traits, human beings tend to be conformist hypocrites in the name of the “public good.” We have a slim intuitive grasp of science and an even slimmer grasp of economics. We tend to demonize our opponents and attribute base motives to them (Imagine me thinking that Al Gore primarily lusts after political power!), and we tend to overestimate our intelligence and problem-solving ability.

Vanity Fair puffs that Mr. Gore’s film “follows the former vice-president on his relentless quest to expose the grave truth about climate change.” But there is no “grave truth,” only “grave hypotheses.”

Global warming may indeed be taking place, but the contribution of mankind remains uncertain. What is certain is that the kind of draconian action that lurks beneath Mr. Gore’s bromides will have little or no effect apart from delivering the world into something that looks very much like the fascism that he so frequently invokes.

This man almost became president of the United States. He may run again in 2008. Now that’s scary.

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Joel Johannesen
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