Monday, January 7, 2013

“Gore Sells Out to Al-Jazeera”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Gore Sells Out to Al-Jazeera”
January 7, 2013

Free market capitalism is something I endorse when practiced openly and honestly and within the confines of our regulatory and legal system. The rule of law prohibits the sale of a business that might violate national security, or inhibit competition. While moral restraints may not be binding, neither should they be ignored.

Nevertheless, the sale of Current TV – the money-losing, left-wing news business begun in 2005 by Al Gore and partners – to Al-Jazeera causes the eyebrow to lift perceptibly. First, the sale elevates Mr. Gore to the rarefied financial heights of Mitt Romney. However, Mr. Gore achieved this status, however, without creating profitable enterprises or without providing long tem employment to others. Second, without political connections both the creation of Current TV and its sale would never have been possible. In this instance, President Obama is correct when he said, “you didn’t build this.” Al Gore did not. It was his political connections that persuaded Direct TV and cable distributors to charge their 50 to 60 million viewers $0.05 to $0.10 a month to include Current TV in their roster of offerings. The fact that only .001% of potential viewers actually tuned in should have provided an indication of its commercial value. A generous estimate of actual viewers is estimated to be 50,000. (The Wall Street Journal reported that Current TV had an average of only 22,000 households between January and November 2012.) At a price of $500 million that suggests Al-Jazeera paid about $10,000 (or, perhaps as much as $20,000, if we use the Journal’s numbers) per actual viewer – not a bad sale for a man who dislikes the carbon industry and vocally supports Mr. Obama’s antagonism toward millionaires and billionaires.

Every man should get his due and so should Mr. Gore, but the hypocrisy is palpable. Since leaving the Vice Presidency, he has converted his political connections into a net worth estimated to be $200 million, including this transaction. What would past Presidents like Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower have to say about the materialism of people like Mr. Gore? Can you think of any two men who have used their years in the highest political offices to become as individually rich as Bill Clinton and Al Gore?

In Travels With Charlie, John Steinbeck noted that all societies need someone to hate. It helps create a sense of unity. Many minorities have served as such scapegoats, as have a nation’s enemies. During the Cold War, Communism served in such a capacity. After 9/11, militant Islamic terrorists played the role. With the War on Terror declared over, Mr. Obama has used “millionaires and billionaires” to serve as scapegoats. However, as a practical man, Mr. Obama has created exceptions. Look at the recently enacted tax bill that provided Hollywood, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and others, plus an armful of green energy concerns with exceptional benefits and exemptions. In preaching the dire consequences of man-caused climate change, Mr. Gore has made a fortune and has been a beneficiary of favorable tax rulings. Aways putting self-interest ahead of that of the nation, Mr. Gore tried to sneak under the wire and close his transaction on December 31, but was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, his new-found wealth is testament to the fact that crony capitalism is alive and well.

Politics and business do make odd bedfellows. For example Al-Jazeera is funded by Qatar, an oil-rich Middle East nation. Like environmentalists in the U.S., Qatar is against fracking operations in North America and does not want to see completion of the X-L Pipeline. An energy independent U.S. is their worst nightmare. Despite claims to being a fair and balanced, disinterested global media company, we should not lose sight of the fact that Al-Jazeera was the medium for messages of hate from Osama bin Laden while he was in hiding. In purchasing Current TV from Mr. Gore, Al-Jazeera hopes to gain legitimacy in the U.S. They have been roundly lauded by mainstream media for being early in depicting the Arab “spring,” which now looks to be a winter of discontent. Despite the failure of Current TV to attract broad audiences, Al-Jazeera recognizes that the arm-twisting of Mr. Gore in getting his production company accepted by distributors has been done. (Though, the decision by Time Warner to drop Current TV from its offerings may prove an ill omen.) Nevertheless, Al-Jazeera remains controversial. They support Palestine in their dispute with Israel and have always been anti-Bush, which I am sure appealed to Mr. Gore. Robert Kaplan, writing in a recent issue of The Atlantic, said “…it [Al-Jazeera] sees itself as always in the right, regardless of the complexity of the issues, and therein lies its power of oppression.” As Middle East scholar Barry Rubin noted: “In former times, doing something like this would have finished Gore’s credibility forever.”

It is, of course, Mr. Gore’s right to sell to whom he chooses. But I wonder what the New York Times would have had to say if former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney had sold a business built on the back of the American taxpayer to a media company with a political agenda run by an oil-rich Arab nation? I suspect they would have tut-tutted. When Glenn Beck showed a possible interest in Current TV, he was shown the door, not the books. Mr. Gore wanted a buyer who shared his interests. It is curious, but not really surprising, that Mr. Gore feels greater attachment to a Muslim mouthpiece, funded with oil dollars, than with another American from the opposite side of the U.S. political spectrum than himself.

But, hey, half a billion dollars is a bucket load. And why should a preachy, pecksniffian pharisee worry about any long term consequences to the nation his sale might entail, especially when $100 million drops into his pocket?

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