The hypocrisy of Al Gore: Jon Stewart, frogs and Al-Jazeera

NEW YORK, January 13, 2013 — Kermit the Frog was correct: “It’s not easy being green…”

An investor group including Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. has sold cable channel Current TV to Al-Jazeera, a media company funded by the nation of Qatar that has been ruled by the Al-Thani family since 1825.

At first glance, Al Gore’s sudden leap up the economic food chain into rarefied air reeks merely of hypocrisy and shameless opportunism. Not that the former Vice President of the United States has never even flirted with joining the underclass, but now he can live large like a pasha on his sprawling Santa Barbara estate.

Is the sale of an unremarkable media property for an estimated $ 500 million a simple case of “greed trumps green”?

Or, is there a much more disturbing and dangerous side to this story?

Why has a man perched so securely on the moral high ground of environmental purity taken blood money from a world scale polluter?

Why has a foreign news organization sunk hundreds of millions into a black hole start-up based in the United States, when storied competitors such as The New York Times, the major television networks and even News Corp. are struggling to wring cash returns from suites of better-positioned media properties?

Inconvenient questions like these are grist for the business sections of newspapers and magazines. Meanwhile, pundits and comics are rightfully roasting Al Gore for putting a price on environmental sanctimony. Salons are atwitter. Fellow Nobel Laureates are aghast. Michael Moore should be baying at the moon.

Doing the Right Thing?

On January 10, 2013, Jon Stewart was quick to skewer Al Gore (video). Stewart was more than willing to call out the manifest hypocrisy involved in preaching against man-made environmental damage while accepting filthy lucre from tycoons whose fortunes are soaked in oil and smell of clean-burning natural gas.

In fairness to Sheikh Al, few moths who flit with power in Washington, D.C. resist the temptation to profit from their political experience after leaving office. 

Public servants in both parties have figured out the newest “Great Game”—spend time losing money in a senior government position and the world later opens up its oysters.

Ronald Reagan unwisely accepted $2 million to speak to Japanese audiences in 1989, when Japan still was rising and seemed to pose a threat to “the business of America”.

George H.W. Bush and some of his political advisors were instrumental in spawning The Carlyle Group, an immensely successful investment firm that is peopled with an intoxifying mixture of government-trained folk and investment wizards and closely tied to Saudi Arabia.

Bill and Hillary Clinton arrived in Washington, DC in 2001 with little to show for their service to the state of Arkansas. Now these remarkable public servants divide their time between two mansions and sit atop a vast fortune.

George W. Bush had a checkered career in business before his time in elective politics. The mainstream media sniffed around the edges of his time with Harken Energy, but did not look closely enough at the terms he received for selling Spectrum 7. They did not find out his role in sourcing investors with Middle Eastern connections or identify the true origin of their funds. Most important, the mainstream media failed to look carefully enough at how George W. Bush funded his fortunate investment in the Texas Rangers.

President Obama is already financially set for life at the tender age of 51. Media barons and public demand for his written, spoken and visual offerings explain the bulk of his financial success.

What is wrong with politicians achieving commercial success after they leave public office?

Some American politicians refrain from trafficking in their public service. Say what you want about Jimmy Carter, but you cannot fairly accuse him of trying to profit personally in his post-Presidential career. There is no “Rabbit Repellent” with his name on it sold in the wee hours and “not available in any store”. Carter builds homes, monitors elections, and works tirelessly at his Institute.

The business of America is no longer “business”—instead, the business of America has evolved to become “government”. In 2013, our Federal government is a vast enterprise that contracts with entities almost everywhere. Contacts, information, and access gained in government service have immense commercial and strategic value.

Since 2007 when the Federal government acquired control and greater influence over a raft of businesses, the potential for unprincipled domestic interests and competing foreign powers to “purchase” politicians has only magnified.

How does one separate honorable behavior from conduct unbecoming a holder of high political office? The answer is simple: distinguish “right” from “wrong”.

Secular Nation-States in the Balance

Though Al Gore and his fellow investors may choose to ignore it, many Americans are still dying in service to our country.

In its English language offering, Al-Jazeera has taken steps to approach noteworthy standards of professionalism. However, the most popular among its core Arabic language shows seems to feature delusional ravings of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. On January 28, 2009, al-Qaradawi had this to say:

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…the last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler, by means of all the things he did to them—even though they exaggerated this issue—he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

Glenn Beck is beyond the pale but al-Qaradawi and his cohorts are fine, upstanding business partners?

Al-Jazeera is not News Corporation. Al-Jazeera is funded by a Government and has celebrated vile acts of our avowed enemies. Al Gore and his colleagues should know much better.

Lost in Translation

Sun Tzu noted in The Art of War:

“If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles”.

In January 2013, only a brave, informed person would suggest that America truly knows herself. This country is divided in profound ways on numerous domestic issues. Almost 12 years into a War against “Terror”, most Americans have trouble identifying the “Enemy” and even more trouble defining what ultimately will constitute “Victory” and “Peace”.

For centuries, city-states and nation-states have struggled to reconcile practical local governance realities with religious tenets that can conflict. In America, we created a nation of laws, under God, where each of us remains free to worship as we each choose. There are numerous other governance approaches, some of which should chill the blood of the vast majority of Americans.

Great classics offer profound inspiration. Is it possible that a scene from Caddyshack may suggest a way to tamp down the brutal, ongoing conflict centered in the Middle East and involving extreme religious views?

If you cannot howl with laughter when Bill Murray thinks head greens keeper McVittish wants him to “kill all the golfers” at Bushwood Country Club to solve a vexing varmint problem, you are beyond hope.

Those of us who understand English start with a major disadvantage when we try to appreciate the religious teachings of Islam. One reference source is N.J. Dawood’s translation of The Koran, published in 1989 by Penguin Books. A representative of the Council on American Islamic Relations assured me that Dawood’s translation is “authentic”, but it is certainly possible that important meanings are muddled somewhere between the original Arabic and modern English.

The Dawood translation begins by stating “This book is not to be doubted”. Allah is described in terms that richly define the concept of being “all powerful”. As in other religious texts, rules are made plain for all humans to heed or flout and then suffer grievous punishment. In many places, the English translation appears to exhort followers of Islam to kill “Unbelievers”.

Why would an all-powerful God imbue humans with freedom of choice and then empower one group of humans to execute those who fail to follow instructions that are set down in only one language of the many available?

The Old and New Testaments are filled with violent exhortations. Time, civilization, and appreciation for wisdom found in surprising places has tempered much over centuries.

Nothing touched by man approaches perfection. This truth was well known by natives here in America, long before first visitors arrived from Europe. Perhaps peace can only come once all major religions and their followers reject the use of force to settle most differences.

National leaders will say and carry out crazy things.

One could hope that Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore would appreciate inconvenient truths concerning Al-Jazeera and the glorification of militant Islam.

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Charles Ortel

Charles Ortel became a lapsed member of the silent majority in August 2007 when he began alerting the public to dangers posed by structural changes in the global economy. Since then, Charles has appeared in the print, radio and television media with increasing frequency. Brass Tacks will attempt to offer non-partisan perspective on factors contributing to the unresolved, burgeoning crisis and discuss potential solutions. Graduated from Horace Mann School, Yale College and Harvard Business School, Charles tries to learn each day.  

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