Gore’s Traveling Salvation Show
The former vice president has seen The Future, and it needs his ideas.

Al Gore talks with Walt Mossberg at South by Southwest.


Charles C. W. Cooke

Gore doesn’t answer the question. Instead he says that he “did extensive diligence and found some pretty remarkable things” about Al Jazeera. Such as? “It has won major awards around the world for integrity in journalism.” Mossberg isn’t satisfied with the evasion, and he pushes further. “I don’t ask you why you continue working for Rupert Murdoch!” Gore snaps, turning red. Mossberg quietly retorts: “Last I checked, he’s not in the oil business.” Without missing a beat, Gore quips that Murdoch is “not strictly in the news business either.” Everyone laughs and their hero lives to fight another question, but it’s a cheap answer and the more astute know it.


At times the conversation becomes downright odd, ranging into a brief discussion of genetic engineering. “You can’t farm spiders for a number of reasons, so people are taking the genes from spiders and splicing them into goats,” Gore tells a bemused crowd in a tone so deadpan that for a split second I wonder if he is joking. “They look like goats, then these spider-goats secrete silk through their udders,” he continues. It is, he explains, easier to separate silk from milk than it is to farm spiders. Then he pauses and looks around, injecting a touch of genuine levity into the room. Is “everyone okay with that?”

The question is rhetorical. Nonetheless, he leaves no doubt as to the correct answer: “It is not necessarily a bad thing,” Gore tells us, pouring water on the skeptics. “There’s a difference between scary and creepy. Creepy is not fear; creepy is pre-fear. It’s like something is going on — and you don’t know what it is.” The crowd breathes a sigh of relief: Genetic engineering is okay. So, what does scare him? “Our country is in very serious trouble,” Gore argues. Technology is taking away jobs, facilitating spying on the populace, and destroying the environment. Democracy is in “peril.” But the very same technology is also a great source of “hope.” And how should we navigate this “peril and opportunity”? Funny you should ask, for Gore has laid it out in his latest book — and he’ll soon be in a town near you with all of the latest solutions.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.