I see it's on Showtime HD in about 15 minutes. I've never seen it, so... here goes. I'll drop some simulbloggish notes here as it unwinds... as the spirit moves me.
1. We see images of Al Gore with a sonorous voiceover. "I was in politics for a long time." Was? What sort of naif thinks Gore is not in politics here?
2. Now we're seeing him on stage talking and it's much less pretentious... and quite charming. He speaks of schoolteachers and makes us feel that he's explaining very simple points. It bothers me that he shows thick, dirty smoke pouring out of smokestacks and then green blobby cartoon characters to illustrate "greenhouse gases." Aren't we talking about a clean, colorless gas -- carbon dioxide?
3. We're seeing a lot of long horizontal time lines, with disturbing vertical spikes at the end. Now, a lot of images of hurricanes. Now, quotes from Winston Churchill, warning Europe about Hitler. Suddenly, we're following the story of the 2000 election. (Note: I voted for Gore.) We hear Gore saying "I accept the finality of this outcome." That was Gore at his best, accepting the Supreme Court's result as the end of the line. And, we're told, this led Gore back to his longtime interest in climate change. And back to the slide show.
4. The film weaves Al Gore's biography into the scientific lesson. What was the point of all that? Is this a big campaign informercial? In the context of the movie, the biographical material was used as a credential, as if growing up close to the land -- raising Angus cattle and working in tobacco fields -- imbued him with special understanding of the ways of Earth. It made the argument that he cares. In fact, the movie did a good job of building toward a passionate conclusion that we can and must act. So there was a scientific and a political argument combined and sold through the persona of The Man Al Gore.
5. In the end, I wondered: How do I know how much of all this to believe? I don't have the basis to test Gore's assertions. Some things looked impressive, but I couldn't know whether they are accurate or not. Some things struck me as implausible. (For example, Gore points to one segment of Antartica and claims that if it melts, the oceans of the entire world would rise 20 feet. ) Other things were inconsistent with what I've read elsewhere. (For example, Gore says that the U.S. contributes 30% of the greenhouse gases emitted, but in the oral argument in Massachusetts v. EPA, the pending Supreme Court case, the figure 20% was used and, I think, not contradicted.)
6. Clearly, the movie is propaganda -- extremely well-done propaganda -- but propaganda can be used to sell what is true. There's nothing inherently wrong with propaganda. I accept, for example, that there are campaign ads. I simply take them for what they are worth. But what is the process of determining what the information presented here is worth? I'm not a climate scientist. The answer, I assume, is the marketplace of ideas. I have to rely on the debate, the responses that the film has provoked.
7. Gore put his reputation behind this, and he asserted his set of facts. In doing that, he laid himself open to refutation. Taking that first, big step -- laying out his set of facts -- is important. How well has it held up? Anyone watching the film should be provoked to keep reading and thinking -- even though the film tries to end with a slam-dunk conclusion that you'd be a fool to see a reason to continue to think critically about.
8. The time for analysis is over, we're told sharply. Only bad people maintain doubt. (We're shown an old ad for Camel cigarettes to prove the point: those who wanted to keep selling cigarettes after the Surgeon General's report spoke of doubt as a product they needed to sell.) Good people accept the story told here and act.
9. Melissa Etheridge's voice fills the soundtrack and tiny white letters on screen spell out our instructions. And the instructions are not too demanding. Drive a hybrid car if you can, etc. We're left to feel good about ourselves (for believing, unlike those bad people), about the ease with which we can do the needed things, and -- above all? -- about Al Gore.
10. And dammit, it works. I do feel good about Al Gore!