Term Paper: Rhetorical Analysis of the Ideologies of Gore's an Inconvenient Truth

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¶ … Inconvenient Truth

Former Vice President Al Gore, who, in his documentary film on global warming, by director Davis Guggenheim, an Inconvenient Truth (2006), introduces himself, "I am Al Gore, I used to be the next president of the United States," won an Academy Award for the documentary. It is not the first time that a controversial documentary film has won an Academy Award, nor is it the first time that a politician has harnessed the Hollywood public relations mechanism as represented by the film stars like those stars backing Al Gore's documentary, to promote both their ideology and themselves as politicians. Hillary Clinton did it with her book, it Takes a Village (1996), which won a Golden Globe Award, and was the first time a book received such a Golden Globe. It was perhaps Clinton's which served as impetus for the Gore documentary, which, like Clinton's book, is replete with political and social rhetoric such that might cause some to wonder whether Gore's documentary is a political campaign, or a sincere statement of concern on global warming.

This essay attempts to examine the rhetoric of Mr. Gore's documentary, not because there is a lack of support for environmental wellness and for mankind to live in harmony with nature; but because there is an emerging trend seen here of politicians moving self-interest and special interest out of the confines of the Senate, and into the private sector in a very public way. Harnessing the momentum that can be gained from the fast pace of the Hollywood public relations machine when a well-known star or matinee idol endorses a candidate or cause draws huge support to the cause or candidate's ideological position. Many people believe that wealthy people such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who endorsed Al Gore in his documentary and message on global warming, and who was seen vigorously applauding his support at the Academy Awards; actually have done research on the subject or have a knowledge on the subject that many ordinary people do not have. For that reason, because their favorite "star" has endorsed the product or candidate or idea, these people will go along and incorporate those individuals or ideologies into their own ideas and support them with votes or with charitable donations, or renting or purchasing a DVD.

This essay will explore the rhetoric and the facts on global warming not in order to sway a mind in one direction or another, but to understand and the shed light on the ways in which political candidates and others target human emotions in order to take aim with arrows of rhetoric in order to reel in that support for a political cause. An attempt will be made to reveal the self-interest, if any, that might be associated with the global warming issue, and who might stand to benefit from efforts to "combat" global warming.

There are some real concerns that people should have about politicians and corporate magnates who attempt to harness the public passion in support of an ideological cause. This essay hopes to turn the spotlight away from the celebrities, towards the facts, dismantling the rhetoric so that people can gain an informed understanding of how that language is used to manipulate their ideas and support for ideas.

To do this, the documentary, an Inconvenient Truth, will be examined in as much detail as possible, breaking down the language and the images through analysis to reveal what might actually be seen beyond the rhetoric. Comparisons will be made between the data provided in the documentary with that of other documentaries, such as the counter position on Al Gore's version of global warming as seen in the documentary film the Great Global Warming Swindle (2007), by director Martin Durkin; and Doomsday Called Off (2004), by director Lars Mortensen.

Again, it has to be stated that there is no attempt being made here to thwart environmentalists in their efforts to bring about a balance between human nature and Mother Nature. In fact, the opposing views to Al Gore's science are very much supportive of balancing mankind's place in the world with nature, and supporting a clean environment, a conscientious approach to environmental efforts.

The Planet Earth

The documentary film, an Inconvenient Truth, the film opens with aesthetic images of nature: flowing stream (not blue though), trees, and the quiet voice of former Vice President Al Gore narrating, introducing the viewer to nature. Not that the viewer needs to be introduced to nature, because most viewers, urban and rural have an understanding of nature, but, as Al Gore goes on to say, following the aesthetic scenery, "I'd forgotten about this." That sentence, "I'd forgotten about this," not only re-introduces the viewer to nature again, and in a really aesthetically visual way on film, but also suggests to the viewer, wow, we have been so busy with our lives that we forgot about this. From the perspective of rhetoric, this statement goes even further, because it is Mr. Gore's gentle way of putting us in the frame of mind to accept our responsibility for having forgotten about nature; because in having done so, we have put nature, and ourselves, in fact, our planet, at risk. That we are responsible is something that is rhetorically important to establish early on in the film and the reason why will be explored as it is revealed towards the end of the film. However, it is, at this early start in the film, essential to the ideology being introduced in the film to invest the viewer by causing the viewer to accept that responsibility for, wow, I had forgotten about this. You can almost hear Al Gore's gentle, even fatherly voice softly chastising, shame on you; and, yes, we will feel shame before it is over. The rhetoric, as we note along the way, is supported, emphasized by the tone and infliction of Mr. Gore's voice.

The scene then jumps to Mr. Gore standing before an American audience with a tall screen next to him. On the screen is an image of earth, the blue planet, in a half shot, its white clouds swirling in the atmosphere above blue oceans and seas. The photograph, titled Earthrise, was taken by astronaut William a. Anders, during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, seven months before the first moon landing. It is one of the most important photographs of earth taken from space.

As that image of earth is shown to a large auditorium that is filled to capacity with young Americans, all of whom are shown as listening intently to Mr. Gore's remarks because he is sharing with them information that, more than anyone else right now, impacts their lives as they will be the gatekeepers to successful environmental change in the world. The earth problems created by the generations before them are now theirs to deal with. It is, therefore, important invest them in the not just the concept of history, but in the notion of their inherited historical legacy. Americans were, after all, first to land on the moon. This is an important historical event, it is a legacy that belongs to them, and out this important historical event was this ever important photograph of the blue planet, their planet, Earth. The combination of rhetoric and imagery is magnetic up to this point in the documentary, and it remains either as magnetic, or increases in its magnetic hold on the viewer. "Within 18 months of this picture, the modern environmental movement had begun," Mr. Gore advises the audience. Thus, the reason Mr. Gore is showing this audience the picture; to invest them in the modern environmental movement.

Next, Mr. Gore shows the audience a photograph of the full picture of the blue planet, Earth, taken from the moon. December 11, 1972, the most commonly published photograph of the earth in all of history. Then, Mr. Gore shows the audience a time lapsed photograph taken from the American exploration satellite Galileo and it shows a 24-hour period of the earth's rotation. It is indeed an amazing image to see. Iconic images which are used in combination with rhetoric are a powerful tool. As the camera scans the faces in the audience, we see that Mr. Gore is enjoying success so far.

The use of the image of planet Earth serves another purpose here. It serves to emphasize that all mankind shares the same planet. This is a valid, and irrefutable point, and a necessary point to make from the perspective of not just the environment, but the global community and the global initiative that it will require to bring about change to protect the environment. Hopefully, as Mr. Gore suggests in the film, through the Kyoto initiative which he sponsored, and which the United States has not yet signed itself in commitment of supporting. The reasons for that will be explored here too.

Examining what has been accomplished up to this point in the film, it is seen that Mr. Gore has invested the older… [END OF PREVIEW]

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