October 27, 2005  ·  Lessig

I’ve just arrived in Munich, on my way to Slovenia to launch CC Slovenia. Al Gore was on the flight. The plane was not configured to have a First Class (only Business Class) but they apparently had set aside a private part of the plane where he (and I believe his son) were seated.

Last week I remarked on the oddness to me of the Norwegian democracy, where the leader stood in line at a bakery. (Ok, not the monarchy, but the government). This week I feel the oddness the other way round. It felt out of place for a man like Gore to be on an ordinary Lufthansa flight. It didn’t seem appropriate. Again, for no good democratic reason — the man’s a citizen; he’s going about a citizen’s life. But for some reason, it didn’t feel right to me.

Not a pretty recognition for a democrat (small d). Maybe it’s just me. Maybe not. Or maybe it is just the melencholy of regret that being reminded of this man produces. Imagine the world if… Or don’t. That is too depressing.

  • http://physicstoday.org Paul Guinnessy

    But as you pointed out, he wasn’t treated like a civilian, he was treated like royality because they did seal part of the cabin for him. This reminds me of some skinflints I knew who would always buy a cheap economy ticket and expect to be automatically upgraded on the airline. If he’s flying business class then he should be treated the same as everyone else in business class.

  • http://wolli.blogspot.com/ wolli

    Well, I was flying from Tallinn, Estonia, to London, UK, yesterday, sitting right next to the prime minister of Estonia. He’s just another guy, you know.

  • Sean

    The Nordic “politicians are the same as all of us” ethos and lack of personal security culminated in tragedy in 2003 when Anna Lindh, the brilliant foreign minister of Sweden, was fatally stabbed in a Stockholm department store. The prime minister of Sweden was likewise killed leaving a movie theater in 1986.

    Perhaps we simply don’t think such proximity to our leaders is worth the risk. There are always crazies who will take the opportunity to make ‘statements,’ which, even if non-fatal (Gerhard Schroeder being slapped by a member of his party; ‘Da Mayor’ Willie Brown being pied), detract from the real issues of the day as well as the gravitas of what we should expect from our leaders & institutions.

    Airplanes are perhaps the best exception: only the hyper-rich and powerful get their own jet. Politicians are relatively safe, for on commercial flights, we the people don’t know in advance that a VIP will be on board and (most) weapons won’t make it through security.

    I agree with Paul G’s sentiment however: once you do mix with the plebes, don’t hold yourself up as something special. Who Al Gore is anymore anyhow?

  • three blind mice

    The Nordic “politicians are the same as all of us” ethos and lack of personal security culminated in tragedy in 2003 when Anna Lindh, the brilliant foreign minister of Sweden, was fatally stabbed in a Stockholm department store. The prime minister of Sweden was likewise killed leaving a movie theater in 1986.

    horrible tragedies Sean, but the murder of Olof Palme in the center of stockholm did not stop Anna Lindh from mixing with “the plebes.” she was murdered in NK department store – less than 1km from where Palme was gunned down – in the Flippa K boutique. the boutique is still there.

    proudly, we three blind mice can say that in the weeks after Anna Lindh’s murder, we found ourselves standing shoulders to shoulder with former PM Carl Bildt on a city bus, standing in line behind Benny Anderson of ABBA to buy groceries, and seeing many of the more obscure swedish riksdag members going about their business in beautiful stockholm. in sweden it is a matter of civic responsibility to mix with the “plebes.” this is as much of a statement as rude behaviour you describe above and this is why we are proud to call sweden home!

    Al Gore flying business class – well how else is he supposed to get around? airplanes are probably the safest public places there are. it seems absolutely appropriate.

  • http://jodrell.net/ Gavin

    I have it on good authority from one of my bosses that Prince Charles flies British Airways (perhaps not surprising). He shared a First Class compartment with HRH on a 747 from New York.

  • http://www.darkshapesprowl.com/ Jay Parkinson

    Were you able to talk with him? I think a Gore/Lessig team would be an excellent intellectual powerhouse that may be able to impact our system a little more effectively than each man working on his own.

  • anonymous

    jay: apparently not, as that part of the plane was sealed off

  • ACS

    I think a Gore/Lessig team would be an excellent intellectual powerhouse

    Jay, you are of course correct. What a wonderful combination between the man who defines the internet and the man that created it.


  • Sean

    Thanks for proving my point: andere Laender, andere Sitten. Apparently my “plebes” comment hit the Scandinavian sarcasm filter.

  • Alan

    Yes it is depressing to think about what life with Gore as President would have been like :-)

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Sigh … that Declan McCullagh hatchet-job will never die.


  • jknight

    Indeed, it is interesting to think of how power affects people. When ever I get on a plane I always wonder what kind of people I’m going to be seated with, but of course since I fly budget I’ve not much to tell.

    In the off chance that I were to be seated with a man like Al Gore, I wouldn’t be nearly as impressed as I would having been seated next to a man like Lessig. Or Kozinski. It is not that I don’t respect political power, it is that it doesn’t woo me the way risk-taking minds make me swoon.

    The most difficult part would be trying to keep my mouth shut enough to perchance get to listen a bit, and not become a member of the elite travellers who inspire one to break out the book, the clearing of the throat, or in the worst case scenario: the headphones!

  • Ryan Clark

    In a way, Al Gore *did* have a hand in “inventing the internet.” When he talked about inventing the internet, he was referring to the role he played in funding early technological developments that fostered its growth.

  • http://austlit.typepad.com/cfn genevieve

    Good luck with the spam bots.
    Regarding the plebs and the pats, it was very moving to see Frederik of Denmark driving his baby home from the hospital the other week. Admittedly with a police guard – but when have you ever seen a Windsor behind a wheel? (Sorry, but we Australians love these bits of anti-Brit trivia.) It is quite mindboggling to think of party leaders walking around without security at our end of the world, especially post-Bali (bombings).

  • WB

    Al Gore should ride in the cargo hold.

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