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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Vidal: "There's Nothing the Average American Now Believes That Is True" 

We are grateful to our flaxen-haired colleague Liz at BlondeSense for alerting us to Steve Perry's new Q&A with Gore Vidal. For the last couple of years Vidal has been giving more or less the same interview, with minor variations here and there, but we never get tired of reading it:
Vidal: Well, you cannot have a political party that is not based upon a class interest. It has been part of the American propaganda machine that we have no class system. Yes, there are rich people; some are richer than others. But there is no class system. We're classless. You could be president tomorrow. So could Michael Jackson, or this one or that one. This isn't true. We have a very strong, very rigid class structure which goes back to the beginning of the country. I will not go into the details of that, but there it is. Whether it's good or bad is something else.

We have not had a political party since that, really, of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, who was a member of the highest class, an aristocrat who had made common cause with the people, who were in the midst of depression, not to mention the Dust Bowl, which had taken so many farms in the '30s. We were a country in deep trouble, and he represented those in deep trouble. He got together great majorities and was elected four times to the presidency. And launched us on empire--somewhat consciously, too. He saw to it that the European colonial empires would break up, and that we would inherit bits and pieces, which we have done . . . .

This is something new under the sun--that a president, just because he feels like it, can declare war on anybody. And Congress will go along with him, and the courts will support him. The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for. When you have preemptive wars, and you have ambitious companies like Bechtel who will build up what, let us say, General Electric has helped to destroy with its weaponry--these interests are well-represented.

There is no people's party, and you can't even use the word. "Liberal" has been demonized. A liberal is a commie who's also a pedophile. Being a communist and a pedophile, he's so busy that he hasn't got time to win an election and is odious to boot. So there is no Democratic Party. We hope that something might happen with the governor of Vermont, and maybe something will or maybe it won't. But we are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. Then, when it's too late sometimes, you get some very good reporting. But by then, somebody's playing taps.

CP: Has the media played a role in transforming citizens into spectators of this process?

Vidal: Well, they have been transformed, by design, by corporate America, aided by the media, which belongs to corporate America. They are no longer citizens. They are hardly voters. They are consumers, and they consume those things which are advertised on television. They are made to sound like happy consumers. Listen to TV advertising: This one says, "I had this terrible pain, but when I put on Kool-Aid, I found relief overnight. You must try it too." All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. There used to be all those talk shows back in the '50s and '60s, when I was on television a great deal. People would talk about many important things, and you had some very good talkers. They're not allowed on now. Or they're set loose in the Fox Zoo, in which you have a number of people who pretend to be journalists but are really like animals. Each one has his own noise--there's the donkey who brays, there's the pig who squeals. Each one is a different animal in a zoo, making a characteristic noise. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't.

CP: I'd like to ask you to sketch our political arc from Reagan down to Bush II. It seemed to me that Reagan took a big step down the road to Bush when he was so successful in selling the ideology of the market, the idea that whatever the interests of money and markets dictated was the proper and even the most patriotic course--which was hardly a new idea, but one that had never been embraced openly as a first principle of politics. Is that a fair assessment?

Vidal: He was small-town American Republican, even though he started life as a Democrat. He believed in the values of Main Street. Sinclair Lewis's novels are filled with Ronald Reagans, though Babbitt doesn't get to the White House. But this time Babbitt did. So it was very congenial for Reagan to play that part, not that he had a very clear idea of what his lines were all about. Those who were writing the scenarios certainly knew.

I'd say the downward skid certainly began with Reagan. I came across a comment recently, someone asking why we had gone into both Grenada and Panama, two absolutely nothing little countries who were no danger to us, minding their own business, and we go in and conquer them. Somebody said, well, we did it because we could. That's the attitude of our current rulers.

So they will be forever putting--what they do is put us all at risk. You and I and other civilians are going to be the ones who are killed when the Moslems get really angry and start suicide-bombing American cities because of things the Bush/Cheney junta has done to them. We will be the ones killed. Bush/Cheney will be safe in their bunkers, but we're going to get it. I would have thought that self-interest--since Americans are the most easily terrified people on earth, as recently demonstrated over and over again-- we would be afraid of what was going to befall us. But I think simultaneously we have no imagination, and certainly no sense of cause and effect. If we did have that, we might know that if you keep kicking somebody, he's going to kick you back. So there we stand, ignoring the first rule of physics, which is that there is no action without reaction.

CP: How did so many Americans come to embrace and even celebrate these bullying, anti-democratic displays of authoritarian, censorial governance? There's a palpable sense of mean- spiritedness about a good deal of public sentiment, it seems.

Vidal: I wouldn't call it the public. There are groups that rather like it. And these are the same groups that don't like black people, gay people, Jews, or this or that. You always have that disaffected minority that you can play to. And it helps you in states with small populations. If you get eight of those states, you don't get much of a popular vote, but you can get the Electoral College--a device that our founders made to make sure we never had a democratic government. In other words, I don't blame the public. He's not popular. I've just been reading a report on Conyers's trip to Ohio with his subcommittee's experts. Ohio was stolen. The Republican Congress will never have a hearing on it. But I think attempts are being made to publish the details of what was done there, and elsewhere too in America.

In other words, I put the case that Bush was never elected--not in 2000, and not in 2004. This is a new game in the world. Through the magic of electronic voting, particularly through Mr. Diebold and friends, you can take a non-president and make him president. But how to keep the people, including the opposition who should know better, so silent, this introduces us to a vast landscape of corruption which I dare not enter.

CP: Is there any winning back some semblance of the older republic at this point?

Vidal: You have to have people who want it, and I can't find many people who do.
Read it all, especially for Vidal's remarks on Harry S. Truman and William J. Clinton.

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