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Aldous Huxley, 1958: ‘Brave New World’ Just Around the Corner

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Posted on Dec 9, 2008
Aldous Huxley
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It’s always a little spooky and a little funny to listen to a person from the past predict a future that may have already come to pass. In this clip from 50 years ago, Mike Wallace interviews “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley, who holds forth about technology, democracy, drugs and freedom—and while some of what he says sounds goofy, some sounds uncomfortably familiar, especially his take on the melding of advertising and politics.

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By dihey, December 12, 2008 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

Truthdig: Although you do not report on the Governor of Illinois you seem to be interested in truth.

Well, today the AG of Illinois has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to call Governor Blago “off side”. I have no desire to defend Blago but her action stinks to High Heaven just as much as the 2000 ruling of the US Supreme Court in Gore vs. Bush.

Judges and Justices are appointed hence have, in my opinion, no business interfering with the status of elected officials no matter how crooked they are.

In a democracy, which, I assume you, Truthdig, favor, the only way to “get rid” of Blago is by impeachment. Why are you silent on this high-handed travesty of justice?

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By Russell Woodward, December 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone interested in the foundation of Huxley’s warnings might read *PR-A history of spin* by Stuart Ewen. It’s also a good introduction to our government’s development of propaganda in the media age.

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By Mark Homer, December 12, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two:

1. At the time of this interview, Huxley had just published a brilliant short book, “Brave New World Revisited,” which was the first attempt by anyone to raise the issue of overpopulation. It also compared the punitive behavior control style of “1984” to the reward behavior control style of “Brave New World.” Also predated Noam Chomsky in its discussion of manufacturing consent. Very compact book of ideas, highly recommended.

2. I am not impressed by Mike Wallace here. At best, he was trying to highlight Huxley’s main points, but he seems often to be sensationalizing and simplifying them. Huxley, in his modest style, keeps patiently trying to reframe Wallace’s questions in order to restore perspective and an atmosphere of calm deliberation. If you appreciate the school of British satire represented by Huxley’s “Chrome Yellow,” the conversation is faintly comical.

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By Jes, December 10, 2008 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@loveinatub:

By decentralization, he means political decentralization in the sense of stronger state’s rights and anti-federalist.  Be aware that the level of state’s rights that existed in the US when Huxley was talking here (which he says is too central already) would seem outlandishly decentralized compared to the ultra-federalism practiced today.  The means he’s talking something more akin to a level decentralization of a contemporary US libertarian a la Ron Paul.

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By Quinty, December 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

What is striking is how we have survived all those predictions.

Which should make us wonder if all the gloom and doom we forecast today will actually come to pass? For we may have an innate characteristic built within us condemning human nature. After all, we certainly are foolish enough. And destructive enough. But do our prophets get it right? Can’t we even do that? Correctly predict our end?

Biblical prophets were thunderously denouncing sin and folly when manmade worldwide destruction was highly limited. Long before the Bomb made total wreckage possible.

At least our lack of precision should offer a little hope that the predicted consequences of global warming may be wrong. Or that we won’t incinerate ourselves off the planet with nuclear war. Or that a pandemic may not originate in a secret government lab quickly sweeping around the world, leaving nothing but silver bugs and cockroaches to rule the roost…... on and on.

What is the wise and sane and productive life? Beats me. I’m just a witness too…

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By loveinatub, December 10, 2008 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

Well, Huxley was proven wrong on several counts.

Soviet Russia did ultimately collapse and was forced by economic realities to discontinue its dictatorship in its current form. On the other hand, Russia has now revamped itself into a new quasi-dictatorship where more of the masses have indeed benefited but their political freedoms have been stripped away.

As far as decentralizing, I think Aldous Huxley would have been stunned to learn just how greedy the individual is and that capitalism is a by-product of individual greed. A democratic society which does not have an active government regulating its affairs imperils its own economic future. I doubt Huxley would be championing the decentralizing creed as much as he did back in the ‘50s. The fact is, today’s global financial meltdown requires government to step and invest and regulate society. It’s a FACT.

As far as advertising is concerned, Huxley was indeed prescient and clearly saw how politics was manipulated by “advertising agents” making the United States a farce of democracy.

Thank you for posting this interview. We do still have journalists like Bill Moyers who conduct newsmaker interviews with insightful individuals that are indeed comparable to what Mike Wallace was doing back in the 1950’s. Let’s hope Bill Moyers influence never disappears.

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By hippy pam, December 10, 2008 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

And “ole bullshit” would have had it be “1984 by George Orwell”....cuz “bullshit” has/had delusions-of grandure…...

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By GW=MCHammered, December 10, 2008 at 11:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yowsa! Huxley was a prophet of the destruction of democracy. And how the wrong people will use (today’s) powers to gain power. Important indeed. More TD. More!

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By suziq, December 10, 2008 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Today’s “journalists” should be required to study old interviews such as this - they might learn how to interview someone correctly instead of making themselves the story.

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By samosamo, December 10, 2008 at 3:34 am Link to this comment

Several of the comments here express surprise at the interview. Back then there was real journalism, though I don’t consider this investigative reporting, we definitely would not see an interview of this kind today. Be like interviewing the authors of mad max or soylent green about the future of mankind and also timothy leary or hunter s. thompson.
But anyway, from my personal experience, there was more stuff like this on tv than the fluff and foo foo BS that is stuffed down the public’s brain these days.
To think about it, even the ‘Twilight Zone’ shows had episodes of the future but not as prescient as Orwell’s or Huxley’s works.

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By Expat, December 10, 2008 at 2:55 am Link to this comment

Wow, that was great.  Not having a T.V. I can only surmise that’s not the TV of today, or the interview style of today.
Frankly, I’ve never doubted Huxley; too bad he was correct.

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By Libarchist, December 10, 2008 at 2:22 am Link to this comment

Excellent…If a reporter ” today”  had an ideas to do this type of story,  he would would be fired —and kicked out of the MSM.

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By Jon, December 9, 2008 at 11:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s even more remarkable that he began to note the powers of advertisement as early as 1921 in “Crome Yellow,” 30-40 years before this interview. This novel is vastly underrated among his cannon.

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By samosamo, December 9, 2008 at 8:28 pm Link to this comment

Well, here is another must get book. Having listened to this interview, I don’t detect much goofiness more that mike wallace’s cigarette smoking(surely a tobacco industry demand for free commercial time). But a very telling interview especially considering the it was written long before Orwell’s ‘1984’.

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By Paul R. Jefferson, December 9, 2008 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This interview from the late 50s (1958?) is so prescient. It truthfully predicts the rise of the marketing concepts used in political campaigns, the use of imagery to attack subconscious biases for or against a candidate, and the general overwhelming dominance of advertising/marketing/public relations—i.e., communication technologies in general, to sell, sell, sell, and make people forget about “enlightened” self-interest (formerly known as ‘the common good’)...and only think about themselves, and What’s in it for me? If I’m satisfied, and can live, buy, eat, procreate according to established norms, the government can do what it wants. Disconnnected, but dominated populations.  Sound familiar?  Hopefully, the recent election will do something to re-engage people on a real level about what they want of their own lives, but connecting that to the idea that, yes, we’re all in this together.  Stop buying (for a while, anyway), start living alongside your brother, your neighbor, your family…

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By Jon, December 9, 2008 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think its incredible that TV back then had such programming.  By comparison, today of course, we have
sound byte programs, yelling and screaming, trivial news, Ann Coulter, Shawn Hannity, Rush, and Scarborough to name a few—-all making huge cash to insult the viewer and to undermine and destabilize America.  This shows the intense pressure the corporations and banks are applying to the electorate to dumb them down, make them angry and to separate them from American principles and ideals. One way to see this is: go into the streets of America and notice how poorly dressed Americans are and how fat most are.  Low esteem votes for dog biscuits. 

Thanks TD for posting the Wallace-Huxley interview.

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