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‘This Place Is Broken’: The Gore Vidal Interview Part II
Posted on Mar 8, 2006
By Sheerly Avni
This is old news now, but in terms of terrorism, there was a lot of protest against the Palestinian Oscar nominee, “Paradise Now,” with a 36,000-person petition to get the film dropped from the roster because it sympathized with “terrorists.”
Never forget there are 1 billion Muslims on Earth. The United States is far too small a country to play big boss - and now far too insolvent a country; we have no revenues, we can’t repair our own infrastructure, much less rebuild the cities that we’ve just knocked down in the Middle East. I think we should learn a little modesty, we’re not number one! At invoking terrorism, yes, we’re pretty good at provoking people to hate us. In fact we’ve been quite successful at that. But we live in a small country, a vulnerable country, a country with no defenses, only “homeland security.” But there’s no true security here - anyone can do anything he wants and will!
Right, so now we have these proposals to build a wall on the Texas/Mexico border, to fill in the tunnels….
Oh it’s just Looney Time, but you see, we have no educational system for the general public. If you come from a well-to-do family, you get a fairly good education, but you get a lot of propaganda along with it. And we have a media that is quite poisonous and only echoes what the administration—and corporate America, which owns the administration—wants us to hear. So the average person has no information, or what he has is so distorted. How can he make up his mind intelligently on any subject?
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Ignorance is an epidemic in our country, and it’s kind of virulent. No, they don’t have any information, they don’t have access to it, and the newspaper they like to hate, they might very well hate for other reasons if they had any other reasons, but they don’t have any. They have no evidence.
Or if they’re told about the lies of Judith Miller—it would take you 10 years to explain who she was and how she got to tell lies. And what the lies were about. There’s no such time for us. By the time you are grown and able to read The New York Times without moving your lips, you’ve been had.
So how can the media get to my red-state friend?
I don’t think you can get to him. You can get to him if something blows up somewhere—he certainly grasps that. I think what’s most apt to be getting to him these days is the firing of people at Ford, and General Motors, and people being out of work. He’s no fool when it comes to his own welfare. If he sees that jobs are drying up, he may be inclined to think “well, we’d better get another war” because he’s learned from experience that when we have a war we have full employment….
In 1940 the Depression had returned. It had not been defeated in ‘33 by Roosevelt: alas, it was back, so Roosevelt put 8 billion dollars into defense to build up particularly our air force, and we had full employment for the first time in 50 years. By the time Truman got to be president we were totally militarized, which was a very bad thing for us, but he had thought it was for a good reason. I mean, he feared, as did Dean Acheson and the others, that we would slip back into the Depression unless we had all this fueling, with federal money, of the military-industrial complex, as General Eisenhower so nicely advised us. Having served it all of his life, so he knew what he was talking about.
And the need for war now is systemic. There’s no going back. You can’t just say OK, we’re just stopping and we’re going to cut down the Pentagon budget by 50%, we’ll build some hospitals, we’ll do this, we’ll actually try to educate people.
[If you do] you’ll find a huge movement against it. Look, there are all those enemies out there: The Mexicans are armed with anthrax, and they’re entering El Paso even as we speak though hidden tunnels. Isn’t that good for conspiracy theorists? Those tunnels are great symbols.
And then there are the Canadians. Who knows what they’ll do to us from up north!
[sotto voce] They’re the most vicious of all, because they pretend to be quiet and orderly.
Altogether, this is not a very optimistic prognosis.
Well, I’m not very optimistic. This place is broken. It’s going to take a generation to repair what’s been done to the Bill of Rights, what has been done to the legal system.
Meanwhile, they’ll get a chance to add a couple more Supreme Court justices giving us, for a generation, a very, very right-wing interpretation of our liberties, because they don’t like them.
Quite openly they don’t like the freedoms we have, particularly freedom of speech, so they classify it - Top Secret. Don’t speak, whisper.
What will it take?
Organization, there will be quite a few demagogues who will say let’s burn Lawrence, Kan., like Quantrill, but there will be others, like Huey Long: Every Man a King. Make the Standard Oil pay—which is what he did in Louisiana. Built Tulane, built hospitals, siphoned all that money right into the state so everyone could benefit.
Roosevelt was scared to death of him in 1936, because Huey was going to run on a third ticket. And he could have denied Roosevelt a second term, and Huey’s plan was that he himself would be—in 1940—he would be the Democratic nominee and Roosevelt would be finished. And then we would get Huey Longism, which was true populism. The money was going to go to the people for the things that would make the people’s lives better. Then he was killed in the state capitol at Baton Rouge, by a crazy MD, a doctor, who wasn’t political at all.
Then there were rumors that Roosevelt had hired people to kill him. Seems to me a little far-fetched since I’m pro-Roosevelt.
FDR gave a presidential address from the Academy Awards thanking them for being so patriotic. How much has Hollywood changed since you first started working there, in terms of its relationship to the government?
The change had started much earlier than Roosevelt. The change began with Woodrow Wilson…. The whole country did not want to go to war in Europe, nor did we care about whether Germany organized Europe or whether France organized Europe. It was not a matter of concern to the average American. Nor should it have been. There was no Hitler in Germany. Those days, there was the Kaiser, he was no worse than the French leaders, so it was just a continuation of that long war that had gone on and off and on for centuries between [the] French and Germany. Who’s the heir to Charlemagne? That’s what it was about.
Wilson wanted to go to the war very early, and the American people didn’t. So he found a great public relations man called George Creel…. And George Creel, he sent out to Hollywood to get people to make anti-German movies. So we had nothing but blind nuns being raped by German soldiers. “The Huns are coming! The Huns are coming!” A lot of those movies were made, and then others to show how great the British were, how great the French were. And Wilson, he was shameless; he went so far as to put himself into a number of movies.
That’s how it all started, the marriage between Washington and Hollywood. And I remember when I was first under contract to MGM, in about ‘54, I had nothing but dj vu every time I looked around the Thalberg Building. I said, “What does this remind me of?” These little offices, these whitewashed walls and powerful producers on every other floor, talented people like Scott Fitzgerald working in little cubbyholes….
And I said, “This is the White House. This is the White House West, the Thalberg Building. And the White House itself is the Thalberg Building East. And they’re bound to marry.
With an oligarchy bureau chief on each side.
Yes, and George Creel was the bridge.
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