March 31, 2015
Mort Sahl and Mr. Fish on Clinton, Communism and Heroes
Posted on Sep 9, 2007
By Mr. Fish
Mr. Fish: Maybe [Bradley] was exactly right, then, that Obama is good vaudeville. I mean, isn’t there such a thing as the profession of “celebrity?”
Sahl: Remember Ambrose Bierce? He said in his book of definitions that a celebrity is a person who’s famous for being well known. And that’s the extent of their influence—celebrity trial lawyers, celebrity charity givers. Do we really want a celebrity president?
Mr. Fish: There’s another point to be made about spying, getting back to that for a second. When the FBI infiltrates the left, it’s doing so because the power elite doesn’t understand the language of dissent—dissent that is born out of victimization, right? And if that’s the case, aren’t we all suspect when the power elite views everybody they subjugate with suspicion for fear of revolution? It’s like a butterfly collector who infiltrates a meeting of stamp collectors to understand why they prefer stamp collecting to butterfly collecting—absolutely nothing can be learned by such an exercise.
Sahl: Intelligence agencies do log a lot of overtime in the area of suspicion and it does encourage them to find a lot of pigeons. But, you know, Hoover and McCarthy were never after communists. They were after nonconformists who might want to resist the fascist tendencies of big government. If you look at that whole blacklisting period, Judith Copeland was acquitted, Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury, not spying. Most of the government cases fell apart when they got to court. They were never looking for communists—they never found any. Sure, the country is in real danger of losing its soul, but it’s not because of a group of dedicated nonconformists.
Square, Site wide
Mr. Fish: Right—it’s conformity that is the backbone of totalitarianism, not nonconformity.
Sahl: And who are the nonconformists today? Who do they consider the leftists now? Arianna Huffington? She’s on all those cable shows talking about fighting the system—it’s been pretty good to her. (Laughs)
Mr. Fish: Well, since you were at the center of all that blacklisting stuff in the 1950s, maybe you can tell me: What exactly was so wrong with communism? I mean, forget about what the government was saying about it, it seems that a lot of intellectuals condemned it, too. If you look at the definition of communism in the dictionary—.
Sahl: Sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?
Mr. Fish: Yeah, I even wrote it down in my notebook because I wanted to ask you about it. It’s defined as: a theory advocating elimination of private property and a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.
Sahl: When they couldn’t sell that as a threat to capitalism, they started calling it Godless communism.
Mr. Fish: Which is also amazing to me—it seems that if you’re looking for some hardcore evidence for what might be a political philosophy that ruins people’s lives and devastates the environment, probably irrevocably, you’ll find it more with capitalism than communism.
Sahl: Capitalism needs a war always to bail it out because it can never pay for itself, I agree. You have to wonder about all that philosophically. With all the privilege of the [American political elite], the Dulles brothers, the Bushes, Sullivan and Cromwell, Brown Brothers Harriman, all that Ivy League pedigree—Fidel led the life he wanted. He did for 50 years. These other guys are like ferrets trying to keep the bank open any way they can.
Mr. Fish: And why is this not part of our public discourse? Wasn’t that part of the promise made by you and the counterculture, that serious discussion about what we are as a species and what we might become should happen much more freely?
Sahl: People refuse to connect the dots. Nobody will look seriously at how violent the CIA has been—they killed Lumumba, they killed General Rene Schneider in Chile, they killed Allende, 600 attempts on Fidel. What about the kidnapping of Chavez? Why has the violent side of the agency never come up in a serious way?
Mr. Fish: People, I think, will only be interested in seeking the truth if they feel they can apply their findings. But getting back to the thing about capitalism—it’s a system that’s incompatible with the human equation; both are based on completely different value systems. Capitalism is based on an accumulative value system where the more capital you have, the more value you have and human beings are supposed to be a constant value system that doesn’t fluctuate, everybody’s right to exist being equal. But with the value of capital and accumulated wealth being what it is, it will always be able to supercede the value of a human being and, therefore, humanity itself, which is why extinction of the species is possible, because it might make sense on paper.
Sahl: Yeah, no question.
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