or eastern europeans, east europeans, russia, poland, hungary, they were all influenced fundamentally by neoliberalism. >> is this your first book? >> yes, it is. >> why did you choose this topic? >> in 198 i was an exchange student in budapest, hungary -- >> before the wall fell. >> and i didn't know -- i didn't really know. i just picked a place that i could go. and so i picked budapest, hungary, and i landed in this place, i couldn't believe what was happening. and, you know, i was only -- i guess i was 20 years old, so it was -- it was very unclear to me what was going. it was unclear to everybody. and so when i came back, i realized that i had to understand what i had seen there, and i'd seen something other people hadn't seen. people hadn't seen what it was like i felt i needed to explain what happened all across the region. >> dr. joanna bockman is an assistant professor of sociology
and global affairs at george mason university. here's her first book published by sanford university press. markets in the name of socialism: the left wing origins of neoliberalism. thank you for talking to us on booktv. >> thank you very much. >> and now on booktv robert jay lifton talks about his work such as it is nazis, the dropping of the atomic bomb in heosheepa, china and the vietnam war. this is about an hour and a half. >> here at the columbia school of journalism, welcome on behalf both the dart center and
columbia. the dart center is a ideal lab resource center, networking mechanism for journalists as well as clinicians and scholars and others concerned about news coverage of violence around the world. everything from street crime and family violence up to war crime and human rights. i'll talk more about the dart center in a few minutes. we're here tonight, though, for a conversation and a celebration, a conversation with robert j. lifton, psychiatrist, public intellectual, historian, activist and a celebration of his wonderful and beautiful new memoir "witness to an extreme century." this event is cosponsored by the dart center but also by the
"nation" magazine and i would like to bring up victor, the editor emeritus and a friend and mentor to many people in this room to give a welcome on behalf of the station and say whatever he wants to say. >> what i want to say the nation has had thousands of contributors over the years and there is only a handful to whom one looks to for -- to put the whole world into perspective and for moral guidance. and you're lucky this evening to have robert j. lifton here, it seems to me. but i'll tell you why i think you're lucky but i also want to give you a warning. and i'd just take a minute or so. you're lucky as he has a psychohistorian, a unique perspective on history because
he deals with great subjects. and, you know, if you look at these books here, i haven't inspected all of them but among his subjects are the nazi doctors and medical killing, the nuclear threat, the psychology of genocide, the survivors of hiroshima, capital punishment. these are huge subjects that hang over us and everybody out there. my warning is that robert j. liftedon is the ultimate geographer of moral responsibility and it's impossible to listen to him talk without getting a sense of your own -- of the moral dimensions of what you do. and those of you who are students here it seems to me
that you can't listen to him without understanding that your job is not merely to report on the moral responsibility of others. but to behave in a moral responsible away yourself. it's an honor and pleasure to be part of this and, bob, i can't wait to hear you so thank you. >> i'm just going to say -- well, first of all, thank you, victor. i'm going to say a few more words of introduction, both about robert but also not about this evening. first some housekeeping. first of all, as you can see, this event is being videotaped for eventual broadcast by c-span. it is also being audiotaped by the journalism school and it will be posted on the dart center's website at www.dartcenter.org. because we're doing this for c-span, i have two important
messages. first of all, after a bit of a conversation we'll do q & a and when we do, please line up at the two microphones here, if you're physically chalked we also have a wireless portable mic but the easier thing for the rest of us is to use these two mics here. also if you have a cell phone, please make double sure to turn it to silent or off or some other state in which it won't bother anybody else in the room. there is a sweatshirt event which is my event. there are as you've already seen refreshments are in the back but please avail yourself to them but be quiet on the 22nd and 23rd we are sponsoring an event
of intimate partner violence, teenage violence, family violence. this is funded by the robert wood foundation journalism school. and if you or a colleague mexico someone who's interested, by all means go to www.dartcenter do agree. dart center shawag. there's things in the back and there are official dart center stress balls. they just arrived today. please take one. also on your chairs these cards. these are donation cards. if you're interested in coverage journalism of violence and encouraging the deepening of the craft of violence into the here in the u.s. and around the world support our work you can also
donate online at booktv.org/booktv. bathrooms, there are two restrooms on this floor. halfway down the hall is aa unisex restroom. if you would like a setting male restroom, there's one down the stairs and finally i want to thank a few people. i want to thank very much my friends and colleagues at the nation who are sponsoring this. we'll be putting this on c-span in the not too distant future and in the back there are copies of the book which robert j. lifton will be happy to sign later on in the evening and, of course, my wonderful colleagues at the dart center for
journalism and trauma who have put this evening together. i don't want to take too much time but i do feel i do need to make a few words of introduction. and build on victor's very apt description as robert as the arbiter of the moral of the universe. it may be an interesting question why a journalism organization based at a journalism school is sponsoring its talk with a psychiatrist. i have to say when i read the book, one of the things i learned, robert, you were briefly a journalist in college, though, you violated the ethical code from changing to covering the tennis team to playing on the tennis team. >> that was my advocacy. [laughter] >> the end of a promising career in journalism. but also and really because of
so much what we chart as journalists in the world today, whether it is war or terrorism, perpetration of violence or survivors of violence, torture all of these actions, are on terrain that robert j. lifton was there first on. at the dart center i spent a lot of time talking with friends and colleagues, journalists, clinicians, researchers who have dealt with these issues. and one issue after another you trip over and counter face down or in dialog with the work of robert j. lifton who has enables us to understand the nature of the survivors and encounter with death the nature of perpetrators, moral universe and how those all -- those all interact both for individuals and for societies. it's work that began in the
summer of 1953 as the book tells us when a young man -- young psychiatrist had been in the air force heard about repatriated u.s. p.o.w.s in korea of brainwashing and he conducted the first study of p.o.w.s and thought reform and those continued with persistent engagement of thought issues and that led him down the road to the first significant studies of the hiroshima survivors, of vietnam veterans, of religious cults of nazi doctors that shaped our understanding of the impact of war and atrocity and what happens to individuals and communities and nations that encounter large scale violence and death. what happens to our social
contracts, how we heal or don't, where vengeance fits in. this is crucial landscape. we're talking here in new york, just days after the tenth anniversary of september 11 when these questions preoccupies more than other. robert has now written this memoir and i can tell you it's not only richly informative and a great sort of travelogue through this journey. it is also surprising, funny, beautifully written. through it you hear the voices not only -- you not only meet his often harrowed subjects, the people he's talked to over the years, but his friends, a few of his mentors like eric loweson -- ericson and you meet his friends
which is kind of an internal biography. i'm going to invite robert to talk a little about this book, how it came to be, any thoughts on it. and then we'll have a conversation, he and i and we'll invite you in and we'll see where we go. robert j. lifton. [applause] >> thanks so much. i appreciate both of those introductions. they were more than kind, and i also -- both bruce and victor and i also appreciate the sponsorship by the dart center and the nation. and i'm enormously glad that these two institutions exist. still one has to do something to extricate oneself from introductions like that. in my case when people ask me
how i study these terrible things and say sane while doing it, my answer is i draw bird car tunes, but the one that seems appropriate right now, what i like to call my classic goes this way. a pompous -- a small enthusiastic young bird looks up and says, all of a sudden, i had this wonderful feeling i am me and an older, bigger more jaundiced bird looks down at him and says, you were wrong. on that note i begin. i was looking out of my hotel window and had a glimpse of the hotel river today and i began to realize how central new york city has been for my existence. i'm a new york lad, if i can say
that. i grew up in brooklyn and lived most of my adult life in new york city. i traveled around the world to do these studies but lived for many decades in new york city. that's central to my narrative and i always came back to new york city and cape cod. on that matter of a story or a narrative and this is -- it's not a tell-all memoir. it's an intellectual memoir but it's quite personal. and the narrative one creates in writing a memoir always has more coherence than the life one actually has lived because during that life one was thrust about by various forces. one has more than one share of confusions one didn't know what one was doing and they didn't always take shape. they had a coherence which one didn't know.
it's one that creates that matters. that creates one consequence of one's life. in all this work there's been an imperfect plans or implans for scholarship and activism for me. i did all the work through interviews and that gave it an empirical -- i mean, i was talking to humans and that's a baseline from which everything can stem. but at the same time i didn't stop. how can one take a stand about nazi doctors in genocide or the vietnam war or the hiroshima bombing. and so the activism became very important in my life. it's often said that one has to be one or the other. but i think they feed each other. i think scholarship without accism -- activism may lose
it's intellectual center. anyhow that's been an effort all through my work. the memoir could take shape with any book only when one comes to a structure. structure is all. and one doesn't think which is the most obvious structure and in my case it was the structure the book around four of my major or at least the search studies that i thought were most important chinese thought reform, the hiroshima bombing, the vietnam war and nazi doctors. and making that the basis for the study and the memoir along with other things that happened along the way. and that became my structure but not so for a long time while one
was struggling for it. each of these studies did something powerful to me and i try to convey that in the memoir. chinese thought reform reinforced my aversion to totalism, to all-or-none systems of thought which claim absolute truth and absolute virtue. we're haunted by totalism all throughout the world and by the way not so incidentally our president would do well if he understood more about the totalism that he faces rather than seeking to recognize slightly it with a point of view that allows for no compromise. so that study it also took me to
an identity. it was a significant decision for me to stay in hong kong. however, uncertain as i was at that beginning because that set me on a certain path on which i could begin to see myself by somebody who does these studies. the study of hiroshima was an overwhelming experience. the first study was in the mid-50s and this study of sheer osheepa was in 1962 when my life and i lived there for six months and i interviewed survivors. it's one thing to be told in detail about things that happened in hiroshima it's another to sit down with survivors and spend hours hearing of visceral sense of what they went through in connection with the cruelest weapon ever devised and that study in hiroshima absolutely altered my view of the world. i have since and still see the world through a lens or prism of
hiroshima. and, of course, it led to concerns about nuclear weapons and more broadly the psychology of what i call nuclearism, the embrace of the weapons, almost as deities at times as something we're dependent on, something that keeps the world going as absolute entities we must define ourselves with. also it took me to the psychology of survivors and above all the overall need of survivors to find meaning in their encounters if they are to have meaning in their lives. my work with antiwar veterans which i did mostly in the early 70s took me to the whole war piece issue. above all what i came to call an atrocity-producing situation.
a situation so structured militarily and psychology that ordinary people know better or worse than you or me can be capable of committing atrocities. it's the extreme power of extreme environments to alter human behavior. it was what i learned in my work but it was never so devastated in conclusion with the vietnam war and always since studying vietnam veterans i kind of add dialectic about american war-making and war general. on one hand the vietnam war was very specific and had many specific characters, different from other wards. on the other hand, it was a war. and one must -- one must see it in relation to war in general as well as its own specificity. and, of course, the vietnam wars turns out to have all too much in common with subsequent
american war making in iraq and afghanistan. again atrocity-making situations and the results we've seen. one thing that we've had the work with vietnam veterans was also transformative that one could see these veterans undergo extraordinary change in a hopeful way. they could change their -- not only their attitude about the war but their relationship with other people and their families and their girlfriends in significant ways in a matter of months. while, of course, other things stayed the same. and this was a powerful lesson.
a fourth study of nazi doctors was a real descent into evil. i've discovered how easy that descent is. nazi dollars hadn't killed anybody until they get to auschwitz and then they killed a lot of people. they were ordinary men who did these things rather than people who would have preferred them to be with a mark of cane on their foreheads, also, of course, the whole nazi project, killing to heal. and the whole psychology of genocide in which even outside of nazi behavior has in other genocides that idea of healing a nation through killing those who
are seen as dangerous or of polluting. well, those four studies became the basis for my memoir and i was helped by the other new york institution, the new york city library which laekts my paper which has -- they were organized in a much more coherent way than i ever could have. so i would find myself in perhaps what is the ultimately nascar cystic action of immersing myself of my open papers in that wonderful manuscript room in the public library as a monk of old but instead of looking through the great scriptures i was looking through my own notes that i made. [laughter] >> but it helped me enormously. and as you know, it can be a powerful corrective to what one thinks are actor memories of these events. and i try to be as accurate as i
can in depicting them. i then found myself always coming back to new york and to cape cod and holding meetings on psychology and history which has meant a great deal to me. and also having a dialectic of listening and talking. i talk about this a little bit in my memoir. i've done a lot of listening in order to take in this material and recreated in some ways as both a kind of scholar and a witness but then i had a dialog with all kinds of people whom i described not only my mentors, people like eric davidman and david reesman but also other people from different professions and specialties, the give-and-take of real conversation, of real dialog i think is crucial is taking in about one's time.
these are dark times now in american politics. it's easy to become discouraged and to avoid such feelings at least some of the time. but i refer you to a wonderful line from a very fine poet who said very simply in a dark time the eye begins to see we're capable of seeing and acting and that i hope is a kind of message not -- not cosmic resolution but at least a message of being able to enter into these issues and take a stand and carry through. that's more than enough perhaps for me to start out with. i welcome now our conversation. [applause] >> thank you, robert. that was a wonderful introduction to the book.
and gives you as well a feel for the kind of narrative architecture that informs the book. one of the real surprises and delights for me was learning that you dictate most of your writing to yourself and for those of us who struggle to put a paragraph together, the idea of the spoken writing process is an interesting one. >> i don't claim that's the way people should write and i've done it and, you know, i say that people talk about a hand-brain connection on timing and computer. i have a brain-laranex to work through. it's still a laborious process and i don't recommend it for anyone. >> let me begin a little bit in the presence tense and maybe
we'll go back a little bit. but it's unavoidable. we are -- we are talking here now a few days after the tenth anniversary of the september 11 attacks over the course of the last decade you considered the meaning of this atrocity on american soil and the wars that followed. you wrote a little bit about what you called superpower syndrome. we're now at a point where perhaps these wars are winding down and in any event there's been this marking of an event that despite a decade having passed still feels awfully raw. where do you think we are? how does your thinking over the years inform your understanding of america's understanding of its own place right now? >> one way to approach that question, which is a very important one is through what i raised in my remarks about
survivor meaning. first of all, i think it's hard to understand the american reaction to 9/11 without understanding the vietnam war. most of us in this room, when we took some meaning or lesson from the vietnam war took a very simple one, don't get involved in that kind of war ever again but there was a powerful nucleus of people who became leaders, political leaders around george bush they were called the vulcans with good reason, they named themselves. which took out this meaning that we have to overcome the so-called vietnam syndrome which is equated with weaknesses and project american power on the world and the response to 9/11 was part of that as was the iraq war which had nothing to do with 9/11 directly. so that's one aspect but in response to 9/11 which was a terribly humiliating experience
for americans and one of unwanted vulnerability in direct contrast to the superpower syndrome that we have been creating not just during the bush administration, since world war, but since the bush administration which is one of omnipotence. and the predominant meaning was disastrous, the so-called war on terror which was totalalisic on itself, endless without boundaries and fruitless and counterproductive in every single way as opposed to a wiser set of meanings which americans are struggling with, which is absolutely not without but maybe in minority ways, meanings that ask, how did this come about? what kind of policies has
america been following? that might be changed. what kind of attitudes have been built in relation to us. this is a way with the arab spring where things are in upheaval throughout the middle east and throughout the world and it could strengthen our capacity to derive wiser survivor meanings from 9/11. i think the contest psychologically and historically continues among americans. >> yeah. you began your work at another very polarized black and white time. you began looking korean p.o.w.s in a world that was gripped in the world find mccarthyism, a black and white thinking and on the other hand a soviet union dealing with stalinism and its
aftermath. and in the middle of this you begin asking these questions and you also describe in your book encountering your early mentors, people like ericson and reesman and you talk about these long walks you would take and you were discussing it earlier with these guys, what did those thinkers of that generation -- how did they help you as a young man navigate a very polarized black and white world and begin this interesting work? >> well, the struggle for me was to take a strong stand against totalism, against absolutism -- totalism really becomes a psychological or psychohistorical equivalent of totalitarianism. to take a strong stand against that without becoming, quote, a anticommunist spaelectricual in the sense of that being the main thrust of one intellectual's
life. and there both ericson and reesman were enormously helpful but also by someone i call a secret mentor, a mentor from a distance, albert kamo because in his great book, "the rebel," it's about a brilliant expose on totalism and he pretty much calls it that. and at the same time an insistence that we remain rebels. that we remain critical of the status quo. and that combination, that again tielectronic, call it what you will is very important to me and not always easy to sustain. further influence of mentors was just i would say briefly with ericson, i felt he brought -- he showed how one could bring psychoanalysis into history. it didn't have to be just in the clinic or the office or on the couch. and that was an inspiration to me. >> when you knew him, he was
doing his studies of martin luther and others? >> absolutely. and my first encounter -- my first meeting with him, he talked for hours comparing 16th century athelectric training with chinese thought reform as he was about to write his book on luther and i was about to write my book on thought reform. and david reesman was an extraordinary intellectual of unlimited facets and extraordinarily kind and impa impactic man and he taught me to be an intellectual. and i came to realize, yes, i was doing studies in hong kong and japan. but i did that as an american intellectual. and he also taught me something that is all too evident now. the backlash potential of a very
conservative society that we live in. the absence of a traditional culture has made us more vulnerable perhaps to threats to the according to changes in people's reactions to the changes as a form of backlash. those were some of those things. and there's an inchoate quality of relationship between mentor and follower of a particular time or at least for a period of time in which things happen in which one sees oneself as gaining the capacity and right to have one's own that might matter. >> what were the moments when you felt those struggles most vividly and where did they lead you? >> i felt my -- you know, i think all of our have our greatest struggles with that first book and i knew i had done exciting work and interviewing people coming out of china,
westerners and chinese the question i had was could i put it in form and the questions i had with ericson and reesman convinced me that maybe i could and reesman performed the unbelievably generous task of writing page after page of letters. we were walking frequently and seeing each other regularly going on these long walks, fresh pond park in cambridge. but he would still write letters like a 19th century correspondent and wrote in response to each of my chapters with enthusiasms and openings where they took him with his associations. and so i could come to the sense that, yes, i could write this book and it might even have something to say. you know, those were the days when we were all smoking. this was in the late '60s and --
late '60s and -- i was never a heavy smoker but i was a heavy, heavy smoker until i finished it and i could stop smoking all together with the surgeon general's report around that time. l[laughter] >> so we have our physical involvements as well. >> let me ask you about the hiroshima book and interviews. you talked in your introduction yourself as an interviewer and as a listener. we live in a world now in which there are libraries of a holocaust, oral histories in which the idea of atrocity testimony is pretty well established. at the time that you did that work there were not a lot of people doing that kind of listening in that kind of depth to people who had been through
that extreme an experience. how did you develop an approach that earned the trust of these survivors; got you the material that you needed? where did it come from? >> you know, something that seems profound decision could be something quite less than that. i had been trained in psychiatric interview and my psychiatric residency, i had just two years of that before i was drafted in a doctor draft into the military kicking and screaming. i didn't want to go to the military. but i did. and it seemed where they were put through a systematic center to change their minds and to change them, that i had to talk to them. and i also came to realize if i
would talk to them, i would have to have a systematic approach that i probed everyone in more or less the same way to have a kind of group that i could look within -- within which i could look for the same sort of things or what i came to call shared themes. and that seemed an appropriate way to go about the study. when you think about research, when you see the word "methodology beware" -- but when you see the word "method," that's important. your method is very important. what method can evoke what you're trying to get at as opposed to making methodology an idol of the marketplace in which you gain your grants through methodology instead of a method that really gets to the heart of things? i think that the interview -- now, when you talk about
collections of holocaust studies and other interviews and 9/11 now, these are very valuable and useful to have. but in the end somebody has to write them up and give them a narrative that draws both upon the information of the interviews and one's own sensibility and perspective and one's own witness to this. that's the way i see it but i think the interview is still an underused method, psychiatrists are moving away from it to the detriment of our field in the exaggerated embrace of medications. and i don't think that most psychologists realize how extraordinary this method -- on you extraordinarily this method can serve us as well as journalists and others interested in getting at what people are really experiencing. it is no more beautiful method than talking to people. >> you talk in the book about
needing to retool your interview and narrative methods when it comes years later when it comes to your encounters with first class perpetrators, nazi doctors. talk a little about that. and this matters a lot to us as a journalists since we often divide our own time between victims or survivors and perpetrators, especially human rights journalists. talk a little about that. >> before i got to nazi doctors which was in the late '70s, all the people i interviewed i felt sympathetic to as survivors. vietnam veterans were complicated. i did feel deeply sympathetic to them because i felt as i said in the subtitle -- the first subtitle on my title on vietnam veterans was vietnam veterans neither victims nor executioners. that was a kamu phrase warning of the two roles we should never assume and they had been thrust
into both roles by their society. but so i felt -- i felt sympathetic to people who had been pressed into thought reform, to hiroshima veterans to vietnam veterans, with nazi doctors that was hardly the case. and it was a difficult enterprise to sit down -- for me to sit down with nazi doctors and i felt all kinds of emotions including rage and a sense of grotesqueness and a sense of being tainted by sitting down with them in certain ways. on the other hand -- >> and was that because they were doctors or was it the evil itself? >> no, it was the evil itself, though, being doctors -- i'm a kind of a doctor, though, i've strayed so far from the clinic, i call myself a former doctor. but in any case, it was more the evil than the medical
profession. and yet, eric ericson said to me, something that disturbed me, when you do this work you might find that you touch the piece of -- a piece of their humanity. to sit down with someone is to have a conversation. that made me uneasy because i knew what they had done. and it was very important for me. i was warned by friends. some said i shouldn't do this study because to understand is to excuse. that was useful for me to hear because i then created for myself a kind of double dimension in which i was seeking to understand motivations while holding them responsible for what they did. so, therefore, i was probing psychological and historical forces conducive to evil, not
losing sight of the evil and requiring the word for my research. in any case i was helped enormously by many germs who were a minority of their society but deeply committed to confronting their own recent history and one way they did that was to help me. and they helped me both intellectually and in a profound way emotionally, even during the interviews when i needed an interpreter and the kind of support from two or three of people who were my colleagues and assistants who became very close, and it was a case of the younger person being rather therapeutic to the older one who was really suffering from things i asked nazi doctors to tell me and then i found myself enraged and miserable in hearing them say them. but all that happened. and i talk about the difficulties of sitting down with them in my memoir. >> one of the challenges -- and,
again, being here in a journalism school with many professional colleagues that you faced and that we faced is this sense of being poisoned a little bit by our immersion in these subjects in the individual perpetrators and also in the lives of victims, the horrible suffering. you describe in the book a bunch of dreams related to this. and i want -- two stick out at me and i want to run them by you and i want to ask how you take care of yourself. one you have the dream of the infernal chorus toward the end of your work on the nazi doctors which clearly you are feeling profoundly tainted. and the other is this funny dream involving vatican grapes. talk about that, the taint, the acceptance of taint and also the remedies. >> let me say a word about the way i use dreams. and the way i see them and the
way i use them in my memoir. in addition to some of the meanings that freud gave them, too narrowly, i think, dreams have a prospective dimension in my view. that's why so many cultures see them as i can't prosecuting the future. they don't predict the future but they can reveal certain feelings and a direction that you experience yourself as moving from the immediate present. ..
>> and what i saw them to be and to have done. and in a way it was kind of sicko. i was rita wind up the work in the field and go home, and i also, you know, talk about how i knew i couldn't do my desk of those interviews of them until i wrote the book. to dream about vatican grades was a more, many of my dreams and i think everyone's dreams have kind of a humor, sometimes it's something else. but vatican grades was a sense of something nice and good and delicious and sensual. >> and you describe yourself as desperate at that point. >> that's right.
i needed and goats for myself. and i needed ways of expressing anecdotes to the dreadful destructiveness and evil that i was encountering. and so i could make jokes about it. my wife and i would talk about it, and we said what about you wish grapes? but anyhow, some of the dreams, well, i would say that one needs a certain amount of humor all the way through about absurdity of what one is encountering. and this expresses itself in one's dreams. and it doesn't mean that those elements of humor don't combined with something that one is struggling with. quite strong. >> you mentioned your wife, she's a constant reticence and character in this book. this has been a hard year.
you completed the book and she fell ill and died. how does the work of a memoir change as you look at it? >> the memoir was completed just before my wife became extremely ill, and she died from pneumonia that they couldn't contend with very quickly. she had had some illnesses before then but nothing like that. having the memoir -- i couldn't have been able to write much or any of the memoir after she died for some time. one does express a very extraordinarily painful warm of grief, and i said i've been studying grief reactions were decade in my work but didn't fully understand what that was
until i was subjected to that myself. but having the memoir, and i could, after a while do the editing and prepared the manuscript for publication, was of enormous value to me because it was an assertion of my work, which included b.j. very centrally in each of those stages as comes through with the memoir. and even, and it helps me to have that task. and even in my dedication of the memoir, which includes my children and their children, my grandchildren, i say, and to b.j., rather than and to the spirit of b.j. i don't want her to be dead, at least until the end of the book, where she so vital a character all through what i did, and what i did in this work and my sense
couldn't have been possible without that relationship. so yes, it's been a very tough year for me, and it's 10 months now, and things change and one moves ahead, but not easily, and much remains of the whole struggle. >> you now have a new project. do you want to talk about it a little bit? >> i have just the beginnings, maybe think beginnings of a project which stems from work i have done before in a limited way. it has to do with, generally speaking, or summing it up, how psychologically and historically war begets war. in other words, war begets war because the meanings we give to the previous war. take the example world war i and world war ii, the vietnam war
and subsequent wars which already mentioned, and i'm interested in exploring in more detail in a more extensive way how this comes about and how we might interrupt that vicious circle of war be getting more. that's at least the beginning sense of it, and it's always important to have a new project with which one is moving ahead. >> and is this scholarship, is it activism? is at the two flowing together? how does that work for you? it's not always an easy marriage. >> no, it isn't at all. and i go -- that's right. i say that i try to have a balance between them, but i have lots of conflict along the way, perhaps still do, about how much to do of one and how much the other. i know i am bound to both of them. i tell what was for me a very moving experience with a good friend named mary right it is a
professor of chinese history at the al mac, and she developed a fatal lung cancer and she called me in to see her. and i thought she wanted to talk to me about that process of dying as i studied so much that related to but i totally underestimated her, and it was soon after my hiroshima book had been published i was very active at yale and other antiwar activities of the yale revolution of the 1970s. she said look, i know that what you're doing as an activist is very important to you, and i agree with it, i agree with what you're doing, but just remember, what you did in that hiroshima book probably had more impact on the world than anything you could do it in your immediate activism. don't forget that. she was trying to tell me not to get lost in activism, in terms
of my effort of scholarship and in writing accounts, being an intellectual witness to these events. and that made a profound impression on me, not only in terms of, in terms of my own effort to make, but continued a balance between them, but her extraordinary generosity in what she did. >> i think this is a good moment to turn to questions from you folks. chairs lined up, if you would. there are two mic, one in the middle and one on your left, my right. if you could line up so that c-span and our friends here can record this for prosperity. keep your question brief and focused because there will be a bunch of people who want to say stuff. let's see where the conversation goes from there.
>> is in total is my reaction, a fragmentation, that's one. and then the other, you can answer either, what is evil and what choices did these nazi doctors have? that's my question. >> the first one is about the nature of dollars and, kind of fragmentation really. >> well, you can call it a reaction formation, and i wouldn't contest that but i have tried to avoid clinical terminology in looking at ideologically shared tendencies. and total is and has to be seen collectively as well as individually, i feel. and it is, it's a tendency towards claiming complete truth and complete virtual. and i think it intends to arise,
and i think this is what your getting at, in response to the fear of change, the fear of change are what i call go tendency. briefly, that's one thing i will say about total is him. in terms of the nazi doctors, the question was -- >> evil spirit what is evil and what choices did they have? >> and maybe let me and by that. how is your understanding of evil changed through your fault, perhaps the your account. >> my understanding has been enormously influenced by what i found. and that is how people can become socialized to evil. there's one theory that says that the nazis committed the holocaust because they had the unique form and anti-semitism. i'm not at all sure that's the case. i think there's as much anti-semitism and other places, but the capacity to adapt to
evil, to be socialized to evil with what i learned. that's related to what honda called evil. but i modified what she said so that, of course, she understood that it wasn't evil that was but now, even though that is often consumed. it was the people who committed evil that could be done now. and also that when you commit evil over good time you change and you know longer are so ordinary. but the generalists that i learned about evil has to do with the way in which ordinary people can be socialized to evil. and that makes the whole problem genocide or mass killing. more difficult to confront, but i think the truth has to be acknowledged. >> how are you defining evil? >> we can talk about that
afterwards over books and snac snacks. >> how do you explain the post-9/11 birth of media engagement and coverage of u.s. torture and drones? you know, the involvement in afghanistan which is a civil war and just increasing, you know terrorism there. this, domestic surveys with the cia which is not supposed be involved in this. >> i think it's not easy to ask that question in a few sentences, but i think that where one can feel profoundly and convince others that one's own sense of existence is threatened, one can take and justify the most extreme
measures. that threat to the sense of existence is some kind -- sometimes called national security which is a misleading term which can abuse in many different ways. but where one can be convinced that the existence of one's group and of oneself is threatened by a force of some kind, you can do all the things that you describe in terms of the series of post-vietnam american wars and warmaking. the other point i would make is that it much depends upon what i call survivor meaning. what meaning do we give to 9/11? if we polarize the world and see the perpetrators of 9/11 as representing pure evil, then we must represent pure good, and
that division in absolute polarization, which asserted the bush administration was prone to make, though not only the bush administration, could lead to any of these extreme actions. >> let me just ask you to amplify that. what have you learned not only about the complex ways in which ordinary people can't, by history, get roped into these acts, but also about the resources for resisting the moral compromise. >> yes. i should say, and i haven't said too much about it, i've indicated i guess and talking about antiwar veterans, that people who i've studied can show extraordinary resilience. i was very interested in interviewing a man who didn't fire. and people can draw upon
strengths, strength of we strength from different. and the men who didn't fire, heat you up on it in a way that i was surprised to hear, not happy to hear, his greatest source of strength in restraint was his idealism of the military. he loved the military, but his life together which had been falling apart, joined the military. had said had to make it his career and then was horrified by what he found in vietnam and in me like specifically in terms of violation of that idealism. but people, yes, what happens in our lives come in our childhood, in terms of creating some sense of conscious and ethical
principle, and also knowing about these events. it helps to know that environments can become so extreme that they bring along with them ordinary people because we must find some way of behaving in a group. we are a group animal as human beings, group animals as human beings, and if we become part of a group in some significant way, we're deeply affected by the mores of that group. and that is superficial. it runs powerfully into one's psyche, and it's a collective phenomenon. so all those things come into play. but knowing something about it is of enormous help. >> these are two closely related questions. the first part is, as you were
dealing with, especially the vietnam veterans but also the of the people he worked with, what was it like to explore the line between anything them as research subjects and relating to them in a therapeutic emotion or willingness to help? and moving it forward, i was just at a high level policy briefing that called the war in iraq wrongheaded and democratization of afghanistan as delusional come and these are intelligent administrative officials using these terms. we have 300 iraq and afghanistan veterans at columbia right now. how do we accompany them through this next period with a deal with that characterization of their experience? >> yes. in terms of my work with antiwar veterans, it was a profound experience, what we call rap
groups, am i wrote about this in my memoir, had written about it before to some extent. and what you raised about one owens levels of involvement became very important. we learned, those of us who were the shrinks as we recall, the shrinks and the veterans, and the shrinks, there is some hostility towards us at first because the veterans remember that in vietnam when they went to see somebody because they were overwhelmed by what they were experiencing, morally and psychologically, that that task of a psychiatrist or his assistant or of a chaplain for that matter was to help them to be strong enough to stay in the. now, some psychiatrists and chaplains found ways to get around that, really try to help people. but with us, in those rap groups, we had to give up our stance as being therapeutic
arbiters, our high hats so to speak of being knowledgeable therapists. we had to join in the process with them. it was both providing some kind of therapeutic current, but carefully and not too quickly, and at the same time joining with them in antiwar action of exploring what had happened india, with them -- in vietnam within. what i call the atrocity producing situation. and it was a very powerful experience that influenced my sense of being a professional. there's a way of being a professional where you do have some technical knowledge, and that's to be desired. but on the other hand, it's off into distancing or a source of what i call psycho non-mac. and i learned that there's a way of giving closer to people while
doing this and still expressing certain kinds of professional knowledge. and yes, in the veterans administration we were told, eventually the veterans administration was a source of hostility of the vietnam veterans. but eventually they came under much more enlightened leadership and relationship to vietnam veterans. a man who i knew i gale, a fatality man, took over so-called outreach program, really created and it turned out to be extremely helpful. he had the kindness to say that our rap groups have been kind of a model for that larger program. we could reach very many people but he could reach hundreds of thousands of people. so i have a working directly with present veterans of afghanistan and iraq, and i deeply feel for them in terms of
what they have been through i think it probably require, at least to put it gently, some combination of that kind of therapeutic work. their symptoms shouldn't be swallowed in medication entirely. they need to speak out about what they have been through, and they need not only under psychologically understand voices, but voices that are committed to combating the destructiveness of what they have been through. i don't mean that everybody has to be -- i probably am and many people in this room are, but you do have to have some sense of this extraordinary evil that we call war. and what it does to human beings. that is to be conveyed for them i think to be responsive. that's just a very general kind of observation. >> you mentioned you were
drafted in the army. how do you feel about the draft in relation to vietnam to the nazi doctors, and possibly to our modern society? >> well, i'm a little torn, but i think i can see the argument for a draft. an argument for a draft if those drafted who are permitted to do public service instead of only going to war, the difficulty of having a volunteer army, as we do now, is its isolated from the rest of society. and all kinds of things can go on that are cut off from the rest of us. it inhibits deeper knowledge of what's actually occurring and, therefore, prohibits protests against what i think we would be protesting as we did in vietnam. on the other hand, i'm not happy
about my country or society drafting people for military service. so i think i could be pleased by having a draft that permitted, as have other countries in europe, some form of public service rather than military service. but service is not a bad thing for young people. i think many crave some such service. >> i am a little intimidated, to ask you anything. but i've been interested in what you talk about how war promulgates war. and i must say in your recounting of the wars, as one i find, i think about that may have said at the present one come and that was the grenade of work, even though it may not have been called for that, ronald reagan when he came out of it said this has made us number one again, and created i think an illusion and helped
re-create an illusion across in this country about our power. and part of my question is, i've looked at a lot of group behavior as product of individual psychology at comes up for the group in the same way. and maybe 9/11 also is, to me at least more than its actuality the fracturing of an illusion we had about in vulnerability because we had been attacked before. answer to questions, about what you feel about the relationship of individual psychology's manifest on and looking through those same issues on larger group and societal scales, and using it in terms of how we then move onto things like -- >> let me speak to the very general issue which is important for individual and collective
psychology in the work i did. i think they have to be blended. it was very important to me to interview individual people that i was seeing them as members of a group that had been acting on history, or acted upon, or both as is usually the case. and in that sense i could never reduce the problem to individual psychology alone. and yet you had to have the individual interviews to get at those problems in some depth. and the model here then, or the amendment, is one of trying to, in these interviews, interrogate collective behavior while doing that through individuals, collective behavior and ideologies. ideologies become extremely important. they tend to be dismissed by and americans. we like to think that we don't have something that other people
have, but they are crucial to behavior because ideologies are collective expressions of passion or of worldviews or meanings that define all of those, which have so much to do in determining behavior. and in that sense, looking at how war begets war or many of these were situations that we have been talking about, one requires both, and i haven't fully determined in my new project exactly what kind of india i will do or how i will go about it, but one requires at least a focus on individual psychology as it feeds and interacts with collective behavior. i also learned from ericsson not to be too quick, too clinical lies behavior when it is collective and historical and is outside of clinical, clinical
settings. because some of the terms we use are in a sense out growth of those clinical settings, and there are all kinds of things people can do without being immobilized psychologically. it's unfortunately the quote normal or relatively normal people who do was in more often than not. but anyhow, those are some thoughts i had to your questio questions. >> robert, i want to ask you about invulnerability invulnerability. -- and vulnerability. one of the prejudices of the evil it seems, for total is evil is actually based on its inverse, namely, the feeling, if you don't kill the jews they will kill you. if you don't kill the communists they will get you. if you don't scour the world of
terrorists they will get you. him you are either with us or with a terrorist. it's predicated action on a kind of conviction of absolute nakedness, you know, that we are basically helpless. now, my question is that what you learned about how this perverse kind of absolute vulnerability can be dealt with as a political factor. i remember during the '04 election at some point john kerry said something that was largely treated as a gaffe, meaning an inconvenient admission of truth, namely, he said something to the fact that well, we sort of have to reach the point at which we can see terrorism, i think he used the word as a nuisance, and i mean
come it takes a sense of willingness to face the inevitability of vulnerability its it seems to me. so how do you -- you know what i'm asking you. [laughter] >> i do. i know what you are asking, and i've been asking the same questions. i would start from just the image that you ended with. really, all of human life is vulnerable. we face death and we are the animals who know that we die. we are vulnerable from the beginning, and we are vulnerable along the way. we are vulnerable to losses and we are vulnerable to our own demise and our own weakening. so that the claim or the quest for invulnerability is a violation of what you might call cycle biological existence.
and holism is a quest for that invulnerability. and which you mentioned is kind of a paradox how, if the nazis could feel that the jews were such a threat to them, they must've felt are vulnerable in deed. but the quest, it is the quest for invulnerability to deny, suppressed, eliminate the basic psychobiological truth about vulnerability. that's what i think that the vulnerability and invulnerability interaction comes in. and really in that sense total is and is one of the great problems of the world. because you see it emerging in various places and very much in american political life, and not only in nazi and communist movements were it was extreme and murderous, but in other
ways. and when you see it that way, this is finally what i will say in connection with your question and comment, when you see it that way, i think once task as i try to say in my book about totalism earlier is to uncover it and find ways of avoiding it if one can. the part of the american tendency, including some of our intelligence agencies, was to embrace it instead. we wanted some of that communist magic, you know. of controlling human minds. and that is a harmful and dangerous approach to totalism, which i think we are still suffering from today. but there is an antithetical strand in american life that is
critical totalism that looks toward democracy as a constant questioning again in the model of the rebel. and we are capable of strengthening that as well. >> you had a long and distinguished career as an activist. and i'm wondering in this post-9/11 period where we see a plethora of projects and the publication of novels and that kind of thing, how do you or maybe you could, you know, enlighten us, how can we get beyond the fatigue? because i know a number of people who lock themselves away this last sunday because they were like, i've had enough, i can't listen to anymore names, i can't listen to any more speeches. you know, or even, you know, there's the atrocities around the world year after year after year. at one point i know it myself as a sensitive person, i think, i
go numb or death or something, i guess. even year after year after year, how do you keep the energy level of not letting it now you? >> that's a fair and honest question, and i don't claim any invulnerability to the very moments of despair, fatigue that you describe. and you know, one approach is self-serving. that is, i've tried to protect myself while doing these studies. i joke about it and say to friends and students, don't read the stuff after 9 p.m. you know, but that signifies that one is aware that one has one's own limitations in all this and one has to step back at times. it also is useful to recognize that there's never going to be a moment where we saw with these matters, around is just a continuing struggle, and we have
little victories and with steps backwards backwards, defeats. sometimes the latter seem to outnumber the former. but it's a continuous process, and we try and we recognize our own limitations and do what we can do. it's something continuous rather than absolute moment of truth in this process. >> thank you. >> high, robert. about war begets war. two major thoughts, two major, maybe one is on the decision-makers of war, whose political life normally is not long-term. it's much too short. and they don't think about the long-term and sometimes multi-generational, or multi-multi-generational aspect of were. so that's from the decision-makers point of view and they will make it.
and the other of course reminds me when i spoke in a big room and i said everyone in this audience is either a son of world war i veterans are a son of a world war ii veteran and grandson of world war i veteran, or a son. this multi-generational legacies of trauma in general, and wars in particular, really for me of course embrace in my thinking about it. i wanted to know about your own. >> these are hard questions and i will give brief answers. but you're right to raise them. the first thing i would say that when you talk about the clinical leaders to get us into the wars,
though they need support to do it, i distinguish between immediate survivors, and more dissent or historical survivors, the rest of us who didn't necessarily experience it directly but still have strong reactions. the politicians of course belong in the latter group. and there's some sort of interaction between immediate and more distant survivors in which the more distant survivors take over a patterns as much as they can. and the heavy influx of political thinking and ideologies, and that's why they, as you said, neglected the long range in favor of a shorter range of political plunge that they are taking, and combining with a meaning of that previous war. and you know, i won't go into
detail, but on so many levels, including the nazi movement, world war ii followed upon world war i in terms of survival meaning. you know, our problem is to try to interrupt this kind of process. you know, one thing i would say, i'm sure you had this experience, too, been working with antiwar veterans i discovered that as kids they sat on their father's knee, their father was a world war ii veteran. it was a glorious war. it became exaggerated with the help of alcohol and other ways. and the sun was primed to wait for his moment when you would have a test, not only of his favoritism but of his manhood, and enter his war, and that's what they did. and later of course they were very bitter and their fathers couldn't understand how they could turn against her own war.
but these are some of the survivor means that we have to think about and question. >> since want to give robert a chance to sell you all and sign for all of you some books, i'm going to take the chairs privilege and ask a final question but i'm sure we can continue in for a minute afterwards. i want to bring it back to "witness to an extreme century," to this book, this wonderful new book. you are there in the public library, you are researching your own life and his grand narcissistic exercise you describe, and you construct a boat and put it together. what are some of the arguments you found yourself having with yourself? and what did you learn -- when we write we learned stuff in the process of structuring a book that's very surprising. what did you learn? >> the arguments with myself have to do with what i was
becoming in doing in relationship to these studies. so with thought reform i mentioned how i was struggling with being anti-totalist which meant being strongly anti-communist at a time when anti-communism was so central in the society. i can perhaps illustrate that by mentioning a conversation i had with irving howe, which i described in my book. irving howe was an intellectual, i respected her mostly, and his social democratic opinions i mostly shared. but i asked him how could he be so relatively uncritical of america's cold war behavior, despite holding those social democratic views. and he said something very interesting to me which i never forgot. he said look, he said, i experienced in my generation,
whose only a few years older than i was, but there was a generational difference maybe because i was slow to come into the fray, but he said the great the trail was the soviet union. and, of course, it was for him and for many other so called new york and other american intellectuals, and he said anything america does to combat stalinism i am for, and i thought to myself, for me, the great historical experience was hiroshima. yes, i was anti-communism, but therefore my psyche struggled with the whole idea of the world being blown up by nuclear weapons with the notion of being the beginning model. it has to do with priorities of what one feels and, therefore, what one does. other arguments with myself, i can do that, to come and my
struggles with nazi doctors, and i found myself talking at some length in my memoir about the excruciating experience of interviewing these people, and what it was like. and my conflict about sitting down with them, should i sit down. my assistant felt the same way and i quote him as saying how far should we go in sitting down with them. and that's another real conflict with myself on that. i didn't have much conflict about opposing vietnam and opposing iraq wars. and also the afghanistan war. i think we have to be rather clear about, there was a lot of conflict in the society with the afghanistan war. and one had to make a distinction i think between going after bin laden, which was
justified and necessary, and invading a country to do it. it's not the same thing. of course, they were giving them, the taliban was giving him some protection, but invading a whole country instead of some kind of limited effort was what created the mess we are in now in intervening in a civil war where we can only leave, probably, over time leaving matters worse than when we entered there. so sometimes these are problems within myself. sometimes they were struggles with my fellow protesters and intellectuals who buried about the positions that they took. the whole, i guess i would close by saying the whole effort is a continuous struggle. it's never fully at ease, but one does create a certain motives of envy and struggles have certain principles that one
is consistent with. >> thank you. that is a good place to end. thank you, robert jay lifton. [applause] again, thank you to my colleagues here at the columbia school of journalism and the dart center for journalism and trauma. go by robert spoke in the back of the room and eat some food and enjoy the rest of the evening and the conversation will continue. thank you. and i should add is that card on your chair but if you feel like donating to the dart center and i work, please fill it out, credit card, check, cash. >> you're watching 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books on c-span2's booktv. >> the policy not to discuss th king w films that i making well and foking them.
for all the obvious reasons. spent are you coming working on >> one? >> maybe. i just don't, i don't talk about it. they just appear. when they appear. i mean, it's not in the best interest of the film to give a heads up. with the sicko, before i made? sago, i made the mistake ofe the saying i was making a film about the health care industry. healta and health care industry justigh we onon high alert. and affect the pharmaceutical companies went on real highasn't alert. even though the film was going to really be about them it was, about the insurance industry. the pharmaceutical companies spent hundreds of thousandsy of dollars preparing for me. i we get all these internal memo sent to me by people who work ak different pharmaceutical company e nk we had been in serviceservc today when they hired a michael moore acted to come in and do role playing with those ifwith i michael should show up at the
building this is how you're supposed to handledi him. micha moore hotline and it says in the memo. and if i show up at a regional office around the country, call this number in new york and they went to... an executive at cigna health insurance company and he talked about hundreds -- millions of dollars they spent hoping to discredit me and attack me and if necessary figuratively, not literally, i hope, push me off a cliff. so i learned my lesson there. it is not a good idea to give them advanced notice what i'm working on. >> and book tv interviewed wendell potter on his book, if you want to see that go to booktv.org and use the search function in the upper left-hand corner. this question: as an iran-american, i am
worried about worries you may be planning a trip to iran and the press said you were invited to come to iran and you have accepted and they would consider that a coup if it happens. >> i have been in invited for many years and "bowling for columbine" won the top prize at a film festival in iran and the prize was a beautiful persian rug they sent me. no. i'm not going to iran to the film festival. i don't know if it is really... you know, the thing is, with iran, i have been active in the last year or two, they've had a couple of filmmakers, essentially have been under house arrest, and i have been active with other filmmakers in the country to convince them iranian government to leave them
alone and let them make their films and iranian filmmakers, they have the greatest filmmakers, if you have a chance to see an iranian film, they are really, really good and it is definitely a country that loves the movies and i think we saw through the green movement here a year or two ago, there are huge -- a huge sentiment in the country to be free of the dictates of those who would want to run the country. iran is a democracy on a certain level. they actually do have free elections, anyone can run, and there have been a couple documentaries i've seen that are incredible things and they're not -- i try to avoid any sort of evil act, axis of evil discussion because i know that there are people in our government, now that we've had our way with iraq, want to move
on to the next bogeyman and iran seems to be it. and there are certain forces that want us to now go to war or bomb iran, things like that. and i try to avoid any kind of -- i don't want to be associated with anything to do with my government attacking anybody else again on this planet. so i think we leave to it iranian people and i think they are going to stand up and get the country they want. and i'm hopeful for that. >> this is michael moore's most recent book, "here comes trouble." stories from my life. john in portland, oregon. you're on the air. >> caller: hey, michael. i've seen a few of your propaganda films over the years, and, i've noticed that you try to edit things so people think something happened when it didn't. and i wanted to specifically ask about fahrenheit 911. you have a section where you are asking congressmen to send their kids to iraq and one
congressman, republican congressman said he had two nephews in afghanistan and you edited it so it doesn't respond and looks like he has no response and walks off. and, that is not what happened and i want to know why you didn't include his actual response if you are supposed to be a documentarian. >> thank you for that question. first of all, in that particular scene i had him a specific question and, i asked it of every congressman i ran into, republican or democrat. would you send your son, your son or daughter, to iraq and he wouldn't answer the question and instead, he tried to -- and a number of others did, too, oh, i have a nephew, i have an uncle or a cousin or... i have somebody down the block, that is in iraq right now. and no, i don't think you understand my question. would you send your son or your daughter, not your sister's son or daughter, your son or your
daughter, and he wouldn't answer the question. they don't want to answer that question, because at the time when i made the film, "fahrenheit 911" there was only one member of congress who actually had a son or daughter in iraq. and i just thought, wow that is interesting, there are 535 members of congress. majority of them voted for the war. but they don't seem to want to be willing to sacrifice someone from their own family. send kids from the other family, those who live on the other side of the tracks, let them go do it. that was the point of that and he was giving me a dodge answer, and saying he had a relative over there and that wasn't my question. and i still think it is a relevant question. if you are going to vote for war, would you be willing to send your son and daughter and, i will tell you, i was over... i
had not seen a world war ii memorial until yesterday and i went over there, and when you walk in, on the first stone as you walk into the memorial, it says, world war ii memorial, big letters and big letter under it it says, george bush and it shocked me for a second and i think, oh, because he was president when it opened but i'm thinking, i don't see that on the washington monument, who was president when that opened and a plaque on the jefferson memorial. you know, who was president when it opened. what is his name -- his name, specifically, doing on world war ii? here's the guy who supported the vietnam war, but wouldn't go. i mean, at least with clinton, he dodged it, too but he was opposed to the war and that is a consistent position. he didn't like the war and didn't want to go. i get that. okay. but, bush, he was for the war back then, and thought other people should go, not him.
so he gets -- strings are pulled and he's in the national guard and his name is on the very first stone as you enter the world war ii memorial? a war my uncle died in, 405,000 americans died in, and your name is on this? i'm like, you know, it took me back to the question about, you know, yes, they are really good at supporting war, getting us into wars, but if they had to die or their kid had to die, no, i don't know about that. but, somebody else's kid... just abhorrent to me. >> there's a story in "here comes trouble" about your father and his world war ii experience and there's a story in there about you taking a trial run to canada. >> my dad was in the first marine division, world war ii. and he was in many of those
island battles right on the beaches, horrific stuff and i tell one story about christmas day, 1943 where he was in a battle in new britain, part of new guinea, and it was an incident where -- a friendly fire incident and he and his unit had taken a hill and the american plane is coming in and -- american planes coming in thought they were japanese on the hill and strafed the hill and every guy in my dad's unit was shot, one was killed and 13 were wounded and everyone was shot but my dad, only one who wasn't shot by the low-flying american planes coming in thinking they were japanese. and he told me, you know, growing up, every christmas day, he remembers, he's grateful, was grateful for being alive, somehow he survived that incident. and i until the longer story in the book. my incident with -- of course i
was opposed to the vietnam war as i said earlier and as i became near draft age i think what will i do? i'm not going to kill vietnamese and i and buddies decided, we were like i don't know 16, 17 years old, we weren't going to go to jail. we weren't going to go do service in some other service, you could do that for the government. we decided we were going to move to canada if we had to and so we knew nothing about canada and one day took a car and boat over to port huron, michigan to do a dry run and see how we'd escape to canada and we got over there and forgot the motor to the boat. so we couldn't take it and wee we decided to try and cake the car acro -- take the car across the
bridge and, the other guys were smoking a joints so they could relax and i didn't do drugs and i was the designated driver and tell the story about getting across the blue water bridge and into canada and our great escape and of course the next year there was a draft lottery and i number came up like 273 and i wasn't drafted. >> richard, richmond, virginia. thanks for holding, our on with author michael moore. >> caller: mr. moore, an absolute pleasure to speak with you today. how are you doing, sir. >> thank you, sir. i'm doing well. >> caller: i have a question to ask. i contacted my local american cancer society concerning an event they'll be holding and i suffer from a brain injury and other illness and i'm -- your piece on "sicko" was absolutely beautiful. i loved it.
beautiful. my question, sir, is how do i approach or how would i go about approaching the american cancer society concerning a study they did in 1974 with thc shrinking tumors in mice and them not wanting to go that direction? >> i do have memory of something about that. i can't speak to it. i will say this. thc which is an active ingredient in marijuana, you know, our drug laws in this country, i mean, this is another whole show. are just out of whack and things like that, where medical marijuana and things -- people have been trying to use to help
people and years from now, historians will look back at this era and wonder why we did so many of the things that we do. i would say, for you and i get questions like this all the time actually from people, you know, have seen my movie and need help. because of the medical problem. or their hmo will not pay for them to see a specialist and remember, these insurance companies want to provide as little care as possible because that is how they make a profit. and so i would say to you, sir, definitely, get behind -- there's organizations that are trying to free up the studies, use these drugs, there are people who have been fighting, the fda for a long time because they take so long when treatments that are being used in europe and other places are not being used here. but, remember, the fda, of
course is controlled by the lobbyists of the pharmaceutical companies and others who have a vested interest in making a profit and in "sicko" i told the story of jonas salk and, i told the story in my last film, "capitalism, a love story" and he invented the polio vaccine and people were shocked that he didn't want to trademark it or copyright it. that he decided to just give it away for free to the american people, to the world and he said he thought it would be immoral if he were to own that or make a profit off it. he said, you know what? i'm a doctor, i'm a researcher, i get a great salary, i live in a big house. what more do i need? i did this for the people. where is that? where is that sense of -