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tv   2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books  CSPAN  April 10, 2016 5:30pm-7:31pm EDT

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>> live coverage of the lost angeles times festival of books on the campus of the university of southern california. a couple more hours of live coverage ahead. you can get our full schedule at book and you can follow us on twitter or facebook to get the behind-the-scenes photos and other photos of the festival. >> we are now joined by bob streisand are who has written this book, incarceration nation a journey to justice and prison around the world. in your book you write america is the world's largest-- largest jailer? guest: we are and it is a title we should wear shamefully. we have 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world prison
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population, 2.3 million people incarcerated. we spend over $50 billion a year on corrections and when it comes to the racial disparities that our system there are more african-americans under correctional supervision today than there were slaves at the height of slavery in 1850. host: how did we get there? guest: it's all really goes back to the war on drugs in many respects, which began in the late 70s and created a series of disparities in sentencing and goes back to tough on crime sentencing laws that made it easier for people to go to jail, easy or for them to stay there and easier for them to stay there for extended period of time. host: you are a native new yorker and there was a period in the 70s where new york was pretty ripe with crime. people were scared. was there a different solution? guest: well, for when fear is a terrible-- peer is not something to be ruled by when we make
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decisions as far as government and as far as these kind of things because fear makes you act rashly and what happened was this fear was played upon and prison was presented en masse incarceration was presented as the only way to deal with crime and we know that there is no correlation between the drop in crime rates and that rising massac operation-- incarceration. so, we know there are other routes. it did not have to be this route for mass incarceration. host: we are in california, the home of three strikes and you're out. has that been affected in any way? guest: hardly. california three strikes and you're out with the rocksolid drug laws in new york and all sorts of top sentencing laws that have landed millions of people in jails and prison and under correctional supervision, draining our resources and draining as of the value of these human beings who could be contributing to six sided-- society.
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host: baz dreisinger is our guest. we will put the phone numbers up in the book is called incarceration nation. 202-748-8200 eastern and central time zones. 202-748-- we will begin taking those calls a minute. i think you get the idea of what we are talking about. baz dreisinger is also an associate professor of english at the john jay college of criminal justice, which is part of a city university of new york. she is also founder and academic director of a group called: prison to college to two cep program, which is what? guest: it is a credit bearing college program in a prison in upstate new york that allows students to take college classes on the inside while incarcerated and guaranteed a spot in the university of new york system
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upon release, so it's a college program prison, but also eight reentry program that makes higher education the centerpiece of a former incarcerated persons new line. host: which other nations did you look at it why? guest: i visited nine nations. rwanda, uganda, south africa, jamaica, thailand, brazil, australia, singapore and norway and my overall vision was to part, one was to rethink some of the fundamentals of our criminal justice system and specifically our prison system by way of other countries and rethink the fundamental concept of which are prison system relies and the other one was that i wanted to broaden our conversation, which i think is certainly a growing public conversation around massac carson ration in this crisis of prison. i wanted to broaden the conversation to include
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the world and to include especially the impact of america's system upon the world in these various countries. so, each of these country represented a particular issue i wanted to explore such as solitary confinement in a federal super max prison in brazil or prisoner reentry in singapore. the role of arts in uganda and jamaica. forgiveness and restorative justice, which is a fundamental theme of the book in south africa and rwanda. host: there is a special prison philosophy or special prison and norway took what is that prison about? guest: so, norway is getting a lot of attention lately for being progressive and has a reputation for being very progressive as a society in general, but particularly when it comes to social welfare and criminal justice and in norway they have something called the principle of normality, which is
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sounds simple and yet is anonymously complex and that is that someone in prison norway gets incarcerated and they lose their liberty in their liberty only and they are still part of the community. they still are receiving social welfare from the same community that they left and when they come home they are to be fully reintegrated into society that they went away from and that has resulted in some a very progressive working and founding prisons and norway. in scandinavia throughout scandinavia there is something called the open prison where people are able to go and come from prison and work jobs on the outside, spend weekends with family and come back to prison and really have as close to a normal incarcerated life as much of a paradox is that is as possible and they also have other prisons that are a bit more traditional in that they have a wall. i visited one that had a roll around and its traditional in that
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respect, but it is gleaming and beautiful and has every form of rehabilitated programming and therefrom job-training to a music studio to cooking class, really giving people an opportunity to reinvent themselves and genuinely enact this thing we call rehabilitation. host: should life sentencing frequent around the world? guest: absolutely not. america is inimitable in the way that we give out life sentences. we are actually one of only nine nations to give out life sentences and the death penalty. our sentences are longer than any other country in the world and in most of the countries i visited a life sentence did not even exist. it existed in theory, but once you hit 25 years is considered a life sentence and that includes norway and even countries like brazil and south africa where we might think of prison conditions as much harsher than ours.
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again and again, i mean, the great sadness of that reality is that again and again studies have shown us that longer sentences don't make us safer. people a jet of crime. they are costing us money and they are feeling years and years of people's lives for no good reason. host: when you say people age out of crime, what do you mean? guest: in other words we know that people hit a certain point in life where they are less likely to commit crime and that's known as the aging out of crime theory and yet we still keep people in prison in their 50s and 60s when a studies have shown their likelihood to commit crimes again is very low. host: what do you say to a victim's family who after maybe 15 years of someone who is convicted of murder is let out? guest: i'm glad you asked me that because i am asked about victims all the time and i start the book, the journey in rwanda
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with victims because i firmly believe that the first thing we should talk about when we talk about crime is not the offender, but the victim and i look at rwanda as a way that on alternative to prison system community course that systems of restitution and reparations were created that benefited the victim instead of necessarily punishing the offender, which is our traditional approach and i went to rwanda and then south africa to really think about this framework and ultimately what i found again and again and also included in the studies i looked at is the idea that our criminal justice system as it stands now is not benefiting victims as it should, which is actually the fundamental problem with it here victims are not having their needs met. they are not at the center of the justice system. sending someone away to prison, which we assume will be healing for the victim is more often than not is not healing
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for that victim, so i think it is encumbered upon us to think about ways to heal the victim and to allow that victim a better opportunity to be served by a criminal justice system that is not doing a good job of that now. host: baz dreisinger is our guest. incarceration nation is the name of the book and will he is calling in from new orleans. lee, you're on the air. ahead. caller: i was wondering what her position would be about legalization and medical eyes in drugs similar to what has happened in portugal, whether that could have an impact on on the incarceration rates being so high in the united states. host: before we get your answer, what is her-- her answer what is your answer? caller: i support legalization and i think the portugal approach would probably be the best and build on the best to legalize all drugs and medical
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eyes a certain portion of and i think that would really have a major impact on incarceration, but i'm not sure she studied the incarceration issue better than i have, so i'm not clear. host: thank you, sir. guest: i am in agreement with you. i am in favor of the regulated legalization of most substances and i certainly think and we have seen this again and again in terms of what studies are telling us that this would reduce the recursive-- incarceration rates dramatically took not just here, but globally. it's important to keep in mind that our drug policy has reverberated through the globe and many countries i have visited, they are countries that have mimicked the us is tough on crime policy when it comes to drugs. but, i will say that it is important to remember also that even if we let
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all of the drug offenders out of prison, if we changed our laws around drugs, which is critical, we would still have an estimated approximately 1.5 million people in prison, still enough to make us up there at the top and so the changes have to extend beyond drug laws and we have to rethink the role rules and regulation around for. we have to rethink all of the ways that we are dealing with quote unquote violent offenders and not just nonviolent offenders. host: where did your interest in this topic come from? guest: a bit about roundabout story, but i was doing a lot of work on the culture of crime and i'm an english professor and i have written quite a bit about hip-hop culture and america popular culture and did a series of stories that led to me being invited into prisons to give talks and from the first time that i did that i could not look away. i think being in an educational context in a prison and being among people whose enormous
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potential uc is not given an opportunity to flourish in the world just depress me profamily that we are losing some of our best citizens and our best potential contributors to society. host: next call. j from portland, oregon. baz dreisinger is our guest. caller: you gave a pretty good overview of the european model. what particular in the us is the most progressive state? guest: well, i think it would-- it depends on what we are talking about with regard to what particular issue. beaumont has some progressive policy around drugs uncertainly the legalization of marijuana in various states from colorado to california where we are makes a tremendous difference, but overall, we are not in a very good place in any state
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and the reforms that have to happen have to happen in a broad scale nationwide. host: will, torso, oklahoma. go ahead, will. caller: i appreciate you taking my call. i'm in oklahoma and we have very stringent laws. in the state of oklahoma we used to lead the nation i believe in female incarceration. per capita, of course. we did lead the nation and mail-- male inmates, not talking about jail, prison, felony convictions and my question is of all-- [inaudible] >> the united states, the nation leads
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incarceration as a whole oklahoma led the incarceration rate. certain crimes and felonies in other states etc. i spent two years in prison for 2 grams of marijuana. i'm not a pro marijuana guy. i got caught and him guilty. for two years i was shocked. i said your honor, seriously and here's what my attorney told me and i wanted to share this with you and i will let you comment. we have to stop locking up people we are mad at and lock up people we are scared of, by the crimes, people crimes against people, violent crimes, those are the folks we need to have
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incarcerated and stop locking up people for these petty crimes, but in the state of oklahoma -- host: will come i think we have that idea. let's hear from our guest. guest: thank you. i agree with that statement although i would say this, we need to look harder at who we are afraid of our who we think we are afraid of and we knew to remember the people in prison are people in prison and we imagine often times people say what do you do with the rapists and murderers, someone who is habitually committing murder is a very tiny percentage of the prison population. the bulk of what i see in the us and i have seen globally are people who are essentially by way of poverty and racism being produced from prison cells and as a result it's not about necessarily their bad
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choices, but a nation with bad policies that are producing systemic racism and poverty that craze the prison population and this is mirrored throughout the globe whether we are talking about blacks and latinos in the us, blacks and so-called colored folks in south africa, the hill people in thailand, all people who have been failed by our system, so we should be careful around this nonviolent versus violent crime division because it's a far more complex issue than it sounds. host: baz dreisinger, what super max and who is there? guest: super max is a dramatically solitary confinement driven prison that is supposedly for the worst of the worst criminals and i put that in quotation marks. america invented the
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super max in the 1980s and then this model became imitated around the world and is used in estimated at about a dozen countries and its extreme solitary confinement for 22, 23 hours it day. i visited a federal super max that has been built in brazil in the last decade or so that was literally a living hell on north where people are going insane before your eyes because we know again, from psychological studies around super max that that level of solitary confinement damages you permanently and i also learned there something that mimics the us as well, which is that we say it's where the worst of the worst, but often it's use as a political tool to punish people or something as sort of flight and looking at aggression officers the wrong way can land of someone in solitary confinement and thereby damage their psyche for life and leave us with the liability-- as being society of welcoming that damaged person back when i come home.
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host: next call for our guest comes from carol in texas. hello, carol. caller: hello. host: please go ahead. caller: my question was, what would you recommend states do with crimes that are drug-related? how should they handle those? host: we talked about that a little bit earlier, but if you would, quickly. guest: i don't dramatically distinguish between dealing with crimes that are drug-related or not and for one as we talked about earlier i'm in favor of the legalization of most of substances and a whole different policy around them. drugs should be treated as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue, but i can add that i think even when it comes to what are categorized as a violent crimes i don't see prison as a morally, economically or socially responsible response and if we thought more in terms in this whole host
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of things we need to rejigger to get our prison system-- our criminal justice system where should be, but if we put community policing and justice and restitution in a different paradigm at the heart of our system i think our world and the global world would look very differently. host: mark is in seattle. mark, go ahead with your question or comment. caller: i'm interested in the way felons have their voting rights taken away and i'm wondering how common that is in the rest of the world. it seems like an additional way to punish people and a strip them of citizenship. guest: great question. i can honestly say that in almost every country i visited at a certain point someone when i was in one of the most awful prisons, the most
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painful places someone would look at me and say something along the lines of, i can't believe in america you still have the death penalty or in america i can't believe you have life in prison and one of the things i heard quite a bit was, i can't believe someone comes home from prison and cannot vote in many states in america and that is an extremely rare thing and it's shocking to many countries who believe in the idea that when you come home from prison you have your rights restored. it's on a appalling problem that's connected to the larger crisis of reentry altogether, which is that we send people to prison and we stigmatize them for life and that is something again that america does well. host: baz dreisinger, what do you think of the recent conversation we're having in this country about prison reform and the fact that the koch brothers have also advocated for some prison reform? guest: on the one hand i'm excited about it. it's wonderful that this is such a part of the public discord and it's
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wonderful we are seeing a level of bipartisan-- unprecedented level of bipartisan-- i keep my cynical hat on because much of the conversation tends to be economic in nature and that investment is that we have to reduce our prison population because we are going broke and that is true and i'm advocate for not wasting our money, but i think if it's just about finding something cheaper we can easily find a cheaper way to mass incarcerate and given that i believe prison system is oppression i think we can find a cheaper way to oppress people, so a big reason i wrote this because i wanted to address is on a more social level, on officials-- philosophical level so that not only about dollars and cents and we talk about the bigger issue at stake. host: the book is called: incarceration nation: a journey to justice in prisons around the world. the next call comes from
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persia-- in california. please go ahead. caller: i was wondering about the aspect of the privatization of prisons and the concept of prisons for profit. can you address the subject? guest: sure. i'm glad you asked. i get that question a lot. private prisons are in the public eye now. one of our democratic candidates, bernie sanders, was to abolish private prisons. i look at private prisons in australia, which is the country that has the largest percentage of people in prison in the world and i think we know and i mean anyone who has looked at this issue in a superficial way we know private prisons are dangers in that they are making money off of the incarceration of human beings, the warehousing of human beings and most frighteningly they have tremendous lobbying
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power with billions of dollar industry that has control over legislature, push for crime-- tough on crime sentencing and this is a terrifying reality and it is true in australia. again, i should say private prisons are something we started in the us and the world copycat it as a model. bow, the thing i often remind people around this issue is that when it comes to the intertwining of capitalism and prisons, this happens whether we are talking private prison or state prison. state prisons are making enormous money. there is a lot of industry and capitalism in mashed in the state system as well as we are talking about, phone companies, prison labor, items made in prison around the nation and around the world, so it's a very dangerous combination whether private or public. host: gregory is up and show-- sherman oaks, california. go ahead, gregory.
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caller: hello. i came in late to the discussion, so possibly you have discussed this. my question concerns whether or not you have been a victim of yourself of any serious crime and if you have or haven't how this has affected your attitudes and ideas on this topic? in my case i have been physically assaulted on one occasion, held up at gunpoint on another occasion and on another occasion i had my home burglarized and 22 pieces by one or more burglars and i have also had relatives and friends physically assaulted, one of them was permanently injured, and elderly woman in her 80s when someone try to take her purse. host: gregory, with that all said, how has that affected your view of incarceration, three strikes you are out, other type issues like that? caller: well, i'm a political liberal and i have tried to stay
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as liberal and open-minded on these topics as i can. for example, i'm opposed to private prison for profit. i'm opposed to this scandal of phone companies making money off of criminals. i am for prison to college pipeline and for every good thing we can do and i think scandinavia holds up the model, which seems incredibly progressive, but i also had the attitude about criminals and people that can't behave well and hard and by terrible experiences such as myself and these people close to me and i am still trying to reconcile the z's, so i wonder if ms. dreisinger, you're been a victim of any serious crime of the type i described in my experience and if so-- host: thank you, sir. let's hear from our author, baz dreisinger. guest: that's a thoughtful response and i really appreciate that and i empathize with your
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victimhood and what you have been through and i would say i personally have not been a victim and i talk about this in the book and earlier i mentioned i start the book in rwanda focusing on victims and the needs of victims and continued that thread throughout the book because i firmly believe that victims should be at the heart of our criminal justice system and i would say to you that's you deserve to live in a society where you are not victimized and clearly that has not been the case and so it's incumbent upon us to build a safer community, not through prisons which don't build safer communities in my belief in the belief of many people club looked at the issue and a likewise you deserve to be served well by a system, a justice system as a victim in terms of restitution and reparation and healing and all of the things that victims are deserving up. i have people in my life who have been victims.
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i think many of us do and i think also believe in our capacity for empathy being tremendous that we can empathize with victims and build a criminal justice system that serves their needs well. host: let's hear from jim in temple, texas. go ahead, jim c3 hello. caller: one of the things the public should know is that it is so expensive that many people go ahead and take prison and then of course, we need to consider people coming out of prison should get a little bit of credit for having paid their debt to society, so that they don't have-- you know, it you lose your gun license with marijuana. that's what have. guest: so, you are bringing up an important issue, which is the issues of probation and parole and issues of reentry. probation, as you mentioned, i am glad you
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mentioned the fines associated with probation and there is a lot of work being done around the fines that again the way we have meshed our justice system with capitalism in terms of people having to pay massive fines and paid probation fees and pay further own ankle monitoring devices bale is a tremendous way in which there are fees associated and we are criminalizing poverty and all kinds of ways. again, you are addressing the ways we permanently stigmatize someone and when we permanently stigmatize-- stigmatize someone we are all suffering because you cannot live as a productive citizen when you are permanently to the ties and barred from job opportunities, housing, social services, all of the things you need in order to be a productive citizen and education. there are many schools-- there is a great movement called the band the box in which you have to say i have a criminal history on job applications, but also
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there are many colleges around the country that require people to admit their status and create all kinds of restrictions for them and discrimination against them and we are not serving anyone well by doing this and not to mention our parole system is such that recidivism rates are not so revealing. the book of people are going back to prison for violating parole, which is often so restrictive and so sort of a logical as to not allow people again to become productive citizens and to rebuild their lives. host: baz dreisinger has been our guest and she's a professor of english at john jay college criminal of justice and the author of this book: incarceration nation, a journey to justice in prisons around the world. thank you. the tv live coverage from the "la times" festival of books continues now and up next is a panel on publishing. ..
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i am the managing editor. before i begin and make the introductions, just quickly please silenced your cell phones during the session if you haven't done so already, he says looking at his own, and the silence yes, excellent. >> also i'm supposed to bring this up later but i might as well now there will be a book signing following the session in area number one which i'm sure
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the volunteers can direct you where to go. let's begin by introducing the folks on the panel. to my immediate right is the publisher and editor in chief of an award-winning independent company dedicated to publishing fiction and political nonficti nonfiction. he won the american association 2005 award for creativity and independent publishing and is the chair of the literary council. next to mr. temple is the executive director of the photo pub and online presentation showcasing the documentary work from -- [laughter] >> you're no longer there? he has the wrong person. >> my name is josh and i'm an editor of the press kick starter
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and we have an experimental review look. >> i have that noted. [laughter] he came back around. next is the creator of slaughterhouse and the author of 90210 where great books meet culture and the writer and critic has appeared in "the new york times" and buzz feed and is a former editor and publishing manager and kick starter. at the end we have isaac fitzgerald the cofounder of the website as well as the co-author published by plume sperry. thank you for being here. the title of the panel in the
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publishing industry what i took that to mean is say 20 years ago the landscape of publishing seemed to be set in one way and going back another ten years, 2006, the landscape of publishing in terms of how to publish work and promote work and find an audience seemed to be set in one way. now in 2016, it's different so what i wanted to begin with is to open this up to the entire panel with this question. i'm on twitter and facebook this point that's pretty basic. i think there's a lot of other things going on. so, if i am in the emerging writer that aspires to become a published writer, what should i bear in mind in this time?
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>> not all at once. >> that is a question that i get a lot of working at buzz feed books a lot of folks are like what is the best way to promote my work. a lot of people are looking for that magical algorithm like hell does this work. tell me the code. and then but i'm always focused on is there is none. there is no magical right thing to be on or social media that works for one person or another. two different stories. i have a friend who's an artist if he has an incredible canvas and then he painted a neon green fanny pack and then he wrote in which decade will you get stuck
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so that's how i feel about social media right now. snap chat, nope. [laughter] but here's the thing, two things. it may not be the case, i may come around to it and figure it out. another is that i haven't but that's okay because the thing i tell everybody what should i be on or focus on or the great way to make a place for me is to do what feels right and comfortab comfortable. i had the pleasure of working with our executive editor of culture at buzz feed and he is also a in nomine deposed before the age of 30. he is 30,000 twitter followers and he's brilliant but that's because he is jones. another is peter orner that wrote beautiful books i absolutely love.
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i watched him try to get on twitter once. [laughter] he has no problem with me saying it. and that's okay because it's about doing what you're comfortablyou arecomfortable wie place you feel like you can grow. of course you should always push the envelope. >> i agree 100%, but further to that, it's finding a place you feel comfortabltofeel comfortaba conversation. it is a back and forth. it's not shouting out into the void. you want to engage with people in your social media. i started on tumbler and i got very lucky because it was the right time. it was 2009 and i had some media contacts to share. it was when buzz feed was a little newsletter in 2009 and the wonderful thing about tumbler at the time and still is
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there is a community of really avid booklovers who also love to be silly which is kind of what i do and so they were able to share what i was putting out and commenting and making it their own and i became a part of a community and that is when social media is the most effective when you are actually speaking to other people. >> that's one thing going on but there's also the fact that you can put your work out there digitally. this brings up another question there is one route you were talking about a vet you use social media to promote a finished work with paper. it becomes a paper book.
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it's also the fact you can be published online and there's things going on. can you speak to that? >> it's interesting because we live at a time our presence is publishing our own book setback today by melissa who her book was written before it was published and it was published before it was published. you could read her whole personality. to get all the mediums at one's you want to publish on tumblr and to leave it to the blog and then you are published o your pe mediums but i think in this day and age it is best to use the
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one publishing imprint online and hav having earnest connectin with it to start a community and a conversation. >> i think community is the key word here and i don't think it needs to have anything to do with the internet. it's important if we are past the era unfortunately for writers who don't have a strong impulse with regards to their work. it's your work alone no matter how great it is good to have a hard time rising to the top without a community behind you to support use of it can be in person and adding on to something that was said. it's like having a conversation you need to participate and build credibility beyond just i
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have a new book so now i'm going to try to join communities to sell my book. that's a selfish way to approach a. and i have a lot more to say on the subject. >> people like you need a community to push your book now. i have a wonderful girlfriend who is just amazing and in her world she would type in the key and it would be printed out and she would put it under a jar and then she would die and then a museum curator from the universal literary awesomeness would come and find that bell jar and be like yes this is good work. that's her dream and i think a lot of us -- because writing is such a solo act like i really wanted to bid on items that can be intimidate intimidating whenk
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about communities or social engagement which this next story i have a recently hosted an event in new york where i could see on social media nobody was sharing this event. i could see a there wasn't a lot of love for it. we were not getting much back. the author was there and the place was empty and i felt crushed. and i'm really good at spinning. i have my moments and i know how to talk. if people talk didn't go show up could sit around a table but nobody was there. the only worse thing that can happen after that was his most famous friend walked in the front door so all of a sudden he was failing in front of the one guy that he admired the most and i felt so bad and there was a silence on social. ten minutes later it was absolutely full and it was placed so many writers and
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people i admired, people i looked up to and i loved and none of these people were on the social media and that is speaking to what johnny said. they are not on twitter or facebook but they still are a community that come out and support one another so it's all about whether it is tumblr or snap chat or twitter, it's about finding the people that are going to help you because you don't get to die -- >> the internet then explodes things open because it creates new avenues for the community and from my perspective more importantly so many more opportunities publishing digitally for people's places to be heard. in the publishing business, you hear this is getting i getting k but i've heard a lot of people pining for the good old days
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back when literature mattered and the world really embraced literature and literary values and to me quite frankly, this sounds totally racist, sexist and homophobic. he says i do not pining for anything before 2016. you go back before tw to the 20h century when literature was great and it was a straight white man's game through and through. so it is geared to hear people pining for those good old days and then the digital revolution has not created a level playing field but it has done a lot of leveling and created opportunities for people's voices to be heard who are not wealthy or not necessarily super well-educated are straight white males. >> and in new york or la people can write from anywhere and make a place for themselves. >> i could deal from 20 years
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ago, that's okay. it's interesting bringing that up particularly about the opportunities that this landscape now offers because you guys published a "go the f to sleep." does that happen without social media and the internet? >> it would have happened. of all the questions i've been asked about that i've never been asked that because social media was a part of the book. the way that social media succeeded is absolutely tied to social media because it is a fake children's book for parents and we've sold 2 million copies worldwide. it's been translated into 30
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languages and it's currently after five years of publication, number one on "the new york times" bestsellers list. but it exploded on social media. but i actually think that the appearance of the worlparents oe devouring this book would have found it without social media about social media was like gasoline on the flames. so the way that it unrolled his social media was part of it. but looking at it back in richer aspect it would have caught on regardless. >> i remember when that book came out the conversation in the social media. what did you think of this. at the time -- and maybe it's because they were on twitter for too long with the conversation on facebook seemed to me more organic some years ago than it does today.
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do you get that sense in terms of algorithms and what i see? it seems to make it a little bit tougher. like so many other people we have a facebook page but lots of people don't like us and they don't know what we have to talk about. is that a concern? >> we are back to the good old days choosing who gets published and not. we don't know how to decide what shows up on the feeds we like to say that everybody that you follow will see it so it's like the world is democratized and we don't know how it's getting up there. >> that idea dealing in this wide-open space seems to be getting more and more confined which would explain why more and more platforms get created.
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>> that would be my argument. this is the way it works when you are outside of the wall and start throwing rocks because people to be inside the wall where you want the ball to be down. but you find yourself on another side so there will be different platforms and ways in which people push things and experiment with things. that's just it. there's always going to be a million different ways to tell the story. it's about finding what works for you but that is a small price to pay for the kind of headway that we have made that johnny was mentioning as far as diverse voices and people from different economic classes breaking into it. the other thing, i'm just an optimist. about her life was one of the breakout successes of last year. that book is terrifying and sad.
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it's giant. i feel like a lot of times people are like how do you know what gets to the top if you want to use them as catching people's attention, if this book was giant and it was very difficult and very hard and it was one of the most successful books of the year so it's not like you've got to be happy to get to the top. that's not true. it comes down to good work. >> absolutely. do you want to add to that? >> there's a misconception. i had a long career as a musician so i lived a lo block n the world of indie music and literature and there is a sort of conspiracy minded send but the big companies are just shoving garbage time people's throats and i always think i need to update my exampl example is pretty spears as an example. [laughter] before she lost her virginity
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and got all bad. she was this, she seemed like this manufactured phenomenon that was being shoved down people's throats. i know so many people who just didn't care for her but i do believe them and i don't know if this is quite -- maybe i am diverging from what you're saying but i think that real people love britney spears and her music. it may not be me or people i know that for every britney spears, there are 6,000 other women that companies are trying to shove down your throat and she's the one that succeeded because people honestly responded to her and i'm an optimist and i think it is completely unpredictable when you look at her success between what unpredictable but it's not. if it were predictable we wouldn't be here because the companies would have a lock on those things that always work
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and that i isn't the way art and taste work and that is a perfect example. >> richard thompson does a great cover of groups i did it again. [laughter] >> i would add one of the common questions i get about kick starter is there a certain number i should be looking for or what level of prices should i have on hand. we have no magic formula at all. we look for good projects that are adding something of value to the world that use the platform while and when we see them, we get excited and help promote them and that's basically it and we hope that we are representing a very diverse and wide range of voices. >> can you talk about what you do because it is so important.
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>> thinks. i do publishing and journalism outreach which could mean anything from talking to a writer of individually self-publishing a book or talking to a literary magazine about an issue were working with friends that funded a publishing scene for the believer of the website for the quarterly etc. and helping people launch website and pay the writers. we would love to see more websites and publications come to kick starter and say we are doing great work. help us pay the writers so we can enjoy to -- continue to this stuff fairly. >> the thing that is interesting as it can be calibrated to what your needs are. as being part of a literary journal it is nice to know there is a venue if you want to raise
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three or 5,000 or $10,000 for publication, you have an opportunity to do so. i will say this though, in this speaks more to my personality, but if no one like me. it is a terrible feeling of no one wants to back this. that is the reality and there's nothing you can do about that. >> that's like the fear of publication. the same kind of thing. if you're doing good work and you are good at talking about the work then you are going to probably find an audience. >> but if you are doing good work and you're not good at talking to people that's why you come to her to open kick starter. [laughter] josh, you're doing a lot of this online publication yourself. is there a way you try to find the right readers and cut through? >> i think just screaming really loud sometimes. [laughter] we have done kick starter three
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times. we are doing one year and then we skip to ear and the most we raised with 16,000. i kind of thought we had such a following that just make a video and the money would come flooding in but it wasn't and i was getting scared and i felt that feeling the market has spoken. it's over. then in the last two hours, the last two days telling everybody about the story, we publish about 800 in this book is 40 and i e-mailed them all and i said send me something weird. i sent a manifest and we posted them everywhere, writers on their head and giving all sorts of things and go that picked up towards the end. i think seeing humans connected to a literarit to a literary joe is helpful. >> and it goes back to the idea of conversation about bond
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social media and beyond. kick starter is a conversation. the backers want to know the story of what you're doing and why and how it's getting done and communicating them in these creative ways to really helps to have a lively conversation. >> you looked like you were going to say something. >> i don't have anything to add. i agree. >> i do agree with all that sometimes one of the challenges isaac was talking about is as the misanthropes and those that may not exactly produce the fabulous writing but we still like being around people it puts you in a bind. not only that but for example,
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for some of the kick starters, what i think about that so attractive is if you already have some visibility, if you already have some sort of a following it gives you independence in the way that you've never had before but it might be tougher to crack if nobody knows who you are and i think are there some things about the publishing now that are no different than they were? >> if you wrote a lot and guide you stored your stuff in the cabinet and nobody heard about it for like a hundred years. >> it makes i makes a good forgo write and stuff like that for later on but definitely not good for the writer. you were talking about eluting to this earlier. you still have to find a way to
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crack through. that still has the aspect of chance. >> absolutely that there are so many avenues of trying to get the word out now than there ever were. i wish i was still working on publishing during the days of the martini lunch. but i am excited by the number of the voices that are rising to the top that wouldn't have 20 years ago. >> it might be my roc my rock 'l background. when you start a rock band, you do all the work yourself and then you go on to her and play clubs and there might be six people in the following and no one cares and then if people keep not caring then you have to hang it up and i honestly do not understand this idea like why can't i just write and then the world will hold me up.
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i don't look at things like that and i don't know why anyone who is over the age of 20-years-old would think that the world is just going to come up to you and start celebrating you. that's not how life works. [laughter] there's something to think i'm going to create my art and it's so great i shouldn't have to soil myself in promoting it. like where did you get that idea here to be. what made you think you were going to create art and that it would be recognized as greatness? i don't relate to that perspective. maybe not greatness but to make a living off of it. you have to work your butt off to make a living. and it's not like you get to do just one thing. you have to do all things in all aspects.
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and i saw this a lot in music. all these frustrated musicians were mad at the world for not loving them. you really think that you are that great? that level of egotism not that i have a small ego -- he didn't get recognized until after. >> have you seen the twitter feed? >> he had to hustle his work. >> or you look at kafka. everyone is like he's a great examplhe is a greatexample of sd in secrecy and then was discovered later that he still vented to his buddy like don't you ever publish this. [laughter] that's how you don't get published. don't look at it though.
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that's why we are doing this. you create for yourself or other people, that's fine however you want to do it but there is this type of connection that you can't escape even if you only make parts for you that doesn't mean that someone else isn't going to pick it up and experience it in a new way you didn't think wha would happen bt when that connection is happening that is one of the most beautiful and wonderful things about art so to get back to your original question, what about the person, what about my girlfriend? i just don't want to do any of this. that's fine. no one is going to force you to if that's what you want to do, great. write your stuff and maybe it will. send it to your best friend. that might help but maybe it well and that's fine. but if you also want to create art he wants to engage with
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people and you are going to pressures outside these boundaries and i'm sorry i know i'm talking about my girlfriend a lot, but she's good to be really mad about how much i mention her because she doesn't like it when i do this on tv. yes on television. she just won a writing award, she's a real deal. iand america loved his money. you don't apply for, literally someone just gives it to you. >> that's as close as she's going to get somebody finding stuff in a cave come absolutely but i try to push her a little bit just you should go on social media and she wouldn't. she hated it. i want to write in my cave. it wasn't all about social media, she was talking about other stuff like i don't do my laundry. [laughter] so i realized i'm hitting a brick wall because i know this is somebody that doesn't care about that and that's fine. but i said to her alice, when you put something up it is a way of allowing your come in your
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family or your fans, the people that loved your writing to celebrate you and it's not an egotistical move. it's not bragging saying look at me, look at me. you are giving them a space and if they want to they can celebrate you and if they don't they don't have to. once i put it in this framework where she's getting groomed for her people she kind of came around to it a little more so i would say that to the person that's like a fuck this -- i'm so sorry. the television. i'm sorry. [laughter] it's fine you can still write in a cave that is what you want to do but if you want to give people the right to celebrate you, you need to engage them. >> also she's one of the best readers that i've ever seen and that's all about the personal connection. >> what's the name again? >> alice. watch out for her.
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>> sorry, sorry. >> i had a question from actually i did not. i wanted to open up to q-and-a if that's okay because i think that's what you all are here f for. you are far too optimistic. maybe that's something we should address about the self-publishing boom it's awesome because i am an optimist but i do think that for the average writer self-publishing a book and the hustle you need to do that you need to find an editor and copy editor and designer or do it yourself or you have to find a distributor and do all this work that so
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many different skills are involved and i don't think it's that easy even now. >> on a related point, the other side of the equation there is an enormous -- in the world of book publishing there is an enormous glut of books being published in as a resuland as a result of the positive dynamics taking place, it's never been easier for someone without an enormous bank account or strong connections to get published and to self publish so everywhere in the united states. there is just the volume is incredibly out-of-control.
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but that's the price you paid for the democratization of the process. so i won't take it any day of the week that as a publisher republish 35 a year and it's hard to get attention for those because the other half a million books being published. but like i said, i accept those terms and i even celebrate them to a certain extent because it means all these voices that were never connected and it didn't go to the college or do this or that or the other now there's the opportunity for those voic voices. in the balance that is pretty positive. do you think that you're following is any stronger and that it can be strong even though there might not be any books in one year or strong active publishing going on in
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the strong following? do you still wish for them to be its? >> i actually don't even quite understand the question. [laughter] honestly, i don't quite understand what you're asking. >> you said it's bad you published 35 a year and it's hard to get any headway. is it better we live in the world whera worldwhere there's g hits in a year or every publisher gets their small hits with a very passionate following? like candid democratization be -- >> how much money do you want? [laughter] >> i don't think there ever was a time there were lots of hits going on a. i don't think that it's particularly different now there's just a lot more books vying for those spots. >> there's also a lot more people and a lot more avenues
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for buying books and i don't know if this isn't quite answering your question. i take some solace in the fact we published the first book in 1997 and became sort of a real publishing company around 2000 200-01-2001. and in those years, nobody cared about by continuing to publish what i think is excellent work year after year now when people see if it is the book reviewer at the la times or "the new york times" or the book by ai playera bookstore now it means something to people. we are in it for the long haul and that is an advantage we have over the self published authors. our logo likes to convey a certain level of quality. for publishers can independent publishers i've always said one of the biggest challenge i chal- first you have to publish great work and then somehow keep your doors open.
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somehow stay in the game. and publishing is a small business and so the relationships that you develop accumulates over the cumulative effect that develops so that when we send our boat into the la times to be reviewed its not just one of the half a million bucks come it is a known quantity and that is a huge leg up. and no one has asked me this yet but i still believe there is a role for book publishers. that's another question you get asked is when any consumer can sell direct to the world is there a role for book publishers this goes back to what was said about the challenge of self-publishing and a book publisher brings what we are supposed to bring and what we do bring in a lot of other publishers big and small. it's a level of expertise to the editing and designing into the production and the marketing.
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not only do we know how to do this but we have expertise and that's going to be hard to find someone that wants to self-publishing has more expertise in one or two of those areas and because you're competing against half a million bucks every year, you need every break you can get. >> and i do really agree with this idea it's almost like writing or making any art. the more you do it the more confident you're going to be and the better you will be at it. it's about doing the work the matter what we are talking about ending your case, it's publishing and you've been doing the work seems 1996 almost 20 years of publishing brilliant books and it's about showing up and keeping up with it. the only other thing, you are like come on just give me one more negativity. i want to hear some darkness. here's the thing. i don't think the publishing industry needs any help.
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anyone that is in this business is probably not okay on the brain. [laughter] that's what this is and i guarantee in the old days when they had a community you have a monastery so you have your community in the world really working hard maybe 20 years of your life in the bible and then the printing press comes along and i guarantee there were monks that were like those are not real books. it's only when you hand draw. this is a book. that is just blasphemy. fuck that shit. so sorry. [laughter] >> why are you trying to get c-span to lose -- >> we are all ready and anxious people. we are already wound up pretty tight and convinced that the med 2000's.
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i feel lucky that i got to be a reader. i used to think they were returning towers you hit print and it was a book. i've learned about community and help each other and how wonderful that all is that i came up in the mid-20 2000's whn it was like chicken little. the book is dying. there's like 100 articles. it's the novel dead. no, it's going to be okay. it's a good answer the question i think there's plenty of negativity out there. but publishing right now to answer the question i think it is very strong and very diverse and i think that it is a great time to be a writer. ' sorry for swearing. >> i had to get that out there. >> at this point we could -- yes, let's take questions. >> i think you can come up to -- yes, to the microphone. i assume that's what it's there for. >> good afternoon.
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thank you so much. i just have a quick question about the business side of publishing. can you give advice for the writers in terms of either negotiating in advance or the royalties of how that works? >> give up all your secrets, johnny. [laughter] traditionally, the traditional model is a writer hires an agent but then takes care of the business side of things so that is the shortcut easy answer. and if you don't know the agent route can independent companies will do business directly with authors working with major corporate publishers you are required to have a woodbury agent but for a lot of them you don't need one and there's organizations like the authors guild and a lot of resources online and organizations that will help you out. i don't want to take the time to
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go to details of contracts but it's an important question because someone needs to advocate on your behalf. you need the knowledge to know what is a fair and what is not a fair contract and there's a lott of unfair contracts out there. at the conscience we have what is a very progressive and very, very fair and friendly profit split model of paying royalties. and i have major beef with the way that a lot of the book contracts are structured so i think people need to educate themselves. there is a lot of information out there and organizations willing to lend a helping hand in terms of focusing on what it should be and other -- a lot of times the most important aspect won't be the obvious things of the advanced rate. here's one solid piece of advice
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when you realize you are doing business with someone you find distasteful. that is a very important clause in the contract determination how to get yourself out of that situation. >> one step before to get to the point that you were at the table first you should find an agent and that should help and then you might advocate the next three years. a method that i've seen, i've been honored to interview someone like people that put word out there that write about and put themselves out there and been through gaining attention for their work or at a place they can sit down with an agent and attract that work so instead
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of sending cold solicits to agents and never hearing anything back, putting yourself in the putting your work out there, submitting to the journals in hopes of attracting attention as a great way to do that and that is an important thing we are talking about in the diversity. we have a latino male and the rest of the panel is white. you need to make a name for yourself to get the right people around you so that you don't get screwed because there are people that want to take advantage, absolutely. >> if you are approaching agents do some research. it's the same for those working through coverage of their books. you should know who you're
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talking t to, what kind of books would be interested in, what do they like and represent if you have a sci-fi novel who specialized in biographies. the new and the now to research the people who you might want to represent you. >> poets and writers is a fantastic resource. it's a fantastic resource for finding people. >> yes. next question. >> there hasn't been much discussion on the traditional new york publishers, the few that are left of course. should people still aspire to that or should we go directly to you? >> one big advantage of the big four, they merged together a and if one of the goals is to get a big advance, that's one area
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smaller companies cannot compete is that big companies can pay a hundred thousand dollar advance not that they just are throwing these around about the advances are much bigger. beyond that, i think we could compete on almost every level and if you have a hit going back to the book, "go the f to sleep," with our structure, the authors and illustrators have made hundreds of thousands of dollars more from our deal than they would have from a traditional publishing contract because it is a profit split and all the money is paid to them and so there are real advantages going with a small company but on the other hand, you might need to buy yourself health insurance. you won't be able to with an advanced from any independent book publishing company.
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>> yes. next question please. >> i wanted to know if you could quickly tell me what you think is coming. what is new, and it could be intuitive. i'm just curious what's happening and i agree that it's time to be a writer but i was just wondering if you feel going down the track what migh might becoming of interest in the business. >> i feel like you should start this one. >> a first instinct is a fragment of being one big hit and everybody has a medium brown. there'there is a new website cad story i've have people doing
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story arc and there is a guy that goes in the forest and yells, steve or something like that. so it's going to be a fragmentation we will see. i'm sure that there will be a whole literary scene that finds a way to use that. there's a couple of new apps. one in new york has a magazine with augmented reality and when you go to new york can shine it at a window and it will be like there's a story near you you can find. >> it could be a person shaking their fist at you like stop looking at my window. [laughter] i think to me i hope that is the future. future. a lot of new technologies and ways of storytelling. what's really inspired by press has been somebody can submit one piece and we turn it into an animation performance in all sorts of things and i love the idea that in the future technology will enable us to
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exploit our stories into several mediums. >> i feel that it's all about discovery and all these new apps and ways are all about discovery that what isn't going to change is the work. there will be new ways of writing in things like josh said i can't predict the future and all these things i can't even fathom because of that original painting i talked about. but i think storytelling when it comes down to is it's going to be about the quality of the work and then there will be all these different ways in which you can explore and discover it and one of the companies i want to point out when you can geo-tag stories, there is a great book called the silence. come on, help me out. the silent history.
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thank you. so look up the silent history. it's amazing. you can buy it as a book that you can also buy it as an app and it was a wonderful interactive thing you got a new story every week and went out to the world and you could find these stories involve this different stuff and it was fun so that's something that interests you if you are interested in seeing how people are experimenting with things you should check it out at the end of the day the reason it works is because it was well written. >> next question. >> i feel like this has probably been touched on a bit, but as an author that is finally ready with that first piece, what would your advice be on the first few steps to getting out there? and this perso person probably t so sure did have super prone to social media. >> do you have a piece that is
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completed? >> close. >> i would just recommend to find pieces that are like the one you've written and find some publications that put them out and approach them and explain why your story, your piece fits in with what they do and how it's different from what they've done before. >> there's also a submit application it's a and they pop up and you can find places to submit to. >> if you find an editor you are excited to work with you can find them and you can get it across their desk. it's easier now than it used to be which is a wonderful thing. that said, we have a lot of
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people grabbing at us for our attention so if you do submit something and you feel like that's where you want to be, i would write a very short introduction. be there and be gone. three lines. if i open an e-mail and it has like seven paragraphs about why i should read this attachment i'm just like that so much time. but if it's just a little thing with somebody you found it you like their work and think it fits with them, find their e-mail, said that it's just a really short introduction. >> so, i have a question. i would like to create a cartoon strip, and the cartoon strip i would like to use rock 'n roll murex. i'm wondering, the question is how do i go about investigating the copyright law so i don't violate copyright law and if
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possible use rock 'n roll fury is to write columns with. >> that's a tough question because you're saying you want to do something with someone else's work. one thing is that fair use copyright law is totally vague and you're not goinand/or not gy hard answers. that's the difficult thing about this question. but generally, you can use a couple of lines from a poem or song. i think that it's two or three lines and you can be -- you can use it pretty safely. if you want to use more than that, if you are taking a risk that thbut the difficulty is nor how much research you do, you will never find x. y. and z. but you can't do a dnc.
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it's all this sort of interpretation. she said i thought he would never say hello. if i were to use that we are at -- lyric as example -. if you have a passion. if the people that do the tangled up in blue state decided to come and sue you it's like for what? don't get me wrong. then it becomes a massive
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success you can cross that bridge when you come to it but i don't think you should put up roadblocks with your own art. as the creator of a very silly blog i have used screenshots from tv shows illegally or whatever that means for seven years and then when i went to get my book deal i paid for the rights to use the images in my book. >> do it until someone is like i want to help you publish it and then they will take care of it. >> thank you for not dropping the f. bomb. >> i got close. >> can i share one more quick thing? because it comes to what johnny was saying that reminded me of this, too. san francisco has changed.
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they are having a tough time where are all of the readings and i walked by one new bookstore. i didn't on parachute pants. they would be like what are you doing. it wasn't like i need to be a part of this it was just everything's fine and it's about making your own space and doing your own story. >> that's fine. parachute pants. >> thank you for a very interesting discussion and your optimism about people's writin writings.
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when that happens, how do you handle that and what advice do you have for the authors that are still struggling and get those letters. >> that is a hard dynamic getting rejected its really ha hard. i aspire every day of my life to have thick skin and that's the advice to just develop thick skin. one thing that is harsh for writers i've seen some beautiful rejection letters and i had my ear when people send a really thoughtful and constructive rejection letters. ..
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>> i try to make them nice, but there's a fair amount of copying and pasting, you know, that goes on in there. and so i think it's, you know, and i've had authors and heard authors getting upset about poorly-written rejection letters, and that's where the thick skin comes in. you know, just move on, because you can't get mad at publishers or agents for writing poor rejection letters. that's not what they do. not anywhere near the top of their priority list in terms of bringing great literature out into the world.
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the respondent is to the author -- the responsibility is to the authors that you have agreements with. and i don't mean to sound callous, i'm just trying to be, you know, give a heads up about the process. but for writers there's so much that's hard about being a writer, and you've just got to keep trying, and you've got to, you know, i go back to the rock and roll thing. is that, is that, you know, in the rock and roll business, i mean, a lot of bands i think, maybe it helps because in a rock and roll band there's a group of you so you not all alone. but you've i -- got to keep powering forward. as long as you're showing your work around, you have to be getting positive feedback. if you have no one giving you positive feedback about your work, maybe it's time to pick up, start writing a new story. because, you know, when you say if you've had ten renexts, one answer -- rejections, one answer is, well, just keep going.
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the jamaican writer who just won the booker prize was rejected 75 times before he had his first book published. but, you know, marlon is a really great writer. but, you know, if you've been rejected 70 times, there's a pattern emerging there. so maybe it's time to try a new project. and either one of those routes is valid, but there is, there's important decisions to be made when facing rejections. but the thicker skin will help you, regardless of what your decision is, thicker skin is going to help you in the process. >> and i believe our hour -- we have, well, one more question. >> yes. really quickly. do you think that the larger publishing houses are still putting emphasis on new writers and emerging writers, or do you think that they're more invested in trying to keep their current, you know, writers at the top and keeping their audiences alive? >> everybody's trying to find
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great new writers. >> yeah. >> everybody. it's the most, it's one of the most exciting things. wherever you are on the editorial spectrum, reading something, some incredible voice for the first time is the happiest moment of an editor's life. [laughter] >> amen. >> awesome. thank you, guys. [applause] >> and on that note, i believe our time is up. let's, we'll end the conversation. i think, isaac, maris, josh, johnny, thank you very much. thank you to all of you for coming out to see us. and, again, there will be books to be signed right after this. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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>> host: and you're watching booktv on c-span2. this is live coverage of the 21st annual los angeles times festival of books. it's held on the campus of the university of southern california. for the last four or five years. prior to that it was held at ucla. we've got one more hour of life coverage before we wrap up this year's festival. and joining us here on our set is radio talk show host and author of seven books, dennis prager. his most recent book is called "the ten commandments: still the best moral code." dennis prager, what's on your mind? >> guest: oh, that's a very good opening question. and i'll answer you completely honestly. what's on my mind -- and it's not totally germane, but quite
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germane to the ten commandments, is what i believe is the undoing of the american revolution. and the decline of my beloved country, the greatest experiment in liberty and decency in human history. and i do believe that a big part of the reason is the radical secularization of our society. >> host: where did that come from? how did it come about? >> guest: it came about, its origins really emanate from europe. after world war i and even somewhat before but especially after world war i, europe decided that everything it believed in was nonsense because of the massacres of world war i. the atrocious loss of life for no apparently good reason. that's a very important point. everybody understands world war ii was morally necessary. not everybody believes world war i was, and they certainly didn't believe it afterwards. despite the versailles treaty and blaming germany and so on.
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nevertheless, there was a feeling -- everything we believed in lead us awry, so we will drop religion, and we will drop national identity, we will just become secular citizens of the world. america took its ph.d.s from european universities starting in the late 19th century before world war i, but nevertheless continuing, and i think that's where it developed where, if you're intelligent, you can go back to darwin, you can go back to marx. but the operative element was if you're bright, you're not religious. it's -- at a university in the western world, not just the united states, if you believe that god created heaven and earth, that god is the source of thou shalt not murder, not just reason, you are considered a dummy. and that foolishness -- and that truly is foolish, because the
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deepest people i have ever met have overwhelmingly had a god-centered understanding of the world. but that is now taken as a given, that if you believe something like that, you are intellectually suspect. so that's what's happened. >> host: when you hear somebody say i'm spiritual but not religious -- [laughter] >> guest: how do you know me such good questions? i have done hours of radio just on that subject. it is with all respect to people who say it, it is meaningless. it means i contemplate my navel in a sophisticated manner. it doesn't mean anything, i'm spiritual but not religious. what does it mean? if you have no religion, what do you have? spirituality? what does spirituality mean? that you believe that flowers are beautiful? that you believe that animals are loving? what does it mean? it doesn't mean anything.
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i know to the individual making it it means something, but without religion -- without a code, religion gives you a code. religion gives you a set of beliefs. i don't care if you reject them, but at least you have to grapple with them. remember, israel -- which is the founding group of the old testament -- means "struggle with god." and i take that seriously as a believer. i do struggle with god. when i see all the suffering in this world, the unjust suffering, when just thinking for a moment forgetting the obvious of your neighbor had pancreatic cancer at 32, but a whole country called north korea which is a human concentration camp? the way people live there? and the hundred million of world war ii? i mean, you know, these things bother me. so i understand struggling with god as a believer. but i want the atheist to understand you have to struggle with god too.
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it's not enough. i was invited, to the great credit, the american atheists, biggest group in the u.s. as far as i know, they invited me to their annual convention which was to their credit. and, to debate their head on god's existence. at one point i looked at the audience who were completely, by the way, decent to me and -- i can't complain at all, they were just fine. but i said to them at one moment, would you raise your hand be you have ever seen -- if you have ever seen a child born or listened to a bach partita or a mozart symphony or seen a van gogh painting or seen a sunset and said, you know, it's hard to believe that just happened on its own. maybe there's a god. not one hand went up. and then i looked at them and i said, you know, if i were to ask any religious audience have you
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ever seen a deformed baby and doubted godded, raise your hand -- god, raise your hand, everyone would have raised their hand. we believers struggle more than you atheists do. and you think you're the questioning ones. we're the questioning ones. >> host: where did this book, "the ten commandments," come from? >> guest: it is exactly what the subtitle says. it is still the best moral code. this changed human history. and in the briefest book i ever wrote following the longest book i ever wrote, which i had the honor of being on your show then, this is a transcription of the 11 lectures, the ten commandments plus one introductory lecture which is on it continues to be widely viewed all over the world. and i have taught this my whole
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life from the hebrew. and this is the distillation of every idea i've had in teaching this for 40 years. so this is a, it's a very important book to me because it's very simple. if everybody lived by the ten commandments, you would not need one early, you would not need one missile, you would not need any policemen, you would not have to put locks on your doors. this is all humans need. it's amazing. >> host: dennis prager -- and we're going to put the phone numbers up, because this is your chance to talk with radio talk show host and author dennis prager. 202 is the area cold, 748-8200 in the east and central time zones, 748-8201 for those of you in the mountain and out here in the pacific time zone. we're here at the los angeles times festival of books on the campus of the university of southern california. our guest is dennis prager.
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first of all, where did prager university get its start, and are you, are you a jewish scholar? >> guest: well, it's a little pompous for me to say i'm a scholar, but i did teach jewish history and religion at brooklyn college in the beginning of my career. i have written two books on judaism and about 200 articles. i got an award from the american jewish press association for my columns on jewish matters. i know the torah, the first five books of the bible, in the hebrew better than i know it in english, and i've taught it much of my life. so i don't -- i certainly use the work of scholars to explain to people of every background, that's what i -- this is very important. i believe that the whole book, those five books, is for everyone in the world. it's the greatest book ever written. and certainly the ten commandments, it's for humanity. of course, it was given to the
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jews as it were, but it's for humanity. if everybody lived by it, as i said, that's all you would need. the rest is commentary. this is it. anyway, prager university, we started it because we're very worried about what is happening at the universities where there's more indoctrination than there is education. and it saddens me, because i love the mind. i love books. you're my favorite show, i just want you to know. my wife is here, we told you this before, so i'm going to say it -- you didn't ask me to. i'm not even sure you believe me. it's the only show i really watch, booktv. i'm crazy about booktv. and my wife introduced me to it, so you owe her a debt of gratitude to her. and this is years ago. it's phenomenal. i love books. in high school i started reading and collecting bookings. i have about 7,000 books. i am crazy about books. i love the life of the mind. but the university is shattering it. because it's not the life of the mind, it is now the life of dogma, of ideology.
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so we have gotten some of the greatest thinkers on earth to give five minute courses on the most important subjects in the world. from economics to sociology to history, and we had last year 70 million views. i mean, that's -- it's an unbelievable number. in the english-speaking world with, there is very little that has more views in terms of video content. so the ten commandments is one of them. that alone had about 12 million views. and this is the product, this book. but prager university, we hope -- we got a letter from -- i'll just tell you one more thing about it. we got a letter from a graduate said i just graduated stanford a couple of years ago. i wanted you to know, i've learned more at prager university than i did at stanford university. we got in from bill bennett's son.
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he allowed me to quote9 him. he went to princeton. he said i learned more at prager university than at princeton. that's our intent. you will get, because you'll get something you don't get at universities; wisdom. >> host: we're in the middle of a presidential campaign. how do the ten commandments fit into a presidential campaign? >> guest: well, it depends on how you believe the united states was structured. i believe, and this, of course, i went over with you with my last book, still the best hope about america. and i believe there is an american trinity just as there is a christian trinity. and the american trinity is found -- i didn't make it up. it's found on every coin. e pluribus unum, in god we trust, liberty. america stands on those three. the if you remove one of them, the other two cannot stand. liberty is dependent upon the other two, the other two are dependent upon liberty. god is essential, and every
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founder, every founder said that. without god, this country will not endure. they all said it. this notion that they were all deists, i hate to say this word, it's like a dirty word to me because i so rarely use it, but it's a lie. they weren't deists. deist means someone who believes god created the world and then became disinterested in it. benjamin franklin -- who was not, admittedly, who was not an orthodox christian, he did not believe in the christian trinity, okay. but he did believe in the god of the bible. and he believed in a judging god. that's what the secular world hates. i am convinced at its core people don't want to be judged. and the hebrew bible and the hen commandments -- ten commandments introduced the idea that you and i and everybody here and everyone alive is going to be
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judged on their moral behavior. that's big. and people don't like that. that's why the word "judgmental" is a dirty word. >> host: dennis prager, if people want to hear your radio show -- >> guest: i'm on all over the country. not every single city, but the vast majority of medium and big cities. and you can hear it on the internet effortlessly, and there's an app you can hear me on. i get calls from brazil, i get calls from -- i think i got a call from uzbekistan once. it is amazing what's possible now. just look up on google, the dennis prager show. >> host: and you're syndicated by salem. >> guest: that's right, yep. >> host: what's been the main topic that you've talked about for the last two, three weeks? >> guest: well, it's inevitable that there is a hot about, obviously -- a lot about, obviously, what is happening with regard to especially the republican side. and remember, my show -- well, not remember, i'll just say my
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show, everybody's show is unique because everybody is unique. but mine is a drop more unique than others because i don't only talk about politics. i broadcast 15 hours a week, 3 hours a day, noon to three eastern time, nine to twelve western time. and an hour of those, of that 15 a week is on male/female relations. and i believe it's the most honest talk about men and women in the media today. an hour is on happiness, i wrote a book on happiness, and i believe that happiness is a moral obligation, not merely an emotional state. we'll talk about that at greater depth one day, because that's -- when people understand that, it is life changing. so one is on male/female, and one is called the ultimate issues hour where i just talk about the great issues of life. are people basically good, for example. and so at least three of my hours are not on politics. but, obviously, given especially
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the donald trump phenomenon there's been a lot of talk about that. >> host: you wrote on town hall i believe it was that you could support donald trump if he were the nominee. >> guest: yeah, well, right. but that was a preface to a big attack on him. >> host: right. >> guest: i think he's awful. but i would vote for him if he were the nominee because i believe that, unfortunately -- and i never judge intentions, but i believe that what the left has done to the country in undoing e e pluribus e pluribusd we trust and liberty has to be stopped. and, therefore, i'm doing anything i can to have anyone else be nominated. but if he is nominated, i feel i have no choice but to vote for him. >> host: who is, who's your favorite? >> guest: well, i said at the very beginning and i still stand by this that i thought that marco rubio would have been the most effective of the republican
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candidates. i'm sorry to see what happened. at the same time, if ted cruz could be appointed, because i know that he has obstacles to winning -- i think he can win, incidentally. in fact, i'm more of belief of that as time goes on. but ted cruz has a lot of, i have a lot of admiration for him. he means what he says. he'll be portrayed as a right-wing kook whereas, you know, whereas, you know, bernie sanders is not a left-wing kook? for a man to believe in socialism when the only thing that has ever lifted humanity out of poverty has been capitalism? and that's not considered kooky? this is nothing ted cruz says that comes close to the kookiness of bernie sanders. i mean, it's just, it's lunacy.
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the only thing that has ever lifted humans from poverty has been capitalism x. the man is for socialism. it's -- as orwell said, it is so stupid, only an intellectual could believe it. >> host: you and bernie sanders, both jewish, both new yorkers. >> guest: yeah. that's about it. i would say even on the both jewish we don't even -- he is jewish ethnicically, i'm jewish religiously. and being jewish doesn't mean anything to him. and i don't hold that against him. you're not obligated, in my opinion, to affirm what you were born into. not at all. it's america, it's a free country. but i do affirm jude dayism -- judaism very deeply whereas for him it's a non-issue. and that's fine. that doesn't affect me one way or the other. i would say that his views disturb me tremendously. but not the fact that he is what a famous left-wing jewish historian called, he's a
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non-jewish jew. and that's not an insult. there is a book called the non-jewish jew by this man, and he's describing himself. it's not an insult, but that's what he is. i'm a jewish jew, he's a non-jewish jew with. so we don't have much in common. >> host: are you a conservative, and if so, are you a, are you a purist when it comes to being a conservative? >> guest: well, i'm never a purist because i always believe that something is better than nothing. i am not a purist at all. but i am a conservative. ironically, the deepest of deepest truths is that i am the same liberal i was when i grew up in brooklyn as a jew and went to columbia which is, you know, almost definitionally liberal. i can't think of almost anything i differed with john f. kennedy on. in fact, i have a test. see, liberalism has been taken over by conservatives. the name has been taken over by
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the left. the content has been taken over by the right. every liberal i know is a conservative. leftists are not liberals. liberals were daniel patrick moynihan, the senator from new york state, senator henry jackson, scoop jackson, of washington state, john f. kennedy. here is a test. all your listeners, all your viewers should take john f. kennedy's inaugural address and hand it to a college student that they know. not with the title of the president. say this was an inaugural address given by an american president. was it a republican or a democrat? and i am willing to bet that 90% would say, oh, this is a republican. because every theme in it, much of the themes -- he believed deeply in lowering taxes to stimulate the economy. he believed america had a moral obligation to fight anywhere at any cost for liberty on earth. those aren't ideas that are held
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by the left. those are ideas that were held by liberals. >> host: dennis prager is our guest. nationally-syndicated talk show host, author of about seven books, co-founder of prager university. gaye in upland, california, you are the first call for mr. prager. go ahead, gaye. >> caller: hi, thank you very much. wow, where to begin, mr. prager. i am mostly troubled by his infantile and simplistic viewpoint that if all humans would merely live by the ten commandments, we would be hunky dory. that's just the child-like view that you get from the religious and the conservatives these days, because it's intellectually dishonest. humans are much more complicated. no, we don't like to be judged. of course, who does? you don't, i'm quite sure. >> guest: i do, actually.
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i pray that god judges me. because then god will judge hitler, and then god -- >> host: okay. >> guest: so i want god to judge you and me. so don't speak for me. >> caller: well, that's what i believe. and that increasing belief is becoming more prevalent in this country, fortunately. but a small religious minority has continued to force its ideology, to force its us to live by your religion, your values. that's just deeply, deeply wrong -- >> host: gaye -- >> caller: and i could make a huge list. >> host: gaye, before we let you go, before we let you go, here are the ten commandments very quickly, and which of these do you think you live by? i am the lord, your god, you will have no other gods before me, do not take the lord's name in vain, remember the sabbath, honor thy mother and father,
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conot murder, no adultery, steal, do not bear false witness and do not covet. >> caller: i'm familiar with them. >> host: i'm sorry, you're not familiar with them? >> caller: i am familiar with them. i went to sunday school. [laughter] as a child. >> guest: why is it childish and simplistic to think if everybody lived by these, the world would be a good place? >> caller: it's not reasonable to live by these things that were written down in the bronze age. people didn't know anything then. we know so much -- >> guest: you didn't answer my question. forgive me, it's irrelevant when it was written. beethoven -- >> caller: it is not. it is not irrelevant. >> guest: no, it's totally irrelevant -- >> host: gaye, we're going to let mr. prager answer. >> guest: i don't understand the objection. either they're valid or they're not valid. the fact that they are old doesn't make them any more
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something new makes something invalid. what is problematic about do not murder, do not steal, do not covet, do not lie? why is that bad, because it's old? is there a better code to live by? >> host: let's go to gaye's first point which was a religious minority is making her live under these values? >> guest: nobody -- well, first of all, the secular majority is making her live under do not murder, do not bear false witness, do not steal. those have been, those have been accepted. i don't want the government to enforce all of these. i don't want you to be arrested if you commit adultery. but i would like people to live by it. i suspect gaye would like people to live by it too. what is irrelevant in the group? you name them. what would she like dropped? what would you like dropped, gaye? >> host: gaye is gone, and we're going to go to michael in
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galesburg, illinois. you're on booktv with author dennis prager. >> caller: how you doing, mr. lamb? mr. prager? first-time caller, long-time listener. i'd like to run three things by mr. prager, and then i'll take my answer off the phone. when you read something, you're taking away the oral history. there was a lot of religion before the bible was written. what do you think about america having food shows where they go around eating the biggest hamburger? and the other thing is what's the difference between consumerism and free thought? thank you, bye. >> guest: hmm. did you get that? did you take down those notes? what was the last one, what's the difference between consumerism and -- >> host: consumerism, and i missed her second part. >> guest: okay, so we missed that one. we'll let you riff on consumerism in general. but religions before the ten commandments. >> guest: right. religions before the ten commandments, none of them had a universal god.
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therefore, they were only applicable to the tribe. and no religion, for example, prior to the hebrew bible had said that you should love the foreigner. it is one of the most ubiquitous statements in the first five books of the bible, love the stranger, because you were strangers in the land of egypt. the idea that you love the foreigner, the idea that all people are created in god's image, these are brand new ideas. of course there was religion prior. there was also child -- this is the first book in the history of the world to ban child sacrifice, to ban human sacrifice. people don't understand the spectacular revolutions wrought in this book. they don't, because there's a tremendous ignorance and a willful ignorance. but that's a good example. human sacrifice. it was accepted universally, and along comes this book and said it is an abomination in god's eyes to sacrifice human beings. >> host: he went on to talk about consumerism.
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he went on to talk about food shows with the biggest hamburger. i mean, maybe he's talking about society in general. >> guest: yeah. i don't have a problem with consumerism. the american consumer supports the world's economy. if americans started living only on what they need and not what they would like, then the unemployed around the world would starve to death. thank god for the american consumer. see, he makes the world go round. i would add another thing. while, obviously, i am not a big fan of ostentatious consumption, i am not. in fact, i'm against it. nevertheless, i think people should know because i've studied good and evil my whole life. lenin, who was the father of evil of the 20th century, he is the father. he created the terror state that then later was adopted by hitler and mao


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