tv Age of Folly CSPAN December 4, 2016 11:00pm-12:02am EST
former editor of outside, rolling stone, esquire and sports illustrated to discuss age of folly on book tv. this was taped november 3, 5 days before the election. >> okay. >> okay. well, thank you everybody for coming. if you hadn't noticed, c-span book tv is going to be here recording tonight. so during the q&a portion, i will be passing this microphone around so we get that captured along with the talk. we are so pleased to host lewis lapham tonight along with terry mcdonnell. the new book, "age of folly," and the accidental life writing and writers, we have copies up
front and encourage you to pick up one or two or three so we can continue to be a community space on the upper west side. a quick show of hands if you've been here before. okay. welcome to all of the new faces. we were lost with many bookstores over the years but a couple years ago the culture with partner magazine opened up with this base in order to celebrate the & word. it might not always get the attention they deserved. something that we think the independent bookstores offer more than anyone else. and again, we are happy to be here to bring you great authors and conversations. lewis lapham is the editor at harper's magazine and his column
has received the national magazine award in 1995 for an accelerating point of view in the age of conformity and in 2002, the thomas journalism award into the american society of the magazine editor hall of fame 2007 and his other books include imperial masquerades among other titles. kerry mcdonell has won various awards for his magazines and is a novelist, poet and has written and produced and performed on television. in 2012, he was inducted to the american society hall of fame. he's the president of the board foundation and serves as the overseers of the journalism review. so, thank you everybody for coming. >> i believe he turned it over to me. [inaudible] [applause]
me start by giving you a little background on my relationship with lewis, so you know. lewis has been for my entire working life a role model of our heroic figure for all editors and writers. we grew up in the same place except his father was the mayor and his grandfather had founded standard oil. i was picking apricots down in the valley. but enough about me.
specifically what was so important to me and almost everyone that i worked with as an editor is the revolutionary thinking about what that meant. the statistical data but ironically into a particular border that told you more about your moment in the country than all of the 20,000 pieces we were trying to bring in and then the readings, etc.. it was so important, and we follow him still through a revolutionary kind of publication. so, his career is this arc from
san francisco through the high points of the journalism and i would recommend that you look up the piece about being with the beatles in the 60s when the beatles were seeking enlightenment. lewis has a point of view all the way through to the digital upheavals. it's a wonderful book. i would like to start with the first paragraph before you buy the book read that first paragraph on your way out.
the heart of the paragraph you suggest donald trump is not a surprise. >> donald trump has been walking down the road for the presidency of the united states in the year 2016. that's the way that it's been going for 25 years. the book is a series of essays written over the course of the 25 years from 1990 to 2015. setting up the premise of that generalization, so in 1991, you have president george h. w. bush staging or extending to iran in
the second gulf war and sending the display with self-congratulatory explosives with making america great again, that is essentially what he was attempting to do. the washington consensus was caught offguard by the cutting down of the berlin wall in 1989 and the implosion of the soviet empire this waempire this was st had never been predicted either by the thinkers and the pentagon or those writing for the new york review of books.
>> is that the point in time that you are thinking here comes trump? >> guest: what is his self-congratulatory explosions in the persian gulf in 1991. really it is to celebrate the great american empire and you've got the self-congratulatory bursting in air. he's in the news in 1989. >> why do you think the republicans didn't see this
coming. if they got caught up in the dream of the american empire that there was nobody else in the world that mattered except the american way was the right way to and at the end purpose nation had refused to see if a. of is our obligation to destroy those people. that is what was called the national defense strategy of the 1990s. 1993 written by dick cheney and paul wolfowitz and it sets up very clearly the preemptive strike and commits the united
states to maintain the two major wars on the continent at any one time and to take out any country, any nation, any failed state that doesn't wish to accept the american guidance. he's talking about the end of history, that the american way is the only way that it's established and that the competition of ideas is over, the soviet union collapsed and the only thing left to do is maintenance of the perfection of
the american idea. >> host: you also wrote that we lost our idea of revolutionary thinking which is contradictory to me. >> when i began putting these together starting in 91 and writing the forward to 2016 is how little the thinking has changed. we talk about the spectacular change, technology, silicon valley. but the thinking in the washington consensus hasn't changed at all. >> you also say that our history is a resource. you say that it's a great
>> you said at one point they are not playing with fire the way they should be playing with fire. can you explain yourself their? >> they are not an actually, i'm borrowing the idea from mark twain. he looked at the satire as a form of arson to burn down the hospitality form of the camp, the self-congratulatory cant. >> you all need this book. [laughter] >> he thought satire was the crime and that is what it was intended to do.
with our satire that has become saturday night live, jon stewart and so on, they say it's all a joke. we are in the know. there are crooks running the government. our military is a disaster. we presented our military as the most powerful force in the wor world. charles krauthammer in the year 2001, four months before the attack on the trade towers, said
america is the most powerful nation since imperial rome. the world will be back to our well. wealth. i am quoting that this is the consensus of the opinion in washington. now, the point is our military, and we start off with the invasion of iraq began in 2003, expecting a walk in the park and to do this with the most magnificent military force in the history of the world this is every editorial of "the new york times" and network news television and so on. the truth is the united states
hadn't won a war or fought a war in 45 years. our american military essentially it's show business and advertisement. we do -- >> you watch television -- not very often. how are you informed? if you're not watching the campaign coverage on television -- >> you don't have to see a lot of that, you get the idea really quite early. i saw trump come down in june, 2015 when he comes down the escalator in the trump tower and
wearing a costume, swaggers up to the microphone and says mission is accomplished. we had already lost the war on terror after we started it. it had begun in march of 2003 with a magnificent airshow. this sounds like a saturday night live skit. that kind of satire is defective on television. >> yes, but they say that nobody was saying that in the media in 2003. the media was comparing bush and the united states to the
>> the only problem i have with this analysis is that it's very easy to be after -- >> of these are essays that are printed exactly as it happens. i'm not writing this 25 years later i'm writing it and then. >> the thing is it is months and years after the carrier incident that that sort of displayed working to be ridiculed. it's not necessarily the linear narrative. >> you are misunderstanding it. i'm not following trump for 25 years. unfolding the self-congratulatory attitude of
>> i am talking about the sensibility that was pervasive. if one is systematic and the second paragraph in the book i go back to aristotle and he is talking about the way the forms of government follow each other in the monarchy and so on. all governments start off as oligarchs. a relative few in the society attempts to set up a government.
as the consumer economy and those two things are very different. the democratic society values equality. the capitalist economy has no interest in a quality. it's about more for me and class for you. is that guy what you mean by the mother of constitution. >> they are trying to set up the balance to balance the notions with the movements of the mark market. the trouble with that is it taketakes the continued attentin the part of the people who are managing that form of governme
government. they were trying to set up a republic and it lasts only as long as they are engaged in it and paying attention. but that doesn't happen. so, sooner or later, this is aristotle again. it's also madison. the oligarchies turned rancid. they go bad because wealth accumulates the decay. that is you can see it happens increase in a rome and france
a couple hundred years of america's existence were many struggles. that's the struggle of the progressive populist parties rising at the end of the 19th century. that's the same thing that's in the mind of franklin d. roosevelt when he's putting together the new deal. this struggle. >> lewis sites in the buck to the cookbook that the apocalypse
never loses its appeal as we just heard from lewis. >> and. massachusetts and they were speaking from the pulpit they would actually learn to cry like actors wiping the tears from their eyes because of the sins of the world would have been visited upon the congregation and cambridge and the world was coming to an end. but the teacher preachers wouldy learn to weep tears.
people in the country like those in the room that essentially own the country to pay attention to the policies. people run the banks and so forth and so on. people that enjoy the privileges have had almost no interest in politics and they are happy to leave it to the hired help. as you and i both know, there are a lot of very talented, interesting, intelligent, thoughtful, courageous people in
the united states. what was it in your background that kept you from entering the arena. >> there has to be a horrible skeleton that would come out. [laughter] >> i actually entertained the thought at one point. >> tell us about that. i often accompanied him on his rounds as mayor and also as the mayor of san francisco in 1945, he was obliged to preside over
the formation of the charter in the united nations. >> how old were you? >> i had to go to the plenary sessions of the formations. also during the course of the war, the mayor would be obliged to go out and launch and turned the carriers into the specifics of the age of nine, i was at the enterprise and introduced to the admiral and that makes a very big impression.
he was a very unconventional politician. he had been a shipowner during the 30s we had a shipping company and he ran for the mayor on the grounds that he would serve and then he would make all the decisions to do what he thought ought to be done and what was right. >> twice during his four year term, the machine apologists tried because he did a lot of damage to the machine politics.
the popular mayor, and he did try to stay absolutely fixed on his civic purpose and at the end he said q. could run for governor and he said no, i need onmadeone deal and that's it. so i had that kind of idea and i started in the newspaper business in san francisco about politics and then i would come to new york and learn something about journalism and work for a big-time newspaper and meet people like you but then i would go back to california and
>> the technology required you to print six weeks. >> it was newsprint, it wasn't like "the new york times." but they mixed it up. they put the story on a 12 page spread photograph that was intended to be in the los angeles paper and they put the coverage of the san francisco paper on. so we have the paper and it says los angeles, the athens of the
west. is it was a very self-satisfied town. >> but you were blamed for it you told me. >> we have the athens of the west and then we have these graphs, morris louis, all in la. i was the first person at 10:00 one morning and all the people were there the managing editor, the publisher. they gather around the coffee
table and they were looking at this thing and the attitude of i thought the cruise ship had su sunk. it had that kind of crisis. they brought me over and said this is heresy. san francisco is the athens of the west. you will rate for tomorrow's paper the headline no, no, san francisco is. [laughter] it's 10:30 in the morning and i have a deadline and i have to back up that headline and it couldn't be done. gary miller [inaudible]
that to me is the way the media works. our national news media i is set up to show that our armies are invincible and so on and paint a rosy picture of an advertisement for reality. that is the status quo but it's natural that's what the media is supposed to do. >> what's round this up by asking what you were going to do on election night. >> i'm going to watch it quietly at home.
>> the number suggested maybe the people that don't vote for the reason, also in the city of new yornew york the electoral ce is, the reason the politicians don't bother to come talk to anybody is because it doesn't matter who i vote for. it will be new york state is democratic. the six swing states where the vote did count. >> v-chip drive to north carolina by ourselves.
[laughter] >> let's go to some questions. >> my question goes back to your statement about history being important. as eisenhower said, wonders of the military-industrial complex, and when jack kennedy was in the white house, he was trying to negotiate with the russians to calm down cold war. they wanted to round up in vietnam and approximately 48 hours after jack kennedy was
killed, john's input in order to put the troops into vietnam and i'm wondering if the business of america isn't really the business of the war. if jim garrison said this crime isn't properly investigated the republic will not hold. >> i think that is true. i'm not a conspiracy theorist, but the bone and marrow of the economy as the industrial complex and eisenhower was right about that.
that is what sustained the economy through the second half of the 20th century. that is the reason that n91 -- and 91 the soviet union collapses, the berlin wall comes down. and this is why it is such a major events in washington, because they have been using the cold war to build the military-industrial complex. and you know how that works with the contracts on every state and so forth. it's not just the military budget, it is the contractors and the corporations.
the general electorate, one of the greatest arms manufacturers i don't know if they still do but they did. this is not a radical point of view. oliver stone wrote the whole a k along the line and so did john appleton williams in the 60s and i can't remember his name, but the general that wrote in the 20s and 30s he was running the war in guatemala and
fine book that was published last spring called america's war for the greater middle east and he tells the story of us picking a fight and desert one if you remember the helicopter that had come to rescue. it is another point of referen reference. he was a very good friend of my grandfather. he would run away to see and my
family was in the business and he became the first tanker captain of the first texas tanker of 1910 sailing out of brownsville. by 1930 was the chairman of the board, and texaco as for a lot of other american companies dealing with the journalists all the way through the 30s. texas oil was supplying fuel to the chairman squadrons that were at work in spain.
by 1953, he had been part seven of the gulf and saudi arabia and the americans were having trouble with the democratically elected president of this country. but he was threatening to take the oil business back from the british. it had been a british oil and he was called down to washington and told to go to bring him a
>> i don't make that much of a distinction between the neoliberal and if you read the book you will see that it goes across the 25 years that i have just as many observations. as far as i know, hillary clinton seems to be part of the washington consensus which has been there for a long time and it's nonpartisan. >> cannot close thican i close a remark of my own?
>> you said you are not a conspiracy theorist, but donald trump certainly seems to be and i feel like what he has brought about more so for me is questioning every time someone brings up the fact she comes up with something that is not backed up and i don't know if it is internet culture or if that is the future because everyone has their own ego chamber and i do like that is what i a i'm mot concerned about coming forward for future politicians. >> i really didn't understand the question. i had a hard time hearing you because of the way the microphone was. if you're asking me what i think is happening next, i don't know.
it was maybe possible in the united states 1800 to 3 million people in the united states. people without sufficient property don't have the votes. as the people that are the small oligarchy, in the internet people are departing from one another. they can live in their own little world. they don't have to hear anybody that disagrees with them or try to compromise.
a self confirming universe and democracy is about friction and a change in argument and it's not a safe place and it depends on friction. it drives people into many worlds of their own and then it's hard to get that moving in one direction. here's my story and i went with this, he's a great golfer, has
been for years and years into place quite often. when i did sports illustrated and if donald trump because of his interest in the golf courses and he cheats at golf. the other politician who is famous for cheating at golf is bill clinton. this little bit of information undermines the fact that his book has that kind of fun with conservatives, liberals, radicals or whatever over the whole thing. it's a great book. [applause]