tv Churchill and Orwell CSPAN August 28, 2017 11:32pm-12:22am EDT
i'm looking for to reading that book, and also a historical book, it's churchill in norwalk, the fight for freedom. i'll be reading that's of a phone up on the history. >> send us your summer reading list via twitter book tv, or instagram book -underscore to become a post to the facebook page, facebook.com/book tv. television for serious readers. >> one of the books that representatives sanchez mentioned was thomas ricks book, churchill and orwell, the fight for freedom. here's thomas ricks talking about his book. >> hello everyone, welcome to
the 33rd annual chicago tribune lit fest. a special thank you to our sponsors, today's program will be broadcast live on c-span2, book tv. if there's time at the end of the q&a session with the other we ask you to use the microphone provided so viewers at home can. before we begin please silence your phones and turn off all flashes on the cameras. and please welcome our interviewer, associate editor at the chicago tribune, colin mcmahon. [applause] >> and afternoon, thank you for coming, thank you for coming to the lit fest and i'm thrilled to be here with tom rex is written several books, we'll talk about his latest, tomato times previous book, the generals which was the most recent one, a
fiasco which is a new york times number one bestseller, this one is also on the bestseller list charting last week for the first time. congratulations. now about a previous book, fiasco, given the state of affairs today, international and national affairs, do you wish you had held back on ties the book fiasco? >> it's a little bit close to home. you're right, i never thought we'd be living the situation were living in the. >> this talk about this book, the fight for freedom i'm going to set it up and read one small passage which tells you the theme that runs should throughout the book. and then all last time to talk about why he chose these two guys. the theme in my view is this, or wallin churchill have differences come about when you
look for similarities it comes down to this, or wallin churchill recognize the key question of the century, ultimately was not who controlled the means of production is marks the or how the human psyche function, as freud taught, but rather, how to preserve the liberty of the individual during an age when the state was becoming powerfully intrusive in the private life. so is that the theme? how did you come up on these two guys to tell the stories? >> it is a thing. you really picked it. it took me a while to settle on the theme. the book began after i wrote the generals and i was thinking i myself more of a writer and less as a reporter. i was becoming a full-time book writer, canvas my farewell to journalism i went back and read a lot of the famous 20th century journalists wondering
who would laugh and who would be discarded. i began with mencken, and i found his style i can a stick in his style wrong. then i moved on to perlman who is not funny, i read eb white but his concerns were not mine at all, hemingway, blowhard. [laughter] >> and then i picked up orwell and it was different from all the other still writers. she died in 1950, but his prostyle feels like it was written today. as a newspaper person you could drop a paragraph out of him and i would be right at home. and his concerns are the concerns of today, what do you do to protect the individuals freedom in an era of the intrusive state now in an air of the intrusive corporation? how do you think about liberty?
was the vocabulary we need to discuss governments that don't listen to people? and a lot of the vocabulary we use, big brother, the memory hole, comes from orwell's 1984. as i was driving more into him and rereading it occurred to me that there's a parallel with churchill. as you say very different people, one on the right one on the left, churchill conservatives in our wallace socialists. totally different personalities, yeah, they came down to what was the key question of our time and they were in the minority. it's important to remember most people thought they were wrong. they both spent a lot of time in the wilderness because they were going to criticize their political sides. that i found inspiring as well. turns out, they never met. so then yes why you would write
such a book. but they admire each other from afar, and anybody here remember the name of the hero of 1984? it's winston. as long as were playing stump a chunk, anybody remember the middle name of john lennon? >> winston. people were named winston back then when john one was born in the battle of britain. >> host: that is not in the book. there is actually a slide with hemingway in the book a slight slight dig with for him. there's a point at which you slip in a little to get hemingway quoting someone called hemingway music, preoccupied with the image rather than the root the reality. there's some spots in here where your slip and in some modern-day
dicks. >> guest: i am, hemingway is the special peeve of mine. he reminds me a little bit of 60 minutes. that is, he wasn't really corresponded but he played one, 60 minute famously says, were not really reporters but we play one on tv. there's a running theme there. a lot of the stuff my editor maybe put in the footnotes. if you read the book, check out the footnotes. there's a lot of good stuff in there that he said get out of the book. >> editors. >> host: talking about these two guys and they were outcasts from their groups and they were ridiculed for being out of touch, but there's a phrase in here that captures what they did that very few people were able to do, they were able to
ascertain a long range meaning of sudden changes, and that is, around the before anybody else what stalin was up to, churchill knew before anybody else what hitler was up to. that all long range meaning of sudden range, let's talk about that. >> guest: it's intriguing and that's why orwell is more famous now than he was in his own time, and why churchill spent the 1930s isolate from his own party. mock by them thought by a lot of politicians to be washed up and finish. i think they both began for first principles. they believe that freedom begins with the individual. it's essentially the right of the individual to think, to observe, the individual
conclusions about what they see, to trust their perceptions, and to express themselves and associate with other people who might want to discuss the same issues. in 1984 this boils down to winston saying, it all comes down to two plus two equals four, if you're able to say that and believe it, everything else will flow from that. by the end of that book big brother has tortured him into fading in believing two plus two eagles five. >> sustained intrusion into the realm of the private individual is the one constant here. when you look at today's world you can look at different things, some things you address in the book are torture the government, drone strikes by the u.s. government, the nsa and the electronic eavesdropping that is
so prevalent, propaganda and alternative facts, there's different elements you address, we think about orwell, what he think his messages for today? which of those areas is the most on point about in your view? >> i think is really on point. just how much she's able to write in 1948 to sense the nature of today's world, or the dangers of today's world, we don't live in a totalitarian world, but a world in which the threat server present. the use of torture by the u.s. government's policy never happen until after 9/11. he described an age of permanent warfare in which winston cannot remember a time in which his country was not war.
that's the same of anybody in the country who is 18 years old or younger. they cannot remember a time when america was not conducting airstrikes or operations rate corners of the world which is the way he describes it 1984, obscure wars being fought that nobody paid much attention to except when a bomb went off. why did they pick this so well, he observed, he was shocked by what he saw on the spanish civil war talking about fake news, not only that the left or the right lied as a socialist, he expected they would get it wrong, he was shocked to find the left-wing newspapers got it wrong. he has an eloquent paragraph about fake news and he says entire battles have been fought there were said never to have occurred. men were described as heroes who never heard a shot fired in a
battle. and is puzzled by this and that's what triggers him into saying i'm not going to go with anybody's party line, would begin by trusting my own instincts. at the end of the book i go to martin luther king writing from the immediate city jail same here are the facts of the matter, birmingham it is the most segregated area in america. the u.s. government tells us the negro has rights but the local security forces do not permit us to exercise those rights. he released the facts. again, you have churchill, orwell, and king have your principles, discover the facts, trust her own judgments and apply those actions i think it's all something we could benefit from in these turbulent times. [applause]
>> that paragraph you mentioned in this way, i saw fact history being written in terms of what happened, but what ought to have happened according to various party lines. and i wonder what orwell would think of with the white house version for starters. >> i think he would be appalled by news says entertainment which is a hit not just on fox news but also on msnbc and similar shows. c-span is not news is entertainment, c-span is pure entertainment. >> well done. >> i think both orwell and churchill would be shocked by the degree to which opinion is giving more weight nowadays than facts. and in the 1930s as loud as
something was shouted over and over and loudly enough people would believe it. his other famous novel's animal farm which if you haven't read it it's worth going back, it's pretty short and funny. i mention this because talking about endless repetition until people believe it, the sheep on the farmer kind of the morons but they love chanting in the chant for legs good, two legs been until finally the birds get upset until them to knock it off. >> one of the things he mentioned earlier that orwell's estimation has risen dramatically and he sold hundreds or thousands of titles in his lifetime and has now surpassed 50 million, even in the book you get the sense in many ways that churchill dwarfed
orwell. but at the end, was lasting of course is the writing. so the writing for orwell, talk about the writing from churchill. that's all you get into it, right? >> i began with orwell. and of his own writing he said my ambition is to write as transparent as a windowpane. i think humans the modern op-ed into the newspaper column where you have a clear statement of an observation laying out a few facts and explain their implications. winston, was in churchill was a window, it would be a stained-glass of a cathedral with rays of green and red and blue shining down, and a wonderful sam painting which is also worth reading to understand
he says, i honestly feel sorry for the drab colors, the rounds and the grays, churchill's life was a pageant. a cabinet member was set arguing with him is like arguing with the brass band. >> i kinda felt that as i was writing this book. this was difficult right, i've written six books, it was a hard one. my editor read the first draft and said this stinks, redo it. editors are a little bit like a spouse, you have to have a trusting relationship. in your writing about orwell he never writes about his personal life, he's an introvert, he writes about his chickens were in his diaries and he writes about his wife. and i be trying to listening to
his whispery voice and churchill would come marching through like the energizer bunny, he was like a big kid sometimes. >> and yet, you liked his writing, right? i think when you dissect some of his writings you have a lot of praise for lot the same time it is showing parts. my favorite part is when he counseled the president the time franklin delano roosevelt, he counseled him to use fewer adjectives and adverbs which pay me think, position heal thyself, right. >> and remember fdr's response was to counsel churchill on what to do about india to which churchill muttered, at least we didn't kill all our indians. >> it was a tough relationship between those two. but it was not just lovey-dovey
which is why sometimes is presented nowadays. >> churchill they even called him halfbreed american, orwell didn't know the united states for a well but the president and the growing power of the united states was significant in both in some ways mr. >> i think orwell did but i don't think churchill did, when he was invited to speak in front of the congress in december of 1941 after pearl harbor he basically said thank you for inviting me here, but i'd like to think had my father been american, you got here by myself churchill was fascinated by america spent a lot of time with america and was nearly killed crossing fifth avenue the 1930s because the british look the
round way, a car hit him and dragged him about 30 feet. several ribs were broken. but these guys nearly died in the 1930s, churchill's was shot through the necklace spanish civil war and he was lucky. >> orwell shot through the and was lucky not to have a spinal cord where the artery or his windpipe destroyed. america is chris reset is orwell's great blank spot, he never came to america, he was intrigued by 19th century america but never got it on his agenda. that does affect his understanding of economics. the economic system he witnessed was late industrial capitalism under the british aristocracy, not innovative, doesn't invest
in industry, disdains the application of university research to the factory, so again they're doing good research as they event penicillin and most of rater, but the americans quickly surpassed them. so the british in the 1950s drop out of the automobile industry, only feel luxury vehicles. and they never get into the information industry. there is no british ibm or apple. had a come to america i think you would seen a very different economics. the british system he saw was concerned with twisting out a little bit more efficiency, cutting wages or investment.
give never seen this develop in this country which after all is based on failure. for going to innovate you feel most of the time. it's not looking for efficiency. innovation is very inefficient. [inaudible] a very good novel called the circle was turned into what i am told not a very good movie. >> so, the relationship between churchill and roosevelt critical to the success of the allies in world war ii, but talk about the british in general in their view of the united states, when i was reading i was reminded that i went to 40th birthday party for british friend and i was the american guests, everybody kept coming up in saint what americans think of us? the first couple of times your
plate and that their drinking you say well we don't. i think that's what you start to see in the 40s, talk about that relationship between the two countries. >> in an alternative life, i like to have all the time to write all of these books that i would love to get into we have to choose, you can only write so many. when i would love to write is how the power britain becomes the power of america in the summer of 1944 and how the british realize, my god, they're just going to show us aside. another book i would like to write is characteristic figures of british society in the 1930s, the prime minister who think you can feed hitler the bits of europe and that will take care of them.
the figure of the 40s is churchill, the figures of the 1950s i would argue is fill be, can fill be the spy, which they pay for over with james bond. there's a reason james bond become so popular, he's a good spot, he's not a traitor. then the characteristic figure of the 60s is the beatles, franklin. that shows use in the 1950s both the british left and right agreed on one thing, they disdained america. the aristocratic people did, at the same time this what fascinates me, the british working-class kids and liverpool and elsewhere embraced american culture as it never had been embraced in britain before. suddenly kids who grew up in parts of england trying their
best to sound like african-american field hands and succeeding in making money on it. and so, in many ways this class system divides over the question of america and that still persists, the working-class fascination of america. if you ever use in the whole working-class going to disney world. >> so one thing that surprised me and i think churchill was a progressive but one thing surprising was churchill's understanding of the dynamic and sympathy to the middle working-class. talk about the. >> guest: one way you can get a good perspective on your peers and classes they'll start to announcing you. churchill spent the 1930s being abused by members of its own class were sympathetic to fast
fascism and not season. a relevant of his was head of the house of lords and cabinet minister for a while, he kept his office his whole life a gift he had from a party of vanessa stripper, a porcelain statue. the british foreign office ordered the british national soccer team and they played in brooklyn to give the nazi salute. we forget how much britain was cozying up, especially the ruling party and the american ambassador to london thought that was exactly the right thing to do. in fact, he writes a letter to roosevelt on october 11, 1939 advising roosevelts make peace
with germany because the british were going to lose. the same day, after opens up his back channel to churchill, think in response to his distrust of joe kennedy. or wall is a bit of a class but churchill in the battle of written notices something interesting. pilots of the royal air force are not the aristocracy. yes the numbers, how many pilots went to -- the two most elite, and prestigious schools and he finds is a very small number, a 5000 pilots who in the battle of britain and help stave off the invasion, there were middle class and lower middle class, there are the sons of government
clerks, of grocery store managers, and churchill observes rather stridently that they have saved the country, they have earned the right to run it, and in that sense, thatcher is churchill's air, the daughter of a grocery from the countryside, she experiences a lot of snobbery, and her life as she grows up. one of the things she does upon becoming prime minister's restore the war rooms were churchill for when she goes to czechoslovakia and apologize to how they gave checklist of our kid hitler 1938. >> so that part was a surprise to me. was there anything while your writing the book that surprised you dramatically.
>> a lot surprise me. you write a book because you're asking questions and figuring things out, the first thing that surprised me that these two men are so human, they're both failures for most of their lives, they fail at most of the things they do for most of their lives. orwell is an unknown author are not very successful until the last couple years of his life he died at age 46. churchill is a failure for much of his life. he has an awful father, unhappy youth, desperate to give glory and then blames for a big fiasco in world war i. goes into political exile and then in the 30s he's at odds with his own party. churchill only is one great year.
if you're going to have one great year, make it churchill in 1940, because he saved the west. has someone else been prime minister and a lot of people's that someone else would be prime minister, england almost certainly would have made peace with germany in 1940. it was churchill who rallied the british people, who assisted they would not have a agreement and who gave speeches 1940 that pulled the country together mobilized it. the speeches are great political speeches. we remember will fight them on the beaches, this is their finest hour, blood sweat and tears, as are all 1940. we will fight them on the beaches is remarkable because it describes a fighting retreat. if they retreat, we'll fight
them on the landing field and in the hills, his describing fighting and retreating from the germans as they come over the country, this was startling stuff to here in england at the time. i think churchill speeches that your although literary equivalent of orwell's greatest essays. >> and yet, after 43 his speeches were far more infrequent, far less passionate, did he run out of gas, what's there too much? >> guest: everyone pretty much runs out of gas. fdr doesn't support survived the war, i think the british public realizes this when they vote them out of office in july 1945, even before world war ii his ended.
i think world war ii just consumed these guys, especially churchill. these are flawed people who made them able to do what they did. churchill have been more empathetic, he had almost no empathy. if he had been more sympathetic to people it would a question. instead he goes through world war ii very concerned about how much booze do i get today? first my silk underwear? he goes to breakfast at the british embassy of cairo and he is the wife for a carafe of white wine. she says don't worry about it have two whiskey sours. or wall is a very different story. he comes home one night and his wife has left a plated dinner
for him on the table. he self-denying by mistake he's the sister to the cat needs the cat's dinner. and doesn't notice until his finish. >> host: were gonna take a few questions. last time warmer question at least. i have a bunch here, overdoing that i'm gonna lay a big one, that is, he runs out of gas, you have a plea toward the end of the book but people great grossly finding out the facts, rigorously challenging their assumption in allowing the colleagues and bosses to challenge their assumptions work through that. i make decisions based on principles.
i can feel churchill's fatigue and am reading this challenge and thinking, that's a lot of work. how do we do this in the modern-day? how do we hold ourselves to that standard? >> it is a lot of work. the first thing i suggest is to turn off your tv, except for c-span. i live in maine on an island and i remain very well informed without watching television. except for baseball. what i've noticed lately since our last presidential election is i've been trying very consciously to see will also out there is this pattern of principles in fact. one group i pay attention to his intake trump conservatives. they're valuable to me because i'm not a conservative, i don't
have the same values in my heart. but i respect them. for example these people are very tied to tradition and supporting american institutions. i'm thinking of the them atlantic monthly at the washington post, these are people who are writing loudly some of the most interesting and important things about her new president. they're saying his not a conservative, he is a radical reaction her. he has no loyalty to traditional institution. the fact he's ignorant of our most important document, the u.s. constitution. seems to dislike it, and is frustrated constantly because the judiciary is checking him. and under the system of checks and balances.
the more i see this more i become a fan of u.s. constitution one of my bumper stickers would be have you hugged a federal judge today, so those principal conservatives operating under the facts of the case i find very interesting. i'm also looking for people willing to criticize their own side. so if you are critical of a congressional candidate knocking down a reporter which i think you should be, you should be equally critical of college students preventing someone from speaking. until you're willing to be vigorous with both you're not operating on its both free speech. >> thank you. we have some people lined up. [applause] >> host: keep your question
short. >> so you describe that orwell was very concerned with what is now -- caa and fbi, do you think with this president, the only institution that can save the country and therefore the surveillance is wrong, three good. >> guest: is not really question, but all just your point. no, i don't think the security apparatus is the only thing that can save this country, but i tell you what can, the u.s. constitution. [applause] one of the things that orwell did well was give vocabulary, when we talk about intrusive government -- we have another vocabulary, that of the
constitution. one thing the left and liberal should recover is the phrase un-american. a candidate knocks down a reporter, that's un-american because it violates the constitution. we should be willing to say, when the president embraces autocrats and dictators and kids kings overseas and alienates our democratic allies, that's un-american. when we have a president who actively dislikes the constitution, that's un-american. but the system was built in anticipation of this. the constitution is written with the british monarch are, what we do if we have a crazy king george the country, they say don't give anyone sector of the government too much power, allow the judiciary to stop the executive, and so we have a system that encourages
adversarial discussions. i have it no problem with adversarial discussions as long as the respectful of the law and the constitution. basically if someone violates the bill of rights that's un-american. that's what will save this country as we watch the president get a multibillion-dollar education on the constitution. >> host: thank you very much. next question please. >> while the men are contemporary, they were in different roles this book to different people, did they know about each other write about each other? they're both in their careers and maybe when they were reflecting do they think of orval? they never met each other, which is surprising for a country that has a small elite people.
they knew people who knew each other. a british writer for example edited churchill's memoirs for publication, and became a close friend of orwell's in the late 40s. the recall the hero 1984 is named winston. there was only one winston in britain of the 1940s, the other politicians were known as atlee or baldwin or chamberlain. and the last thing and also churchill we know red 1984 twice and recommended it to his dr.. the last thing that orwell wrote and published from his deathbed was an admiring review of churchill in which he said this is a man who really, while politician writes like a human
being which is about the highest. c can give him. he also talks about churchill's largeness of spirit which is wonderful because even now it resonates. if you read that you say that's right, churchill was a deeply flawed man and wrong on a lot of things, yet he had a largeness of spirits about him. >> and churchill was surprisingly you think he was very well read but he wasn't. he was shallow but not deep. >> what he knew he knew really well, and what he didn't know he didn't know any was always surprising people one day woman who wanted to marry him who would've been a great politician and a later time quoted one of the odes of keith to him. he never heard of keith or the old, but typical churchill the next time he saw her he read it in for good measure had memorize
the other five. >> it seems to churchill and orwell's political philosophies although he was more concerned with surrender of liberties as opposed to government intrusion, did you find that tocqueville was an influence? >> guest: no, he never comes up as far as i can tell in their writings, though orwell was fascinated by 19th century america in a very romantic way, i know he was very influenced by -- in the novel which is very funny and scathing in his betrayal of america, keeps on turning on the question the family of johnson s why is the drivers of slaves yell most loudly about liberty.
>> and the behavior of u.s. soldiers in london in britain was an issue particularly a treatment of the black soldiers. >> the british were shocked that the american army wanted to for segregation and they were appalled and said you're going to import this institution entire country? yet the american said you have to otherwise will have problems. one of my other heroes is george marshall, who is chief of staff at the u.s. army. he had a huge blind spot. more progress could have been made in world war ii had marshall been more tuned to it. as you saw in the korean war u.s. army integrated quickly and successfully. >> something tells me that might be on your list of future books.
>> i would love to make them movie about the chosen battle which is the most interesting in history. >> is stay tuned. so, what exactly was your research process when writing? churchill and orwell are quite different, how did you go about researching? >> three basic ways, had to research in washington, d.c. to retrieve documents i couldn't find, the second thing is it's amazing how much is online, i could not have lived in maine 15 years ago and on this, i would not have had that internet so for example all of these works are online, the british have in their equivalent of the record called cancer but it's better than the congressional record a more user-friendly were searchable for things like how
many times is this word used in a given month, when does this word appear, how many speeches did churchill give a certain subject and so on. the third main thing was books. my office is about half the size of the stage, by the end of the process you cannot see the floor, there are stacks of books everywhere, a stack with churchill, and i think i read pretty much every published diary your letters collection by politicians and writers of the 30s and 40s. i love the diaries and letters because they capture the moment, they're not written with hindsight, the what people think at a given time what you see is the political what this of churchill when he takes power. a lot of people expect them just
to last six months. like maybe you can pull it up and maybe who have to surrender to germany. those really came a live for me, the diaries and letters. >> i think we have time for one more question. >> mr. ricks, i'm a fan of historical fiction, you talked about the battle of britain and how churchill marshall the forces, what would've happened if instead the british debated whether it is actually germany that invaded and attacked britain and if they debated that for months but with the fate of britain have been? >> if they just couldn't figure out who attack them kinda like what's going on right now were 17 intelligence agents say russia has attacked us but were not doing anything about it.
>> there is a lot of interest in not looking at the facts of the 30s in england. weather seems to be today with what is happening with russia and its relationship with a set of people now in our government, i think it would've been bad franklin, they would have dithered away in one of the things you see is german power increasing dramatically in the late 30s because the british are dithering, if hitler had been told in 1936 no, stop he would've had to pull back. instead he gets austria, he is czechoslovakia, all these things dramatically increase, german power in several ways he gets more land, more people, he gets the austrian gold in the check arms -- if the british had not
left you would've only seen the power increase as they took over more countries and started extracting people to serve and their militaries and factories and basically they would've won the war because there is no challenge they would have turned their attention to 4445 to how to conquer america. they're interested in nuclear weapons were building a bomber that was supposed to be a transcontinental aircraft. >> host: i think that's all we have time for. thank you very much. [applause] thank you for coming your signings will be available outside the auditorium. thank you.
>> when he think about a one day festival, the national book festival and you have over 100 authors from children's authors, illustrators, graphic novelists, all of the different authors there all day, over 100,000 people, and celebrate books and reading. you cannot have a better time i think. i'm a little prejudiced because of the library, but i tell you if any reader anybody wants to be inspired, the book festival is the perfect place. >> the tvs live all day coverage begins sunday at 10:00 a.m. with authors including pulitzer
prize-winning authors, david mccullough and thomas friedman. former secretary of state, condoleezza rice and best-selling authors, michael lewis and jd vance. the national book festival, live saturday on c-span2's book tv. >> tomorrow, book tv and primetime looks at authors her on the summer reading list for members of congress. michelle alexander talks about crime policies that began in the early 70s in her book, the new jim crow. davis a bell on the glass universe, history professor holder hook talks about the revolutionary war and scars of independence. jd vance discusses his book, hillbilly elegy, book tv this week and primetime in c-span2. >> a book tv on c-span2 continues and primetime tonigh