tv Kurt Andersen and Mark Bowden CSPAN December 26, 2017 4:22am-5:16am EST
can get a sense of where to find me or what ever doing institute please join me to welcome john. >> banks for coming to a the last event we have had an amazing glass-steagall and. and as the author of 12 books like blackhawk down at "the philadelphia inquirer" 20 years now writes for vanity fair and the atlantic the writer in residence at university of delaware it in 1968 of the tet offensive at the turning point of the of war in vietnam.
[applause] and kurt andersen is the best selling author and contributors to "vanity fair" and "the new york times" his book reader of studio 360 the peabody award winner and in "fantasyland" the liquid history of america to show what is happening in our country today in the fake news moment we are living through is the ultimate expression of our national character. [applause] >> the of the floor is yours.
>> thanks for coming i am honored to close out the book festival i will talk for a couple of minutes then kirch will come up to tell you about his book then we will have a conversation if you have questions lined up and fire. my book tells a story of the worst battle of the vietnam war careful to call it a the american war in vietnam because it is told through the eyes of both the americans and vietnamese. one of the real the vintages for me is researching and writing the book is the country has opened to the reporters and journalists so that was one of the first opportunities to do this
kind of work to sell the story from poolsides obviously you learn very quickly there are two sides to every story i cannot think of the subject that would be more true than a battle so i was thrilled to have the opportunity to do this reporting in vietnam. i hired a fellow who is a military officer retired military man. he understood the of bureaucracy and the of veterans' organizations to find former vietnamese and viet cong fighters that i could interview and also in the american war but because
of the military background could put the vietnamese and veterans at ease talking to me also working with ken burns with the pbs series. the first trip that i took anti-introduced me to 20 or 39 of which i understood i don't speak vietnamese soil and ask the question and get 20 minutes to respond then give me a 302nd summary. [laughter] so when i got home i hired a young woman who was a grad student so planes taking the she transcribed the interview so i had a chance
to read so i went back the following year and then to ask that follow-up questions but the problem is that in the interim someone google me to decide i was an important american writer. so i got a nice note from the ministry saying because the was significant journalist or writer to have a deputy of minister so i sat down to draft a note back things for working with him but could contact before hand and said this is not an
offer that you can refuse. so the deputy information minister because when we left hanoi to drive up to the first interview we had to pick up that information chief and then further on for the province and by the time we arrived at the village we had a caribbean high enough to intimidate any veterans. i informed him that i was very grateful that the interest showed in my work as the toast was raised to the united states. but i am going home tomorrow if you don't stop.
so it was easier for me to interview the american veterans but nowadays most units involved have web sites, rosters, before what i had a long robust of interviewees that i could ever possibly have done. so i find it difficult woodworking on a project like is to disengage at a certain point and then realized if you are interviewing the 125th person so the story of the battle is told from the ground up. academic historians tend to work in the opposite direction from the top down
and they are interested in strategy and that importance with the various political trend and i am interested in those also but i am more of a journalist than a historian. so we build this month-long battle in vietnam's that were caught up in the fighting. is a portrait not just of a battle but the battle itself. this is a particularly terrible example that lasted for more than a month and 10,000 killed and 1800 casualty's and by far were
the civilians. with the most beautiful cities in vietnam composed primarily in the north of a giant fortress called a the citadel. it looks like it should belong and they gave of throws with the stonewall, only nine gates in and out over the motives of those civilians inside were literally trapped. those forces who had taken the city did so with the expectation that they would rise up in support of the revolution and that did not happen. but civilians who were
trying to get out did not endear themselves to those communist troops and to round up those people that were affiliated with the saigon regime. see you were not rising up so they either rand from place to place looking for a safe haven, or they dug bunkers and the whole family would hide under ground where they were safe as long as the artillery shell did the land of the house. by the end of the battle 80% of the dwellings in the city were destroyed and
80 percent of the people were homeless. but the battle itself was probably the most significant shock as part of the tet offensive united states were heavily engaged fighting in vietnam for three years and general westmoreland the commander was assuring president johnson in the american people that the enemy was on the of run that they could come down somewhat small and reach the far reaches of the country. with every major city and town and with the ancient capital the entire city was taken this cave is the nervous shock as site --
eager mr. rock that i write about the debate was no longer have to win but how do we get out? so i think this battle was pivotal and in some ways was a watershed event as a high water mark for trust and respect in the military and that ted offensive was the first in this series of blows with the people that were in charge. westmoreland always refuse to a knowledge the city was taken and insisted there was nothing significant going
on. but there were 20 times that many. and as a consequence of that many young americans were killed and. one of the shocking things that i discovered is that small units were repeatedly ordered to attack with that intrenched position. >> and to have so many characters you have to apologize it is the battle that affects so many people in so many different places of time that it becomes a
challenge to tell all those stories and if you see the portraits on magazine covers it looks like a portrait with thousands of the actual photographs each of those is a pixel said you step back it looks like a face and that is how i envision the book to relate the story of the terrible battle through the experiences of all these people caught up in it. >>. >> is a pleasure to be here.
peace to "the new yorker" have a the presidency more and more has become a subset of entertainment and what that meant. and a piece where the york magazine with creationism and these were separate pieces. as i also made my living as a book writer. and then that's moment with that extraordinary quotation from the mastermind carl rove and he said people in
the reality based economy believe it is under discernable reality. that is that how the world works and he was joking but dangerously that is not how the world works anymore. as senator moynihan said everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions but not their own facts. that was no longer a joke. so anyway i began thinking about the book which i began realizing the '60s was a crucible for what i was thinking about. and the dna was a defining
part of the national character for centuries that it achieved this critical mass in the '60s to put us into a typical 51 years later. so reading of bit of the first chapter with the basic theory of the case then the last chapter. i don't consider all religion or alternative belief systems or conspiracy theories or all impossible dreams misguided. each of us is on the spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational and we all have superstitions and we cannot prove but what is problematic is going overboard. letting the subjective
entirely overwhelm the objective. and it was just as true. the original embodiment of the idea of intellectual freedom free to believe anything she wishes is out of control. the old drug individualism was attached to epic dreams and fantasies in to build a custom made utopia. with that imagination and will. and they have swamped that sober empirical part. little by little for centuries and americans give of themselves and then to
believe the indians a full exploration with small and large and most of this to realize how far reaching the new normal has become. more than the other billions in the rich world we believe in the supernatural and the miraculous. reports of the recent trips to the several thousand year old story from several thousand years ago. at the turn of the millennium but it was no longer risky as tens of millions fantasize that real-estate would only increase in value. we believe the government and co-conspirators hold information from us like
vaccination or extraterrestrials were the dangers of vaccines. we stockpiled guns because you fantasize about the pioneer past or in anticipation of imaginary shootouts. and then to pretend we are soldiers and then to have those worlds do the same. that was all before we were familiar with the term post factual or post truth and alternative facts before we elected a president with astonishingly open mind what is true or false of the nature of reality but with my reckoning more reality based maybe one-third of us
believe was some uncertainty is the main cause only one-third are sure of liberal and factual account why are we like this? the short answer is because we are americans that means we can believe anything we want to. that is superior to anyone else once day it becomes an incredible the word mainstream is a pejorative shorthand for oppression by the leads with that institution that what -- that once kept us for the
media and academia and corporate america and professional association with respectable opinion enables and encourage every species of fantasy was the most prestigious universities promotes miracle cures, the tv show. mermaids and monsters and angels as real. once cnn anchor talks about the malaysian airline receives supernatural event. one of the two bullet wound -- big political parties with the new world order. white women felt the lack never tended to be the case of the naacp official said it isn't the cost of that i can put on or take off the
would not say i am african-american but i would say i am black. bill gates foundation but they have folded into the new center. and as particular fantasies they are encouraged by a cascade about of control powers if those people believe that then certainly we can believe this with that intellectual and psychological are conducive to the fallacy and make-believe there are many slippery slopes during the last several decades they were turned into a colossal
interconnected with no easy exit. is the only a matter of falsehood but people assembling a make-believe life style as well. with conspiracy theories and tennessee football and virtual reality make everyday existence more exciting and dramatic. . . . . life with the dull bits cut out. with a cooler story younger than we actually are. if we are old.
over time the patches of unreality take up more and more space in our line. eventually the whole lawn becomes astroturf. we start registering the differences. in the old days if you want to shop and becoming instantly rich you have to travel to las vegas. in order to spend time walking around. you have a go to disneyland or disney world. cosmetic surgery was rare. we didn't reenact military battles with props with days on end. we had fabricated the mongrel of melodrama. of course having fake boobs were playing league of legends does it make any individual or
that viruses cause autism. but we are freer than ever to custom make reality. to believe whatever or to pretend to be whoever we wish which makes all the lines between actual and fictional blur more easily. it becomes flexible. there is a functioning synergy. the large and small ones the toxic and individually entertaining once. the ones we know to be fiction and the ones we sort of believe in the religious and political and scientific once we are convinced they are not fantasies at all. america was created by true believers in passionate dreamers as well as by hucksters. from a salem hunting riches.
to speaking in tongues. from hollywood to scientology. from walt disney to billy graham to ronald reagan. in todd donald trump. in other words, epic individualism with extreme religion makes show business with everything else. and all of that deep and simmer for a few centuries. the anything goes in the internet age the result is the america we inhabit today. where reality and fantasy are weirdly and dangerously blurred and co- mingle. here is close the end of the book. after i've taken the reader through 400 years of america including the reformation. during the first 15 years the gop turned into the fantasy party with the reality -based wing. a far right counterculture the
millions of followers as their extremist predecessors have succeeded in doing to evangelicalism in the lobby three decades earlier. this book have been underway for two or three years and when when the presidential campaign began. i have started paying close attention to donald trump. in many other articles about him. exposing and satirizing his life, they called us names. it was amazing to us.
to turn with the on-screen cartoon. and reply to us. he came on just as we were creating a magazine to chronicle america's rich and famous in powerful jerks and i guess that trump became the center of all as i was in the middle of writing a history. a pure fantasy land being. if he have not run for president i and might not had mentioned him in this book at all. here he is a stupendous exhibit a. to describe him as practically to summarize this book. his right as american to believe or pretend that fictions our facts. to feel the truth.
his case of what i call kids are russ syndrome is acute. and he is first and last a creature of our industrial contact. so did his biographer in 2005. first the internet. a minute did so for candidate trump. feeding him pseudo news on his phone and letting him feed at those untruths directly to followers of social media. he is the poster boy for the downside of our digital world. forget the press he advised people at rallies just read the internet they had ties to ices he was asked if he would
be regretting treating that. all i know is what's on the internet. but he now thinks it's a double edge sword. it allows them to find and circulate convenient and exciting untruths. he read on the internet. that has elite enemies conspire to spread lies to hurt him. just before the election was suppressing the bad news about hillary clinton. how about that. they had been a recurring motif in this history of fantasy land. now of muslims and liberals. he launched the political career.
fear and loathing of foreigners and nonwhites. in 2011 trump became chief spokesperson for the fantasy that barack obama was brock obama was born in kenya a french idea that he brought into the mainstream. he was done and not he was donald trump. so that could be regularly provided. people who believe in true things i can pass light detector test. trump's version of unreality is a patchwork of knowing falsehoods and sis. believing fantasies which is more troubling than if you were just a liar. the insistence that he did not grab or kiss any of the dozen women who in 2016 said he have unbidden nothing ever happened it didn't exist. that was all fantasy land he said.
i'm close to certain but he probably really believes that the murder way in our country is the highest it has been in 47 years. the total and dangerous falsehood that he told leaders of the national sheriffs association earlier this year. whatever he believes or doesn't he makes untrue assertions than any u.s. leader in recorded history. as he wouldn't head. in the 80s or 90s when he first talked about running for president because now the actual truth is just one option the consensus reality it americans do feel entitled to their own facts when the public approval rating declined trump simply refused to believe it. any negative polls the president tweeted at don one morning from our lago are fake news. his brazenness is not punished
even when he is denying from the point of view political psychology by simply denying what i affirm active nothing happened. you are left to having to decide what i really meant. and all the sensitivity to the value of truth itself. it's easier for everyone to come more like him. did he really think he lost the popular vote. i'm a very instinctual person.
my instinct turned out to be right. conspiracy of government officials bold they were closer to sincere belief. the people who speak on trump's behalf fantasy was asserted by someone else. or they will as a he has been graded on the car. they mustn't always be taken literally. the white house asked the reporter to please remember all the many things that he says that our true according to the new york times the baseless certainty that he was bugged in some way a sense of
persecution bordering on faith. i'm indeed the most honored defense has been to cash them as matters of religion. that is what the press secretary did with the three to 5 million illegal voters. he reminded the reporters that trump has believed that for a while and does believe that and it's been a long-standing belief that he has maintained and its belief that he has maintained for a while. a quarter of americans subscribe to that belief themselves. and in trumps of you that overrides any requirement for facts do you think that talking about millions of illegal voters is dangerous to this country without presenting evidence the anchor of abc ask him.
no, he replied not at all. many people feel the same way that i do. this is a final paragraph of the book. when you come across words. the current situation was not inevitable because he never are. more now is any particular future. one strange act on the ongoing epic. nations and societies have survived from far more terrible swerves the good news
in other words we can help. thank you. in an effort to link my book with yours. maybe we can see the battle of way. what happens in the real world when an alternative reality leads us into situations that would probably be best to avoid. talk about the best and the brightest in all the super rationalist maniacs.
and how that can become its own version of unreality. if you only look at body counts that are strictly rational. a disciple of the school and quantified management. in a ton of equipment and ammunition moving down the trail. they kept track of the points. given in the 1960s like there was this religious and quasi- religious and spiritual awakening on so many fronts i gave rationality a bad name
that it was this a debacle in vietnam that it became the symbol. that doesn't work. reality does have a way of asserting itself. on the view of my book. carl was a marine company captain in vietnam. and he told the story of his friend who was a pollutant leader. that can't be true because they don't have any trust. sir, i am where i am and where i am icy goddamn trucks. with time for just one question.
see mech. >> this is a lot of pressure. the meaning of life. when i hear you describe what comes to my mind. the united states civil war which they trained troops for the battle endeavor and actually fought. i was wondering about the parallel and making this all up and putting us into a big hole that we actually never a doubt out of. i'm wondering what was his motivation based on your research that led him to live. we've all met people some of us and pay person and others on television with such a firm theory of the battlefield or the marketplace or whatever
that reality doesn't even make a dent. i think wes marlin was someone like that. he invested a lot of his ego invested a lot of his authority in his theory of what was happening in vietnam any on and he on all of the data he needed to back it up. that rigidity was so evident that when his own filled -- field commanders were radioing back he just chose not to believe it. the young officers were accused of committing or cowardice in many cases after having lost half of their men in efforts to do what they were ordered to do. it really is astonishing. i don't know if he was deliberately lying but he was certainly lying to himself and what i will add to that and
the experience with the american experience of being lied to by generals and people all the way up about vietnam especially in the course by watergate as vietnam was ending. the ferocious miss trust. with the government and institutions. in my view it went too far finally. as correct as the attraction us to as us to get to a place where any set of facts that are inconvenient to one can be the dying. thank you.lliam hershey is the