tv Adam Hochschild Lessons from a Dark Time and Other Essays CSPAN December 15, 2018 11:00pm-12:01am EST
co-owner of politics and prose along with my wife the fellow co-owner and on behalf of everybody on politics and prose they give are coming it is very much pleasure to welcome t13 back to politics and prose it is his sixth appearance in the store the first was two decades ago and it seems the time between his visits keeps getting shorter and shorter between his initial talk here in 1990 and his second then nine years and six than five the last appearance was just two years
ago so at this rate maybe we will see you again next year. he has a great job he writes books about whatever interests him and they tend to interest lots of readers so he has even more books the first job was a journalism reporting for daily newspaper for a couple of years that was good training for writing quickly then spent a decade editing magazines including mother jones he thought he would be a novelist but his first try didn't really work so in 1986 he published a memoir half the way home about the difficult relationship with his dad. he has gone on since to produce books that could be categorized as history or a combination of history so as
he has explained elsewhere he tends to be drawn two times and places in the past involving people wrestling with profound political and moral dilemmas to feel imperative to confront evil he has written about apartheid in south afric africa, stalin's prison camp camps, the regime at camp leopold in belgium and the efforts to inflate the british empire, resistance to the madness of world war i and to get caught up in the spanish civil war. whatever issue he focuses on it's about telling the story through connected and compelling characters and his interest is where people have
taken a stand against despotism or the unjust wars or institutional evils rooted in his own coming-of-age and activism during these antiwar protests of the sixties. lessons from a dark time is indicating that was previously published to make clear in the introduction to serve as a response throughout the donald trump presidency posing to democracy with the resurgence of authoritarianism elsewhere in the world none of the essays are reminded for those that resisted help to transform the world for the better with the continued
reason to hope so ladies and gentlemen please join me to welcome t13. [applause] >> thank you very much. it's great to be here i remember the first time i was here in 1990 what i remember was exactly six people came. [laughter] four of whom were friends and relatives. [laughter] so the trend is definitely upward. it's very nice to have a chance to talk with you about my new book. i started thinking three or four years ago about this book that it would be nice to pull together these magazine pieces i have written over the years with mother jones and other magazines it would be fun to pull them together and to put them in one volume but then for the last two years we are
living in a grim political moment and to some degree of how i framed it because to the extent that i could i wanted to choose pieces that offered hope for what we've been through many times before to ask what lessons we can learn from them. so that's what i'm thinking about when i write history this does not apply to all of the pieces in the book because some i hope the readers will enjoy even if they don't directly apply but it certainly applies to some of them. so tonight i thought i would take you on a quick two were on a couple of parts of the book of some of my interest and of sessions.
not the full deal which would be 26 pieces of the book so what are some of those lessons or the connections between the time we live in now and the past? i think sometimes when times are dark it is interesting to look back when times were even worse. right now we have a president who demonizes mexicans as rapist and a caravan of refugees approaching the border now they are at the border threatening everything we hold dear and so forth. and we think this is a more
naked disgusting view than what we have seen in the past. let me introduce you to another president. here is a quotation giving a speech to congress. they are citizens of the united states i blushed to admit belonging to other flags who have disloyalty in the very arteries of our national life such creatures of passion and disloyalty and anarchy should be crushed out. the year was 1915 the president woodrow wilson. now we have a president today who calls the press the enemy of the american people. something that is echoed on all sides have we been there before cracks we have. there are some newspapers published in the city every day the editors of which
deserve conviction and execution for treason. the city was new york the year was 1917 and at that time was a special envoy to woodrow wilson former secretary of state and united states senator. both of these quotes come from a period of severe repression of the early 20th century from this bring through early 1920 provoked by american entry into the war and then the russian revolution paradoxically it took place under president wilson best remembered for his internationalist ideas to be a backer of the league of nations and so forth. but that time. which has long fascinated me
, is subject of the book lessons from the dark time. so just to go over some of the things that happened during that period with quotations like what i just read, he paved the way shamelessly for hysteria against immigrants that the anti- immigrant crackdown that followed was selective when the united states went into the first world war government use that as an excuse to arrest many americans who were german born but who were never naturalized as us citizen even though they had lived here for many years. but those were highly
selective. they just happen to people - - pick people into the industrial world of the iww the most political union. repression of black americans continued unabated during this era 60 black americans lynched in 1918, 78 in 1919 president who actually high and the segregation the federal government. but this period was so oppressive but the iww organizer was lynched for having organized strike against the integrating mining accident and robert who had
the bad luck to be german born was attacked by a mob wrapped in the american flag lynched from a tree on the outskirts of town it made no difference if he had actually tried to enlist in the u.s. navy but was turned down because he had a glass eye 11 members of the lynch mob were acquitted while the military band played outside the courthouse. it's no accident the same. saw an assault on the media unmatched by anything we have ever seen in this country. here the excuse was war. and the target was always the left. the governments instrument was the post office because newspapers and magazines had to reach people through the mail. they passed a resolution call
mac anything calculated to have insubordination or disloyalty or otherwise embarrass or hamper the government to conduct the war was being and from the press altogether since 75 newspapers and magazines in this country had to be censored or were shut down completely. one of the magazines shut down completely was one of the most interesting the country has ever produced, the masses which published the young walter lipman and many other people it was like the new yorker of its day one of those that defended them was a cartoon of a living doll crumbling. there was a crackdown on the movement speaking out against
the war and was sent to jail the labor and socialist leader spoke out very strongly against the war for which he was arrested and tried and convicted and sent to prison and was still in prison two years later on the socialist party ticket and from his jail cell. and the anarchist leader sent to jail for two years for organizing against when she was accused of being unpatriotic she told the jury the patriotism and enchanted by her beauty and also in this
era we saw something of a long nasty threat of vigilante justice right across the street from the white house smashing furniture out the window breaking into the socialist party office like the knights of number one - - liberty something called the american protective league 250,000 members was the official auxiliary for the department of justice. these folks even had the privilege to send mail for free.
they would beat people up generating more than 1 million pages of unreliable accusations to tar and feather in what is now known as the palmer raids in the attorney general of the time where they arrested radicals all over the country all together one of the 5000 people arrested in a single day of january 2nd 1 group marched through downtown boston late 1920 the chicago police and in detention for the day because it's supposed
to be a communist uprising on mayday which happened. so what lessons can we draw? that determine physician can still follow the law to have considerable influence as an example from that. during this period of the palmer raids somewhere between 6,002,000 undocumented noncitizens and attorney general palmer with his young assistant j edgar hoover were extremely eager to deport them. but the justice department did not control deportations that
was controlled by the immigration bureau which fell under the department of labor. and to stop and to cancel search warrants for those who were detained drastically reduced for bail for many of them with that undying hatred of hoover that was orchestrated a campaign by the american legion and when that didn't work try to get congress to impeach him but he could keep his position and prevent 3000 people from being deported. and now today calling the deep state but whatever you call it it shows even in very dark
times our institutions still work. i have a gut feeling that a lot of those are stronger today than they were 100 years ago. i think the next two years will tell us of that feeling is right or not. a second lesson i take from this era is that we have to be wary in this country of the way that tradition of vigilante justice. we don't have anything on the scale of the battle and if i do hard to imagine it happening but we have seen a tremendous rise in the number of private relations around the country the people that you saw with the outfits carrying their rifles and their boots and so on.
and a lot have been in the standoffs with the 400 militiamen here in 2014 and over again in 2016 and in those periods of 2010 there were more than 50 attacks the bureau of land management and by snipers. under trump the number of armed militia groups has risen the southern poverty law center tracks this from 165 at the end of 2631 - - through 217 in 2017 so we have to keep your eye on these folks. the last lesson i take from this. is if you have a president who
wants to jail his critics the best thing he can have is a war. us entry into world war i was the excuse for everything i'm talking about i don't think it was a real motive for it there was a lot of bottled up tensions when us entered the war but that was the excuse so every time president trump talks about threatening gestures towards china or iran or north korea again, keith a long-range i on what he is may be thinking about doing under the cover of the war hysteria. i want to take one other example from this book that
involves taking lessons not just from the past but from other places and encouraging lessons so a few years ago i was invited to a book festival and when i got there the publisher showed me the schedule and said you have a free day on your schedule on thursday would you like us to arrange anything for you there is beautiful medieval churches i said i really want to see a prison. the reason for that it had one of the lowest incarceration rates. they lock people up less than 10 percent of the rate we do here in the united states.
obviously there are some differences between the two countries it is smaller but that cannot explain everything. so i spent most of the day in a medium security prison. the prisoners were all men but interestingly the director of the prison and most of the staff were women. they were there for a variety of offenses some violated drug laws but what struck me the most is these prisoners were all day long in classes computer skills cooking class i had a delicious meal prepared by the cooking class, first aid, and when they complete a particular class or group of courses to certify the them, they get a
diploma from a national educational organization to certify courses all over the country it doesn't say you took the class in prison it just says you are licensed to be the technician or whatever the skill is they even have an organic farm inside this prison and she explained how she felt taking care of small animals is very therapeutic and she could see the effect on the prisoners vigor then you would find in most high schools and with the library they could get it to the international loan system they had therapy and alcoholics anonymous in the life skills class meeting three times a
week with a series of lectures of former inmates and to talk about how they did it so when they are released to go to the town it needs to be released to to make sure they have a safe place to live and a job so imagine how different that is from what we have in this country. you can say this is so deeply embedded you can have various prison reform initiatives but our way of doing things is just so different there is no
justice system that looks like this. but here is where it's interesting to look at the entry because if you look back the clock 70 years to the mid- fifties and 1950 finland locked people up at a rate greater than we did in the united states. in 1950 in finland 187 people out of 300,000 were behind bars that counts all those prisoners so a long series of reforms in finland brought this incarceration way down now today we have 655 people per 100,000 compared to 57 in finland.
so a country can change something that seems so basic if it really wants to. so these are a couple of the topics and others i don't have time to go into here but maybe if we have time with the back-and-forth discussion we can. one piece is about a fascinating figure in the world of intelligence they called the father of a male non- - - american surveillance many of the pieces of favorite authors some of them i'm sure are familiar to you like george orwell and mark twain and others may not be a couple of the articles about the experience in india and in 1984 about spending a day on
the campaign trail with nelson mandela when he was running for president in the first free election several of these are more recently going back to africa to see what that part of the world looks like from more than 100 years ago. so some of the other things in the book i will and on a positive note by reading at a very short piece it is appropriate to read and that is the appropriate thing to read here with the wonderful temple of books. so let me just read you a
piece. for the first time some american school and college students have been issued electronic books instead of textbooks. and to be published and in this society that relatively few people read books for pleasure to begin with and then to encounter books with the books as students there are many reasons to love the old-fashioned paperwork with that crackle of the new hardcover for the first time that sense of accomplishment looking at what you have read in that humility of what you haven't i am feeling sad for an additional reason. what books tell us in this way
to give a small measure of immortality not just to writers but also to readers each year my wife and i spend time at the summer home of her parents and to be aligned with her father's books a staunch cold war liberal and to be incarnated. his picture of the united states how much of that i could still see with the books on the shelves as a portrait. . . . .
their titles alone tell the tale. this glorious, chance through a destiny, the first nation. this is the challenge. the discipline of power. sometimes paper marks passage you especially like. some of his books from the face when he read biographies and memoirs of the famous. no women, but many presidents, great writers and supreme court justices. was trying, he once told me to figure out what with the early life experiences that made people into great men. the phrase he pronounced as if both words were capitalized. other gremlins, less what he actually read than what he would have liked to have red.
the books also formed our on the field. blackstone, commentaries on the laws of england, the huge family bible, decline and fall of the roman empire and emersons complete works. none of them have decreased spines of books that have been frequently open. finally, there is this beloved collection on books in new england. including the 795 page genealogical dictionary maine and new hampshire. i pull out of every summer to try to imagine the mysterious controversy eluded to in its preface, this acknowledges contributions to volume. made by one charles, who acted as a consultant and problems in which he was known to have a personal interest. but his deep-seated conviction of the book should not be published at all that did not
make for a happy situation. [laughter] the point is this, i can look around the room and see my father-in-law's passions, quirks and beliefs. his four grandchildren, one born after his death, will be able to do this for years to come. collections of books, large and small, transcend time. sometimes it's just a shelf of books over a bed, how many times is a guest in someone else's house, staring in the room at a daughter nomogram? if i look to a bookshelf, of a person who wants left here. such foyers and is not a forbidden one but one to be celebrated. it's not just the writing of books that expresses who we are, but also the freedom to collect them, to arrange them and to enjoy the collections of others. once i was visiting our house
who had been recently released from many years as a political prisoner in pakistan. sitting in our living room talking, at one point he paused, jumped up and began running his hands for the books on our shelves. you must excuse me, he apologized. i've not been able to do this for years. [applause] thank you. [applause] i think we have -- >> if you have a question, your way here. >> the microphone right there. >> since the 2016 election, looking for optimism, what hope
do you see and what guidance you have for us? [laughter] >> i have all the answers. well, the biggest sign of hope i see is the 2018 election. which i think has had encouraging results. one of which is that for the first time in many years, the percentage of democrats in the house of representatives is actually slightly higher than their percentage of the popular vote. which almost never used to happen because of gerrymandering. but there is some mysterious way, i don't really understand in which population shifts have undone some of that. i hope court decisions will undo more of that. i do think we have an enormous problem voter suppression in this country. there were some steps forward in
some steps back on that. the big step forward was in florida, where they removed this and on former felons from voting. franchise one point -- 1.4 million people. this is the other big problem. motivate people to turn out and vote. i feel that whole problem of voter suppression has been put on the national agenda in a way that wasn't quite before. and of course, one of the peoplf that, they were defeated in his racism in kansas. these are some of the things i feel encouraged by but we have a lot of work still to do. i'm sure a lot of you were out there working in different congressional districts and
other parts of the country where your efforts were needed last month and before and more power to you and you are going to have to again in 2020. >> i read, the thing i love about this book is how you talk about thomas clarkson and how amazingly he helped the effort to end the triangle slave trade and how nobody thought that could end because it was such an economic boom that so many empires so in this country, i think we need a similar thomas clarkson to go up against the nra and i was also looking at this program last week and gun control in this country. one of the things they talked about, a similar person was the
australian prime minister, i was trying to google his name because i couldn't remember his name, that the gun-control law in australia. he ended up, people were threatening him, he had death threats and he had to wear a bullet proof vest when he went out of the country. they shelled bulldozers, bulldozing the guns they were handing him and it was a wonderful effort in australia. no longer has the mass shooting than there. i think in this country, we need somebody that can be like a thomas coxon, or an australian by minister. the gun culture is so deep and rooted here, do you think it's ever going to be possible to change that? >> i think it's not going to be in person who magically does it. it's got to be a lot of people. something is a tough thing. they did do it in australia. i think very often the reasons
when sudden social change happens, and australia passing these gun laws is one example and the book that you are reading, very the change which is about the british slavery movement of the late 1700s, early 1800s is another example. both of these and the antislavery movement, i know more about from having lived with those folks while writing this book, both of these are examples where the good folks got organized before the other side did. one of the fast -- fascinating things for me about the antislavery movement which took off in such a dramatic way, so suddenly, in england in the late 1780s is that the slaveholder lobby just didn't know what hit
them. slavery had been something that everybody took for granted. it had always been there it seemed, the romans had slaves, the greeks have slaves, we didn't have slavery, where would we get the sugar for our tea? there had been among movement. in this extremely well organized group of people, together, invented most of the tools we use for political organizing today. the political poster, to the local, to the very idea of having a group agitating for something in the national capital with corresponding with committees and towns and cities around the country. i hadn't been done before. they were able to pull it off. we're going to have a harder time with guns in this country because the nra so well entrenched. they've got the whole gun industry behind them. in the course of writing about
this, this one piece in the book that does deal with gun culture in america, one of the things i learned that i hadn't been so aware of before, is the tremendous difference that there is between different states in this country. the degree to which they regulate guns and correspondingly, they agree to the number of shootings tends to be somewhat less. very tremendous differences among the states. which encouraged me to think that we can move forward on the issue and a piece fashion. remarkable differences, three and four differences between american states and the incarceration rate. vermont, rhode island, but people up at less than a quarter the rate they do in the weeds in mississippi. i think there are things often
by starting at the state level that one can accomplish something. >> you been successful at picking topics that people want to read about. critical about booking the topics? [laughter] >> it has to be something that obsesses me and i find myself thinking about, wondering about for a long time. then the job is trying to take my obsession and find a way of making it interesting to somebody who doesn't think they are assessed with this to begin with. ass for me, that's all about choosing characters to tell a story. i think of myself as like a
theater director having auditions. except they are often auditions for parts that has not been written yet. but i'm out looking for people. i take one book is an example. some of you may have read this and i think it did talk about here. to end our wars, which is from the book about the first world war. i've long been obsessed with the first world war. i had two uncles who fought in, my father actually was a military age during the first world war, wanted very much to into the u.s. army, bitterly disappointed he was turned down because he had bad eyesight. my mother on the other hand, had a cousin she loved very much and was killed in the first world war. there was always a lot of talk about work. the older i got, the more i read about it in the more fascinated
i got by this. i found there were two aspects of it that fascinated me. one was the utter boneheaded stupidity of the tunnels on both sides. day after day, year after year, ordered these young men to come out of the trenches and run, not crawl but walk toward the enemy trench so they could be mowed down by the millions. by machine-gun fire. how are these men thinking? these are their own sons they were sending into battle. the other type of person that fascinated me were the resistors. people like eugene and goldman and in this country, russell in england, france who saw this world madness as it was happening or as it was about to happen. he spoke out against it, often sent to jail as a result.
problem was, these were twins exceptions. i couldn't figure out how to get these different types of people into the same book. i read and read and read and collected characters but they just wouldn't come together. one day i was reading a very boringly written scholarly article about a british pacifist named charlotte was an ardent opponent of the war. article on every issue of the day, favored independence for india, independence for ireland, arrested four times in the battle for suffrage and as the first of the war began, she traveled up and down england think this is a terrible thing in her speeches were broken up by mobs. she went to visit the families of objectors who were in prison and so on. in one sentence in passing, the
writer whose article said, naturally, activities were deeply upsetting to her brother. it gave his name which i recognized as british commander-in-chief on the western front. [laughter] i got my book. i realized the way to do it was telling the story through divided families. i went looking for a couple of other divided families also in england and then the rule was that other characters were admitted to the cast if they were connected to one of these three divided families. it's a search. it takes a wild. sometimes a person or an event obsesses me for a long time and it takes a long time before i can figure out how to get that obsession into book form. it has up sesame to start with.
it has to up sesame to start with. maybe that's the answer to your question. >> if like a learned a lot from your several minutes describing fully and other similar right-leaning. i'm interested in looking further at what the parallels are and any lack of parallel are between the two. in particular, the figure from that time, a central political figure that in any sense would represent trump of today. it doesn't seem to me that wilson would feel that particularly. as you say, in addition to the phobia, there was in his case,
nations and a sort of idealistic thought about nations getting along and so forth. that doesn't sound like donald trump. politically, what was driving this, was it simply partisan warfare or was there one or two or three central demagogues who were stoking, you alluded to i it -- >> what was driving the repression of that period, again, we are talking about 1917, 1920. wasn't is a complicated figure. he did preside over and stamp his approval on a lot of the repression. the same time, there was a genuinely idealistic streak in what he was trying to do with the league of nations and particularly in the first years
of his presidency and before he became president, he took some fairly strong positions against unbridled corporate power and so on. he was never somebody who had much use for immigrants, though. even if you look at his early writing, there's a book he wrote that came out in 1902 when he was still a professor at princeton just before he became president of princeton where he talks about how the good stock of this country is being brought down by this terrible new wave of immigrants from eastern europe and southern europe. in other words, juice and italics. that was a pretty strong limit of his thinking all along. >> i think there were a lot of demagogues. many trumps. all through that. one person in particular,
several people in and around, one was his attorney general, metro, who presided over these rates were thousands of radicals were rounded up. palmer had been understandably jarred because he tried to blow up his house. the only person who got killed was one of the anarchist who blew himself up. i think that may have made palmer more relevant than he had been to start with. hoover was really his number two person during those rates. hoover certainly saw this kind of crackdown as a way to make his own career throughout the rest of his life in government, hoover was far more interested
in cracking down on communist, in august and other articles and he was on organized crime. another one of the many trumps of that period was the general, the first texan to be in the cabinet. his father fought for the confederacy and who was the person who presided over this crackdown on the media. there were a lot of unsavory people there but what strikes me most when i read about this time, try to imagine my self in a, an actual some things you can see some film footage of these raids. policemen and federal agents charging into houses and throwing people down staircases and doing stuff like that. what strikes me is that there
was and i fear that they are always is, there was a lot of visible, there is a kind of, a lot of bottled up nastiness of, in all of this. when there's an excuse for it to come out, and there's no excuse like the country going to work, it comes out in these very nasty ways. you read the accounts of wilson going to congress to ask for a declaration of war in the spring of 1917, there were some brave dissenters, six senators who voted against the declaration of war, one of them was the great progressive robert, who stood there on the senate floor chewing gum with his arms crossed.
like this, when wilson was giving his speech. he began receiving nooses in the mail. you read the accounts of other members of congress and there were people with peers of joy, tears of joy streaming down their faces. the chief justice of the supreme court, i cannot remember who that was, one of the supreme court justices actually a confederate veteran who was crying with joy and now his country was at work in a war that he could support. there's a lot of bottled up. in a lot of votes that need a place to go. they are well orchestrated work that provide event for that. what was driving these vigilantes tarred and feathered resistance. what was driving, when american
soldiers went to france to fight in this work, u.s. army had a problem unlike any other army in the first world war had which was, they had a problem over the soldiers deserting to the front. people assigned to rear areas as most soldiers are in most worst because you have long supply lines in warehouses and ships to be unloaded and so on. they would run away to the front because they wanted to kill germans. what is that kind of furious enthusiasm come from? i'm not sure. i think there are vast potential of it at all times and places. effective demagogues know how to speak to it and unleash it. >> thanks for speaking.
my question comes from the title if your book and your early question about the nra. the cloud over all of our head. climate change. this may be an unfair question, i haven't read the book but is a lesson from the past, shed any light on how we make faster progress against a problem like climate change where like your comment on the nra, it's going to need a bottoms up roots, people of sorts. so far, climate change, it's not happening. not fast enough. >> it's a tough one. it is the big problem. overwhelming in its consequences. it's hard to think of another time in history when the most
powerful person in the most powerful country in the world was in flat out right denial of the major problem of the day. i think part of it is a question of finding ways to speak about this which will resonate with people. i don't know what the answer is on that but i'll tell you an interesting story, the one who asked question moment ago, she was reading a book about the antislavery movement, bury the chains. this was a movement where as i said, was born in england with astonishing stiffness. it took off and in the space of a half of those near you have 400,000 people in britain, which has more people than were
eligible to vote at that time. signing petitions to parliament against the slave trade, 300,000 people refusing to eat slave grown sugar from the caribbean. this popular movement remained in force and managed to get the british slave trade stopped after 20 years of organizing. in slavery in the british empire, 25 years before, it presented here in the united states. i faded it through devising new means of organizing. new means of dramatizing their message. i don't know exactly what the analogist ones are today for climate change but it's one of the reasons why i like history because sometimes you can see the lessons more clearly when you are looking way back in time. one of the things they found for example, was this, up to the
late 1780s, there had been a certain amount of debate in the press and in political pamphlets and so on, and occasionally on the floor with parliament, slavery and the slave trade, but it had all been carried on in terms of biblical argument. this is a very religious age and of course, in the bible, you can find arguments for and against slavery the weight you can find arguments for and against almost anything else. with these folks discovered, the enormous power of eyewitness ten testimony. if you could find people who worked on slave plantations, freed slave who came to england was going to tell his story, a former slave ship captain who repented of what he had done, tell his story these books and pamphlets have wide circulation.
far more than before. they discovered new ways of telling a story. for the first few years after that book was published, whenever somebody would ask me to come and speak about it somewhere, he was usually a college course on slavery and the slave trade for african history course or something like that. the last half dozen times i've been asked to speak about this book, from working on climate change. web 350.org. union of concerned scientists, religious group. just gave it talk couple of weeks go to a another group. they are trying to figure out and we all need to figure out, what are the analogous, new ways of speaking. that we need to adopt in order to get through to people on the
urgency of the danger that we are facing there. i don't know what they are but i think it proves us all to be trying to figure that one out. that's a big one. [applause] >> thank you very much. his books are available at the checkout desk. please form a line to the right of the table and he would appreciate if you put up your. chair. >> author of educated. killing the deep state.