In his 30s, after writing a series of mainstream novels, Gore Vidal decided to try his hand at historical fiction. This decision would set him on a path to waking up to the atrocities carried out by the United States dating back to Abraham Lincoln. Vidal was one of the first public figures to question the motives and wisdom of Lincoln—and he was lambasted for it. Despite bipartisan attacks on all fronts for his critical skepticism of the United States, Vidal’s six-volume “American Chronicle” series of historical novels about the United States became best sellers.
As the years went on, Vidal became outspoken about the rise of the military industrial complex and predicted the very situation we find ourselves in today. In Gore Vidal: History of the National Security State & Vidal on America, TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay and the acclaimed essayist, screenwriter and novelist Gore Vidal discuss the historical events that led to the establishment of the massive military-industrial-security complex and the political culture that gave us the “Imperial Presidency.”
“USA belongs to a handful of men who also control the media. Look at General Electric. It produces nuclear weapons for the Pentagon and also owns the NBC News cable channel, which is a very sophisticated censure apparatus, intrinsic to the system. It’s genius. It’s like an electronic cage around the nation which blocks information from getting through.” ~ Gore Vidal
In this book that Julian Assange was pictured holding when he was ousted from the Equadorian embassy and arrested by British police, Vidal explained how the United States established the “massive military-industrial-security complex” and the “political culture that gave us the ‘Imperial Presidency.’” In it, the two authors dissected the apparatus that would eventually facilitate Assange’s arrest. Through propaganda and manipulation, the establishment has tricked the masses into accepting their corrupt order as the norm. Both Vidal and Assange knew this.
“It doesn’t actually make any difference whether the President is Republican or Democrat. The genius of the American ruling class is that it has been able to make the people think that they have had something to do with the electing of presidents for 200 years when they’ve had absolutely nothing to say about the candidates or the policies or the way the country is run.” ~ Gore Vidal
In the book, Vidal explains the false history of the US and how this false history is used to manipulate people into supporting mass murder and corruption.
“I think everybody should take a sober look at the world about us, remember that practically everything that you’re told about other countries is untrue, what we’re told about ourselves and our great strength and how much we are loved – forget it,” wrote Vidal.
“Our strength is there, but it’s the kind of strength that blows off your hand while you hold up the grenade; it’s a suicidal strength as well as a murderous one.”
Although Vidal died before realizing the plight of Julian Assange and the attack on the freedom of the press that it represents, “those who have eyes to see” saw it coming decades in advance.
More quotes from the book:
“The Federalist Papers are very clear. Whenever one of the founding fathers and one of the people who was inventing the Constitution, they start to get apoplectic at the mention of Athens, the mention of Pericles, the mention of democracy. They go on and on about mobs, and we don’t want this, and we don’t want that. We’re an oligarchy of the well-to-do. We were at the very beginning, when the Constitution was made, and we’re even more so now.”
“the bandits own the media,” said Gore. “And the media tells them that America is the greatest country in the world. Well, it sure as hell isn’t, at least not for the people who live in it. But the media are there cheerleading, ‘These are the greatest guys on earth.’ The infantilizing of the republic is one of the triumphs of American television.”
“Well, the trick of the national security state is, first of all, there must always be an enemy, and he’s—must be terrifying, and he wants to blow us up because he’s evil and we’re good. So every day we are brainwashed: The Russians have discovered antigravity, or they’ve done this, or they’ve done that, and they’re evil; we are good, as well as overweight. Things—little things like this matter a great deal in advertising. Great advertising campaign to keep ourselves fully armed to the teeth.”
“I’m not joking when I refer to our country as the United States of Amnesia, although I was corrected recently by Studs Terkel out of Chicago. And he said, “Gore, it’s not the United States of Amnesia; it’s the United States of Alzheimer’s.” I stand corrected.”
“It’s a great scandal of the CEOs, who are simply bandits. They go into a company that had a rich base, grab everything they can for themselves, stock options, huge salaries, fire as many people as possible. If we ever have an oldfashioned revolution in the United States, it will be made by well-educated blue-collar workers who have lost their jobs.”
“The people have no voice because they have no information.”
“JAY: Fascism in Germany wasn’t a coup; it was a many-year process. I’m not suggesting we’re living in an equivalent period, but there are lessons to be learned. VIDAL: But it is equivalent. I mean, don’t be shy of saying that. The response to the Reichstag fire is precisely that to 9/11, which was invoked by this administration’s people. “And if we don’t fight them over there, we got to fight ’em here.” This little fool. How are they going to get here? Greyhound bus? I mean, he is so stupid himself that he assumes everybody else is equally stupid. If he had been really elected, I would say everybody else was stupid, but he wasn’t.”
“JAY: No, I’m talking about the leadership of the Democratic Party went along with the Patriot Act, went along with the war in Iraq. VIDAL: Have you ever found them? You know where they live? JAY: The leadership of the Democratic Party? VIDAL: You know, they’re not visible. There’s some obviously good people in the party. I like Dennis Kucinich, I like Senator Leahy. There are some very good people in Congress. And let’s hope they start doing some oversight. But I’m not very sanguine.”
“Yeah, that’s the new lie that they like to tell. Well, that’s Bush all the time. They just hate us. Why? Nobody has to ask them why. He doesn’t know why. “Well, they envy us, our form of government.” Who envies us? That can of worms we’ve got in Washington? And it’s been many years in the United States since I have seen a Norwegian coming to get a green card.”
“The Democratic Party is a machine to get votes for its people. None of whom should probably be elected to the high offices of state. The Republican Party is fundamentally crooked.”
“You know, any time I want to get applause—and I lecture across America in state after state after state—when I fear things are getting a little low, I always say, “And another thing: let us tax all the religions.” I bring down the goddamn house with that. And any politician would if he had sense enough to do it. The people don’t like their tax exemption.”
“I was born eighty years ago in a country called the United States of America and now I live in a Homeland—an expression we haven’t heard since Hitler.”
“JAY: How significantly different would a Clinton White House, Obama White House, or an Edwards White House—how much can they do? How much do they want to do differently? VIDAL: It’s too broken. The first thing you have to do is get back habeas corpus. You’ve got to get back the Magna Carta, you’ve got to get back our legal system, you’ve got to get back the pillars of the Constitution, and they’re gone. Republics don’t restore themselves.”
“Everybody with an IQ above room temperature is onto the con act of our media. They are obeying bigger, richer interests than informing the public—which is the last thing that corporate America has ever been interested in doing. —Gore Vidal”
“You know, I’ve been around the ruling class all my life, and I’ve been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country. And the Republican machine became so good at transmitting its own feelings about the world to the enemy, to the liberals, once anyone, any of the right wing hear what I just said, he’ll say, “Oh, the liberals have always hated America. We know that. They despise family values, because they’re only interested in gang bangs and drugs and so forth.” This is the way they deal. And whenever they have a real coward for president, like Bush himself, and you have a hero like Kerry, “Oh, he’s a coward. Didn’t you know that? We’ve got five guys who were in Vietnam with him.” What they do is whatever is their transgression, whatever are their faults, they lie and apply it to the other person. That confuses everything.”
“JAY: You’ve been touring the country after your new book. VIDAL: Well, no, I was touring it before the last congressional election to raise money for the Democratic Party. Not that I like the Democratic Party, but we have to have the semblance of a second party to get rid of these others.”
“thought Gore would put up a better fight, since it is in our genetic heritage to battle these things. He seemed so overwhelmed at being thought a sore loser. Well, if you’ve lost the presidency when you’ve already gained the popular vote by several hundred thousand votes, and the Electoral College, as everybody knows, an easily manipulated bad joke at our expense, a present from our founding fathers to make sure that we never have democracy, that the people will never rule. And that’s why the Electoral College was invented, that’s why they retain it: It’s too convenient.”
“Boy, we got the Democrats on that one. And habeas corpus? Don’t try it again. You’ll stay in Guantánamo as long as we want you there, because, you see, you could be a terrorist.” And they chuckle among themselves, holding innocent people. But it’s—they’re orgasmic with delight at how they are getting rid of the Bill of Rights and holding people who should not be held, and then blaming an innocent fool like Kerry for being a coward, when the only thing in his favor is that he was a very brave man in a war that I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered to be in one of those boats.”
“Well, today we’re in a peculiar limbo, and since 9/11 things that have never happened to us before have started to happen. Nine/eleven, whoever is behind it—I assume it’s Osama bin Laden and some Muslim fanatics—but whoever’s behind it is not important, as you can tell. We haven’t tried to find him, for one thing. If he were important, we would. So it means our own government doesn’t—doesn’t much care. But 9/11 proved to be a pretext for getting rid of the old republic, which has not been in very good shape for a long, long time, starting with the national security state, which made us a totally militarized society—that’s Harry Truman. And ever since, we just go further and further along the road toward total war for nearly everybody. Now we’re in a strange, strange situation. There is nothing in our history to guide us; we’ve never been in this situation in which one gang basically has seized power. We’ve been very lucky: never—we’ve had dictators before. Lincoln was a dictator, but he was a dictator of the republic. The republic still stood when he was dictator, and we needed him. Franklin Roosevelt was a dictator, and we needed him. And they were—only briefly were they dictators. Now we have a dictatorial system, as best personified by the USA Patriot Act, which just removes us of our Bill of Rights. This is the most serious thing that has happened in the history of the United States, and how we get out of it’s anyone’s guess.”
“we’re sort of like somebody going along—I don’t know—in a mine field, you know, dropping matches, just dropping matches, waiting— waiting to hear the bang. Well, the bang might take us all out. So as we have chatted our way through much of American history in the course of this conversation, I think everybody should take a sober look at the world about us, remember that practically everything that you’re told about other countries is untrue; what we’re told about ourselves and our great strength and how much loved we are, forget it.”
“I remember my grandfather, who was chairman of that committee—I forget what he had done to get to that stage, but he was chairman of agriculture. And the guy who ran the Grange, which is like a collective for farmers across the country, would always begin by addressing the committee by saying, “Senator, for the last twenty years, the crops have been below average.” My grandfather would roar with laughter, and the Grange never knew what he was laughing at—the absence of norms, of course.”
“You rather despair, because he who tries to tell the truth is called the biggest liar of all. Machiavelli, that kindly old cynic, came up with some wonderful advice in The Prince, which has been taken seriously by—Karl Roverino, I believe, is probably his correct name. Mr. Rove and company have taken up the fact that the bigger the lie, the more apt it is to be believed. So they’re always stretching it, kind of: “You don’t think that’ll work? My God, it did.” Then they go out and take polls, and things are working. Machiavelli—I was reminded of it.”
“Cheney is not an idiot. He just has a character problem.”
“There was Democratic thought, and there was Republican thought, and there was liberal thought, and there was conservative thought. Politics was never very big, because we were a culture stirring. Culture is a lot more important than politics, though if you have bad politics, you cannot have good culture, but we didn’t know then the roots of the bad politics that were flourishing in our national security state.”