Gore Vidal on Liberty (3/7)

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY: In this period after World War II and this sort of feeling of world supremacy, domestically we see McCarthyism.

GORE VIDAL: Well, McCarthy kind of misread the tarot cards. You know, he thought it was a simple matter of conquest. Probably the only thing he basically cared about was Ireland, because he was an Irishman. And he liked the British Empire being kicked in the butt by Americans. So anything that would, you know, do them in or do in, you know, Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, who seemed like an Englishman. I think he did a lot of, you know, ethnic one-upmanship. But no.

Well, first of all, we were taken over by big businesses, we always have been, but this time it was pretty severe because the stakes were greater. Somebody said- oh, the kid last night who was interviewing me, Adam something. He said, you know, certainly the United States is basically an altruistic country. Look at the Marshall Plan. I said, what’s altruistic about seizing control of Western Europe? It seems to be very much part of an imperial plan. Oh, he couldn’t believe it. He just thought we did it out of goodness of heart. Now, he’s a very bright guy, writes for The New Yorker and so on, yet he’s been so misled. And he reads a lot of history; he’s very intelligent. You cannot get through the density of the propaganda with which the American people, through the dreaded media, have been filled and the horrible public educational system we have for the average person. It’s just grotesque.

PAUL JAY: There’s this fundamental belief, religious belief, that America’s foreign policy since World War II has been a fight for freedom.

GORE VIDAL: Well, it never was. And the belief that we’re a democracy. That means you know nothing about the Constitution. The people who made the Constitution hated democracy. Some of them put up with it better than others. Jefferson was pretty good on the subject. The others just loathed it.

PAUL JAY: But certainly there’s more democracy in the United States than there was in Hitler’s Germany.

GORE VIDAL: Well, I suppose that if you’re being tortured to death by Mao Tse-Tung, it’s much better to be with Paul Revere in front of a fireplace in Concord, New Hampshire. I mean, you can sort out [crosstalk]-.

PAUL JAY: No, but there are stages of this process of democracy, or lack thereof.

GORE VIDAL: 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.

PAUL JAY: But within that context there is more or less right of free assembly. There is more or less right of free speech. Of course, you have more free speech if you own a television network than if you don’t.

GORE VIDAL: Well, yes, as you’ll find out with The Real News.

PAUL JAY: But there are some constitutional rights here that you wouldn’t have seen.

GORE VIDAL: They’ve been eliminated one by one over the last four years.

PAUL JAY: That’s my question.

GORE VIDAL: When habeas corpus was removed, I think they attributed it to certain desires of the USA Patriot Act. When they got rid of that, they got rid of Magna Carta. When you get rid of that, you get rid of our liberties. The only good thing England ever left us was Magna Carta. Magna Carta guarantees due process of law. You cannot have your life removed, you cannot have your money removed, your freedom removed, except by a trial by jury of your peers, and you could be represented by a lawyer. That’s been eliminated. Sixth Amendment is gone. The speed with which it was done is sort of miraculous, because this is a screw-up administration. They can’t do anything properly. There are those who keep quoting me, because I had said, well, they’d had enough warnings about 9/11 to have done something. Well, that’s the CIA’s warning. They did nothing. So I have to face this every now and then. Well, you said that Bush was in favor of it. And can you prove that? I said, of course I can’t. How would I know? I do know that he is so incompetent. This was a great, successful mission conducted by some crazed religious zealots.