The Undoing of America

Gore Vidal on war for oil, politics-free elections, and the late, great U.S. Constitution.

If we don't have class interests officially, then therefore we have no political parties. What is the Republican Party? Well, it used to be the party of the small-town businessman, generally in the Middle West, generally sort of out of the mainstream. Very conservative. It now represents nothing but the gas and oil business. They own it. And the people who go to Congress are simply bought. They are lawyers who are paid to represent Halliburton, big oil, big banking. So the very rich corporate America has a party for itself, the Republican Party. The Democrats don't have much of anything but a kind of wistful style. They just want everyone to be happy, and politically correct at all times. Do not hurt other people's feelings. They spend so much time on political correctness that they haven't thought of what to do politically about anything. Like say "no" to these preemptive wars, which are against not only the whole world's take on war and peace, but against United States history.

This is something new under the sun--that a president, just because he feels like it, can declare war on anybody. And Congress will go along with him, and the courts will support him. The founding fathers would be mortified if they saw what had happened to their handiwork, which wasn't very great to begin with but is now done for. When you have preemptive wars, and you have ambitious companies like Bechtel who will build up what, let us say, General Electric has helped to destroy with its weaponry--these interests are well-represented.

There is no people's party, and you can't even use the word. "Liberal" has been demonized. A liberal is a commie who's also a pedophile. Being a communist and a pedophile, he's so busy that he hasn't got time to win an election and is odious to boot. So there is no Democratic Party. We hope that something might happen with the governor of Vermont, and maybe something will or maybe it won't. But we are totally censored, and the press just follows this. It observes what those in power want it to observe, and turns the other way when things get dark. Then, when it's too late sometimes, you get some very good reporting. But by then, somebody's playing taps.

 

CP: Has the media played a role in transforming citizens into spectators of this process?

Vidal: Well, they have been transformed, by design, by corporate America, aided by the media, which belongs to corporate America. They are no longer citizens. They are hardly voters. They are consumers, and they consume those things which are advertised on television. They are made to sound like happy consumers. Listen to TV advertising: This one says, "I had this terrible pain, but when I put on Kool-Aid, I found relief overnight. You must try it too." All we do is hear about little cures for little pains. Nothing important gets said. There used to be all those talk shows back in the '50s and '60s, when I was on television a great deal. People would talk about many important things, and you had some very good talkers. They're not allowed on now. Or they're set loose in the Fox Zoo, in which you have a number of people who pretend to be journalists but are really like animals. Each one has his own noise--there's the donkey who brays, there's the pig who squeals. Each one is a different animal in a zoo, making a characteristic noise. The result is chaos, which is what is intended. They don't want the people to know anything, and the people don't.

 

CP: You wrote at the end of a 2002 essay that so-called inalienable rights, once alienated, are often lost forever. Can you describe what's changed about America during the Bush years that represent permanent, or at least long-term, legacies that will survive Bush?

Vidal: Well, the Congress has ceded--which it cannot do--but it has ceded its power to declare war. That is written in the Constitution. It's the most important thing in the Constitution, ultimately. And having ceded that to the Executive Branch, he can declare war whenever he finds terrorism. Now, terrorism is a wonderful invention because it doesn't mean anything. It's an abstract noun. You can't have a war against an abstract noun; it's like having a war against dandruff. It's meaningless.

But you can terrify people. The art of government now, the art of control as practiced by the current junta, is: Keep the people frightened. It's exactly what Adolf Hitler and his gang did. Keep them frightened: The Russians are coming. The Poles are killing Germans who live within the borders of Poland. The Czechs are doing the same thing in the Sudetenland. These are evil people. We must go after them. We must save our kin.

Keep everybody frightened, tell them lies--and the bigger the lie, the more they'll believe it. There's nothing the average American now believes (because he's been told it 10,000 times a day) that is true. Now how do you undo so much disinformation? Well, you have to have truth squads at work 24 hours a day every day. And we don't have them.

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