As this presidential election continues apace, I am regularly reminded of the paucity of fearless and insightful observers of the American Political Circus. Hitchens (no matter his current politics) was regularly informative and original. Gore Vidal was, well, Gore Vidal.Howard Zinn peeled back the sophistry,demagoguery and hypocrisy of our regnent oligarchy.Gore Vidal was, well, Gore Vidal. There are Matt Taibbi,Rachel Maddow and Barbra Ehrenreich (and to some extent, Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer). Who (what) do we have as putatively as commentators on our civilization, in or proximal to the orthodox media? Wolf Blitzer? Oy! That Gregory guy(I ‘m not talking Dick—I don’t care enough to search engine his first name)? Uh,uh, uh…
Which brings me offering some current instructional aids for the politically engaged. Hedrick Smith (The Power Game) has written Who Stole The American Dream? (Random House) which, even if you know or think you can answer that question, is a useful and well-ordered survey of the last forty years of oligarchical power grabbing. Some remarks about media complicity in this mess would have been welcome but Smith has assembled a time line that is a refresher in recalling the chicanery and villainy of the not-so- distant past.
A terrific complement to Smith’s book is the documentary produced by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, Heist: Who Stole the American Dream.
Watch it on an empty stomach.
Thomas Frank and the resuscitated Baffler of course are valuable spotlights on the state of the nation and Frank’s latest opus Pity The Billionaire frames the puzzling issue of how the steroid rich’s class war has continued to bamboozle the rest of America especially working men and women. Frank expiates on Democracy Now.
Setting aside Gore VIdal’s indecipherable last few years, he did have a long run as a brilliant analyst, gadfly and gossip of how politics is practiced in the USA. There is no better history of the UnIted States (excepting Zinn’s People’s History)than Vidal’s Empire novels. No doubt there will be a steady stream of posthumous publications by and about him and one of the first is I Told You So: Gore Vidal Talks Politics Interviews with Jon Wiener(OR Books).The title is taken from Vidal’s quip, “The four most beautiful words in our common language: ‘I told you so.’ ”. This slim volume contains 4 interviews that took place over a 20 year period from 1988 to 2008.The following adorns this book’s website:
I exist to say, ‘No, that isn’t the way it is,’ or ‘What you believe to be true is not true for the following reasons.’ I am a master of the obvious. I mean, if there’s a hole in the road, I will, viciously, outrageously, say there’s a hole in the road and if you don’t fill it in you’ll break the axle of your car. One is not loved for being helpful.
A steady stream of material is also amassing about and by Howard Zinn, a prolific historian and a tireless and much beloved activist. Martin Duberman has written a competent biography of Zinn, Howard Zinn: A Life on the Left (The News Press) and City Lights has published The Historic Unfulfilled Promise. The New Press has also publishedThe Indispensible Zinn: The Essential Writings of the People’s Historian edited by Timothy Patrick McCarthy with excerpts from A People’s History of the United States and Zinn’s memoir, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.
When you’re done with this assignment, I have more…
Currently reading News from Spain by Joan Wickersham (KNOPF)