Richard Nixon

Lobster 75 Is Up With My Book Review on British Pro-Nazis and Nazis during World War II

I put up a post this morning about a book I’ve reviewed for Lobster, the conspiracy/parapolitics magazine, of Richard Griffiths ‘What Did You Do in the War?’ on the activities of the British Fascist and pro-Nazi right from 1940 to 1945. This has been rather late being posted, as the webmaster is very busy with work. I am very pleased to say that it has now gone up, along with the first parts of Lobster 75, the new issue of the magazine for summer 2018. The magazine comes out twice yearly.

Apart from my article, there is editor Robin Ramsay’s own column and roundup of news of interest to parapolitics watchers, ‘The View from the Bridge’, Garrick Alder on how Richard Nixon also tried to steal documents covering his lies and crimes in Vietnam, and his sabotage of the 1968 peace talks years before the Watergate scandal. Part II of Nick Must’s article on using the UK Foia. There is also a review of Jeffrey M. Bale’s book The Darkest Parts of Politics, which is an extensive examination of corruption, violence, terror committed by governments and political organisations around the world; And John Newsinger’s devastating review of Gordon Brown’s My Life, Our Times. Brown’s book is intended to present him as some kind of lefty, but Newsinger shows that instead Brown was a consistent supporter of Blair’s neoliberalism, who had no qualms about sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, with whom he is still friends. He also wanted to impose a graduate tax following Blair’s imposition of student fees. He also argues that Brown’s protestations of innocence about the claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction is similarly unconvincing. Brown claimed that MI6 lied to them. Newsinger argues instead that either Brown’s very naïve, or he’s also lying. And he shows how the humiliation the British army has suffered in Basra in Iraq and Afghanistan was due to cuts imposed by New Labour. Oh yes, and Brown’s also a close friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing maniac now running the Israeli government and ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

He also argues that if Brown had won the 2010 election, austerity would now be imposed by a New Labour government, there would be a state visit arranged for Donald Trump – Brown recently went over there to give a very sycophantic speech to Congress, as well as more privatisation, more cuts to welfare services, and the graduate tax.

Lobster 75 is at

Please read, if you’re interested in knowing what’s really going on behind the lies of the lamestream press.

Before Standing Rock, There Was Alcatraz

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 6:39am in

In 1969, a group of Native activists occupied Alcatraz island. Their actions set off a wave of direct action that continues to the present day.

How to identify CIA limited hangout?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/01/2018 - 3:00am in

by Webster Tarpley, June 2013 This article originally appeared on in 2013 at this link, which is now inactive (you can see it here on the Wayback machine). There is a shortened version available at doesn’t necessarily or wholly endorse Tarpley’s view but, in accordance with our remit, we think it’s one worthy of discussion. NOTE: we have added links to sources that were not in the original The operations of secret intelligence agencies aiming at the manipulation of public opinion generally involve a combination of cynical deception with the pathetic gullibility of the targeted populations. There is ample reason to believe that the case of Edward Joseph Snowden fits into this pattern. We are likely dealing here with a limited hangout operation, in which carefully selected and falsified documents and other materials are deliberately revealed by an insider who pretends to be a fugitive rebelling against the excesses of some oppressive or dangerous government agency. But the revelations turn out to have been prepared with a view to shaping the public consciousness …

Politics in this country has never felt the way the it does now…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/12/2017 - 11:19am in

“The Vietnam War years were the most ‘politicized’ of my life. I spent my days during this war writing fiction, none of which on the face of it would appear to connect to politics. But by being ‘politicized’ I mean something other than writing about politics or even taking direct political action. I mean something akin to what ordinary citizens experience in countries like Czechoslovakia or Chile: a daily awareness of government as a coercive force, its continuous presence in one’s thoughts as far more than just an institutionalized system of regulations and controls. In sharp contrast to Chileans or Czechs, we hadn’t personally to fear for our safety and could be as outspoken as we liked, but this did not diminish the sense of living in a country with a government out of control and wholly in business for itself. Reading the morning New York Times and the afternoon New York Post, watching the seven and then the eleven o’clock TV news—all of which I did ritualistically—became for me like living on a steady diet of Dostoevsky. Rather than fearing for the well-being of my own kin and country, I now felt toward America’s war mission as I had toward the Axis goals in World War II. One even began to use the word ‘America’ as though it was the name not of the place where one had been raised to which one had a patriotic attachment, but of a foreign invader that had conquered the country and with whom one refused, to the best of one’s strength and ability, to collaborate. Suddenly America had turned into ‘them’—and with this sense of dispossession came the virulence of feeling and rhetoric that often characterized the anti-war movement.

…Of course there have been others as venal and lawless [as Richard Nixon] in American politics, but even a Joe McCarthy was more identifiable as human clay than this guy is. The wonder of Nixon (and contemporary America) is that a man so transparently fraudulent, if not on the edge of mental disorder, could ever have won the confidence and approval of a people who generally require at least a little something of the ‘human touch’ in their leaders. It’s strange that someone so unlike the types most admired in the average voter…could have passed himself off to this Saturday Evening Post America as, of all things, an American.”

—Philip Roth, 1974

RT Interview with John Pilger ahead of British Library Exhibition

In this edition of RT’s Going Underground, main man Afshin Rattansi talks to the veteran, prize-winning investigative journalist, John Pilger, about his work. The topics covered include NATO wars, Nelson Mandela and mainstream journalism. Pilger is best known for his work uncovering and documenting the horrors of the Vietnam War and the horrific genocide in Cambodia by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. There’s going to be an exhibition of his work at the British Library on the 8th and 9th (of December, 2017), and this interview clearly looks forward to that. Pilger states that he’s delighted that the British Library are hosting the exhibition. He’s a fan of the building, and also notes with satisfaction that this was the place where Marx sat down to write his works, that would eventually bring down the Russian Empire a few short decades later.

The interview consists of a series of clips from documentaries Pilger has made over the years, and his comments about them. And they’re very revealing, not least in the reaction of the establishment to some of his work after it was aired, and the abuse he also got for not treating Nelson Mandela as the saint he became after he was released from prison. And after hearing Pilger’s explanation why he asked Mandela difficult questions, you’ll realise that Pilger was right to do so.

The first clip is of an American squaddie in the Vietnam War describing how he doesn’t understand what he and the other American soldiers are doing in the country. The soldier also doesn’t seem to know why the Vietnamese are firing at them. He only knows that they do, and they have to fight them back. Pilger states that he filmed this at the time there was a massive rebellion throughout the American armed forces, because very many other troopers also couldn’t see why they were in the country being shot and killed either.

And the reaction to that piece by the independent television regulator is revealing. The man was furious, and denounced it as treason or subversion, or some such similar betrayal of the western side. However, the head of Granada, who screened the documentary – it was made for ITV’s World In Action – Lord Bernstein, stood up to the regulator, and told him that this was the kind of journalism he wanted more of. Well done! I wish we had more of that attitude now. Unfortunately, the attitude amongst our broadcasters today seems to be to cave in whenever the government or someone in authority takes offence. So we now have a cowed, craven media that just seems to go along with whatever the elite – and very often that means the clique surrounding Rupert Murdoch and other multinational capitalists and media moguls – decide is news and the approved, neoliberal, capitalist viewpoint.

He then goes on to another clip showing the horrors of Year Zero in Cambodia. Pilger here describes some of the most striking incidents and images that came to him when he was filming there. Like the scores of bank notes floating about, because the Khmer Rouge had blown up the banks. There was all this money, and it was absolutely worthless. He describes a scene in which an old lady was using bundles of notes to light a fire.

Pilger points out that by the CIA’s own admission, it was American carpet-bombing that brought the Khmer Rouge to power. The CIA came to that conclusion in a report that it published. If Nixon and Killary’s best buddy, Kissinger, hadn’t tried to bomb the country back into the Stone Age, the Khmer Rouge would have remained a marginal political sect with no power. In doing so, Tricky Dicky and Kissinger created the conditions which saw Pol Pot and his butchers come to power, and then proceed to murder something like a fifth or more of the country’s people. Pilger also notes that the western condemnation of the Khmer Rouge was blunted by the fact that after they treated into the forest, the West still had an alliance with them and supported them against the Chinese.

However, his coverage of the Cambodia atrocities also brought out British people’s generosity. He describes how the documentary resulted in £50 million being raised for Cambodia and its people. And this was unsolicited. He describes how Blue Peter organised children’s bring and buy sales. He tells how the money raised was used to build factories to make the goods people needed, including clothes. One of the weird orders of the regime was that Cambodians could only wear black, and so there was a demand for normal coloured clothes.

Then on to Nelson Mandela. Pilger points out that Mandela wasn’t a saint, as he himself admitted. ‘It wasn’t the job I applied for’, said the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Pilger got in trouble because he asked Mandela an awkward question about nationalisation. The ANC’s ‘Charter for Freedom’ stated that they were going to nationalise industry, or at least the major sectors, such as mining. Pilger, however, got Mandela to admit that they were going to keep everything in private hands, which directly contradicted the Charter.

Pilger goes on to link this with the continuation of apartheid, albeit in a different form. While race-based apartheid had fallen and been dismantled, a class-based apartheid continued, in which the masses still lived in grinding poverty. Pilger states that, while the ANC had previously been respected, it has now become the subject of hatred and contempt. He also makes the point that Mandela’s accession to power allowed many White liberals to cling on to their power and position.

The next clip is from a piece of domestic reporting Pilger did here in the UK. It’s from a programme he made, following the life and work of Jack, a worker in a dye factory, in which the documentary makers met his family, and recorded his opinions. Pilger states that, while there are more diverse voices heard in the media now, the lives of ordinary, working people are generally ignored and the media is very much dominated by the middle classes. He describes how interesting and revealing it was just to follow the man around, listening to him talk about his life and work.

The last clip is of him taking a female spokesperson from the Beeb to task for its apparent bias against the Palestinians. He asks her why the BBC is content to interview the Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev, armed with the whole battery of Israeli functionaries ready to give the official Israeli view, but haven’t found someone of a similar level, who is able to articulate the Palestinian position with the same clarity and authority. The Beeb spokeswoman replies that the Corporation has tried to find someone to speak for the Palestinians, but they can’t be responsible for choosing their spokespeople for them. Pilger uses this clip to point out how the mainstream media acts as propaganda outlet for the establishment, in a way which RT doesn’t. He also makes the point that Regev is now the Israeli ambassador.

JFK at 100: The War on Our Heroes Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/11/2017 - 11:01am in

In the first half of this article, published on JFK's centenary, I discussed the general degradation of the intellectual and moral character of figurehead politicians, the concomitant societal decay, and whether or not this is a deliberate policy or a by-product of promoting sociopaths above their ability to function.

In this half we will re-examine the death of JFK, not just as a simple assassination, but as an act of psychic-warfare on the general populace, and explore the long-lasting effect on the American psyche.

The Politics of Comparison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/11/2017 - 3:42am in

Chris Hayes’s A Colony in a Nation seeks to elevate the Movement for Black Lives by placing it on a par with the American Revolution, but his analysis carries troubling implications.

A Feral Trump Leads the Feral Right. And Vice Versa.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/10/2017 - 3:18am in

EDITOR’S NOTE: Take a long look at the photograph above of Donald Trump speaking to the American Conservative Union, the umbrella organization of the right. The ACU was founded in 1964, the year conservative icon Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination for president and was crushed at the polls that fall by the liberal, Lyndon B. Johnson. Keep that photograph in mind as you read my conversation with historian Rick Perlstein, which we might have subtitled “From Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump: You Must Be Kidding!” Perlstein has now written three best-selling books on the modern conservative movement. He still blinks at the thought of Trump’s triumph in capturing the Republican nomination last year and then beating Hillary Clinton. The photograph suggests the seminal moment in 2015 that led to both victories — as Trump convinced conservatives he was one of them. The legacy of both Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan is now his. So is the Republican Party. He tightened his grip on the GOP in the last few days when two prominent Republican senators who are leaving politics rebuked the president as “dangerous to our democracy,” even as some of their colleagues were rushing into Trump’s arms with wet kisses, fearing, perhaps, that if they were any less ardent, Steve Bannon would come galloping down upon them in a future primary with an even more radical challenger. I asked Rick Perlstein to talk about these matters.

                                                                                                                              —Bill Moyers



Moyers: So Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker gave up, and others, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, gave in. And here are the headlines in The New York Times:

Acquiesce or Go Home
Party With Less and Less Room for Older Breed Of Conservative

In other words, Donald Trump owns the Republican Party.

Rick Perlstein: That’s right. It’s like Ivory soap, “99 and 1/100 percent pure,” remember? Oh, the apostasy of Jeff Flake. The senator from Arizona gives this very histrionic speech about how Trump has introduced evasion and demagoguery and all these awful things into the Republican Party — and then announces he’s quitting. He’s really saying, “I’m not going to fight it. I’m going to surrender to it.” Remember, he’s voted 90 percent of the time with the Trump/Republican agenda. And then later that day, he and the other brave, bold critic in the Republican establishment, Sen. Bob Corker, both voted to end the rule that would have allowed people to sue banks and credit card companies that rip them off. They get to have their cake and eat it, too. They basically make a material contribution to the very damage to the body politic in the afternoon that they decry in the morning.
Moyers: Sens. Murkowski of Alaska, Collins of Maine, Sasse of Nebraska and McCain of Arizona — John McCain! — also voted for Trump’s giveaway to Wall Street. Political commentator Kyle Kulinski called it “Your daily reminder that establishment Republicans want Trump to do every single thing he’s doing minus the mean tweets.”

Perlstein: I read Jeff Flake’s book, Conscience of a Conservative, written in homage to Barry Goldwater. Here’s a guy staking out in his ideology in terms that are quite reactionary, in a book that supposedly decries the turn of the Republican Party to dangerous reaction.

Moyers: Who is now the Republican establishment?

Perlstein: So interesting. I once saw a letter from H. L. Hunt, the purported richest man in the world in the 1960s, the oil billionaire, probably one of the first billionaires to bankroll Barry Goldwater. He said, “Beware the cunning of the establishment.” Richest man in the world. Didn’t think he was in the establishment. Now there’s Robert Mercer, billionaire extraordinare, and his daughter Rebekah, showering money on Steve Bannon to overturn the Republican establishment — are the Mercers not establishment? Are the Koch brothers, who have billions of dollars to spend, the establishment? The establishment is a very plastic concept. But as a Supreme Court justice said of pornography, maybe we know it when we see it. Establishments replace one another. The Republican establishment used to be Nelson Rockefeller types, and then it became Ronald Reagan types, and then it became Newt Gingrich types and then Bush types. It is a moving target and right now we don’t have a good answer.

Moyers: I’ve been thinking about that piece you wrote in The New York Times earlier this year in which you said, “I thought I understood the American right. Trump proved me wrong.” Do you still stand behind that confession?

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 a promise to “deconstruct the administrative state,” deregulate business and assert national sovereignty through immigration and trade policy.

CPAC Dispatch: How Donald Trump Killed Movement Conservatism

BY Adele M. Stan | February 24, 2017

Perlstein: Oh, yes. What I got wrong about the American right was the idea that it succeeded in the 1960s by purging its crazier, more reactionary, more paranoid elements and becoming respectable. Historians are beginning to rethink that formulation, which is really the conservative’s own self-representation. It’s a very self-congratulatory representation. What if the crazy paranoid fringe was in fact the vanguard? What if they were kind of the people who created the political energy that allowed the establishment to float above it all and make their ex cathedra pronouncements, as William F. Buckley did for so many decades, while they were really working in a complicated partnership, in harness with one another, toward taking over the party? 

Moyers: You said before the election last year that Trump had raised energies in the Republican electorate that may not be so easily contained.

Perlstein: Right. And I think it’s the next frontier for both historians and other sorts of analysts and journalists trying to figure out how the Republican coalition works and how conservatism works and what is different — what is the break between conservatism, say, from Goldwater to Reagan to Gingrich to Boehner and the conservatism of Trump and Bannon. The metaphor people have reached to describe how conservative politicians of a previous generation reached out demagogically to the feral impulses of the electorate was the dog whistle. They would use racist codes. You know, Richard Nixon running TV commercials in the South in 1968 with country singers talking about how they didn’t want Washington folks butting into our business. They wouldn’t come out and say, “Those dark people are taking over.” And when Richard Nixon even did that kind of thing, it was through a front group — through “Democrats for Nixon.” There was a distancing. And then of course there was Ronald Reagan and the welfare queen in 1976, and Reagan giving his famous speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1980, near where the three young civil rights workers were killed by white supremacists — the only time in the campaign he mentioned states’ rights. And then in 1984, saying the South shall rise again. Dog whistling. 

Moyers: And Lee Atwater and the elder George Bush in 1988 with the Willie Horton ad.
Perlstein: Yes. The revolving prison door — all that stuff. And there’s a plausible deniability. And what people have said is that Donald Trump takes the dog whistle and turns it into a train whistle. If only you could be a fly on the wall in the councils of power in the Republican Party in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and be privy to these conversations where these strategies are unfolding! Because I think that people who really have their finger on the pulse of the American electorate understand that there are always these kind of feral energies, wild savage energies, abroad in the land. Even Lyndon Johnson — when he’s heard talking on the Oval Office tapes about whether to escalate in Vietnam, will mention 1950 and what happened when the Republicans, especially Joseph McCarthy, started raising the cry that the Democrats lost China. As you must know, Johnson feared that this sort of paranoid, reckless madness would again be loosed in the land. I think sophisticated political actors all the way through George W. Bush understood this as a danger, and even as they tried to ride and surf and use that danger, they sought somewhat to contain it.

Moyers: How did George W. try to contain it?

Perlstein: He campaigned using those traditional Republican tropes, but then after 9/11, you see something very interesting. He calls Islam a religion of peace. He goes to a mosque. I compare this to Ronald Reagan in 1978, when he’s beginning his run for the presidency and there’s an initiative on the California ballot called Proposition 6 that will ban gay school teachers, and he comes out against it. This is a time in San Francisco — gay men were being cut down in the streets. Reagan in effect says: “I don’t want to be part of unleashing those energies.” And maybe you were there when Barry Goldwater was the Republican candidate for president against LBJ in 1964, and he paid a courtesy call on LBJ right after rioting in Harlem following the shooting of a young black person by a white cop, and Goldwater said something like, “This is really frightening stuff. If my supporters start exploiting these riots and start exploiting racial turmoil in the United States to get me elected, I will withdraw from the presidential campaign.” There was some realization in all this that civilization in America is a very thin veneer and you have to master the savage energies — you have to contain them. And Trump does not understand that game. So now we see a certain class of Republican literally saying these lowborn, kind of louche, ill-bred “populists” are taking over from the “principled intellectuals. “Remember the National Review last year — Buckley’s old magazine? Their mantra was “Never Trump!” 

Cover of National Review, Feb. 156, 2016. (Image from the National Review Twitter feed)

Moyers: Is Trump more paranoid and dangerous than Nixon?

Perlstein: Oh, I think there’s no question. I mean, he really takes Nixon’s worst qualities and turns them up to 11. People have been talking a lot these days about Richard Nixon’s famous “mad man” — the idea that if you made the North Vietnamese Communists believe this guy [Nixon] is crazy and might do anything — he might launch a nuclear weapon — then they’re going to rush to the negotiating table and give us concessions. But Richard Nixon said you never get mad unless it’s on purpose. At least this was a conscious strategy on his part. It was a feint. A hustle. Now, today, we may have an actual mad man in the White House. I mean, these are not clever negotiating tactics he’s using. When Trump goes on TV and a reporter says, “So, Mr. President, you said that you were going to keep the 401(k) in the tax negotiations, but your Republican congressional negotiator said you’re going to get rid of the 401(k). Which is it?” And Trump says, “Well, maybe we’ll keep the 401(k) as a negotiating chip.” That level of stupidity — you don’t telegraph to the other side what your bargaining chips are. This is 10-year-old stuff.  

Moyers: Could it be his opioid is revenge, not power? 

Perlstein: That’s an interesting distinction. 

Moyers: Well, it comes from considering his cultural upbringing, his father’s purported KKK activity, his relationship to Joseph McCarthy’s hit man Roy Cohn. You’ve pointed out Trump’s apparent interest in New York movies like Death Wish. He never seems to leave his fantasies.
Perlstein: And consider how his racism played out here. Quite remarkable. He was an executive in his father’s company in the 1970s when the Justice Department discovered that they were putting little “C’s” next to the colored applicants in their housing and using testers. A white couple would come in and say, “We’re looking for an apartment” and be told, “Oh, we have plenty.” And a black couple would come in, say “We’re looking for an apartment” — and be told “Oh, I’m sorry. We’re filled up.” And then in the Central Park jogger case in 1989, Trump took out full-page ads in New York newspapers calling for the return of the death penalty because a white woman had been raped by minorities and he said they should die — that was what happened in the days of lynching. Trump was calling for a lynching. A white woman has been raped and attention must be paid and punishment meted out. Now, those youngsters were exonerated and the real perpetrator eventually apprehended, yet Trump still called for them to be kept incarcerated. We are talking here about the president of the United States. He’s fanning the most feral forces there are within the American political culture. 

Moyers: Any insight into what’s going on inside his psyche?

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The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Robert Jay Lifton and Bill Moyers on ‘A Duty to Warn’

BY Bill Moyers | September 14, 2017

Perlstein: I defer to your friend [the psychohistorian] Robert J. Lifton. There’s something sufficiently deep-seated in his psyche to almost constitute a psychopathology that keeps him from literally seeing reality as it is. 
Moyers: So you’re a historian, not a psychologist. Find anyone in the presidency like him before? We’ve had many flawed presidents.

Perlstein: It pops up from time to time. When Lyndon Johnson insisted that race riots must have been stoked by the communists, [Attorney General] Ramsey Clark came back and said, “We’ve really searched up and down and we don’t see any evidence,” and Johnson basically told him to go back and try again, because it has to be true. I’m sure that at his worst his paranoia matched Trump, but he had so many redeeming qualities he transcended it. With Trump, it’s just paranoia and vengeance all the way down, even in his moments of victory. 
Moyers: And taking the Republicans beyond restraint?

Perlstein: I think he has. And to their shame, a lot of Republicans who understand precisely how dangerous this is have decided to stick around for the ride. Trump is their ticket to getting their tax cuts, among other things. We need to understand it much better — the dance that’s been going on within the Republican Party and the conservative coalition, this dance between feral populism and an establishment kind of “principled intellectual conservatism.” And of course that’s not how they work. 

Moyers: You mention tax cuts. So last year during the campaign Trump promised tax cuts to the middle class. He said specifically the hedge-fund guys would be paying up — the Wall Street crowd. But from what’s being circulated in Washington, the Republicans, apparently with Trump’s blessings, are backing tax cuts that would give 50 percent of the benefits to the wealthiest 1 percent and the top one-hundredths of 1 percent of earners would receive more than 40 percent of the benefits, while the bottom half would receive collectively something near 13 percent.

Perlstein: Yes, it’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it?

Moyers: Trump and the conservatives get their votes from angry populists. They get their money from rich people—

Perlstein: Yes. 

Moyers: —and from corporations. But what if it all springs back? Suppose that sooner or later the populists in the coalition wake up and realize they’ve been had — swallowed up in a great historical hoax?

Perlstein: Well, that’s where some very dark forces come into play. 

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President-elect Donald Trump and Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, embrace during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The End of a Political Era: Movement Conservatism Gets Real

BY Heather Cox Richardson | August 16, 2017

Moyers: Dark forces?

Perlstein: Yes, what happens when the white working-class voters who supported Trump begin to feel the sting of economic dispossession in a new and profound way? Let’s say there’s a stock market crash, or the economy takes a dive. Let’s say their tax bills go up. That that’s when the scapegoating begins. I don’t know what happens when people start getting their tax bills and realizing that they were played for fools. But of course the people around Donald Trump control their own media — Fox, talk radio, the “alt-right” press — which means they control their own reality. And their propaganda is very much designed to work neurologically, not intellectually, to hit the amygdala of the brain in its fear center. If people don’t know what’s happening to them or who’s making it happen, it’s very hard for them to place the finger of blame in the appropriate place. “Dark forces” come into play. 
Moyers: Can a democracy die of too many lies?

Perlstein: It’s certainly happened before. 

Moyers: The right seems to be even more fueled these days by some powerful resentments. 
Perlstein: You know, the club that Richard Nixon started at Whittier College, because he wasn’t allowed into the one fraternity, was called the Orthogonians.

Moyers: Orthogonians? 

Perlstein: Orthogonians, which kind of meant squares. You know, the right angles, the guys who were commuters and, you know, they weren’t from all the right families. The club that they weren’t allowed in was called the Franklins. So Richard Nixon always saw the world in terms of Orthogonians and Franklins, you know, the silent majority and the liberal elite. And if you think about it, all of us at some point of our lives are Franklins and all of us are Orthogonians. We’re always feeling the sting of resentment. So it’s a very powerful message. 

President Nixon bowls with the winners of the 7 International Bowling Federation Tournament. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

Moyers: Trump struck many people here in New York City like that. He hungered to be accepted by the establishment. It was palpable.

Perlstein: An Orthogonian — that’s correct.
Moyers: He was always trying to get into the—

Perlstein: Trying to get into the club. Trying to buy the World Trade Center to do it. And now feral greed seems to drive him, even as president.

And that’s the interesting thing, because we had a bait-and-switch. Of course Donald Trump doesn’t ever seem to have intended to govern in the interest of the blue-collar dispossessed white working class in whose name he claimed to speak. He handed over the keys almost immediately to the Goldman Sachs bankers and the plutocrats. And now there’s Stephen Bannon going off half-cocked on his own behalf and claiming to be the true avatar of the Trumpite revolution — you know, more Trumpier than Trump, I guess. So we’re at a pretty interesting crossroads as we speak here. 

Moyers: Your books show how resilient the conservative movement has been in our time. It keeps rising from the grave to move the Republican Party further and further right. Defeated with Goldwater in 1964, back in 1968 with Nixon. Defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976, back with Reagan in 1980. Defeated by Clinton in 1992, back with George W. Bush in 2000. Defeated by Obama in 2008, back with Trump in 2016. Everyone kept saying the Republicans were finished unless they purged the conservatives. Now it’s the conservatives purging the Republicans. 

Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon Meet in the White House on Jan. 20, 1969. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

Perlstein: So let’s talk about the transition from Carter to Reagan. That’s the subject of my historical research right now. Basically, you have the bounty of America’s postwar boom that was built upon the fact that all of our economic competitors were damaged by war. It was built upon cheap oil and cheap resources, and then on the social legislation of the 1960s that was offered on the assumption of a post-scarcity era — that we had basically solved the economic problems. Economists were confident, through Keynesian means, that they could keep recessions in check with low inflation. All that breaks down in the 1970s for various complicated reasons. And the response of a lot of Democrats — from people in Congress like Sen. Gary Hart, who essentially declared the New Deal tradition his ideological enemy, to Jimmy Carter, who said that the challenge of the future was accepting that we had to live in a period of austerity, to Jerry Brown in California, who backed a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution — all of them were saying, basically, folks, look, the party’s over. You can’t have all the nice things anymore. 

And this is precisely at the time that Republicans like Ronald Reagan are saying, “The problem is that taxes are too high.” Remember, Republicans for generations had been saying with great frustration since the New Deal, “We can’t win elections because no one shoots Santa Claus!” Santa Claus could no longer deliver those things the Democrats were voting for the people from the public treasury. So basically Democrats in the late 1970s said, “We’re not going to be Santa Claus anymore. We’re going to be the responsible grown-ups in the room.” The Republicans had to figure out a way to be Santa Claus. In fact, Jude Wanniski — remember him, the guy from The Wall Street Journal, one of the brilliant propagandists of supply-side economics? — called his theory of why tax cuts were great politics and policy of the Republicans “the two Santa Claus” theory. Of course, it turned out to be complete poppycock. You know, it was just nonsense. 

Ronald Reagan delivers his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

Moyers: Supply-side economics? 

Perlstein: Yes, supply-side economics was just the sheerest invention. But as politics, the conservatives were able to take advantage of Democrats abandoning the field of, basically, populism in the same way you have Bill Clinton deciding that the answer to the recession in the early 1990s is giving in to the bond-holders.
Moyers: And then there’s Barack Obama. 

Perlstein: And you have Barack Obama, for all his administrative and communication skills, deciding that the important thing to do when the economy melts down after the big crash is to foam the runway for the banks and ease their soft landing instead of making people whole who literally had their homes stolen by banks. So the Democrats are not blameless in this. 

Moyers: Are you saying Democrats provided the conservatives with the source of their resiliency?

Perlstein: But the fact of the matter is, liberals have always been too glib about the power and resilience of the reactionary tradition in America. Remember, half the country went to war to preserve slavery in this country — and it wasn’t just slavery; it was an entire feudal system in which basically society was ordered — the great chain of being from the slave to God. 

Moyers: This is where your first book, Before the Storm, about the conservatives after the Goldwater defeat, tapped into historical DNA, connecting the modern conservative movement way back to people who were appealing to—

Perlstein: Whiteness — the white picket fence — the nuclear family— 

Moyers: Yep— 

Perlstein: —and Kevin Phillips called the other side — the liberals who were basically plunging ahead with all this social legislation that in a way rewired how people experienced their relationship to the state and to each other — he called them “the toryhood of change.” The snobs who are telling people how to live. They’re a toryhood. They’re controlling. They experiment with people’s lives.

Moyers: That’s obviously not how we saw it.

Perlstein: I’m sure. But unfortunately, the state can be a very scary thing, and benefits that are delivered by the state can often very easily be recast as oppressive to people, especially when their relative position in the pecking order is weakening. It’s not a zero-sum game. We know that as liberals when we invest in people who have been disinvested, that’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. But it can be a very traumatic thing to lose one’s sense of power and privilege in a changing world, and the conservatives recast themselves as not merely the preservers of order but the forces of dynamism. They saw themselves as cutting through this kind of sclerosis of liberalism. As the New Right leader and strategist [and] founder [with Jerry Falwell] of the Moral Majority Paul Weyrich put it, organizing discontent, finding places where people feel the world slipping away and gaining a toehold and turning that into political power, and if they have to lift a Trump on their shoulder to cross the finish line, well… 

Moyers: You’ve spent years studying the infrastructure by which conservatives prepared for this moment. What do you see as the singular opportunity that enabled them to seize the opportunity in 2016, after eight years of Obama?

Perlstein: What was the discontent? I think that there are two kind of broad wellsprings of that discontent. One is economic — the fact that people weren’t made whole after the traumas of 2007 and 2008, the fact that the heartland Main Street America is being emptied out, that capital continues to flee overseas, that factories continue to close, that people are exploited by credit-card companies and student loan companies and all the rest. That sort of economic dispossession. But another wellspring, frankly, is the sense that one’s symbolic power that comes with being white and Christian and sitting behind that white picket fence, is not what it once was, especially in the hands of what they identified as “this foreign Kenyan usurper, Barack Obama.” 

You know, back in Weimar, Germany, as Hitler was making his way to power, the socialists used to say anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. And by that they meant when you’re being screwed by the boss and you blame the Jews instead of joining our socialist party in which we’re fighting to give you power in the workplace and power over the economy — well, that makes you a fool. But that interplay between ethnic scapegoating, religious scapegoating and a sense of economic dispossession — which doesn’t necessarily mean poorness or privation, it could mean a sense of economic vulnerability, the fear of falling that Barbara Ehrenreich a long time ago called the secret to the inner life of the middleclass — creates a situation where everyone’s place in the economic pecking order is ever precarious. Especially in America where we don’t have that safety net, that social democracy. I think that’s the enabling condition for a lot of this. 

Moyers: And then there’s how you have put Donald Trump in the context of a sociological concept called “herrenvolk democracy.”

Perlstein: Oh, yes, which basically means social democracy for the favored race as a way not of expanding liberty to all citizens but only to the accepted in-group, people like us. 

Moyers: The benefits were intended for the herrenvolk — universal for them but limited to them.
Perlstein: And that’s always been the struggle. Think of the original populists, the People’s Party of the 1890s. Often described as very white. But there’s a book that just had its 50th anniversary. The Tolerant Populists, by Walter Nugent. And as against interpretations of the populists that were popular among certain mid-20th century historians and social scientists, Nugent actually read populist newspapers that were often German-language newspapers, revealing that among the populist party nominees in Kansas in the late 19th century were African-Americans, women, Jews — that there has in fact been a tradition of multiracial class-based political mobilization that is a spark, a flame we can fan, a heritage we can claim. And consider this: For all the compromises that Franklin Roosevelt made with Southern white segregationists to get his New Deal legislation passed, the fact of the matter is that African-Americans across the United States put pictures of Franklin Roosevelt on their walls. They knew that this guy had his heart in the right place. John F. Kennedy’s picture was up on the wall in African-American homes all across the country. They knew he had his heart in the right place, even though he was very slow to find his way to proposing a revolutionary civil rights act in 1963.

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President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

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Moyers: Yes, when President Johnson traveled through Appalachia, or other impoverished places, he couldn’t get over it. Hadn’t he just signed the Civil Rights Act of ’64? The Voting Rights Act of ’65? But there, on the wall, were photographs of JFK.

Perlstein: Life’s unfair, no? So I’m saying, I wouldn’t get too hopeless. Some interesting things are happening now. 

Moyers: I don’t recommend any rose-colored glasses, Rick. You have written over and again that our society has never been one of consensus. Americans are always in conflict, polarized, competing and fighting.

Perlstein: Our national community builds in the act of transcending original wounds. If you think back to the late 18th century to the constitutional convention where delegates were trying to figure out a way to hold together a nascent commercial society in the North and a feudal society in the South, and doing it over the bodies of enslaved Africans and yet at the same time were superintended by a new Constitution professing ideals of liberty and individual dignity — man, that’s very heady stuff and not something that lends itself to easy accord. We’d like to believe that we’re united and at peace with ourselves and that we have the will to transcend and even repress those original psychic wounds— 

Moyers: But we’re yoked to reality, including human nature—

Perlstein: Which gets us in a heck of a lot of trouble. So I try to get people to face hard truths in the interest of a difficult healing and a grace that is not cheap. 
Moyers: The most somber realist in the White House, despite passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was Lyndon Johnson. He kept watching [Alabama Gov.] George Wallace campaigning in primaries rallying white Democratic voters. Wallace would in effect say things like, “I’m all for the New Deal. I’m just not for it for black folks.” Johnson saw the blowback coming.

Perlstein: Yes, that’s herrenvolk democracy. Social democracy only for the white majority. I understand that in that 1964 campaign, the great Daisy commercial guys — Doyle, Dane and Bernback — cut commercials celebrating the Civil Rights Act. But they were not run, correct?

Moyers: Correct.

Perlstein: Because you guys knew better than the liberal majority and the people at The New York Times what was going to happen. The Times ran a headline the day after the ’64 election saying, “White backlash does not develop.” Well, they didn’t notice [what happened] that very day in California, which voted by a million votes against ending housing discrimination. 

Moyers: And two years later, in 1966, California elected Ronald Reagan for governor. Democrats lost heavily in the congressional races.

Perlstein: But look, at the same time after he signed the Civil Rights Act, when Lyndon Johnson told you that he thinks he’s just given up the South to the Republicans for his lifetime and yours, I like to think there was an implied second part to that sentence, which is, “We have cemented the loyalty of Northern African-Americans for your generation and mine.” And that was a dialectic too. 

Moyers: Well, a lot depends now on whether Donald Trump is an outlier or the representative of a new and even more adamant conservative politics. 

Perlstein: You know, a lot of African-Americans traditionally have said, “Give me an outright Southern racist than the polite wink and a nod of a Northern racist any day, because at least you know what you’re dealing with and you can fight him out in the open.” So I think that Trump’s radicalism represents a certain opportunity to the people who have been trying for generations to instruct white people about what it is like to be black in America, what it is like to be an immigrant in America, what it is like to be Mexican, what it is like to be of a minority religion or no religion, and women who are trying to instruct men what it’s like to be under the gun of constant harassment and sexual objectification at the office. Things are becoming a lot clearer now. The edges, the invisible lineaments that divide us from each other are becoming a lot more perspicuous, a lot more visible — and I think that’s a useful tool for social change. 

Moyers: So the turmoil and conflict we’re experiencing today might be because we are beginning to strip the whitewash off the history of our country.
Perlstein: I think it’s happening in a way that we haven’t quite seen in the past, and maybe we can hold out some promise for some interesting developments. 

Moyers: We haven’t talked about guns, and the fierce religious zeal conservatives attach to guns. More than we can imagine at the moment, I sense we’re going to have to reckon with guns on the road ahead.

Perlstein: (Pause) I have a hard time understanding why conservative politicians don’t denounce what the National Rifle Association is doing with those video spots, in the figure of Dana Loesch, that really come straight from the propaganda files of Goebbels in Nazi Germany. They talk about how liberals are destroying truth and undermining our way of life and that guns are the only way that we can be safe. When are we going to demand Republicans start distancing themselves from a National Rifle Association that has literally become an anti-constitutional insurrectionist organization? 

Moyers: But Republicans, conservatives, the NRA — are all part of the same ball of wax.

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Perlstein: Well, the thing about the Second Amendment that’s so interesting to me as a historian, Bill, is that it’s the only part of the Constitution that really affirmatively mentions regulation as a good thing — “a well-regulated militia.” It’s such a bizarre text in the first place. But in the second place, a constitution is quite literally a machine for governing without violence. Without a constitution, it’s a war of all against all, and the person who can dominate the other person physically wins. As interpreted by the NRA and unfortunately by the Supreme Court as an individual right, it almost deconstructs the whole point of the Constitution, which is that people shouldn’t have to carry around guns. Our founders gave their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor for a government of laws and not a government of arbitrary— 

Moyers: Coercion. 
Perlstein: Coercion, yes—
Moyers: Enforced by guns.

Perlstein: Yes, again. Every clever college freshman will tell you that ultimately a government is the monopolization of the use of force, and if you resist the rule of law you are going to be physically removed from the body politic. That’s the last resort. But there’s a first resort — and the National Rifle Association, at the behest and by the funding of the weapons industry, has created it: the first resort of insurrection. 
A member of my family works for an investment bank. She once showed me a securities report — you know, one of those things that bankers come up with for analyzing an industry, whether it’s a buy or a sell. And it was so fascinating to read, in the cool rational jargon of bankers, the idea that the gun industry does great when there are Democrats in power because then they can scare the bejesus out of people that they’re going to take their guns away — an utter and rank lie, but one that the cunning forces of capital also have deployed as a profit-making strategy. It’s a very dangerous reality. And now we’re seeing it now. This did not get a lot of publicity but in Gainesville, Florida last week, when Richard Spencer was there— 

Moyers: Leader of the white nationalists.

Perlstein: —leader of the white nationalists, and they had the largest police presence on a college campus in the history of the school. But that didn’t keep another white nationalist, who thought that he was being physically menaced by someone with a stick, to fire a shot at left protesters. They missed, but that sort of escalation by people who are trained to believe that they are under literal physical threat — demagogues like Dana Loesch and organizations like the National Rifle Association — may just cause an escalation of violence that is becomes extremely dangerous to all of our liberties. 

Moyers: Do you ever go online to some of those gun sites? Do they frighten you?

Perlstein: Very scary. Because there’s an almost religious ideology that unless you are prepared to meet any threat with violent force, you, your family, the women and children you are charged by a kind of patriarchal ideology to protect, are endangered. I went to one site that offers tactical training on how to clear a room, how to get off the maximum number of rounds in the shortest period of time, what clothes to wear with breakaway pockets so you can shoot faster — there’s an entire narrative of how the world works, and the core of that narrative is that there are bad people who are not like you who are out to kill you and you have to kill them first. 

Moyers: Do you write your history books to oppose the people you are writing about? 

Perlstein: Do I write my books to oppose? I don’t think so. No, I think I write my books to affirm. Ultimately, I write my books motivated by a fascination, by the challenge of the various tribes of America to live together. I take great pleasure in making connections and in reaching readers and hopefully edifying them and enlightening them. I like to think that I use my work, my books, my journalism to create a community, a community of readers, of thinkers, of citizens. So ultimately, I think I do see it as an affirmative act. I’m not nihilistic, I’m optimistic. 

Moyers: Thank you, Rick Perlstein.

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