In this edition of Forthright Radio, originally broadcast on June 6, 2018, our guest is McMaster University Professor, Henry Giroux, who has been our guest numerous times over the years. His latest book, which just came out from City Lights Publishing, is American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. It is A far-ranging critique of the rise of authoritarianism and white nationalism in the US, and the consequences for democracy.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest. He is a prolific writer of books, sometimes more than one a year, and articles which appear in numerous online and print publications, as well as scholarly journals. His books include: AMERICA AT WAR WITH ITSELF; DISPOSABLE FUTURES: VIOLENCE IN THE AGE OF SPECTACLE; Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, THE VIOLENCE OF ORGANIZED FORGETTING and many, many others.
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” Hannah Arendt
“In a ravenous 55 day spasm during the summer of 1898, the United States asserted control over 5 far-flung lands with a total of 11 million inhabitants: Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Never in history has a nation leaped so suddenly overseas empire.” Doing so was by no means a matter of political consensus. In fact at several steps on the way, a single individual or vote determined events, leading to the deaths of thousands. The questions that arose then, continue to arise to this day.
“How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. For more than a century we have debated with ourselves. We can’t even agree on the question. Put one way: Should we defend our freedom, or turn inward and ignore growing threats? Put differently: Should we charge violently into faraway lands, or allow others to work out their own destinies?” And how did a country which had been founded through rebellion against a distant sovereign, which had once been a colony itself, and had pledged itself, above all, to the ideal of self-government, turn to taking colonies of its own – and most certainly NOT with the consent of the governed? These are some of the questions, our guest today, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Stephen Kinzer, addresses in his latest book, THE TRUE FLAG: THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE. This is not merely an exercise in ivory tower history, because the United States – and, in fact, the world – is still paying today for the arguments, decisions and methods made by those debating these questions in the era of Theodore Roosevelt. Central America, the Middle East, The far east, terrorism, immigration, indigenous efforts for democracy – all these conflicts – and more – can find origins in a very short period of time at the turn of the 19th & the 20th centuries.
Stephen Kinzer has covered more than 50 countries on 5 continents. From 1983 to 1989 He was the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, where he covered war and upheaval in Central America. He wrote 2 books about that region, BITTER FRUIT: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN COUP IN GUATEMALA (co-written with Stephen Schlesinger), and BLOOD OF BROTHERS: LIFE AND WAR IN NICARAGUA. He was the New York Times bureau chief in Bonn, & then Berlin, Germany from 1990 -96, where he covered the emergence of post-Communist Europe, including the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Then, he opened their bureau in Istanbul, Turkey, where he covered that country and the new nations of Central Asia & the Caucasus. HIS BOOK, CRESCENT AND STAR: TURKEY BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, was born of that experience. After several trips to Iran, he wrote ALL THE SHAH’S MEN: AN AMERICAN COUP AND THE ROOTS OF MIDDLE EAST TERROR and RESET: IRAN, TURKEY AND AMERICA’S FUTURE. His latest book is THE TRUE FLAG: THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE, published last year by Henry Holt. The paperback edition is coming out in two weeks from St. Martin’s/Griffin. It adds to his earlier book, OVERTHROW: AMERICA’S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ, which documents 14 times the United States has overthrown foreign governments, and examines just what is it in the American psyche, that allows – and compels – the world’s first nation to throw off colonial rule and proclaim self government as a self-evident divine right to suppress similar aspirations in lands over seas.
Col. Theodore Roosevelt
Grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. orchestrated the CIA’s “Operation Ajax”, which aimed to overthrow democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, who had been Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1951:
A CIA hired mob – who beat all Mossadeq supporters to a pulp….
“This coup did more than simply bring down Mossadegh. It ended democratic rule in Iran and set the country off toward distatoship. Mohammad Reza Shah gave the U. S. a quarter century of dominance in Iran, but his repression ultimately set off an uprising that produced a fanatically anti-American regime.” from Kinzer’s RESET: IRAN, TURKEY & AMERICA’S FUTURE.
Mohammad Reza Shah and family before the Peacock Throne
“What happens to democracy when the president of the United States labels critical media outlets as ‘enemies of the people,’ and disparages the search for truth with the blanket term ‘fake news’? What happens to democracy, when individuals and groups are demonized on the basis of their religion? What happens to a society, when critical thinking becomes an object of contempt? What happens to a social order ruled by an economics of contempt, that blames the poor for their condition, and subjects them to a culture of shaming? What happens to a polity, when it retreats into private silos, and becomes indifferent to the use of language deployed in the service of a panicked rage — language that stokes anger, but ignores issues that matter? What happens to a social order, when it treats millions of undocumented immigrants as disposable, potential terrorists and “criminals”? What happens to a country, when the presiding principles of its society are violence and ignorance?”
We discuss these and other questions, and it may surprise you to learn that Henry Giroux’s analysis, although clear-sighted in the face of the forces of dystopia, leads to an energized, engaged vision of collective agency and action.
Henry Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest. He is the author of more than 65 books, has published more than 400 papers, in addition to hundreds of chapters in the books of others, as well as many essays and articles in such journals as Truthout, Truthdig, and CounterPunch. His works have been translated into numerous languages.
He is particularly interested in what he calls the war on youth, the corporatization of higher education, the politics of neo-liberalism, the assault on civic literacy and the collapse of public memory, public pedagogy, the educative nature of politics, and the rise of various youth movements across the globe.
His latest book is America at War With Itself, published by City Lights Books. His forthcoming book, The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism, is to be published in 2018 by Routledge.
Our guest is Professor Nancy MacLean. We discuss her latest book, DEMOCRACY IN CHAINS: THE DEEP HISTORY OF THE RADICAL RIGHT’S STEALTH PLAN FOR AMERICA, published by Viking Press. It is a thoroughly researched, to my mind shocking, exposé of the man and the ideas behind the billionaire-funded, relentless campaign to suppress voting, privatize everything from education, prisons, social security and Medicare, eliminate unions, curb democratic majority rule and change the US Constitution in order to make democracy safe for capitalism and plutocracy. Most reporting of the rise of the extreme right focuses on the Koch brothers and their money – but who created the blue print for their decades long, stealth campaign that has been all too successful – at least so far? Our guest, Nancy MacLean, has spent a decade investigating the origins, tactics, strategies and goals, of that campaign, that have brought us to this crisis point in our history.
Nancy MacLean is the William Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. She is the award winning author of BEHIND THE MASK OF CHIVALRY: THE MAKING OF THE SECOND KU KLUX KLAN and FREEDOM IS NOT ENOUGH: THE OPENING OF THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE. Professor MacLean’s scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards. In 2010, she was elected a fellow of the Society of American Historians.