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NOW on the News
4.20.07

NOW on the News with Maria Hinojosa

Transcript: Gore Vidal on the Virginia Tech Tragedy
4.20.07

» More about this interview

HINOJOSA: This week, afraid the horrible events at Virginia Tech, we're talking to writer, activist, cultural critic and iconoclast, Gore Vidal, on the state of America today. Gore, welcome to our program.

VIDAL: Happy to be here.

HINOJOSA: A lot of people are really feeling that the world has just taken a real turn for the worse, at least that's what I'm hearing when I'm out talking to mothers, to just regular people on the street. What are you sensing, Gore Vidal?

VIDAL: Well I'm sensing that you have a nation where anybody can buy a lethal weapon, you're going to have lots of mass murders. Wasn't it interesting that we have 10,000 it seems presidential candidates out there, not one has weighed in on this issue. They say away from it because they're afraid of the National Rifle Association, which is more important to them than the lives of 32 people.

HINOJOSA: So you're saying essentially that this moment, where it could bring important leadership in the American political landscape, that essentially even a moment of tragedy, politicians won't step up to the plate because they want to protect their own interests?

VIDAL: Exactly, exactly. I could not have said it better myself.

HINOJOSA: Have you been thinking about what happened at Virginia Tech, within the broader context of this senseless violence across the world really? I mean—

VIDAL: Well I can—what I do is I think about how much of it is triggered by the government of the United States of America, which is the main offender.

HINOJOSA: In what way?

VIDAL: In what way? Well let me tell you in what way. An unelected President, but who is trying to convince everybody he is the President and is duly elected, as opposed to selected, determines that he wants to attack Iraq for no reason that he can give us. They have weapons of mass destruction, well they didn't have any, and we already knew that from all sorts of people who'd been in there—investigating. So he attacks Iraq, knocks down Iraq, then knocks down Afghanistan, two countries that were not capable of harming us.

Then he begins to pretend oh 9/11 was the work for Osama bin Laden as well as working in tandem with—Saddam Hussein. There's not a word of truth in this, and because of the absolutely poisonous media in the United States, everybody was told otherwise and we are the most gullible people on earth. Whatever our master's tell us we believe it. So since we are the ones who have set off, thousands of people are dead because of this little fool that we—thinks he's President of the United States. Now with something like that as an exactly for the world, some crazy kid from South Korea cannot be to blame for behaving in a similar way.

HINOJOSA: So when you read in international headlines, for example the Australian Prime Minister essentially said that the shootings symbolize America's gun culture, saying it was a negative force in society, almost on an international level. You're saying look internationally our country has got the spotlight on it because we've exported violence and now it's right here in front of us in this country?

VIDAL: Yes, indeed it is. Justice Brandeis in a famous dissenting opinion in a case called Olmstead said, "Government is a great teacher and government should not be surprised when government goes beyond—beyond the laws." And when the government believes the end justifies the means (as the Bush people think in the Middle East) then it instructs everybody, including—crazy boys from South Korea, it does tie together.

HINOJOSA: In fact, I was having a conversation with a female war vet from Iraq, and she said, "Look, if 33 American soldiers had been killed, it would probably end up on page A-6 and not get that much coverage at all."

VIDAL: G-4. It wouldn't even be in the A Section.

HINOJOSA: What does that say then?

VIDAL: Well it says that the medium—the media is dreadful, it obeys corporate America, because corporate America owns it, and corporate America has it's own plans for all of us.

HINOJOSA: Do you think that when you talk about the corporate influence in the media, and you look at the coverage of this week about Virginia Tech, too much coverage, too much attention, fueled by what from your perspective?

VIDAL: Well greed, I mean of course this sells newspapers, TV programs. All that stuff that was sent to NBC, what a clever boy this murderer was, realizing that NBC was his—was his only hope for eternal fame.

HINOJOSA: So should we not have had day in, day out coverage on this? How would you have handled it if you were a managing editor or you know running a television network?

VIDAL: Well I—I certainly would have emphasized it, of course. It tells us a lot about America, doesn't it? And I think we are always eager to learn more about our country, since the schools won't teach it, and the media will not reflect it, expect in the most grotesque ways.

HINOJOSA: So not a lot of people will look at our democracy and say—

VIDAL: Well we don't have a democracy, this is part of the nonsense that corporate America is spreading because they have, "I'm a war time President. I'm a war time President." He's not a war time President, the only wars are the ones he starts and Con—Congress allows him to go through with. And—he should have been impeached and thrown out long, long ago. And I'm now getting ready with a group, we're going to try to get an amendment to the Constitution that we have the right of recall of an administration that proves to be out of it's mind and deleterious to the republic and to the world. So that we can get rid of an administration like this, all of them, at once. Impeachment won't work, because if you have the money you can buy all of Congress, therefore the Congress will not vote an impeachment, nor will they take the President and the Vice President to trial, which is where they should be right now, answering questions.

HINOJOSA: I imagine, Gore Vidal, that there will be people who hear this and say, "Why is Gore Vidal taking this tragedy, a very personal human tragedy at Virginia Tech, and putting it back on to the shoulders of George Bush?" And you should say?

VIDAL: Well I would say George Bush was emblematic of everything that has just happened in Virginia. He can never explain why he's savaging Iraq and Afghanistan, and now trying to make a war with Iran. And wondering why on earth they're so evil, they're going to have nuclear weapons. Well we have them, and we use them very badly, I know I was in the Pacific in the Army at the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And we—everybody knew the Japanese emperor was trying to get out of the war, trying to surrender, and Truman decided, "Oh it'll be fun to drop them and scare those Russians, by god." Look, we have been the bad guys for a long time. And people listening in, if you don't know it, I'm sorry for you.

HINOJOSA: And what are we supposed to do with that, Gore Vidal. If—if people say we are the bad guys, if there's this—what do we, as citizens do with that information?

VIDAL: It may be too late. There's a nice line from Macbeth, when somebody sort of says, "Well you know you can't go on like this." And he says, "I am so steeped in blood I cannot turn back." We may well have come to that state. I am sorry about it, because I'm a fan of the American republic. We are in a terrible state of which the events in Virginia are—well they're just more warning signs that the heavens are about the fall.

HINOJOSA: There certainly are a lot of contradictions in this. And I want to bring in something that I experienced last week when I was in Jordan. And I was watching television from Britain. And there was an hour long, live, uninterrupted coverage of the arrival of four coffins of British soldiers. Everything stopped in terms of this news network, we heard all about these soldiers, their lives, how they lived, how they died.

And yet at the same time, in this country, we never see the arrival of any of these coffins. So on the one hand there's all this violence around us, and yet really in terms of the violence every day that these soldiers are seeing, the rest of the American public gets no glimpse of it.

VIDAL: Now if you have a machine going all the time, lying to the people about everything, the average American can't give you a straight answer on any subject, because he has no way of finding it out. Occasionally a voice like mine will come along, "Oh well he's so angry," you know as though—as though there's no reason to be angry when you lose your republic. It's gone, it went a few weeks ago, when habeas corpus was just swept away, which is the end of Magna Carta, and that was the basis of our legal system and that was the basis of our liberty.
And nobody cared. Where were the great voices in the land? Where were the great jurists, where are the judges? Where—where even is your senator? They just sit by and let these things go. And you know as Aristotle explains to us, "Once you lose the republic you don't get it back."

HINOJOSA: Gore Vidal, thank you so much for speaking with us on Now on the News, it was a pleasure.

VIDAL: Thank you.

HINOJOSA: For more on Gore Vidal you can visit our website at pbs.org/now. We'll see you again next week, when we speak with Ellen Bravo, author of Taking on the Big Boys, about why women earn less than men and what to do about it. I'm Maria Hinojosa. Thanks for listening to NOW on the News.

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