November 15, 2011

The Seattle Lecture

Dear Friends:

Here is the link for the talk I gave at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle on Nov. 4, as recorded by TVW:

The same lecture was recorded by C-SPAN at Barnes & Noble Westwood in LA on Nov. 8, and will eventually run on BookTV; but I have no idea when that will occur.

I also want to bring your attention to the following upcoming events, for those of you in striking distance (so to speak). I'll also post links for these later on, if I have them:

Nov. 19, 5:00 p.m. est:, online
Dec. 2, 5:00 p.m. pst: Suzi Weissman, KPFK, Los Angeles
Dec. 4, 1:00 p.m. cst: Robert McChesney, WILL, Urbana IL

Thank you all again for your support, and--enjoy!



Anonymous Ray said...

Still waiting for Wiley to deliver on WAF...its been a week since Eric assured us that the unmailed freebies were finally on the way...tap. tap. tap. or TAP TAP TAP.

In the meantime, more light relief...

Following the rule of replying to the most recent post to avoid getting buried and unread:

Re: Morris' distinction between actual conspiracy and "non-conspiratorial results that might as well be caused by a conspiracy"...

The best example to my mind is the rise of European global hegemony between 1500 and 1920. No single European conspiracy caused this, in fact individual European powers fought viciously to destroy each other's colonial position, even allying with local forces or regional non-western powers to weaken other Europeans. Yet the technology spiral this caused ensured the end of any meaningful opposition from the Chinese, the Moguls, and the Ottomans. etc........Just as effectively as if there HAD been a joint European conspiracy.

Now of course, we "know" that the British "allowed" the American Revolution to succeed so that the Anglosphere would have a backup plan B to ensure the Anglo-Israelitish Rapture should the mother country be fatally weakened by a European war....

Just as we "know" that this devious British plan was superseded (and a garbled echo of) another Plan "C" from the Bavarian Illuminati (who were really lizard-like marooned alien mutants) working through the Founding Fathers to develop an industrial infrastructure on this continent that could some day allow them to escape back to their home planet...

Except the Illuminati plan "C" was recently "scotched" by the end of America's manned space program. Instead, the budget crisis at NASA and the whole economic crash since 2007 stands "revealed" to be a Plan "D" by the Freemasons and various "international forces of finance capital" to discredit the whole concept of "secret conspiracies" so thoroughly that the REAL conspiracy (whatever it may be) can go on unhampered...

Which explains the stubborn failure of WAF to arrive in my mailbox.

3:37 PM  
Blogger ryan kloostra said...

Dr. Berman,

Very excited about the latest slew of interviews. The book is fantastic. I know you speak of the lack of grey matter in our current politician's heads, but did you see the latest Herman Cain interview with the Milwaukee News? Unbelievable. He literally doesn't know what is going on internationally. Most high school seniors could have articulated a better argument (actually, that's probably not true, either).

3:40 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Really, this is quite shameful. They promise a freebie, then don't deliver. What cd be worse PR? I just wrote Eric (again) abt it, in the hope that he gets it, that this is just not done. Sorry, amigo, and hope u get a copy of WAF asap.


4:06 PM  
Blogger Cj said...

Here's something people may find amusing-Mike Tyson as Herman Cain:

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Appreciate your efforts morris, I would have paid for a copy of WAF long ago, but the principle of waiting for a promise seemed important.

Best on your current campaign of beautiful futility. In the end, it's this kind of effort that resonates beyond our lifetimes.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

Dr. Berman,

I recently purchased a copy of Why America Failed at Bolen Books, a local bookstore that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary (one of the great things about living in Victoria is the strength of local/independent book retailers like Bolen, Munro Books, and Russell Books). I look forward to reading it once I finish The Flooded Earth, Peter Ward's recent account of the affects of climate change on coastal cities.

Since downward social mobility was recently mentioned, I thought I'd mention another recent article about the shrinking US middle class:

You recently commented about Canada's close affinity with the United States in another thread. While I freely admit that Canada faces enormous challenges, I'd like to also posit that its economic values are at least *moderately different* from American ones. Specifically, in the area of income inequality, Canada is comparable to France and Switzerland in terms of its Gini coefficient (it doesn't perform as well as the Nordic nations but it is far less unequal than the UK, Portugal, and the US). Extensive documentation can be found in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's The Spirit Level. Government funding for the arts and for poverty initiatives also seems to be stronger on this side of the 49th parallel, perhaps reflecting societal values that differ from hustling (unfortunately, there is also a commitment to serving corporations in certain contexts i.e. the Alberta oil sands). Finally, Tommy Douglas- the founder of the country's social democratic party (the NDP) and the father of universal health care was voted the "Greatest Canadian" in a 2004 poll.

Finally, I'd like to mention the fact that Don DeLillo, when discussing the death of Steve Jobs, recently alluded to the looks on people's faces - "it's almost beyond religion" - whenever a new Apple product is released. It's interested to see that a fiction writer you alluded to in The Twilight of American Culture shares your viewpoint on the worship of technology.



12:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanx for writing in, and for yr observations re: Canada vs. the US. I lived in Mtl for 2 yrs, Victoria for 3, and Vanc for 2.5. PQ was a different experience, I thought, from Anglo-Canada, but still, in parts, influenced by the hustling culture down south. In general, it seemed to me that Can had a 'muted' hustling culture: it was there, but not as aggressive and upfront as it was in the US. This was in the u know, things became increasingly laissez-faire capitalistic after that (esp. BC, ON, and AL). There is a lot to be said abt all this; check out Maya Jasanoff, "Liberty's Exiles." In general, Can and Mex are overwhelmed by the shadow of the economic giant between them, w/most of their mfg'd gds being sold in the US. But both neighbors have 'held out' against the tide in various ways, thank god; just not enuf, imo. Still, both Can and Mex do have pockets of sanity, as I'm sure u know.

As for DeLillo, if u haven't read "White Noise," now may be a gd time; even beyond the question of technology, the bk is a brilliant X-ray of the American psyche.


8:56 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I really enjoyed watching the lecture this morning. I wish Amy Goodman would have you on her show if for no other reason than to repeat what you said in this talk. But I know it won't happen, the message is too stark.

I read White Noise about 10 years ago and was stunned by his almost surgical dissection of American culture. The university course on Elvis, the "family time" around the TV set, he had it all right. Underworld is a masterpiece too and (if possible) even bleaker than his other books.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Bisley said...

I hate to resurrect the Steve Jobs thread again, but Matt Taibbi has finally gotten around to evaluating him in via his Supreme Court of Assholedom:

Just doing my part to keep you up to date.


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me recordó el tema de sus libros

3:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Gd essay. For me, here's the crucial pt, and I quote:

"his customers were so clearly crucial accomplices in this part of his assholedom."

He was a colossal douche bag, as Taibbi correctly notes, and he did untold damage to our culture; but if it wdn't have been him, it wd have been someone else. Americans need electronic toys to make them think they're hip, and to fill the gaping void in their tragically empty lives. Jobs, Gates, and Zuckershmuck deliver the goods, that's all. Without a huge population of (techno-)buffoons, there wd be no Jobs et al.


3:36 PM  
Blogger Patrick D. Fitzgerald said...

The first time I heard about DAA, it was because my brother's college professor at Illinois, Robert McChesney, assigned it to his class to read in 2007. I look forward to that interview very much, though I anticipate a magic hat rabbit moment, this time centering around a tech-fueled journalism revolution. One thing is for sure though, today's media are both a tragedy and a farce, as John Adams (as well as McChesney's book title) warned it would be.

further viewing, though a little old:

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Paul C said...

Great video of your talk in Seattle and great work on the book too! I just wonder what else can possibly said to "game over" which is your assessment of the US. I mean, discussions always seem to try to find some shred of hope that it ain't so - but what can one say. I suppose knowing the reality doesn't change the fact that many of us still have to get up in the morning and continue the slog through it all and try to find meaning or move elsewhere if possible.

I try to keep these things in perspective as the NMI option is more likely my direction. But are we evolving into something more humane? Or is this all just a cycle of the same human problem of how we deal with the 'other'. If that's the case then it's really just more of the same... and for what? It just seems like history keeps repeating itself. In the end we've really learned nothing at all. A few get the message but that's about it. And the next 'rise' (if we're lucky to survive as a species) blossoms somewhere else. Whoopie! I wonder if a quiet and dignified exit might suit us better at this (or some) point. Mother Nature willing.

True, there are trad. cultures but one has to wonder how long before these are inundated with cell phones (as I'm sure we need to get them in the hands of the Yanomamo....if not already) After all they're all just an as yet untapped market!

In any case, the US is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Kinda interesting but not something I'd want to be too close to and I suppose that's your point of buying time wherever you can to keep your sanity. I just wish there was more comic relief. This next election may have some tragically comical figures but they'll probably have us all in straight jackets before it's over...

5:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Paul,

Well, a lot of material here to discuss, but inasmuch as I am committed to comedy on a metaphysical basis, let me just address that.

Obama is a war criminal, wh/is bad enuf; but he is also criminally boring. Not since Millard Fillmore have we had such a dull dog in office. SNL can't do shit w/him, really; they hafta rely on Perry and Cain to get laughs, wh/is easy enuf to do. For this reason alone (tho there are many others), I'm hoping the stiff is voted out of office a yr from now, and someone hilarious replaces him. This obviously can't be Rom Mittney (another dull dog, just a walking haircut, really); but in terms of HQ (Hilarity Quotient), this wd be:

1. Michele Bachmann
2. Sarah Palin (very unfortunately now outta the race)
3. Herman Cain
4. Rick Perry.

Michele wd be hysterical; she recently charged Obama with having the ACLU running the CIA (!!!!!). With a moron like that in the Oval Office, it wd be nonstop laughs as the country goes down the toilet; w/Obama and Mittney, it just goes down the toilet, no laughs involved. But Rick and Herman wd be gd; they are so clueless and brain-dead, we cd sit in front of the TV laughing our asses off.

Humor is important--extremely so. Mich, Rick, and Herm cd deliver the gds. I just can't imagine 4 more yrs of somnambulistic Obama, or a Mittney presidency.

Michele, I love you! Have my babies!


6:14 PM  
Blogger Stev-o said...

Ordered my copy from my local independent bookstore, Briggs Carriage Bookstore in Brandon, VT today. Order gets placed tomorrow. I should have it by Saturday. I have two questions: How does one emigrate to another country?
What are your thoughts on secessionist movements around the country, as in the 2nd Vermont Republic at

10:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


How odd; I have a v. gd friend in Brandon. Anyway, my thoughts abt VT secession are v. positive, and I hope they pull it off. I discuss it briefly in WAF, in fact. Thos Naylor's little bk on the subject is excellent.

As for emigrating: v. gd idea! Here's how to do it:

1. Narrow yr choice down to 3-4 countries you think u might wanna move to.
2. Buy used guidebks to these places off Amazon, and also search the Web. Among other things, you'll find ex-pat websites for most countries.
3. Narrow it down to 2 countries, and spend at least a month in each.
4. Narrow it down to 1, and take the plunge. Most people will counsel u to go slowly, so that the move is reversible if u change yr mind; but I burnt all my bridges, myself, and I'm glad.

Good luck!


10:25 PM  
Blogger Aldo Aspilcueta said...

Dear mr Berman,
I read dark ages america.
In chile unfortunately we are following the entire american model not just integrating the good things of it but the entire thing. I want t share this link:

Chile is now the second most individualistic society worlwide (sussex university study) , USA is numer 1 (same study)...same model, same diseases??

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, what I consider the most tragic part of what's happened to America is "what might have been."

Because before it got twisted into corporatism and conformism and de facto enslavement, there was actually one advantage America COULD HAVE offered to the world.

And that advantage used to be this:

America was the first country in history where, at least IDEALLY, you could go about your life without burdens placed on your back since birth. That idea is only 400 years old, but if it had succeeded it would have been unheard of to most of human history.

In ancient Greece, you could be born a slave, which you could leave only if you got educated. (And of course they'd call you stupid and childish if you protested being a slave, since your protest went against the "natural and just order" of slaves and freemen.)

In Confucian China, you had to obey your parents even if they were teaching you wrong or urging you to make endless war on other countries, there was no such thing as an independent, non-sociocentric morality.

And then there are some countries, I won't mention names, where they still make little girls marry themselves off and have sex with much older men.

Or despite America's pro-Tibet stance, before the Dalai Lama's work, in ancient Tibet they had a tradition of "debt inheritance" where if your father gambled away too much money, then even before you were born you were obligated to pledge your entire life to working it off, with you having no power to change that fate.

Or Darwinian England, where there was such a heavy class system that you could literally be born dirt-poor, obligated to work just to have something to eat, always stressed and busy and no time to read or think.

What American "individualism" was ORIGINALLY supposed to be about was: you could become a chef if you wanted. You could become a poet if you wanted. You could become a violinist, or a scholar, or an astrophysicist, or a firefighter, etc. The decisions of previous generations or of class or of powerful people theoretically should not hold you back from what Erich Fromm would consider becoming fully yourself.

But now it's morphed into a society of permanent teenage party-hood and an endless sea of concrete where there's no real individualism at all.

So the world might react against American deciding in all future societies that maybe "the masses" don't really deserve freedom and democracy after all, if THIS is what they do with it.

I don't know, Morris Berman, you might not agree, but I consider THAT to be the biggest tragedy of all.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous brandon said...

Here is a joke for all you malcontents(me included) out there:
I was in such a hurry to emigrate outta this dump, I almost took a civilian job with the DoD in a European democracy.

That isn't true of me, but I am curious if it could be a means to the end of getting citizenship elsewhere. Although, I couldn't imagine actually working for the military.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Stev-o said...

And I have one more question. I listened to your talk at the Seattle book store. You mentioned 13 items, bad luck you should have stopped at 12 or done 14! Christopher Buckley paraphrased the Yale Class of 2009 at a Class Day speech. In the short history of Amerika, has anything like those 13 things happened before in our history that we were able to react to in time and adjust our behavior,. our systems, our gov'nment etc as to effect some kind of change?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Stev-o said...

Wow, a very good friend in Brandon, may I ask who it is?

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Joe doesn't know said...

Dr. Berman,

thanks for posting the last few links, great to hear (and see) you speaking on these programs.

Wanted to post this link, good article today on TD regarding OWS, kinda stuff Dr. B said all along.

Has anyone read Mr. Pfaff's book about American foreign policy? sounds like a good one, just wanted to know what my DAAer amigos thought about it before I come off the dough to purchase it.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Well, lots of stuff to talk abt, it wd seem.

Steve: I can't give away his name, as he's a very private person and doesn't really wanna be disturbed. He's a brilliant writer--poetry, essays, novels--and abt my age. If u hang out long enuf in coffee shops, you'll probably eventually run into him. As for positive changes in US history: depends on yr definition of the word. Was the New Deal, e.g., a change? Conservatives say yes, major (and horrible); radicals like me (and mainstream historians, actually) believe FDR's historical role was to save capitalism. You get the idea.

Brandon: Yrs ago I thought of teaching on US Army bases thru the program sponsored by the U of Maryland, I think it was (this is so long ago). I may have even harbored the peculiar notion that I cd 'convert' them all to a different view of American history (ha!). I probably wd have gotten fired or court-martialed. But u might check into it; cd be an eye-opener, if nothing else.

Anon: It cd have been a true commonweal as well, as John Winthrop hoped (in 1630), and which I discuss in WAF. But the whole issue of Land of Opportunity is a very complex one, with both pos and neg sides. The up side is as u describe it; the down side is that everyone is restless, always on the make (hustling). I think of that a lot in Mexico. The middle class is hustling, always following the model of the US. My mechanic, on the other hand, has no ambitions beyond following in his father's footsteps--and like his father, he is literally a genius with his hands, a real craftsman (my house cd cave in and he'd have it back to normal in 3 days). He's content with his life, and more power to him. Better a terrific mechanic than a lousy nuclear physicist, I wd think. Plus, the myth of the self-made man in the US is just that--a myth. The stats are that most people die in the same class into which they were born. But yes, I know, you were talking in ideal terms; and like you, I respect the ideal. After all, my father sold insurance and my mother was a schoolteacher; but the America of the 50s and 60s was such that I could get scholarships and loans and p/t jobs and eventually become a tenured professor, and have the semi-elite status that goes with that (which however I ultimately gave up to go free-lance and write more of the stuff I wanted to write). So it's very much a toss-up, and I have multiple feelings abt the whole subject. The problem with the casino-capitalist-democratic-crapshoot is that it can't really maintain that configuration for very long. As in the game of Monopoly, one person (or 1%, as OWS pts out) winds up with nearly all of the wealth, and as u pt out, we morph into the mess we are now in. Every civilization is a package deal; and while there is better and there is worse, there finally is no utopia. Anyway, thank u for raising this very impt pt.

Aldo: I spent a few wks during 2008-9 traveling around Chile, and it depressed me greatly. It had obviously bought the US model completely, thanx to Milton Friedman and his buddy Pinochet. The place seemed lifeless, soulless--esp. Santiago--and I watched Chileans being aggressive w/one another in public places, much like in the US. You can read the full background to this in Naomi Klein's bk, "The Shock Doctrine." The Chicago School of American capitalist ideology fucked that country up but good.


12:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I've only read articles by Pfaff, but I've always found him very astute, right on the money.


12:10 AM  
Blogger Zosima said...

So, Perry finishes out of the money in your hilarity quotient. If it was idiocy quotient, I would probably switch Bachmann and Perry. Of course it would probable take the Large Hadron Collider to determine the true ranking. It reminds of that scene in Woody Allen's Love and Death when they approach the battle and see a bunch of dead soldiers and the guy next to Allen points to one and says, "He was from my village. He was the village idiot." and Allen says,"Yeah, what did you do, place?"

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Bis--Not to dig up Steve Jobs again but I read Taibbi's piece on his record and it's awful. What a strange man he was and that he would consider himself a Buddhist is weird and ludicrous. He provided the world, particularly America, with what we wanted and "protected" the consumers from the reality these electronic toys are built in horrific conditions. The only thing that would have stopped him would have been a consumer boycott after learning the facts and I doubt that will happen with any product the public likes.

Dr. Berman, I'm offended Rick Perry is #4 on the list when he clearly has earned the top stop. He never fails to do or say something hilarious when the camera is on him as anyone who saw him giggling and playing with the bottle of maple syrup can vouch for. And more laughs are on the way too. Larry Flynt offered a million dollars to anyone with credible evidence of sexual misconduct (all sexes may apply) with him. I saw it myself in a full page ad in The Onion. Please take these facts into consideration when compiling future lists.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous David M said...

Dr Berman & WAFERS
Turned on the glass teat and was surfing for some intellectual escapism (?); Paused at the history channel. The nazis were being discussed. Apparently they were aliens, at least some of them.I can only guess that this is a way of placing blame for the terrible crimes on some nonhuman entity. You would expect a channel, such as the history channel, would maintain some semblance of reality, but then again this is America.

On the conspiracy front: I don't think there is a concerted effort on the part of individuals or corporations of controlling the world but I believe collusion goes on to control markets and maintain prices and consumption in a good old boy fashion. Example would be the refusal of the auto industry to improve gass milage for the sake of keeping up prices and consumption to maintain oil industry profits.

When I first wrote this post I clicked the preview button and the post dissappeared. I had to write it again. Is big brother controlling the site. You might still call me a conspiracy theorist. I can live with that.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Susan, Zos-

Yeah, I guess yr rt; Perry cd easily top the list. I'm probably just prejudiced in Michele's favor because she's a woman and I want to marry her and have dozens of kids w/her. I'm still hurting because Sarah dropped out of the race, and w/that my hopes for having sex w/her on an ice floe, amidst the meese.


9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I loved your Seattle book talk, it was my favorite of your speaking engagements so far. I had a few questions, first I can’t find anything but the 9% unemployment stat on the or website, do you have a link or a suggestion of where to look for the 18% stat? I’m hoping to reference that stat for class I’m taking now. Also would you consider posting your talking points from Seattle online so the DAA 65 could reference them rather than scrolling back threw an hour of video? I’m looking forward to reading WAF, hopefully I’m picking it up this Friday when it arrives at a local shop, “Back Pages Books” in Waltham, MA. Back pages, said your book should have arrived already and they are hoping for Friday, none of the other local bookstores in the Boston area I’ve tried have your book yet.

Also you should have taken that Army teaching job, I’m sure you would have converted some troops. I was in the Army for 8 years and was planning on staying in when a fellow soldier gave me a copy of DAA that he had read (he stumbled on the book by accident and read it based on it’s anomalous title). Your book changed much of my thinking and I along with the other guy got out of the military. So in a sense you possibly saved two lives.

Mike O’

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Dovidel said...

David M –

I was born in February of 1942, so WW II and the holocaust are two overwhelming facts of my whole existence. I remember knowing that my father was a POW in Germany, I had an uncle who was a refugee from Nazi Germany, and I grew up in New York surrounded by Holocaust survivors. I should have more relatives in Europe than I do in America, but with one exception the European ones were completely exterminated. I've read a lot about the Holocaust and have come to what I think is the only correct conclusion – the lesson to be learned from Nazi behavior is "THIS IS WHAT I AM CAPABLE OF!" I doubt if I would or could have come to that conclusion if I had not spent a good part of my life living in various parts of the world – away from Americans – that is among real people.

By the way, Chris Hedges talks about "the Weimarization of the American working class", and I think he's correct – I would say it is the whole country. We are well along a very similar path to that of Germany in the 30's (further than we realize), only we don't have the vibrant culture of Weimar Germany, and we don't have nearly as much opposition from the left.

I think you are absolutely correct in saying that capitalism is not a conspiracy, but a product of social evolution. Within capitalism there are of course conspiracies, one example (which should be famous, but is not) is the junking of street-car lines (trolley or tram lines) in most American cities in the 30's and 40's. This was done by GM, Firestone, Mack Truck, and several big oil companies who bought up street-car lines and dismantled them. It had a big negative impact on American life and was mentioned as one of the factors that led to the Watts riots in LA in the 50's.

David Rosen

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin said...

Hear the Yorkie bark and saw a young man distributing adverts for pizza. I said to him, "Young man, you should be occupying [name of town where I live]. He said, "But it's a local business." I said, "It's really more corrosive American advertising." He looked at me as if I were from another planet. I closed the door thinking to myself, "local businesses are homomorphic with corporations! Why didn't he see that? Because we're in Texas, of course...Occupy Autin is pathetic. Well, what do expect of a redneck town with a hip facade?" Meanwhile, construction/destruction proceeds apace to provide students like him with cheap dormitory apartments so that they can attend an institution of higher education beholden to corporate interests and adverts like Microsoft and Herman Cains's Godfather Pizza, simply an offer you can't refuse, although it is bonofide refuse and kaka.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Data on unemployment, along with sources for them, can be found in WAF ch. 2 n.14. I'll probably post the text of the Seattle lecture eventually, but as it currently stands it needs a lot o' fixing up. WAF not in bkstores: yes, a serious problem, that I've been discussing w/Wiley; w/no pos outcome as yet. I did call the B&N store in Chestnut Hill, which told me that none of their stores in the Boston area carry it. (Why am I not surprised?) Am very glad I saved yer life, amigo; that's a great story.


When yr drowning in kaka, everything smells OK. As the fish once said: What water?


4:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Everybody pls read this:


4:19 PM  
Anonymous jed said...

From a Stephen Dunn poem:

It's over. It's time for loss to build
its tower in the yard where you
are merely a spectator now.

Admit you'd like to find something
discarded or damaged, even gone,
and lift it back into the world.

3:20 PM  

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