David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'

Roundup: Media's Take

... I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."

This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.

But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

I found not only that I didn't trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live....
Read entire article at Village Voice

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Phillip Fletcher Stockwell - 3/27/2008

What a disturbing essay.
Mamet's ignorance of political history and anecdotal libertarianism are what make him "brain dead," not his merely heuristic "liberalism."

So-called markets are nothing more than social Darwinism dominated by the rich with weapons reinforced by gangsterism and propaganda.

Mamet should do a little research into the history of the CIA and Pentagon before declaring them to be no more than the nice people he meets around water coolers.

Of course nice altruistic marchers don't design the dangerous parade route. But someone does.
(Just ask Mayor Earle Cabell in Dallas.)

Donald Rumsfeld admitted on 9/10/01 that the Pentagon couldn't account for $2.3 trillion.

And the US government's story about what happened the next day in New York City doesn't comply with the known laws of physics.

Mamet might want to check out some details. He won't be told how history is manufactured around the water cooler. He's going to have to look hard.

His portrayal of JFK as morally equivalent with GWB is absurd.

The Bay of Pigs was cooked up under Eisenhower by Nixon and CIA.
JFK was then notified of what was to happen but he was taking policy making back from the Nazi-laced CIA of Allen Dulles so he refused to use overt US forces.

The CIA went ahead with the ill-fated invasion expecting to force JFK to change his foreign policy and provide the overt invasion forces knowing full well success was not possible otherwise.

The Patron Saint of Pure Journalism, Edward R. Murrow, was being used a credibility prop as JFK's head of the propaganda organ called the U.S. Information Agency. As head of USIA he was included in counterinsurgency planning (terrorism) against Cuba and Vietnam. But he was kept out of the loop on the Bay of Pigs.
Morrow was furious when he found out about the because he had the polling info showing Castro's widespread support obviating any chance of an uprising to support the imperial CIA which was already notorious for killing populist leaders in other countries and soon to be known for doing the same domestically to the Kennedys.

So the CIA, not JFK, is responsible for Bay of Pigs deaths and many millions more in other secret wars and coups and training of torturing suppressive dictators. Very thick books have been written documenting this.

JFK also began the end of US involvement in Vietnam by signing National Security Action Memorandum #263 on October 11, 1963.

The ultra-reich wing fascists in both France and the US were murderously displeased with their executives and made efforts to relieve their discomfort with some notable success.

2008 is one of those landmark anniversary years when the disinformation reinforcing the cover-up around the murder of JFK is in high gear.

PBS played an extremely deceptive 'documentary' called 'Oswald's Ghost' by Robert (not Oliver) Stone.
The chosen experts were not identified for what they were, CIA assets who have long been throwing sand in the public's eyes by making claims that, again, don't comply with the known laws of physics.

(And some think activist judges are a problem.)

No suprise that 'Oswald's Ghost' was disinformation because that's what the public will always get from state-controlled media, propaganda and counterpropaganda.

Sadly, Mamet, like many other Americans, has not gotten out of the box provided by that part of the US government responsible for continuing the mandate first given to the 1951 Psychological Strategy Board.

I guess it is up to history teachers to put an end to reruns.

Joseph Mutik - 3/20/2008

Aleksandr Fursenko is the history chair at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Timothy Naftali is a well known historian who published many books and well known on HNN.us. He is the first director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, a part of part of the National Archives system. If you call these two historians "little known" only your illiteracy in history is to blame.
Go read some history!

Arnold Shcherban - 3/20/2008

"The extensive supportive documentation" which is just one book
of some littte known authors, comparing with hundreds of such sources by Chomsky?
And you call me illiterate, you who does not know a thing about the rules
of logical debate and scientific argumentation?
I'm done with you, you deliberate lier and happless idiot.

Joseph Mutik - 3/20/2008

I already showed you the extensive supportive documentation for the article of Humberto Fontova when your knee-jerk reaction was to call it a lie. Yes Raul Castro had a KGB prop.
The extent of your illiteracy was very well revealed when you replaced "internationalist Jew" with "international Jew". If you meant it and you really are a fan of the Jew hatred of Henry Ford, my apology. I guess you also are a fan of Norman Finkelstein, the Jewish Jew hater.

Robert Lee Gaston - 3/19/2008

To Mr. Mamet: great satire. Unfortunately, this audience is a little short on senses of humor.

Robert Lee Gaston - 3/19/2008

Do not try to confuse these people with facts. It just makes them angry and causes them to write more tripe.

I wake up every morning amazed that I am not hearing about Israel’s armed forces lining up artillery, wheel-to-wheel, with the objective of depopulating Gaza. The degree of restraint is remarkable.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/19/2008

My apologies for mispelling Humberto Fontova's name.
I see what you're doing on these boards, now. You make accusations, but
when being responded with the arguments that crush your accusations
into dust, you immediately change the topic by hooking on some non-essential statement in the comments of your oppponent. Thus, instead of answering to my main argument about the double standards traditionally employed by the US in its foreign (and internal) policy actions, you tried to switch the focus of this debate to my comparative example of Chomsky and Fontova, which every half-brained would realize was given just as one of the illustrations for better interpretation of the main idea.
So, I'm still waiting for your apersonal response to that main argument of mine.

On the other hand I challenge you to show that Fontova's articles are as well documented and reference as many sources from the widest specter of political thought, as Noam Chomsky's
political works do.
Just PRONOUNCEMENTS that Fontova's works much better (or even on the level) in the discussed regard than the Chomsky's ones are not enough for the proof, and you know it.
I, on my part, can refer you to any Noam Chomsky's POLITICAL book to count HUNDREDS of the Left, Right, and in the Middle sources he uses, exactly as I asserted.
As far as your accusation that Chomsky
tried "to justify" Khmer Rouge's genocide in Cambodia goes, it is a intentional distortion.
What he was trying to show is that the Khmer Rouge's ascendance to power in Cambodia and the consequent genocide was in great measure caused
by the American aggression in Indochina, that brought terrible destruction and millions of deaths (directly and indirectly) in the large part of the region, in general, and saturated bombings of Cambodia, in particular, thus making it easy for Khmer Rouge (as well, as for Vietnamese commuinists) to streamline the popular opinion into the groove of rabid anti-capitalism and anti-westernism.
In that opinion he's far from being alone and his point of view has been confirmed by the content of Khmer Rouge's flyers and consequent propaganda.

art eckstein - 3/19/2008

Godena and Gee, above, use Mamet's statement to pursue their own vile obsessions and lying propaganda.

The definition of "genocide" under the Geneva Convention involves the massive and systematic loss of a life among a targetted group--like in Rwanda (500,000 dead in three months), or Darfur (400,000 dead in two years), or the Holocaust (6 million dead in three years). Gee in particular has no interest in Darfur. Meanwhile, the population of Gaza has RISEN from 1,300,000 in 2003 to 1,430,000 in 2007.

Yes, the Palestinians are poverty-stricken compared to any Western country, or compared to Israel. This is in spite of tens of billions of dolalrs of aid from Arab countries and the West. But they are better off than Egyptians and Jordanians by every measure of quality of life. An example: when the Palestinians burst into the northeast Sinai last month and bought up everything (not food--that they had!) at prices that the Egyptians marked up to 400%. This is not "genocide" either.

Striking back at terrorists who intentionally hide among civilians as they shoot HUNDREDS of rockets a month at civilians (a fact about the Palestinians conveniently left out by the Gs in the posts we are discussing here) is not "genocide" either.

Godena and Gee degrade the word "genocide". They have a political--not a moral-- reason for doing this.

As for the suffering of the Palestinians:

1. 10 million Germans were kicked out of Eastern Europe, or fled, in 1945; 1 million died in the journey west, 1 million women were raped. They had lived in the region for hundreds of years. Some Eastern European is enjoying their property right now. They spent years in miserable displaced persons camps in W. Germany--I know how miserable they were, and how traumatic the situation was, because I know a child of one of these people. By law, such people cannot return to, e.g., the Czech Republic or Romania.

Yet we do not see these Germans or their descendants blowing up discoteques in Prague or shooting up schools in Bucharest.

2. 850,000 Jews were forced to leave the Muslim countries of N. Africa and the Middle East between 1948 and 1960. That is 100,000 more people than the Palestinian refugee population from 1948. They had lived in these countries for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years. They were left penniless, and some Arab is enjoying their property right now. For years those who went to Israel (about 700,000) lived in miserable conditions

Yet we do not see these Jews or their descendants blowing up supermarkets or busses in Tunis or Baghdad.

3. In the 1950s, 300,000 Greeks were forced to leave Egypt, under "Egyptianization" policies pursued by the Nasser govt. That's half the size of the Palestinian refugee population of 1948. Some of these people had lived in Egypt for literally 2,300 years. They were left penniless, and today some Egyptian is enjoying the property taken from them. They spent years in displaced persons camps in Greece. They are very bitter.

But we do not see these Greeks, or their descendants, shooting up schools or blowing up busses filled with civilians in Cairo or Alexandria.

The Palestinians have suffered, and their suffering was great, but neither was it unusual in the chaotic conditions of 1945-1960: the end of WWII and the traumas of decolonization. What we see now is their CHOICE, a cultural choice (as Omar Ibrahim Baker has proudly procliamed on this site) not something inevitable in the kind of victimization they have suffered, for MANY populations have suffered as they have but did not and do not resort to genocide-laced terrorism in response.

What is unusual about the Palestinian situaiton? What is unusual is the turning of Palestinian society into a death-cult, and their constant violence against civilians, their chosen and intentional target, with the message this carries of genocide, a message which in the case of Hamas Charter is overt.

Meanwhile, here is the ADMISSION that Hamas intentionally uses children and old people as civilian shields (a violation of the Geneva Convention). The following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008. The actual video of this statement is available on MEMRI.org.

Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life."

The G's must answer this statement from Michael Walzer, one of our foremost political philosophers and a man of the Left (not the Right):

Terrorists who hide among civilians and use them as human shields while shooting hundreds of rockets at enemy civilians--THEY and only THEY are responsible for the counterfire that occurs, and the civilian casualties that result on their side.

If you are an advocate of asymmetrical war, than it is hypocritical to complain about civilian casualties whose occurrence is intended by the terrorists, or to claim, even more absurdly, that this is "genocide".

Again, the G's degrade the term in order to engage in their political obsessions.

Joseph Mutik - 3/18/2008

Fontova seems to be too long, for you, as a Spanish name.
Chomsky's work in linguistics is very well documented and far reaching. His political concoctions are clearly produced by someone wearing ideological horse blinders. For example he even tried to justify the actions of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/18/2008

What makes you think that I'm "ardent" (or even "modest") believer in ANY party's ideology or policy?
I'm only, as I stated many times on HNN boards, for equal and fair applications of international and this country's laws to the policies of ALL parties and countries, regardless.
Therefore, when I see how often quite different (if not opposite) standards applied to the behaviour of others, I protest - simple like that.
So when I see, e.g., how thoroughly documented the works of Noam Chomsky are, and how poorly - the works of such observers as Huberto Cordova, I
want to see, if not the proof (that's rarely available, anyway), then confirmation based on a variety of independent sources, not just on the anecdotal evidence or tales of people obviously having vested interest in the derived conclusion.
Or when I hear that the Soviet Union's
invasion to Afghanistan, its immediate neighbor, was an unprovoked "agression", in sharp contrast with the American invasion to Vietnam or Iraq, the countries located thousands of miles from the US territory, which were acts of defense and promotion of freedom and democracy, I (together with the majority in the world) want to puke.

Aaron Whittlesey - 3/18/2008

Now we have another brain-dead conservative! Just what this country needs!!

Joseph Mutik - 3/18/2008

Your are fellow traveler P(arty)hD. If you, really, had problems with the party, why are you such an ardent believer in the party policy? The same question about KGB.

Joseph Mutik - 3/17/2008

I am a Zionist and Zionists are normal people (the same as imperialists) You of course use, as usual, an ad hominem saying that Zionists are not normal people.
Again, is this your profile (stating that you are a Master in Math)?
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
username: gainwmn
tutor name: Arnold Shcherban
Country: USA
State: New York
City: New York
Location: Manhattan
Hourly Rate: 20

Experiences: Hundreds of Hours of private tutoring and teaching
experience in HS's and Colleges.
Message to Parents: I'm highly experienced Math and Physics private and public tutor, employing the instructive methodologies tailored with accordance to student's needs, aptitude and prior experience.
What subjects can I teach: Math: grades 7-12, College math, full undergraduate 4-year course. The same for Physics.
My Education Background: M.S. in Mathematics

Arnold Shcherban - 3/17/2008

Fanatically choosing any side - Left or Right - makes for a very poor analysis of any one and anything.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/17/2008

For once you're right: Mamet does not mention Jews or anti-semites in this particular article, but he does it in the overwhelming majority of his other articles(and always with the same ideological twist), which gave your opponent (not me) on this board quite a valid reason to question Mamet's real motivations in writing this one. It is that, I repeat, quite valid questioning what apparently made you come out with an angry remarks towards the opponent of yours, consequently serving as the instigator of my last comment.
Secondly, but constantly initiating ad homimen attacks on me, such like <party hoodlum dude> of yours, you just making a clown of yourself, since
not only me, but noone in my immediate family has never been a member of the party you ascribe me to.
If you were a normal "dude", not an imperialistic and Zionist "hawk" (as I recall you admitted to be) I would tell you much about my relations with
that party and practical implementations of its ideology, but, as some witty guy's remark goes: it is better to be Red among Rats, than a Rat among Reds.

Joseph Mutik - 3/16/2008

David Mamet doesn't say one word about Jews or Zionism in this article. Only the Jew haters brought Jews and Zionism into the discussion, because they found a Jew and Jews have to be blamed.
Your PhD (party hoodlum dude) expertize is, of course, needed here.

Arnold Shcherban - 3/16/2008

Isn't it that Zionist Jews speak about Jews and anti-semits more than anti-semits and non-Zionist Jews combined?
That's, perhaps, why we see zero comments on all the rest of this week's articles, and already 11 on this one...

Joseph Mutik - 3/16/2008

But be very careful and replace anti Jewish hatred with anti Zionism and anti Israel! I prefer the term red fascism for it. Liberalism, at least on the social issues, is still viable. Red fascism is the part of extreme left trying to bring all the nations together but not the Jews. The Jews should prepare for the next organized trip to the ovens and do it quietly and in perfect order.

Kenneth Laurence Davis - 3/15/2008

For Mamet to characterize the Liberal "world view" as one in which "everything is always wrong" strikes me as thoroughly highschool in its hyperbole.

To read his description of how he discovered that everything is not always wrong is thoroughly tedious.

Serge Lelouche - 3/15/2008


I'm sorry I don't follow. Who came to your house?
And what, exactly, is a zionist?

Sally Gee - 3/15/2008

Well I think you're doing very well at degrading the usage of the term "genocide", Mr Lalouche.

Isn't it strange, the Zionists would come round to our house collecting money and month after month use the word "genocide" as an automatic closer. Now the Zionists make fun of the word and try to destroy its meaning, stealing the dignity of those who died in the Holocaust as they do so, because it is now being used throughout the world to decribe Israel's policy in the Occupied Territories. Interesting times we live in, heh?

Sally Gee - 3/15/2008

Strangely, concentrating a population in a limited area, restricting its supplies of food, medicine, water and power, raining bombs, artillery shells and mortars on their heads and destroying the physical infra-structure, selectively murdering their religious and political leaders, and sending in troops and tanks in terror waves to randomly kill and maim and terrorise, tends to ensure that it increases at less than the natural rate but, by increasing nontheless at a faster rate than its supplies will support, it ensures that, all things being equal, the population will collapse even more violently as a result of starvation, disease and "voluntary" and involuntary exile. Very Malthusian, very methodical, very genocidal, very déja vu, and very, very Article 2 of the Genocide Convention 1948.

From a very personal perspective, Mr Lelouche, Mr Godena's description of Israel as the Zionist entity seems to me a sensible way of not merely avoiding the implicit conflation of the interests of the Jewish people and the interests of the Zionist State of Israel, but one which forces each and every one of us to consider and accept that they are, in fact, distinct.

Serge Lelouche - 3/15/2008

Milions? Wny not say ten of billions as long as you're making things up!
It's true that several hundred thousand Arabs left in 1948 rather than stay under Jewish rule. But just as many stayed. That genocide must have missed them huh? It's the Arabs who forced out a million Jews from Algeria, Morocco, Iraq and Syria in the 1950s, but that doesn't count for you because those were just Jews.
And even if what you said was true--it's not genocide. During the past forty years Castro has killed more people than "zionists."
Words have meanings. By degrading their usage . . .you know the rest.

Louis Godena - 3/15/2008

Serge, driving millions of people out of their homes, settling them in virtual concentration camps, depriving the survivors of the means of subsistence (food, employment, potable water) and carrying on a campaign of general disenfranchisement may sound "good" to you, but I doubt that most people, and especially Jews, would tolerate living themselves in such conditions. Mr Mamet accepts implicitly the superiority of Jewish culture and the Judeo-Christian traditions which form the basis of Western Civilization. He is perfectly free to do so; however, he should accept as well the limitations such traditions impose upon the majorities of humanity and their willingness to go to great lengths to oppose them.

Serge Lelouche - 3/15/2008

"There is no way around this salient feature: Israel is pursuing a policy of outright genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, the rightful owners of the land upon which the zionist entity plants its flag."

Zionist entity? That's not very nice.
Can you or Ms Gee provide me with an example of this genocide? It seems to me the Palestinian population has brown more rapidly than any other in the Arab World. The Jews must really suck at genocide!

James W Loewen - 3/15/2008

Disillusionment with "liberalism" as represented by JFK makes sense. Mamet's parallels between JFK and GWB, while hardly deep, are fun and apropos. But if Mamet "revered" JFK, his analysis of our political and social world was inadequate then. So is it still. "Everything was (is) always wrong??" Sigh.

Sally Gee - 3/15/2008

I fully support Mr Godena's remarks.

Louis Godena - 3/14/2008

David Mamet does not say it here, but elsewhere he has been quite forthcoming about his disillusionment with "liberals" or the "Left" or whatever. It is their perceived lack of support for the State of Israel, or, rather, the criticism of the latter's brutal policies which come, largely, from the Left. For Mr Mamet, support for these policies constitute the litmus test for all right-thinking citizens. Many may beg to differ with him. The Palestinians, as even the most casual observer will attest, are deprived of all, or nearly all, the "rights" illustrated by David Mamet, and this central fact, rightfully, is condemned the world over. There is no way around this salient feature: Israel is pursuing a policy of outright genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, the rightful owners of the land upon which the zionist entity plants its flag. David Mamet may not like it, but he is, alas, on the wrong side of history. And no amount of self-righteous wringing of hands will change that.