BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Paul Hollander, this is a first on C-SPAN Booknotes. You've got two books. One of them's called "Anti-Americanism," and the other one's called "Decline and Discontent." What are the two all about?
Mr. PAUL HOLLANDER, AUTHOR, "ANTI-AMERICANISM": Well, first of all, let me say this is a very unusual occasion, that I have these two books coming out at the same time. Usually my books have been separated by several years. This is a total and happy accident. What they are about -- well, the first one, "Anti-Americanism," is obviously about what I understand by anti-Americanism, and its many versions and varieties. The book is divided into two parts. One looks at the domestic critiques, and the other looks at the foreign ones in this period described, 1965-1990.
Maybe I should start saying something about the concept of anti-Americanism, because judged by some reactions I had so far from critics and some people on some radio talk shows, some people have trouble with this concept of anti-Americanism. I would say that, first of all, the main problem is whether or not anti-Americanism includes or entails every criticism of American society or not. Now I made very clear in many parts of the book, including the preface, that I do not consider every criticism of the United States or American society or culture as anti-Americanism -- far from it. But at least one reviewer took this position -- in The New York Times, Mr. Mel Young, took that position -- that I consider anti-American any criticism of the United States, although, as I said, there is extensive discussion on this matter in the book. But perhaps the best thing might be if I just give you, right from the preface, one or two definitions -- or my understandings -- of what I regard as anti-Americanism.
Well, I had several definitions. Here is one. A mindset, an attitude of distaste, aversion or intense hostility, the roots of which may be found in matters unrelated to the actual qualities or attributes of American society. In short, the way it is used here, anti-Americanism refers to a negative predisposition, a type of bias which is, to varying degrees, unfounded, regarded as an attitude similar to its far more thoroughly explored counterparts, such as racism, sexism or anti-Semitism. So here is one definition.
Another one, after I discussed many of the varieties of anti-Americanism, domestic as well as foreign, I wrote, "What holds together the varieties of anti-Americanism is a sense of grievance and the compelling need to find some clear-cut and morally satisfying explanation for a wide range of unwelcome circumstances associated with either actual states or feelings of backwardness, inferiority, weakness, diminished competitiveness or a loss of coherence and stability in the life of a nation, a group or individual."
So here you have some definitions and I could give more, and I could, of course, elaborate further on these matters.
LAMB: Let me first, though, ask you, where do you go to work every day?
HOLLANDER: Well, I go to work every day to two places. One is my desk at home, when I don't teach, and on my days when I teach, to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
LAMB: And how long have you been doing that?
HOLLANDER: At the University of Massachusetts for over 20 years, prior to which I was, for five years, at Harvard.
LAMB: And you're a professor of what?
HOLLANDER: I'm a professor of sociology. That's my title.
LAMB: I remember you pointing out in your book, in one of these books -- in the beginning -- that you are not a professor -- you're not a historian.
LAMB: Why do you point that out? What's the difference between being a professor of sociology writing about this and a professor of history?
HOLLANDER: Well, actually this book -- the "Anti-Americanism" book -- is a bit of a social history, and I put a date -- I bracketed the period '65 to '90 because some of my intention was documentary or social-historical. Well, obviously, it's hard to nail down precisely the differences between -- given this topic -- how a sociologist would approach it versus a historian. As a matter of fact, neither sociologists nor historians have written about this topic, and this was among the incentives for me to write about it, because it's a major phenomenon and I think it's widely acknowledged that it exists.
Certainly the foreign variety's more widely acknowledged than the domestic and yet it has been completely neglected which, in itself, is an interesting matter, why so little has been said about it -- about both the domestic and foreign versions. And my hunch is that it may have something to do with the disposition of social scientists, themselves. In other words, they think -- or many people might think -- that where there is nothing to explain, there is no mystery. You wouldn't write a book about anti-Nazism, because I'm sure every reasonable person is anti-Nazi. And if you have some kind of a similar lurking notion about anti-Americanism as a reasonable disposition, well, then you don't investigate the phenomenon.
LAMB: Where were you born?
HOLLANDER: In Budapest, Hungary.
LAMB: What year?
LAMB: How did you get to the United States, and when?
HOLLANDER: Well, I left Hungary in November -- November 19th, 1956, after the Revolution, and then I went to England first. And I went to college in England, to the London School of Economics. And then I came to this country in '59, and then I stayed. I went to graduate school here, and then I stayed.
LAMB: What was your reason for leaving Hungary?
HOLLANDER: For leaving Hungary? Well, I had lots of good reasons for leaving Hungary. I wanted to leave Hungary for quite some time. Well, basically, the political situation -- I couldn't go to university in Hungary for political reasons. So after I graduated from high school, myself and my family -- we were all exiled to a little village, and so that was the end of my prospects for higher education in Hungary. But I have to say that I began to develop doubts about the political system even before this unpleasant event in the course of my high school or [foreign language spoken] education in Hungary.
And well, you know, it made me think, "Is it a matter of being a political refugee or an economic refugee?" Well, obviously, these things are difficult to separate, especially in Communist system, when if you are politically discriminated against, you are also deprived of economic opportunity or educational opportunity, which was my case, since I grew up in Stalinist Hungary. That was certainly a good place to leave.
LAMB: Your other book, called "Decline and Discontent," is about what?
HOLLANDER: Well, this is a collection of shorter pieces -- most of them -- well, about two-thirds of them were published before; about one-third of them were not published before; plus a long introduction. And the title "Decline" refers to essays which have to do with Communist systems. And the "Discontent" refers to Western societies and the United States, in particular. So this is a collection of essays on a variety of topics. There are a couple of them on Hungary -- the first time I actually wrote something about Hungary, which is also related to my recent visits there. There is one on Soviet propaganda. There are a couple of them about disillusionment with Communist systems on the American side, where there are various -- some of the topics are similar to those which were touched upon in "Anti-Americanism," but I think the overlap is not too great.
LAMB: Can I ask you about one of these that seemed to be -- maybe it's because we're so interested in people -- it seemed to be unusual, and that is Chapter 12.
HOLLANDER: What was that?
LAMB: "George F. Kennan, Critic of Western Decadence."
HOLLANDER: Well, I actually have a great liking for Mr. Kennan, and I also wrote -- let's see, I wrote two pieces on Kennan altogether -- maybe three. One was a review of his last book -- last autobiographical book, which I very much admired, and this is a more general piece about his political views and ...
LAMB: Who is he?
HOLLANDER: Who is ...
LAMB: Who is George Kennan, yeah?
HOLLANDER: Well, George Kennan is usually described as a major architect of American foreign policy after World War II and the man who supposedly devised the containment policy and described it in his famous article, which he signed as X. And he used to be ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and earlier he had various other diplomatic posts and spent a good part of his life abroad. And I found his views very interesting because -- well, I had obviously some reservations about his views, but also much admiration for his views. And one aspect of his views I emphasized, which is usually not so well-known for the American public, is his critique of American society as a decadent society. I found this very interesting. And he's much better known, you know, as an author on foreign policy and politics than a critic of American domestic institutions or American culture.
LAMB: You write things like that he liked to be alone and he didn't like to be in the diplomatic party atmosphere and all that.
HOLLANDER: That's true. I mean, obviously, I learned this from his book. He's a very interesting person, and I think that in both '60s language he might be described as an elitist, which I would consider a compliment, because he's elitist in the sense -- contrary to intellectual sense, he makes high demands on people and himself and the American culture. I think he just went a little too far in certain views when he was so disgusted, let's say, with pornography in America that he would say, "Well, you know, perhaps we can learn something from the Russians, because they suppress pornography."
Now I thought that's going a bit too far, because there were many other things -- first of all, I'm not sure if it's really a good thing to suppress pornography and, secondly, you had a high political price to pay for a political system, you know, which kept pornography and criminals off the street. And it's not an accident that in the last two years Eastern Europe became more liberal, crime also surfaced, unfortunately. This is a package deal, part of it -- part of the cost we have to pay for living in a relatively free society, which does not have the power to intimidate people. I mean, not that this is the only source of crime control, intimidation, but it's part of it.
LAMB: I'm looking at this George Kennan chapter in your book -- part of it -- number 12. It's only about six pages long and it's the only one, I think, I mean ...
HOLLANDER: Oh, that is another one. I guess maybe that wasn't reprinted here. That was reprinted in my other volume. Yeah, this is the one on his autobiographical book. I'm sorry I interrupted you. You said it's the only one ...
LAMB: No, that's all right. I just wondered why -- with everything else that you wrote, none of it is really that personalized, and this was ...
HOLLANDER: Well, partly because his book is a very personal statement, and as I said, I felt much affinity for him, although in this other -- I have a much longer piece about him which appeared in another book called "The Survival of the Adversary Culture." In 1988 that was published and earlier in Policy Review. And then I was more critical of his political views and I thought he was romanticizing -- well, actually, this has something to do with his other views, too, that he was somewhat romanticizing Russia as a traditional society or some glimpses of it he had as a traditional society in the countryside without these well-known problems and disagreeable aspects of our modern industrial society -- you know, pollution, crowding, traffic, etc. He was very much taken by this -- I remember a scene -- I don't know if it's in this essay. I think it's in the other one, that he was describing a scene in the village, how wonderful it was.
LAMB: Well, you've got it here. It's a picture of a Moscow suburb observed in 1952, in which he says, "I know of no human environment more warmly and agreeably pulsating with activity, contentment ..."
HOLLANDER: That's one of them, right.
LAMB: " ...and sociability than a contemporary Moscow suburban dacha area on a nice spring morning."
HOLLANDER: That's one of them. I had another one, too, I was actually thinking, where he talked about these 30 Russian women, you know, hoeing the fields and so forth. It's the same sentiment.
LAMB: Do you have problems with intellectuals?
HOLLANDER: Do I have problems? Well, that's an interesting question because, of course, I am supposedly one, too. But intellectuals are divided against themselves. Well, it's ...
LAMB: In other words, what is an intellectual?
HOLLANDER: Well, I hate to say, I have another book -- an earlier one, which came out 10 years ago called "Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-1978." And there I discuss this at great lengths -- what's an intellectual and what are their problems? Well, what's an intellectual? I suppose -- and I also looked at many definitions other people had, of course, of intellectuals. Well, they are, obviously, people with some higher education, but not specialists. That's important. They are not specialists. They are generalists. People call them interpreters of ideas, people involved with the great issues of their times, moral, political, cultural, and also generally critics -- critics of society.
LAMB: Do they have high IQs?
HOLLANDER: Not necessarily. I don't know. You see, one reason it's difficult to study intellectuals, because how do you sample them, you know? It's one thing to study the legal profession, the medical profession, professors. But I guess the closest you get to the largest concentration of a specific occupation, you would say, "These are intellectuals," I would say people in the humanities and social sciences, many authors -- freelance authors, editors of literary and other magazines, not highly specialized. I don't know. It's an interesting question. You see, scientists, I'm sure, have much higher IQs than intellectuals.
LAMB: Could someone of average intelligence just say, "I'm going to become an intellectual'?
HOLLANDER: Well, I have also developed over the years a category called quasi-intellectual, of which we have many, and I think these are people who have some education. I think this category emerged -- obviously one cannot nail these things down with great precision -- but I imagine in the '60s, with the expansion of higher education, and also a lot of people with various vague discontents. I think that's also an important aspect of an intellectual, some degree of discontent, unhappiness with the way things are.
LAMB: On a college campus -- and you've spent a lot of time on a college campus -- what would you say is the political breakdown of professors?
HOLLANDER: You mean, in liberal, conservative terms?
LAMB: Liberal, conservative, party affiliation.
HOLLANDER: Well, on this, I cited some figures from survey research which are quiet accurate, and I can tell you in general the way things look. In the social sciences and humanities you have probably three-quarters of people who describe themselves as liberal, left of center, this sort of thing -- or maybe more than three-quarters. Then, if you go into the sciences and professional schools -- then the distribution would be quite different. Social workers -- it's another occupational group -- very high left-of-center orientation.
LAMB: How do you define yourself?
HOLLANDER: Well, you see, in terms of some of the older terminology, which changed, I used to think of myself as liberal, but these definitions have changed, so I am currently clearly classified as a neo-conservative, at least by my critics -- or not necessarily just critics. But I think it does -- I would say that on many issues I would be clearly ranked as a neo-conservative, but then there are many issues that I am not either conservative or neo-conservative. I am, for example, an ardent environmentalist. I'm a member of the Sierra Club -- card-carrying member of the Sierra Club -- which many conservatives and neo-conservatives don't care much for -- environmentalism or these organizations, either. I'm against gun control. I am in favor of abortion, so you see, that some issues are not so easy to nail down.
LAMB: On your book, "Anti-Americanism," let me just pick an issue that we're all familiar with.
LAMB: The Gulf War.
LAMB: You write about the Gulf War and positions people take. Let me just give you my impression, that if you were against the Gulf War, you interpret that as possibly being anti-American?
HOLLANDER: No, nothing like that. No, you see, it would be a much larger package. No, it is possible that you were against the Gulf War and then you would have to add many other things. I mean, you can be critical of a specific American foreign policy and not marry this epithet, anti-American, and that's a point I made many times. But if some of the people I quoted were critical of the Gulf War in the same way as they were critical of the Vietnam War, because they considered it as a tangible expression of how evil this society is -- not just a mistaken foreign policy, but a symbol -- and I have many quotes on that -- both on the Gulf War and Vietnam War -- that this was, an essential manifestation of the corruption and evil of this society -- well, then I would say yes, that would put you more in the category of ...
LAMB: Can you name for us people that you followed and you quote who are anti-American?
HOLLANDER: Yes. Let me just add one more word to this -- my notion of anti-Americanism, as far as the domestic version is concerned. You could also substitute another term, radical social criticism or an adversarial disposition, or estrangement, alienation -- these are all very close to each other. Now I asked to specific people -- I make many references to Chomsky. You know, Chomsky, I think he really detests this society and culture, or the late Herbert Marcuse, he used to, or the lawyer Kunstler. I mean, there are some people -- and I quote hundreds of them, I think -- who have a deep, deep detestation of this society which I don't fully understand, actually. I don't fully understand it. I mean, I obviously try to explain it.
LAMB: Let me just, for the purpose of this conversation, assume that if they were sitting here, they would say, "I am not anti-American."
HOLLANDER: That's right.
LAMB: "I love this country."
HOLLANDER: That's right.
LAMB: "I love the Constitution."
HOLLANDER: Right. Exactly.
LAMB: "But I want it to be what the Constitution was supposed to be."
HOLLANDER: Exactly. Right. Well, I wrote about this, too -- in this book. And this is a very typical attitude. People say, "I am the real pro-American because I criticize the evils of this society." But what they are doing -- usually, they make these criticisms on the basis of an idea which never existed and possibly could never be attained. And I quoted somebody -- I think it was Irving Crystal -- in this book who made this very good point, too, but I can't exactly quote him, but I can paraphrase him. He said that -- well, this attitude towards America, on exactly this issue, he said that -- this is somewhat like one's attitude towards one's spouse. We have to love our spouse more or less the way he or she is and live with her. We can't bring these extraordinary expectations to bear on this relationship.
Now this is an imperfect analogy. To be sure, a spouse is not like a country, but I think there is something to it. I think the critics or the radical critics of America -- their ideas -- I don't think what the kind of America they talk about, I don't think it ever existed -- it would never exist. Another important point: many of these critics are also extremely anti-capitalist. Now in fact, this is one of the types of anti -- I mean, I distinguish between three major types of anti-Americanism -- anti-Americanism as anti-capitalism; anti-Americanism as a form of nationalism, but that obviously applies to more abroad; and the third one, anti-Americanism as a protest against modernity. Now that can apply to both foreign and domestic.
So this idea -- I mean, how can you be -- when people say that this is really a uniquely deformed society, as many of them did say, such as never existed before -- and also, incidentally, many of these people were saying that this cannot be reformed. You know, you need to destroy it. So that's hard to argue that they really also want to hark back to some idyllic 18th century conception of America, so they want to destroy it.
LAMB: Let me ask you about both these books. One is published by Oxford and the other one is Transaction.
LAMB: Who are those two publishers?
HOLLANDER: Well, I mean, you know, Oxford is an old -- I am not sure what its relationship to Oxford University Press in England, but they have some relationship. But this is not a university press, as such, although it calls itself Oxford University Press, and they publish a wide variety of books -- I suppose most of the more serious books. And Transaction is actually more of an academic publishing house, and they also publish a great many books, but I think in smaller printings, and some of them are more specialized than they are at Rutgers University, New Jersey.
LAMB: And how is it that you come to publishing two books one month apart?
HOLLANDER: Well, that's a pure accident. This book was in the works for several years, and by the time I finished it I also had a bunch of essays to collect into a volume. And at first I wasn't sure if it was worth putting them together, but the editor or the head of this publishing house, Professor Horowitz, kindly encouraged me to put them together, and we published two other collections of essays before. So I did, and I wrote an original introduction, so it's not just reprinting old stuff. And some of it hasn't been published before, so I think it has some ...
LAMB: If you walked into a room full of your colleagues at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst given your point of view on these books would you be welcome?
HOLLANDER: Well, I tell you, I participated a few months in a kind of a public debate on multiculturalism, which was presided over by the provost of the university system, the president or chancellor. And the debate was so organized that there were two people for, two people against. So you know, this was obviously a public debate, and I was among the critics of multiculturalism. And well, that was not so much colleagues. They're mostly students, and they were not too hostile. Most of them who were there were in favor of multiculturalism, but they were polite.
But as to the other questions -- the people who know me in my department, they are not too hostile, although I don't know -- at least I don't experience much hostility.
My theory has always been -- a number of people asked me a similar question, that here you are a reasonably well-known neo-conservative, and this University of Massachusetts at Amherst is supposed to be a very liberal institution. And how do you manage that? And my theory has always been that the reason people are, perhaps, somewhat more tolerant toward my views -- because I'm a foreigner, that if I was a native-born American without an accent there would be more hostility, but as a foreigner, a Hungarian, a '56 refugee, some people sort of make allowances and they view this as some sort of eccentricity.
LAMB: Are you an American citizen?
HOLLANDER: Yeah, sure.
LAMB: Why did you do that?
HOLLANDER: Why did I become an American ...
HOLLANDER: Well, why shouldn't I? I mean, I came here to live here for the rest of my life, and ...
LAMB: You write in the "Decline and Discontent" that when you go back to Hungary, you don't have an unusual feeling. I mean, explain that feeling that you have.
HOLLANDER: Well, it's a mixture, as I wrote in one of those papers, when I go back to Hungary, I am at once an insider and a stranger -- insider because I know the language. I don't have an accent. I still know a lot of people. I know my way around, literally. You know, I grew up in Budapest, so I know what's where. And so much for being an insider. But if I think about living there -- returning there, to move there -- well, you know, that wouldn't make sense. It wouldn't make sense after having been away for, you know, over 30 years, and I like living in this country, although I have my own criticisms, too, but, basically, I like living here. And I think that by any comparative historical standard this is a very decent society.
LAMB: Is it the most decent society in the world?
HOLLANDER: I don't know if it's the most. It's among the minority of the most decent societies of the world. Of this, I am convinced.
LAMB: Why do you think that is the way we've developed?
HOLLANDER: Well, I mean, I think that stable political democracies are very unique and unusual, and it's obviously part of the Western European heritage. That's part of it. Part of it is just luck and rich continent and, you know, people came here to escape various kinds of deprivations and threats to their freedom -- that, in fact, this is another point I make in these books that one source of anti-Americanism or radical social criticism are these very high expectations which this culture fosters in people. And then it's the syndrome of a disappointed lover, you know, that this society doesn't live up to these extremely high expectations, so then it's terrible and rotten and unjust.
LAMB: What is your biggest disappointment about the United States?
HOLLANDER: Well, I can't say that I had any great disappointment. When I first came -- and I write about this, actually, in the last chapter -- I might have also been classified as a hostile critic when I went to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, where I spent one year. And I was very unhappy there for personal reasons. And I think that that became a form of broader social criticism. I think the personal unhappiness translated itself into broader social criticism, but some of these culture critiques have survived or perhaps even intensified over the years.
It's hard to say major disappointment. I don't know if I had a major disappointment, not that I had very clear-cut expectations, either, you know, when I came here. Well, perhaps, major disappointment or surprise might have been how much hostility this society generates among well-educated people. You might say that that was a surprise, although already I sensed some of it in England. I spent three years in England, so ...
LAMB: Explain that.
HOLLANDER: Well, what I mean by that, that when I was England, also in an academic setting, although as an undergraduate, and I think that was the first time I ran into this problem, which I think many -- this is not just a matter for intellectuals. Many Western people have -- which is a difficulty -- they don't know much about the rest of the world, Americans more so than Europeans, and I'm thinking in particular about Communist systems, that people knew extremely little about what it was like to live in these Communist systems in Eastern Europe. So there was a very high level of ignorance.
I might say another -- talking about ignorance, I did not expect also the level of ignorance among American undergraduates. You know, when I first came to this country and went to the University of Illinois, and I was a graduate student there and I was also a teaching assistant in an introductory course, and so I was astonished, you know, by just how little people knew -- that they went through high school and never heard the names of -- you know, this was right before the current disputes about the problems of American higher education. I remember I devised a little questionnaire. I had anticipated this well-known book which came out recently, where somebody just listed all the things you should know. Remember that book? His name is Hirsch, Hirsch something.
LAMB: Burton Hirsch? No, the ...
HOLLANDER: He's at the University of Virginia, I believe, in Charlottesville. It's a well-known book, maybe even a best-seller. So I did something similar on a very small scale. I listed 50 names and threw in some capital cities and asked my students to identify them and it was a horrifying experience. You know, like Bertrand Russell -- somebody said a basketball player -- this sort of thing. So yes, this was a disappointment or a surprise.
LAMB: Are you still seeing that in your students?
HOLLANDER: Yes, sure, I do.
LAMB: What do you teach?
HOLLANDER: Well, you mean what specific courses?
LAMB: Yes, right now.
HOLLANDER: Well, I teach a course right now about -- which is called Social Problems Under Socialism. I teach a course entitled Political Sociology, Sociology of Literature and Mass Culture, Sociology of Intellectuals, Soviet Society.
LAMB: And how would you grade your students right now?
HOLLANDER: Well, in every class, you know -- these are so-called more advanced courses, so I have about 30 to 40 students. In every class there are, you know, five, six, seven, eight very good students, very bright students, and it's a minority, clearly -- and some pretty bad ones, and most of them in the middle, but they don't know much.
LAMB: Would it be different in other countries?
HOLLANDER: Yes, of course, it would be different, but, of course, there is an explanation for that, too, because after all, a much higher proportion of the population goes to college in this country. So it seems like the whole higher education is sort of postponed. People learn very little in high school, then they start really getting down to basics in college, and if they really want to learn a lot about something, that's in graduate school. Whereas in Europe, where a much smaller proportion of the people go to high school, it's not like this. I mean, they start earlier, but far fewer go to high school.
LAMB: In your "Anti-Americanism" book, you have a number of chapters -- one with churches, one with higher education and one with mass media. And I've underlined a sentence here. It says, "On television, as elsewhere, it does not take much effort to discern the outlines of the adversarial, left-of-center sensibility and the allocation of negative and positive roles in these deterministic schemes." What does that really mean?
HOLLANDER: What I mean is that social determinism, if it's used in a more objective or unbiased way, is not selective. Then you would say that, "Well, everybody's life is, to some degree" -- to what degree depends on what scheme of determinism you hold onto -- we are all products of society and, therefore, our responsibility is limited, because we are all products of society and our occupation and education and background and upbringing. Now on the other hand, if you are a social critic, then you use this scheme in a selective way and, in fact, I wrote an article about this many years ago, which I call "Selective Determinism." Well, in the selective deterministic scheme, depending on your political preferences or biases, you focus on some groups whom you exempt from any sense of personal responsibility for their behavior.
Now I'm not saying that everybody has the same degree of responsibility for his or her behavior. This is a so-called empirical question. But if you adhere to a deterministic scheme, then, of course, the rich and the poor and the educated and uneducated and black and white, where we are products of society, so, you then it's difficult to take this position that anybody born in an inner-city slum cannot help but become a criminal or drug dealer because, in fact, most of them don't become criminals and drug dealers. A substantial minority may become so. So the point is that people have some choices, and this is one of the difficult questions in the social sciences: where do you draw the line between choice and force of the environment? Clearly we don't have unlimited choices, but nor are we the products entirely of our social environment. It's ...
LAMB: What do you think of television?
LAMB: Mass media, television.
HOLLANDER: Well, I am basically critical of it ...
HOLLANDER: On many grounds. Well, for one thing, it distracts people from using their time in better ways, which I include reading among them, or outdoor activities, two activities I value very highly. And then there is this other whole theory, whether or not television inculcates what somebody called -- or something like channel-changing mentality or short attention span, and could
this really happen if people start early in life, watching a great deal of television, that their attention span and their powers of concentration become undermined? It's another level of criticism.
Then, of course, we come to the role models and violence. There is, of course, enormous amount of violence on television, whether or not -- I don't think -- and there have been many studies on this. I don't think that violence on television, by itself, induces people to imitate it -- I mean, perhaps in combination with other circumstances, it doesn't help. And then, of course -- I mean, I don't watch, you know, most of these popular programs. I watch mostly news and documentaries and travel things, so I don't watch them regularly to make any serious statement about them, and some of what I say is secondhand from what other people say about it.
But I understand -- this, again, is secondhand -- this is from a study I quoted. I mean, television does some funny things in misrepresenting reality. I understand from these studies -- content analyses done over long periods of time, that contrary to reality, television presents most criminals as being white -- rich white businessmen. Now this is not the way it is in reality. We know that. This is an inversion of reality which, according to those who did this study, is a reflection of the liberal bias of television producers, that you don't show black criminals. It's just -- just not to be done or very rarely, that most criminals are white and re -- relatively well-off. Well, that's not what the statistics show, unless we assume that the statistics are totally unreliable, this kind of thing.
And then, of course, there is the general problem that television is just -- a lot of it is junk, you know, in terms of artistic quality -- poor cardboard characters, stereotypes -- not stereotypes in the racial ethnic sense, but stereotypes, in the sense that characters which lack depth and complexity. But what can you do in a few minutes, you know, uninterrupted by commercials? So the media itself -- brought me the news. Well, why are the news so superficial? Well, because of short time span -- very superficial.
LAMB: "The climate of opinion surrounding the disease AIDS in the 1980s is a good example of this process. Not only has the media and especially television given huge coverage to AIDS, it has also been instrumental in popularizing the vague belief that for some not clearly specified reason, to suffer AIDS is especially tragic and entitles the victim to greater solicitousness" -- I guess I'm pronouncing that right -- "social solidarity and medical support than do the sufferings caused by other similar lethal diseases." What are you getting at here?
HOLLANDER: Well, I mean, what can I add to that? I mean, you obviously haven't seen comparable -- to be sure, AIDS is a new disease which carries people off very quickly, but you just haven't seen a comparable social movement springing up around other types of diseases.
LAMB: Why is it happening around AIDS?
HOLLANDER: Well, obviously, because it is associated with a type of sexual preference, and people -- you know, homosexuals feel threatened, not only by the disease itself, but by the criticism which is associated with homosexuality as a result of its association with AIDS. And then I suppose you could further speculate to the extent that -- well, homosexuality used to be or is, in the eyes of the majority, some sort of a deviant subculture, so that, again, those who are critical of society as a whole are drawn to deviant subcultures. Why are criminals -- or why have been -- I have many discussions of that, too, that certain violent criminals used to be romanticized. Well, this is a form of social protest, as perceived by some people. Norman Mailer and, you know, Mr. Abbott in New York -- many such cases.
But, of course, you know, it's also true that AIDS strikes young people, so that lends it a certain tragic aspect, but I think it has this cultural political connotation which is associated with this supposedly or earlier deviant sexual preference.
LAMB: Why do you write books?
HOLLANDER: Well, that's an interesting question. I certainly enjoy writing books, and I suppose I think earlier in my life I was interested -- it goes back very far. You know, I wanted to be a writer of some kind way back. Now I think it would have been preferable to be a writer of good fiction. If I had become a writer of good fiction, I would prefer that to writing this kind of sociological stuff. But it's the second best, anyway.
LAMB: Who do you -- this is a $35 book -- "Anti-Americanism." Who do you expect to buy it?
HOLLANDER: Well, I have no idea. Of course, I have no control over pricing and I wish they had priced it lower. I imagine libraries will buy it -- I hope -- but there are plenty of people in America who can afford to buy a book like this if they are interested in it, but I have no idea who buys these books, really.
LAMB: Other than the critiques you read in the newspapers, have you gotten feedback from people who've read it, either pro or con?
HOLLANDER: Not much. Not much. You know, the book hasn't -- I had a kind of feedback on a few of these radio talk shows, which I mentioned to you, but, of course, those people haven't read the book. They were just responding to what they heard on the show itself, between the host and me. And then if you turn the back, where there are some sympathetic readers, obviously, on the dust jacket, who read it before and have nice things to say about it.
LAMB: Like Jeanne Kirkpatrick and C. Vann Woodward and Edward O. Wilson ...
HOLLANDER: Right. So those were positive feedback, but the book hasn't had yet a serious analysis or criticism anywhere. Well, last Sunday in The New York Times Book Review by Morton Kondracke -- it was a reasonable review -- I disagreed with some of the things he said. I think there were some minor errors of fact in it. And I wrote a letter. It was not a hostile review, and he certainly captured some of the purposes behind the book. But, again, you can't write a very long review in The New York Times Book Review. At least, they didn't leave space for that. So I think a searching long review is yet to come, which would focus on both its strengths and weaknesses.
LAMB: In the preface of the "Anti-Americanism" book, you name a lot of different outfits that have supported you. And I just want to ask you something about them, who they are.
HOLLANDER: Go ahead. Sure.
LAMB: Hoover Institution, in the summers of '85 and '86, supported you for what purpose?
HOLLANDER: Well, they invited me to be a so-called visiting scholar and do pretty much what I wanted to do -- it was a two-month period, and then I was beginning, you know, to work on this topic, so ...
LAMB: Who are they?
HOLLANDER: What is the Hoover Institution? Well, it was founded by the late President Hoover in the '20s, and it's called Hoover Institution of War, Peace and Revolution -- or War, Revolution and Peace. So this is, again, a very general designation. It's a big think tank on the campus of Stanford University, and some of the staff who work there also teach at Stanford, but most of them just do research. Many of them -- a lot of research at Hoover focused on Communist systems. It's a conservative think tank, no question about it. But, I mean, they have all sorts of people there.
LAMB: The Earhart Foundation.
HOLLANDER: Well, that's a small foundation in Michigan. I don't know much about it, except that the late Sidney Hook, who took interest in my work -- he suggested that I apply to them for a research grant, which I did, and they provided it.
LAMB: The Bradley Foundation.
HOLLANDER: Well, the Bradley is a big foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and they have given me money -- substitute for my salary so I could just write full-time. But again, I don't know where these foundations got their money -- which I would be curious to know as a sociologist -- but I don't know where the money originally comes from. Obviously, private wealth of some kind.
LAMB: The American Enterprise Institute.
HOLLANDER: Well, that's right here, and I just appeared there. I think it's mentioned only in connection with my having given a talk, that they never supported me. Well, that's a major think tank right here.
LAMB: Heritage Foundation.
HOLLANDER: Again, I gave a talk there, but they never supported me financially.
LAMB: And there are lots of other organizations. Do you ever ask them why they give you support? Or do you ever worry about where they're coming from, politically?
HOLLANDER: Well, I know these are all obviously conservative. They are classified as conservative think tanks, and I think I would have more trouble getting money from Ford Foundation or Rockefeller, although I have to say that Rockefeller Foundation had me as a visiting scholar in their study center in Bilantro, in 1984, which was also when I started working on these topics, so I can't say that they were biased in any way, but, clearly some foundations are more likely to support certain types of research than others.
LAMB: You credit and you thank Marcus Raskin, of the Institute of Policy Studies, and unless I'm wrong, that's not a conservative foundation.
HOLLANDER: Absolutely not. In fact, you see, in this book, "Decline and Discontent," I have a long critical essay on the Institute for Policy Studies, and Marcus Raskin just was very nice and available to have a long discussion on the Institute for Policy Studies and lots of other political matters. And I think, actually, that although I have been critical of the institute, he personally certainly is an individual of open mind, and I quoted him to that effect, I think. Now, to be sure, he also thinks, or used to think -- I don't know what's his latest thinking -- that this is a terrible society, but I certainly liked him personally, and I think he's not inflexible or dogmatic.
LAMB: Does the Institute of Policy Studies have an impact at all on this society today?
HOLLANDER: I don't know, because, you see, I stopped looking at their output some years ago now -- two or three years ago. People tell me that it has less and less influence, and so they have trouble getting funding.
LAMB: Did it ever have influence?
HOLLANDER: Oh, yes, I definitely think it did. You know, for instance, some large number of Congressmen asked them to produce an alternative federal budget in the early or mid-80s. Well, that's a sign of influence, and on the various schools and educational programs, they had very distinguished people from all walks of life to participate, and I think they were perceived as a very, very notable left-of-center organization by many people. But I think they were much more radical than they were perceived to be.
But, again, I think their position is clearly weakened with the decline of communism in an indirect way -- I mean, a very indirect way. I mean, that's another interesting issue -- some people raise this question that anti-Americanism and the decline of communism -- how do these things hang together? And, in fact, I had address this in the introduction to this "Decline and Discontent."
Well, my impression has been that most of the radical critics in America have not been faltering in their resolve to remain radical critics, just because the Soviet Union and the rest of them fell apart. I wrote about this at some length -- various strategies emerged -- how to handle this problem. Because, of course, you could say, "Well, the fact that the Soviet Union and these other supposedly socialist systems fell apart, that shows that capitalism is better, more efficient, and that they are now moving in that direction and try to introduce a market economy." Well, that's some sort of vindication of capitalism or political democracy, since they are also becoming politically pluralistic. I mean, that's one common-sense response.
But the other response which many of the left wing or radical critics have been developing, that: well, that's a bad society and this is a bad society. And the fact that the Soviet Union fell apart doesn't prove anything about the superior virtues of America. Well, on the face of it, that could be true, yes, you know, that there is no necessary relationship.
But another thing which just occurs to me here, which is interesting, perhaps, to bring to your attention and the viewers, that when I was in Eastern Europe in November in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, beginning a new study that will be my next project, the collapse of communism -- that all these people I spoke to -- intellectuals, mostly -- who believe firmly that the Soviet Union was bankrupted by the arms race and, in particular, by the Star War. Now I myself -- I am not sure that this is the case at all, and this is another way in which I differ from many people in America who otherwise share my views, conservative or neo-conservatives: I'm not sure that these military expenditures really broke the back of the Soviet Union. But a lot of people believed this in Eastern Europe, which I thought was interesting.
LAMB: What did break the back of communism?
HOLLANDER: Well, I would like to understand it better and again, I wrote about this and this is why I'm undertaking the present study. But, you know, to say that what broke the back of Communist systems, that it was a very inefficient and oppressive system -- well, that's true, but, I mean, they were inefficient and oppressive in the Soviet Union for 70 years.
Eastern Europe is easier to explain, because as soon as it was clear that there will be no Soviet intervention, they bolted -- these East European countries. They just overthrew these systems or transformed themselves in various ways. But the greater mystery is this -- how the Soviet system fell apart. That's still a mystery to me, which I would like to understand fully. Well, you know the obvious explanations, that they had these terrible economic problems; that it was partly a generational change -- the Gorbachev generation was exposed to the de-Stalinization campaign and that undermined the legitimacy of the system.
Well, my own belief is that this enormous gap between theory and practice really is -- this is where one has to find the explanation in some more specific and exact understanding of the consequences of the theory-practice gap, that these systems lied so much to their people and that they never had much legitimacy.
LAMB: Couple little things. You dedicate "Anti-Americanism" to Sarah
Hollander. Who's she?
HOLLANDER: Sarah Hollander is my daughter.
LAMB: How old is she?
LAMB: Where is she?
HOLLANDER: She lives in Kennebunkport, Maine. And she will go to college
in the fall, if all goes well, to become an art education teacher.
LAMB: Do you have any other kids?
HOLLANDER: No. I have a stepdaughter, too, from my current marriage, who
is studying at Boston -- Boston Conservatory -- to become a drama major.
LAMB: I cannot find a dedication in "Decline and Dissent." Is there
one? Or "Discontent," I mean.
HOLLANDER: There wasn't one.
LAMB: Is that something -- it's your choice whether you dedicate the book
HOLLANDER: Yes, pretty much. It's pretty much the author's choice, right.
LAMB: In the remaining time, Sidney Hook -- you write a chapter. He's another
personality you write about. Who was he?
HOLLANDER: Well, Sidney Hook was a major philosopher who died a
few years ago, in his early 80s. He was also early in his life a Marxist or a Communist, and way back already in the 1930s, around the time of the so-called Shaw Trials in Moscow -- where they also tried Trotsky in absentia, he changed course and he became a very vocal anti-Communist and anti-Soviet over the years, which earned him much unpopularity among American intellectuals. You see, this is another phenomenon I write about -- so-called anti-anti-communism -- not that many American intellectuals are pro-Communist, far from it. But the idea that you are a vocal anti-Communist, well, that's somehow in bad taste, as Tom Wolfe also said. And I think this is a residue of the McCarthy period, that sort of McCarthy discredited anti-communism with lasting results.
LAMB: How did you get to know Sidney Hook?
HOLLANDER: Well, it had something to do with my "Political Pilgrim" book.
He liked the book a lot, and he had a summer home not far from where I live, so
after we corresponded a bit, I visited him up there in Vermont. That's how I
got to know him.
LAMB: Is communism dead forever in those parts of the world like Russia
and Eastern Europe?
HOLLANDER: Well, who knows what's dead forever? You know, I am
not so optimistic as Mr. Fukuyama, that released "The End of History," and it
looks dead pretty much at the moment, except for these rather nasty
outposts, like Cuba and North Korea and, to some extent, China, too, which
remain quite repressive. But probably it's pretty dead, and I think in the long run, Marxism-Leninism is also discredited.
LAMB: There are two books -- a first here on Booknotes -- this one,
"Anti-Americanism: Critiques At Home and Abroad, 1965-1990," with the author,
our guest, Paul Hollander, and this book, "Decline and Discontent," a series
of essays that, in most part, have been written over the years, collected in
this book published by Transaction. Thank you very much for joining us.
HOLLANDER: Thank you for having me here.
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