ok I'm signing off --you can reach me at @johncusack on twitter @johncusack instagram if you want do another.. let me know and we can...

I'm John Cusack, actor and activist, and I wrote a book with Arundhati Roy, Ask Me Anything!

In late 2014, I traveled with author Arundhati Roy and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to Moscow to meet with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

We just released a book called Things That Can and Cannot Be Said, published by Haymarket Books.

Check it out here! https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1013-things-that-can-and-cannot-be-said

It's a book of essays and dialogues I had with Arundhati about our conversations with Snowden. We talk about the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an era of perpetual war, the meaning of flags and patriotism, the role of foundations and NGOs in limiting dissent, and the ways in which capital but not people can freely cross borders.

Proof: https://twitter.com/haymarketbooks/status/798626964537909249

Comments: 494 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

imcguyver175 karma

Can you put some context around this pretty amazing photo of Johnny Depp, Hunter S Thompson and yourself?


johncusackFPF159 karma

of just a great night with the good doctor..

the_one_true_b85 karma

One of my favorite movies is High Fidelity. What would be your Top 5 favorite movies of all time?

johncusackFPF88 karma

that's so hard to say, like music it depends on your mood ..


Do you think Snowden should be pardoned?

johncusackFPF346 karma

of course..as should chelsea manning and so many others.. in this world upside down People with real courage go to jail while killers are awash in polite applause, go to cocktail parties, State dinners with dignitaries and VIPs.

CHWK75 karma


johncusackFPF159 karma

zero. saved by gender I'm sure

agaetisbyrjun2267 karma

Hey John. Longtime fan who just picked up your book this week. Congratulations on the Cubs win! I have a few questions for you:

  1. Both you & Roy praised Julian Assange throughout the book. How has his role in helping to get Trump elected changed your opinion over the past few months, if at all?
  2. It almost goes without saying that the next 4 years will be quite difficult for journalism. What can a citizen like myself do to assist the Freedom of the Press Foundation, aside from making a monetary donation?
  3. You have a distinctly dark, satirical voice in many of your scripts (Grosse Pointe Blank, War Inc etc), one I think we could certainly use more of in the coming years. Do you have anything brewing we can look forward to seeing soon?

Also, I just want to say thank you for your movies, your book & for taking time to answer questions.

johncusackFPF67 karma

would refer to an old article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-cusack/what-is-an-assange_b_2317824.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-cusack/what-is-an-assange-part-2_b_2402236.html i don't think massage elected trump that far far to reductionist an argument ... if more people did adversarial journalism rather then access journalism- then that means more people would be doing real journalism “A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” —Judge Murray Gurfein, Pentagon Papers case, June 17, 1971

LotusBlossomRS40 karma

The Clash is represented in many of your movies. Grosse Pointe Blank, Say Anything, High Fidelity, etc. What were your interactions with them like? I only saw Joe Strummer play once with the Mescaleros a few months before his death. Do you feel like their presence would be even more important in today's political environment?

And congrats to the Cubs.

johncusackFPF43 karma

yeah but he comes for a fine long tradition of artists who refuse to buy the bullshit.. there are plenty more! also everyone has a politics even the absence of politics is a politics...

ChuckEye2 karma

(thinking that might be tied in with his visit to Straight to Hell, also... hadn't made that connection before.)

LotusBlossomRS9 karma

Yeah I posted mine then I saw yours and was like... damnit that's a better question. I'd particularly love to hear about Strummer doing the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack, since in my opinion, that's one of the greatest movie soundtracks around.

I do want to know if the Swanky Modes dance was improved at first or how they came up with that.

johncusackFPF13 karma

junior walker and sam moore!

Sonya_PDX36 karma

Greeting John,

Why should everyone be concerned about mass surveillance? Law abiding citizens have argued it doesn't apply to them, so why worry?

johncusackFPF75 karma

i would go to https://freedom.press everything i said here less then a week after the story broke applies now more then ever> http://boingboing.net/2013/06/17/the-snowden-principle.html or this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/18/eric-holder-guarantee-nsa-reporters-rights and this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/15/nsa-mind-keith-alexander-star-trek all these powers are being given to donald trump.. if that doesn't wake people up i don't know what will

MattBaster36 karma

What is casual Snowden like? I mean, when the cameras are off and it's just "get ta know ya" chat time.

johncusackFPF82 karma

well the cameras are never off we knew everything we were saying was being recorded-- but that said he's very personable warm very funny obviously serious smart and committed-truly cares about different cultures and that this massive surveillance apparatus and ones existing in other counties is being used to abuse all around the world- so curious informed. ...he loves deserts..... brought up other counties and peoples. wants to make a difference and continue to ...

Ruddiver34 karma

In 1989 I pissed next to you at the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the Metro, and I bought a tshirt at the concert and a week later I lost my virginity wearing that shirt. how does that make you feel? also, I live in Evanston and I never have figured out where your family lived.

johncusackFPF101 karma

makes me feel slightly confused

johncusackFPF32 karma

OK I'm here!

heykim2 karma

Yay! You made it. How many languages has your book been printed in?

johncusackFPF3 karma

I'm not sure 10 - 15 so far i believe

johncusackFPF6 karma

countries sorry.. languages not sure

sandyloo2 karma

I really liked the way you gathered the group for the story you were about to reveal in a book. actually the imagination on the scenes was so good, enjoyed it much better than a real actually made movie. what was for you the best thing/pleasure that happened around this all event that got to an end with a great look back at memory book?

johncusackFPF11 karma

We spent two days in Room 1001 I brought ed Cool Ranch Doritos which i had smuggled across multiple borders as contraband (Aiding and Abetting?) he like cheesy manning and so many others have risked their very lives bring people the truth.. meeting laughing offering our solidarity to him--was gratifying and its was the laughter in the room that was so moving -in the space or crack between superpowers in this strange hotel.

Real life exists only in person.

Armistice_26 karma

How do you and the Freedom of the Press Foundation plan to combat Donald Trump's war on journalism?

johncusackFPF39 karma

ill quote dan

The reason you need whistleblowers, is because they have a potential for very great impact. The Establishment has so many secrets that cannot bear the light of day -- they involve crimes, or reckless policies, or great major deceptions—policies that are in total odds from their public declarations—that have to be kept secret. The idea that secrets all come out in our modern democracy here, is bullshit. It’s a cover story. It’s a lie. You can keep secrets very, very well. Once they are confident about that, the temptation is overwhelming and compelling to do criminal, deceptive, reckless, crazy, things. Especially to engage in dangerous, illegal policies. You don’t get feedback from anybody because it’s all secret, and no one points out that this is a crazy policy. Because the only people who are allowed to know about it are people who can be counted on not to say anything and not to tell anybody.

But now let me make a very strong generalization. I have studied catastrophes a great deal for 40 years, having been involved in several moral and social catastrophes, in terms of policy. How do they come about?
There were always, virtually always, people inside in authoritative positions who recognized that these policies were heading to disaster, that they were highly risky in a way that could not justify the stakes, almost certain to fail—and certain to have consequences for other people that were very, very harmful and destructive. But these people didn’t speak out. Almost never. So the cost of not having whistleblowers is Vietnam. Iraq. A torture program. I could go on but I won’t.

I would like to make another point, a political point. Broadly the U.S. very effectively and even plausibly denies that it is an empire. What is an empire? And why be embarrassed by it? Well, in most periods of history, empires were very proud of being empires. They were very open about it. But our country was founded in the first revolt against the mightiest empire of modern times. At the time people were very proud of the British Empire, proud to be serving the king. And we went against that. We were anti-imperial. We have a self identity as being, in Wilsonian terms, for self-determination, right? For not intervening in the affairs of other countries. For not controlling them; Liberty, independence, sovereignty and so on.

How does an empire that actually controls a lot of other countries, governments, policies and their personnel, how do they manage to pursue an imperial policy and at the same time support a national identity as anti-imperial and not being an empire? That is a solvable challenge. By secrecy and lies. And the lies are very significant here. Our public allows itself to be part of an empire without questioning very much. The rest of the world is not so naïve.

How many American citizens know the U.S. government, or I should say, that President Eisenhower, to be very specific, and the brothers Foster and Allan Dulles—overthrew an elected liberal government of Guatemala in 1954 and created what has turned Guatemala into a veritable hell for a lot of that time in terms of death squads and genocides and general exploitation? Almost no American. How about El Salvador? Honduras? Take Central America altogether. Central America has been part of the U.S. empire —meaning we decided who would run each of those countries. Once in a while we had a setback, as in Cuba or Nicaragua—which threw us into a frenzy of criminal actions to bring it back into the American empire. We can go further down in Central America in particular, go right through the list. And then add Chile and Brazil. I was in the government when we participated in the overthrow of Goulart, another elected leader, replaced by generals, death squad generals. Trujillo, bad guy. Get rid of him. When Bosch replaces him, get rid of Bosch. I was in the government when that happened. And I was shocked by it. Diem, of course, when he got inconvenient. Noriega, (our guy, you know) when he got inconvenient. People don’t really pay much attention to it when we hear that the President ordered the assassination of Castro. Not once, but over and over and over again. He ordered the murder of a foreign head of state. In 1960, Eisenhower orders the murder of Lumumba, in the Congo, a country which is larger in area than Western Europe. Sukarno in Indonesia, we were friendly with him at a certain point, but had to go. And there you have half a million to a million, people massacred with our definite conscious connivance involved in that. Very small sample here..

MattInKC17 karma

Hey, JC - big fan. Bought and read the book. Wonder what you see as the most distressing and immediate clear and present danger facing the West? Is it business interests? Multinationals? IntelOps? The apparent trending toward fascism? Foreign Govts? Religious zealots? A new Adam Sandler movie?

johncusackFPF30 karma

good question i would say the same they have always been but now a thousand time worse and more dangerous with trump. global warming and nuclear weapons..il quote dan for transcripts he's told us at the hight of nuclear arms race a lie was kept secrete that is even more terrifying with trump who has said nukes on the table

8(vi) Charnel Monologues and Murder Rites

JC: So the blast radius…Dan tell them about the calculation of fire and smoke…the state secret..

DE: Yes, their damage calculations…Ok hold on to your socks…they don’t calculate the fire and the smoke… only blast and radiation. And fallout… because you could calculate those quite accurately. That was their excuse. Their excuse was we can’t calculate fire… It’s fire that kills most people—but they left that out of their calculations.

JC: So it just doesn’t exist

DE: So ignore it, ignore it, the reality. Fire is the main effect of thermonuclear weapons…to this day they do not calculate the fire. So they didn’t have to ask the question “What about the smoke?” Finally in ’83 somebody calculated the effect of just one of these things…what 150,000 tons of smoke and soot would cause, lofted into the stratosphere, reducing sunlight for a decade… basically it’s nuclear famine….crops die, livestock dies…everybody dies. With a small war between India and Pakistan, 50 Hiroshima- size bombs each, smoke would reduce sunlight enough to starve two billion people to death…In a US-Russian war—it’s nuclear winter. I never understand why we worry so much about climate change and not about nuclear war. Both have the potential of annihilating life on earth.

AngelwAttitude13 karma

Hi John :)Thanks for doing this.

In the book, you wrote about "being the dog and definitely getting walked"....can you break that down for readers and give us some ideas about not finding ourselves in that position or at least, less often??

johncusackFPF23 karma

To me its an ongoing sense of seeing deeper into things and through official narratives and assumptions ...

stankery13 karma

What led you to focus more on activism than on acting?

johncusackFPF3 karma

i hate that word activist

johncusackFPF12 karma

ok I'm signing off --you can reach me at @johncusack on twitter @johncusack instagram if you want do another.. let me know and we can...

tchc11 karma

Hi John, big fan here, and not meaning to sound creepy but I follow your Twitter closely. I must've seen like 50 of your movies (working my way up :) )

Anyway. Ms Roy mentions in the book that she, Dan Ellsberg and yourself also visited Julian Assange in London. And although the conversation was not recorded, was there anything in that conversation "that can and cannot be said" here?

johncusackFPF17 karma

yes. quite a bit...ill try to pull up my notes

amfmaster11 karma

Would you and Arundhati Roy ever consider collaborating on a dark satirical screenplay together?

johncusackFPF22 karma

oh man i would love that...

HeyImGilly9 karma

Hey John,

Any chances of a Hot Tub Time Machine 3 happening with you coming back?

johncusackFPF22 karma

nah not unless i produce it like the first one..

ZakPack9 karma

Do you think president Trump will actually follow through on deporting foreign citizens?

johncusackFPF48 karma

its very critical that you take him at his word even though he lies with relish everyday.

casefacerokstar9 karma

What was your favorite project to work on?

I just saw Grosse Point Blank for the first time the other day, and loved it. Serendipity is, also, one of my favorites. Thanks for all the great films!

johncusackFPF19 karma

thanks for saying that. glad you liked them:)

myhappylittletrees9 karma

Hi John! Happy Friday!

What do you think America will look like 4 years from now?

What's your favorite way to de-stress when things get to you?

johncusackFPF17 karma

i think trump is either the end of something or the beginning ill quote again from inside room 1001

DE: Surveillance is abuse. Things are sure to get a lot worse… We are not in a police state now, not yet.. I’m talking about what may come, I realize I shouldn’t put it that way... white middle class educated people like myself are not living in a police state... black, poor people are living in a police state. The repression starts with the semi-white, the Middle Easterners, including anybody who is allied with them, and goes on from there… We don’t have a police state. One more 9/11, and then I believe we will have hundreds of thousands of detentions. Middle Easterners and Muslims will be put in detention camps or deported. After 9/11, we had thousands of people arrested without charges... But I’m talking about the future. I’m talking the level of the Japanese in WWII... I’m talking of hundreds of thousands in camps or deported. I think the surveillance is very relevant to that. They will know who to put away—the data is already collected.

ES: Right. We are not using it, but it is available.

treasurebum8 karma

Who was your favourite spice girl?

johncusackFPF48 karma

pumpkin spice


What do you recommend an actor do to increase his talents?

johncusackFPF9 karma

work, do a play...its like athletics need to experience by doing any way you can

mistermocha7 karma

I'm impressed to see that you've shifted into this kind of activism! What prompted the pivot for you?

johncusackFPF19 karma

I've always been this way there are a million ways to tell story share narratives...ive never pivoted

beachhike7 karma

What's been more surreal for you: the Cubbies or Trump?

johncusackFPF17 karma

of man conflating those two things is painful, but trump for sure...we have real facism coming and words like activist and human rights and the ego language and these neat slots of resistance are going to be washed away - we will start to use the word justice and we better find solidarity and common ground with each other beyond them not slice and dice our individual rights and needs- I'm not trashing movements for select groups at all, but if we allow donald trump to define "the other" thats an "imminent threat" and do nothing be assured the next morning they are coming for you next. the people in the room with the man are a fake news white supremacist maniac. Flynn, national security adviser, said its rational and right for americans to be afraid of muslims.. which means ALL muslims...put in all jew, christians, atheists, catholics, gypsies, why not add in vegetables - its that absurd - fascistic

IAmGernBlansten7 karma

Hi, John, I love your work in movies, particularly High Fidelity, Identity, and Grosse Point Blank. They always seem to have such amazing music, so my question is, how involved are you in the song selection?

johncusackFPF12 karma

i got pick the music.. but wouldn't have been able to do it without the great music supervisor kathy nelson who pulled it off for us

liamquane7 karma

What is your favorite on-set memory?

johncusackFPF24 karma

too many to count been so lucky... i remember as a younger man doing a scene with paul newman and wondering what the hell i was doing there. i was so wide eyed and in awe of him -- but the good one (soul wise) are always so kind and generous. he made me feel at ease...ive gotten to work with many of my heroes growing up.. al pacino, newman so many others...anytime I've been on sets with great artists I've felt so lucky

amfmaster6 karma

What do you hope, if anything, people will take or think about from your and Ms. Roy's book Thing that can and cannot be said?

johncusackFPF19 karma

id like it to be the begging of a conversation and hopefully give younger folks a tool and some references to free their imaginations to think outside the nation state paradigm and beyond the NGO language of justice..

ill refer to a passage from the transcript

JC: What is the meaning of charity as a political tool? AR: It’s an old joke, right? If you want to control somebody, support them. JC: Sugar Daddy politics. AR: Embrace the resistance, seize it, fund it. JC: Domesticate it. AR: Make it depend on you. Turn it into an art project of some kind. The minute what you think of as radical becomes an institutionalized funded operation, you are in a lot of trouble. And it’s cleverly done. It’s not all bad, some are doing genuinely good... excellent work, some of my closest friends are funded by Foundations… You can’t fault them for the work they’re doing, taken individually… But when you look around and see how many NGOs are on say the Gate’s or Ford Foundation’s handout list, there has to be something wrong, right? They turn radicals into receivers of their largesse—and then very subtly, without appearing to—they circumscribe the boundaries of radical politics. And you’re sacked you if you disobey…sacked, un-funded… JC: You begin to smell the digestive enzymes? AR: Everywhere—not just in America…. repress, beat up, shoot, jail those you can, and throw money at those who you can’t—and gradually sandpaper the edge off them. They’re in the business of creating what we in India call Paaltu Sher which means Tame Tigers. Like a pretend resistance... so you can let off steam without damaging anything. JC: The first time you did the World Social Forum… when was that? AR: 2003, I think… it was great, it was real… JC: And then you went the next year and it was… AR: Totally NGOized. All the major activists were travel agents, they were just organizing tickets and money, flying people up and down, they were declaring “Only non-violence, no armed struggles, no this, no that…” They had turned Gandhian, and I thought fuck this… JC: So anyone involved in armed resistance… AR: All out, all out… My question is… if let’s say, there are people who live in villages deep in the forest, four days walk from anywhere, and a thousand soldiers arrive and burn their villages and kill and rape people to scare them off their land because mining companies want it—what brand of Gandhian non-violence would they recommend? Non-violence is political spectacle… JC: It’s effective only when there’s an audience.. AR: Exactly. It should be a tactic. Not an ideology preached from the sidelines to victims of massive violence… with me it’s been an evolution of seeing through these things… trust your instincts… JC: You can smell it…. AR: (Laughing) But you know, the revolution cannot be funded. It cannot be funded. It’s not the imagination of trusts and foundations that’s going to bring real change, so, I mean, I’m not against people doing funded projects—because we’re running out of options—but we have to understand—are you walking the dog or is the dog walking you? Or who’s the dog and who is you? JC: I’m definitely the dog…and I’ve definitely been walked. But what’s the bigger game that we can name? AR: The bigger game is keeping the world safe for the free market. Structural adjustment, privatization, free market fundamentalism—all masquerading as democracy and the Rule of Law. These foundation funded NGOs.. they are the missionaries of the new economy... they tinker with your imagination, with language—this phrase Human Rights for example —sometimes it gives me a rash. The concept of Human Rights has replaced the much grander idea of justice…Human Rights are great, but they’re not enough. JC: So is the term “human rights” a kind of pacifier filling the space in the political imagination that justice deserves.

AR: The advantage that it brings to the establishment and the status quo is—look at the Israel-Palestine conflict for example—If you look at a map from 1947 to now, you’ll see that Israel has gobbled up almost all of Palestinian land with its illegal settlements… to talk about justice in that battle, you have to talk about those settlements, you have to talk about all of that, you have to talk about a war for justice. But, if you just talk about human rights, then you can say, “Oh, Hamas violated human rights”, “Israel violates human rights”—ergo, Both are bad. JC: So you can turn it into an equivalence… AR: Exactly…but it isn’t one. But this discourse of human rights—It’s a very good format for TV—the great atrocity analysis and condemnation industry. (Laughing) Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimize violence—so who gets criminalized and delegitimized? Only the resistance.

JC: So “human rights” takes the oxygen out of justice.

AR Human rights takes history out of justice.

JC: It becomes a game of semantics. Justice always has context.

AR: I sound as though I’m trashing human rights…I’m not. All I’m saying is that the idea of justice—even just dreaming of justice—is revolutionary. Human Rights is about accepting a status quo that is intrinsically unjust—and then trying to make it more accountable. But then violating Human Rights is integral to the project of neo-liberalism and global hegemony.

JC: There’s no other way of implementing those policies except violently…

AR: No way at all… there was a time when democracy was a threat to the Free Market. Countries were nationalizing their resources, protecting their markets.. So then, real democracies were being toppled. They were toppled in Iran, they were toppled all across Latin America, Chile…. JC: The list is too long. AR: Now we’re in a situation where democracy has been taken into the workshop and fixed, re-modeled. So now the US is fighting wars to install democracies. First it was topple them, now it’s install them, right? And this whole rise of NGOs in the modern world funded by these foundations are a great part of this New Managed Democracy. In that sense they’re part of the war machine.. JC: Tentacles of the same squid… AR: They moved in to the spaces that were left when “structural adjustment” forced States to pull back on public spending—on health, education, infrastructure, water supply… turning what ought to be peoples’ rights—to education, to healthcare and so on into charitable activity available to a few…in that sense Peace Inc. is as troubling as War Inc. It’s a way of managing public anger. The IMF and the World Bank, who are opaque and secretive, put millions into NGOs who fight against ‘corruption’ and for ‘transparency.’ They want the Rule of Law—as long as they make the laws—they want transparency in order to standardize a situation, so that global capital can flow without any impediment. Cage the people, free the money… JC: It’s enough to make you want to be pro-inefficiency. (Laughing) So, transparency for some, secrecy for others—transparency for the poor countries... JC: And democracy for the rest. AR: Surveillance for the rest! (Laughing) But seriously, if you look at the history of the Ford Foundation and Rockerfeller, in Latin America, in Indonesia, in South Africa, in the American Civil Rights Movement—or even now. It’s very disturbing. They work closely with the US State Department. They have so much money they can fund everything—nuclear war planning, gender rights, feminist conferences, radical films and university chairs… anything, as long as they don’t upset the ‘market’… the economic status quo.. … one of Ford’s ‘Good Works” is to fund the CFR—the Council for Foreign Relations which works closely with the CIA. All the World Bank Presidents since 1946 are from the CFR. Ford funded RAND the Research and Development Corporation that works closely with the US defense forces…

JC: You have your Tamed Tigers, we have our well-intentioned benevolent billionaires who fund us, invite us to the World Economic Summit, or onto their private yachts for cocktail parties where we can discuss genocide -extreme poverty and hunger…we are entitled to our billionaires aren’t we? Everybody needs a billionaire. I’m thinking of making a film called The Tree of Entitlement. AR: That’s a lovely title.

nopenope19925 karma

Do you enjoy your fame or is it a burden ?

johncusackFPF12 karma

i can't say i enjoy it because its hard to be in public sometimes and be accommodating to people ..im not complaing but its not something I've found easy to deal with at times

Magentagurl5 karma

How do you feel about the Electoral College re-convening? I feel this is a form of dissent. How do you think this will turn out? (thanks).

johncusackFPF28 karma

I would like to see it abolished and go to popular vote.

skip12055 karma

Do you think the rise in racism/misogyny/profiling we have seen has actually always been there but now the media reports it because of Trump’s ideologies? Or has Trump had that much of an impact on bringing the inner demon out some?

johncusackFPF24 karma

he's unleashed all these vile forces. but its a mistake to reduce things .. not all his supporters are crazy and fascistic. many are scared and repudiate the neoliberal system that's decimated working class and middle class.. remember trump sprinkles in truths with his daily lies.. his critique of NAFTA is correct.. i don't think he plans to actually do anything about it... but he spoke directly to communities that have suffered...he used generalize outrage- i do think bernie sanders had the same energy at his back with his critique of capitalism.. calling for a new new deal...

Challenge, speak honestly, unmask lies, speak about political crimes, corporate greed. Unmask yourself.. Do not accept murder as a legitimate economic policy, even if it is legally sanctioned by the dignitaries and Apparatchiks.

johncusackFPF17 karma

he's unleashed and exploited a generalized anger over 30 years of neoliberal policies that have decimated working-class and poor... its a mistake to assume all the people who voted for him are vile. many are scared and hurting. desperate for change.. of course that element is there.. but its not the only story

FreshLennon5 karma

Flags are interesting so I am glad the topic is being touched on in this book. I have lived in the American South and Northern Ireland so I have seen firsthand the problems a simple piece of fabric can cause.

What is your opinion on flags that can be divisive? Should governments have control over what flags should be flown/waived?

Does the book touch at all on the fact that some countries frown on the idea of displaying flags due to their pasts while others revel in that display of patriotism?

johncusackFPF16 karma

we talk about it a lot in the book and in the conversations in the room ill include some of it here...DE is Dan Ellsberg, AR is Arundhati Roy, ext

DE: The flags, Star Spangled Banner… I want to give you this historical footnote which I bet you haven’t heard. You can look this up on Google. The Pledge of Allegiance in America dates back to about 1898, somewhere around 1896, very late in the game. We’re the only country, as far as I know, in the world that takes a pledge to the flag; everybody has a flag, but nobody pledges allegiance to a flag, what does that mean, allegiance to a flag? It came out that the pledge was written by the editor of a magazine that had been around in all the schools, and the spirit behind it was...we have to remember it was the 1890s....you had all these immigrants...Eastern Europeans….

JC: Yeah.

DE: …like my grandparents. So the idea was, they’re all different, so we want them to have a feeling of unity for the flag—“I pledge allegiance to the flag...one nation under all...indivisible”—it wasn’t under God in those days. Eisenhower brought that in the Cold War to distinguish us from...

ES: From the godless Communists! (Laughing)

DE: That was the idea of it.... and it was somehow recognized in Congress. You were not obligated, actually, but they endorsed the idea of the Pledge of Allegiance, so every classroom...

JC: Strongly suggested that you’d better say it….

DE: ...should have a flag, right? This was new. Every classroom should have a flag so the children could pledge allegiance to the flag.

OU: And is that still today in the United States?

DE: Of course it is. If you read accounts of this, and I’ve read some accounts, they do not emphasize the point that, by coincidence, the guy who wrote that pledge was the largest flag maker in the United States.

OU: (Laughing)

ES: Really!

DE: And he sold flags to every classroom...

ES: That’s so capitalist.

(All laughing)

AR: Now they’re made in China. Outsourced nationalism.

DE: Indian flag makers haven’t realized the possibility...

AR: These days we’re being force-fed the Indian flag in India. They play the national anthem after movies…people who don’t stand up get physically attacked by others in the audience. I think I may have flag allergy…I need ointment..

JC: We love creating totems and symbols to which we must genuflect and bow down…legitimizing authority that is at best arbitrary…hiding what it’s up to… cultivating mass obedience…

AR: What are the ways in which the idea of the Nation teaches us to obey? There was just one more thing I wanted to say about cultivating obedient populations—I’m making a mental leap here—it has to do with creating societies that live on credit. It has been very carefully and very consciously done in the US. In the early 1900s, instead of giving workers’ the higher wages that unions were fighting for, they were given access to credit. It created a society constantly burdened by debt, brainwashed into equating self-worth with material possessions, running to keep up with their life-styles. You have students who ought to have the right to free education, whose minds should be free, who should be asking the most fundamental questions about the meaning of life about the society in which they live—but instead they are buried in debt, desperate to fit in to the system, desperate for jobs that will pay back their debts—an obedient population…and now they all know that on top of it all, they are being spied on. I wonder sometimes if the NSA is only pretending to be contrite about the public outrage about their spying—maybe they’re quite pleased—“Let people look over their shoulders, let them worry about what we know about them, let’s trip them up, keep them on the hop, always unsure, forever de-stabilized…”

DE: Arundhati has raised a very delicate point. What you have given the world here Ed is a challenge…

justSFWthings5 karma

Hey John, thanks for doing this. I've been a fan of your acting since I was a child in the 80's.

Do you feel we have a civic duty to stand up for whistleblowers like Snowden? What can individuals around the world do to help protect whistleblowers?

johncusackFPF11 karma

id go to freedom.press

liamquane5 karma

What is your screenwriting process like, do you plan methodically or just jump straight in?

johncusackFPF7 karma

i have no idea bt its certainly not pre planned... start with an idea or concept and follow it where it goes

ShookUpWorld5 karma

Donald Trump said in September of 2015 that, "We’re going to make our military so big, so strong and so great, so powerful that we’re never going to have to use it." But there is no real danger of the United States being occupied by external forces. What is your advice for progressives wanting to counter Trump's negative influence, which has persuaded many Americans into believing things that just aren't true?

johncusackFPF7 karma

these guys ask the world to accept planned misery as if it we a weather pattern or an act of god...Vultures flap their filthy wings.need to hit the streets ...

AR: The bigger game is keeping the world safe for the Free Market. Structural Adjustment, Privatization, Free Market fundamentalism—all masquerading as Democracy and the Rule of Law. Many foundation funded NGOs… become the missionaries of the new economy... they tinker with your imagination, with language—the idea of Human Rights for example—sometimes it begins to bother me. Not in itself, but because the concept of Human Rights has replaced the much grander idea of justice…Human Rights are great, they are fundamental rights, they are the minimum, the very least we demand, but they’re not enough. Too often they become the goal itself…what should be the minimum becomes the maximum—all we can expect—but the goal is, and must always be justice JC: The term “human rights” is, or can be a kind of pacifier—filling the space in the political imagination that justice deserves?

AR: The advantage that it brings to the establishment and the status quo is—look at the Israel-Palestine conflict for example—If you look at a map from 1947 to now, you’ll see that Israel has gobbled up almost all of Palestinian land with its illegal settlements… [GREAT MAPS AVAILABLE] to talk about justice in that battle, you have to talk about those settlements, you have to talk about all of that, you have to talk about a war for justice. But, if you just talk about human rights, then you can say, “Oh, Hamas violated human rights”, “Israel violates human rights”—ergo, Both are bad. JC: So you can turn it into an equivalence… AR: Exactly…but it isn’t one. But this discourse of human rights—It’s a very good format for TV—the great atrocity analysis and condemnation industry. (Laughing) Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimize violence—so who gets criminalized and delegitimized? Only—or well that’s excessive—usually—the resistance.

JC: So “human rights” takes the oxygen out of justice.

AR Human rights takes history out of justice.

JC: Justice always has context…

AR: I sound as though I’m trashing human rights…I’m not. All I’m saying is that the idea of justice—even just dreaming of justice—is revolutionary. Human Rights is about accepting a status quo that is intrinsically unjust—and then trying to make it more accountable. But then violating Human Rights is integral to the project of neo-liberalism and global hegemony.

JC: There’s no other way of implementing those policies except violently…

AR: No way at all… there was a time when democracy was a threat to the Free Market. Countries were nationalizing their resources, protecting their markets.. So then, real democracies were being toppled. They were toppled in Iran, they were toppled all across Latin America, Chile…. JC: The list is too long. AR: Now we’re in a situation where democracy has been taken into the workshop and fixed, re-modeled. So now the US is fighting wars to install democracies. First it was topple them, now it’s install them, right? And this whole rise of NGOs in the modern world funded by these foundations are a great part of this New Managed Democracy. In that sense they’re part of the war machine… JC: Tentacles of the same squid… AR: They moved in to the spaces that were left when “structural adjustment” forced States to pull back on public spending—on health, education, infrastructure, water supply… turning what ought to be peoples’ rights—to education, to healthcare and so on into charitable activity available to a few…in that sense Peace Inc. is as troubling as War Inc. It’s a way of managing public anger. The IMF and the World Bank, who are opaque and secretive, put millions into NGOs who fight against ‘corruption’ and for ‘transparency.’ They want the Rule of Law—as long as they make the laws—they want transparency in order to standardize a situation, so that global capital can flow without any impediment. Cage the People, Free the Money… JC: It’s for efficiency—stable markets, stable world… there’s a great violence in this idea of a “uniform investment climate”… AR: Stable markets, unstable world… efficiency. Everybody hears about it. It’s enough to make you want to be pro-inefficiency. (Laughing) So, transparency for some, secrecy for others—transparency for the poor countries... JC: And democracy for the rest.

leandroc765 karma

Hmmm, this seems like something your sister would be most vocal about compared to you. Are we sure this isn't Joan???

johncusackFPF17 karma

she's less public about her thoughts.. but she is very interested in psychology and how to be a great mom...

ThreeOneFive5 karma

Good afternoon! Among my favorite movies of all time is High Fidelity, and your performance really struck a chord (among other reasons, because I have a friend who was a doppelganger for you and was then working in an independent music shop, and HAD the Beta Band moment BEFORE that movie came out and to this day still makes mixed tapes (cd's now) for girls). How much did you identify with your role, and how did that color your performance? I ask because there are some marked departures from the book's setting (in England), but all the departures really helped sell the movie even more.

Thanks for your time, and I'll be sure to check out the new book!

johncusackFPF11 karma

hi! Really the only thing we changed was that the brits were more obsessed with music and our record shops were more into british punk, post punk stuff. and i wrote some new material. but i thought we were very faithful to the book just took out the british vernacular.

Sifu-tz5 karma

Your 80's movies made us lifelong fans. Please keep it up, your work since has been fantastic.

Still do kickboxing?

johncusackFPF10 karma

ill try :)

TheOtherArtVandelay4 karma

Hi John. Great to hear you as one of the progressive voices out there. How much have you learned about Dr. Ambedkar from Roy??? she has been a vocal supporter of Ambedkar. As a dalit (natives of India) what we face here is far more worse than African American in the US or any other minority. So what are your views on Ambedkar/?

johncusackFPF12 karma

after reading the extraordinary book by Arundhati Roy The doctor and The Saint -i was struck again how the true heroes of history are not usually sanctioned by the states, but rather erased . its interesting to note he was never included in the film ghandi. here in the west. https://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Saint-Annihilation-Between-Ambedkar/dp/160846797X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479502701&sr=8-1&keywords=doctor+and+the+saint+arundhati

ZakPack4 karma

Do you think president Trump will actually follow through on deporting foreign citizens?

johncusackFPF12 karma

well he's trying to legitimize the notion of interment camps .. yes i do

soccerpuppet4 karma

What steps have you taken to fight or blunt Trump's impact on American society in the coming months? What do you think can or should be done by you and others?

johncusackFPF18 karma

yes, been working on it. all these Ku Klux Klanners, white supremacists, proto Nazis, whatever the fuck they are, they're out of the closet now for good, as far as I'm concerned and that a good thing... but again that's not the whole story. Challenge, speak honestly, unmask lies, speak about political crimes, or threats of incoming ones.. corporate greed. neoliberalism. hold both parties accountable go beyond two party thinking.. Unmask yourself... i know this - if people march down 5th ave or in chicago miracle mile or to the white house with enough people and interrupt commerce and profit at the top of the pyramid. he will go down.

UncleGuggie4 karma

Hi John!

Loved you in 1408, would you star in horror films again?

johncusackFPF11 karma

yes i love the genre...

Umlaut693 karma

Mr. Cusack, I was not aware of the book before now, but I will definitely go pick it up.

I'm curious about Snowden. How is he holding up? Is the isolation getting to him?

What coming technology should we be most worried about being abused?


johncusackFPF8 karma

our cell phones and computers obviously and this idea that metadata is more dangerous then hearing or spying actual conversations quote ed here as he's so public about this

Section 8 (i) “When You’re Searching the Ocean…”

DE: What you were saying earlier was that the public has a perception contrary to how the government framed it; that metadata is only metadata and not important.

ES: The message hasn’t gotten through to the public yet, but now scientists, academics, policy-makers, aides, they recognize that metadata, is, in many ways, actually more sensitive than collection.

JC: What you said about it being “unnatural”. The fact that the State would know more about you than you know about you...I love the clarity of that thought.

ES: The reality is that metadata is a proxy for content, right? The majority of what you would get from content, you can get from metadata, but the inverse is not true; you can’t use content to populate metadata, but you can get metadata to populate content, particularly when you have a massive collection of metadata. Metadata reveals things like your pattern of life, when you wake up, when you got to sleep, when you’re active, who you call, when you call them, the frequency with which you call them, what your relationships to these people are, particularly when you combine the sort of rich data sources that are available, you know—Lexus-Nexus-type massive commercial databases—they would reveal information about phone calls and phone numbers, and things like that. Whereas content, typically, doesn’t tell you a lot. People don’t typically use names when they’re talking to each other on the phone. You just say “Hey” and you recognize each other’s voices. Things that people talk about on the phone are often disguised through code, through talking around things, generalities, they obfuscate things, they’re concerned about surveillance, so it’s not really a rich gathering, unless you know that you’re interested in what that person is saying already, you’ve specifically targeted them for something, but that betrays that you already have a significant amount of information about them, and now you’re just looking for specific, deeper, richer information.

DE: So if you have only the metadata, you have plenty enough to know whom to reasonably suspect, who you want to tap. But you’d especially like to know not just who you’d like to tap in the future, you would like to know now what that person actually said in the past. And if you haven’t recorded the content in the past, you can’t do that, you can only do the future.

ES: Internet content is recorded for three days. Metadata is for 30 days.

DE: Okay.

ES: Because voice data only compresses to a certain point. Typically, a voice conversation could be kept—for example an MP3, a music file that you play on your iPod or something like that, is typically kept at 128 kilobytes per second bit rate, which means 128,000 bits per second. That divided by 8 is the amount of kilobytes on there, but the basic gist is that these are large amounts of data per second of voice. Now, for the purposes of this kind of analysis, you can cut that down, you can compress it further, but there’s only a certain amount you can compress it before human speech becomes unintelligible, and when you compress it, you also complicate voice analysis that’s done algorithmically. It would be valuable—there’s no intelligence analyst in the world who would say, “No, I don’t want a record of all the voice calls, if you can have them”, but building up the infrastructure for it, making it accessible, having that amount of data able to be transmitted back to your intelligence community, is very difficult on a technical basis. Because you can’t, for example, have all of these calls streaming back to the NSA in real time because it’s too much data to move, like the actual physical lines—it would take too long, it would—basically the phone system would generate more data than we can shift at a cost-effective basis. Now, what you could argue and it could plausibly be done, is to store all this data at the phone companies. They would keep big data, but then they’ve got to have it there, somebody’s got to be maintaining it, somebody’s got to be overlooking it, and nobody’s ever said anything about this publicly.

JC: What about Utah?

ES: Utah Data Center is different. That actually was called the Massive Data Repository—renamed the Metadata Repository.

DE: Well, that’s what we’re getting to…

JC: I’m wondering if it really goes away….someone in that center, can they go back and hear the conversations that have been recorded from every AT&T call? I’m asking about the reality. What’s the reality of the limits?

ES: The idea of every storage component in the intelligence community, you know, every storage mission at the NSA that handles what’s called mission data, which is actual raw signals of intelligence information, the intercept, is to hold information, basically, on a permanent basis. It will be increasingly done, but right now, it’s still not possible. Data is too large for content.

JC: So that’s just a technological barrier.

AR: So Metadata is the proxy for the content of…?

JC: Voice calls

ES: Right. Voice or internet data, either one, it is simply too hard to store this information, like, it takes more disc space than you can fit in a room and add discs. For metadata, this is not true because metadata is incredibly small and it compresses very highly, unlike voice data. And this can be stored permanently. Now, I said content is a proxy, or metadata is a proxy for content, why do I say this? I say this particularly because I’m more concerned about internet than voice, particularly because most voice communication nowadays—people don’t know about this—but more and more—almost all— voice communications are being sent over the Internet. When you pick up a cell phone, and you make a call to another country, that’s often trumped over an internet line because it’s converted into digital information in a sense, and analogued [sic] the whole way. So, this kind of signaling information would put it in a web context. What is the metadata of your transaction with Amazon.com, for example? Say you want to look at the book, 1984, on Amazon.com. You type in the address, you search for it on Amazon, you get a link, you click on the link. Now what just happened, technically, is that you’ve got a massive amount of data sent over the line, you’ve got pictures of the books, you’ve got all the reviews of the book—that’s the content that will be stored. An exact image of what appeared on your computer, that’s the content, but the metadata is much simpler. It’s simply what server did you communicate with at the Amazon data center, what is the internet address of your home computer, and what is the resource that you requested? Basically, what is the web link? Now, it is very likely in almost all cases today that web links are static; they’re unchangeable, they’re not dynamic, or they’re not constantly updated, except on certain kinds of sites, particularly for sites of intelligence like the kind of books someone’s reading. If I got a permanent record that you looked at the book entry, 1984, at this web address, it doesn’t matter if the page itself wasn’t stored.

AR: Exactly.

ES: Five years from now, I can enter that link and it will give me a new copy of that instantly, that’s why...

OU: The metadata is saved...

ES: Right. In the NSA today, it’s for five years, a 5-year buffer,

JC: And that’s again all technical due to the limits of technology?

ES: But that’s waiverable [sic]. You can actually waive it so that you don’t destroy things after five years, it goes on longer than that. Now, this is for data that’s been analyzed that’s of interest of some type. The world’s metadata is just like the phones; it’s too big right now for us to sort. This will not always be the case. In 5 to 10 years, that won’t be a problem. We can just generate and store everything all the time. And if we don’t do anything about it…

JC: It will be too late.

ES: The trends, yeah, yeah..right, particularly when we’re talking about new intelligence-sharing laws, the Cyber-Intelligence Sharing Protection Act, or whatever they’re calling it now, really trying to get private companies to be able to share all of their data with the intelligence community to prevent cyber-attacks. Cyber-threats, actually, they don’t even want to say cyber-attacks; cyber-threats. Which, you know, just like “terrorism”, are going to be defined, over time, more and more loosely to enable more and more uses of this power.

JC: Magic words.

ES: Right. But, if we allow these authorities to be put into place under any circumstance, at any time, it is much more difficult to repeal them than to stop them from being enacted in the first place.

vadergeek3 karma

Which historical figure was more fun to play, Poe or Nixon?

johncusackFPF10 karma

poe for sure

LuLu_Bass3 karma

Hi again...greedy with second question.

I was struck by a quote in your book "Kitsch is the mask of death" which I take as aesthetics over ethics. The book The Rites of Spring talks about kitsch and the rise of fascism for example. Would you agree that this is now pertinent with the Trump administration (the reality star who posed in a golden lift..)?


johncusackFPF13 karma

The pretty little clowns have taken off their war paint. that book is a masterpiece . inspired a lot of the film MAX i made... would suggest reading that book because history is a study of the future as much as the past

liamquane3 karma

What do you look for in a script?

johncusackFPF11 karma

a pulse

suzypulledapistol2 karma

How do you feel both personally and as an activist about Trump and his recently appointed friends coming into power?

johncusackFPF9 karma

i hate that label activist.. i think they should replace it with citizen

ohyouresilly2 karma

Really big fan of your work. How was it working with Jack Black? How much did he improvise in High Fidelity? Were any of your scenes improvised?

johncusackFPF3 karma

improvised a lot

sparkchaser2 karma

How do I get you to sign and dedicate a copy of your book for me?

johncusackFPF10 karma

where should i send?

Sonya_PDX2 karma

How do you feel about Journalists being subjected to arbitrary arrests and intimidation while preforming their jobs?

johncusackFPF6 karma

how do i feel about fascisim? really not a fan ...

taloset2 karma

this election was a slap in the face of the media too ,they kept lying until no one believes them anymore, TV & movies dont represent the simple hardworking people who pay taxes and try to live a decent life; I know good movies are hard to see the light, until when?? dont you think it`s already late ?

johncusackFPF5 karma

no. i don't think its too late... i think this unmasked racism will rally unite and bring people together .. we need to effect profits strikes marches walkout sit ins everything. i think sanders is a real leader and his message and mission is clear

turbogoon2 karma

Who was your favorite supporting actor to work with? Does Jack Black smell like sandalwood?

johncusackFPF7 karma

he's a ginger spice guy. just made that up :)

liamquane2 karma

What was it like working with Terrance Malick?

johncusackFPF8 karma

really mind bending in a good way

taloset2 karma

I have a problem eith the word activist, isn`t it the normal way for people to be active in society?? if someone was asleep for a long time and letting others manage his stuff and suddenly he awakwns and wants to take back his role in society , is he considered an activist?

johncusackFPF10 karma

A genuine radicalism, which truly challenges authority, we need desperately. Radical criticism requires knowledge, not slogans, nor rant. True radicalism requires homework—thought. The US is culturally politically and morally bankrupt these days-so shrouded in infernal endless gibberish, lies, and distortion, it’s a miracle anyone can keep their food down. i don't like these easy dirty labels its a sneaky form of self censorship.. of course i act and write but i am more then just an actor or a writer...we go not a lot about political language in the book

DrEvil0072 karma

Hello John, if you could describe your book Things That Can and Cannot Be Said in one word that would influence us to read it, what would it be?

johncusackFPF6 karma

one word ..hopefully a movement of the nouveau sane to resist n any and all forms -remember human is the new radical

Macarogi2 karma

| an era of perpetual war

When was the world not in this era ?

johncusackFPF5 karma

Countries attacked by bombing, sabotage or attempted government overthrow since World War 2...check it out here - http://i.imgur.com/8lRpd.jpg

lilybblog2 karma

Hey John :) was reducing the stigma around mental health a consideration when you decided to do Love and Mercy?

johncusackFPF8 karma

i think that was certainly one of the reasons why brian and melinda wilson wanted their story told .

Sonya_PDX2 karma


What impact do you think Trumps administration will have on the civil-rights movement?

johncusackFPF8 karma

i think its will galvanize it and civil disobedience will rise and people will begin to understand that justice always has a context and its a much grander idea then human rights...

chinesefood23492 karma

any words of wisdom on how to fight the impending catastrophic doom looming over our heads?

johncusackFPF9 karma

He's a dangerous clown--maybe he has no sense of how people are looking at him. It makes him a clown--it also makes him very dangerous. He's a clown without limits. This is like a wakeup call for the rest of us. So as a candidate he's sending out tweets at 3:00 in the morning calling a Miss Universe fat. Right? Now, with police being militarized all over the country, this guy is going to say something as presidents and there could be riots from it. He doesn't even understand the power of words, even in keeping order, let alone inspiring anyone or communicating a sense of shared responsibility or dealing with a problem. organize resist make it untenable for him to govern if he wants to implant fascistic policies like more torture waterboarding, interment camps, bombing the shit of counties- to be fair to him that not knew...but totally insane and illegal - i think what your seeing is the infantilization of the spokesmen and women of the press and institutions everywhere that can stand up to overt lying on a daily bases...

ceciolivas2 karma

Hi John, it's a pleasure :) and now on to my question ... Roy speaks of Paaltu Sher in India, or Tamed Tigers. She says it's like "a pretend resistance ... so you can let off steam without damaging anything." Can you correlate this term to anything happening here in the US and what would be your response to it? I've noticed the trend here in the US lately as things become more obscene is to state your grievance and then get on with your life. Groups that are really trying to resist are being criminalized, such as BLM.

Thank you in advance if you get to this question :) I have a million but this somehow seems pressing given the current political climate and threat that Trump and his sick "ideology" of hate is bringing to the table.

Ceci :)

johncusackFPF4 karma

il quote roy in capitalism a ghost story which you must read

The great Western Capitalists have done business with fascists, socialists, despots and military dictators. They can adapt and constantly innovate. They are capable of quick thinking and immense tactical cunning. But despite having successfully powered through economic reforms, despite having waged wars and militarily occupied countries in order to put in place free market “democracies”, Capitalism is going through a crisis whose gravity has not revealed itself completely yet. Marx said, “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” Capitalism is in crisis. The international financial meltdown is closing in. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work. The proletariat, as Marx saw it, has been under continuous assault. Factories have shut down, jobs have disappeared, trade unions have been disbanded. The proletariat has, over the years, been pitted against each other in every possible way. In India, it has been Hindu against Muslim, Hindu against Christian, Dalit against Adivasi, caste against caste, region against region. And yet, all over the world, it is fighting back. In China, there are countless strikes and uprisings. In India, the poorest people in the world have fought back to stop some of the richest corporations in their tracks. Capitalism is in crisis. Trickledown failed. Now Gush-Up is in trouble too. The international financial meltdown is closing in. India’s growth rate has plummeted to 6.9 per cent. Foreign investment is pulling out. Major international corporations are sitting on huge piles of money, not sure where to invest it, not sure how the financial crisis will play out. This is a major, structural crack in the juggernaut of global capital. Capitalism’s real “grave-diggers” may end up being its own delusional Cardinals, who have turned ideology into faith. Despite their strategic brilliance, they seem to have trouble grasping a simple fact: Capitalism is destroying the planet. The two old tricks that dug it out of past crises—War and Shopping—simply will not work.

johncusackFPF4 karma

The Ford Foundation’s declared “goals for the future of mankind” include interventions in grassroots political movements locally and internationally. In the US, it provided millions in grants and loans to support the Credit Union Movement that was pioneered by the department store owner, Edward Filene, in 1919. Filene believed in creating a mass consumption society of consumer goods by giving workers affordable access to credit—a radical idea at the time. Actually, only half of a radical idea, because the other half of what Filene believed in was the more equitable distribution of national income. Capitalists seized on the first half of Filene’s suggestion, and by disbursing “affordable” loans of tens of millions of dollars to working people, turned the US working class into people who are permanently in debt, running to catch up with their lifestyles.

Embracing death Microcredit has been the bane of many a farmer. Many have been forced to commit suicide. Many years later, this idea has trickled down to the impoverished countryside of Bangladesh when Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank brought microcredit to starving peasants with disastrous consequences. Microfinance companies in India are responsible for hundreds of suicides—200 people in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 alone. A national daily recently published a suicide note by an 18-year-old girl who was forced to hand over her last Rs 150, her school fees, to bullying employees of the microfinance company. The note said, “Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.” There’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too. But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? We watch Tata Sky, surf the net with Tata Photon, sip Tata Tea. Hum Tata ka namak khate hain! By the 1950s, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, funding several NGOs and international educational institutions, began to work as quasi-extensions of the US government that was at the time toppling democratically elected governments in Latin America, Iran and Indonesia. (That was also around the time they made their entry into India, then non-aligned, but clearly tilting towards the Soviet Union.) The Ford Foundation established a US-style economics course at the Indonesian University. Elite Indonesian students, trained in counter-insurgency by US army officers, played a crucial part in the 1965 CIA-backed coup in Indonesia that brought General Suharto to power. Gen Suharto repaid his mentors by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Communist rebels. Eight years later, young Chilean students, who came to be known as the Chicago Boys, were taken to the US to be trained in neo-liberal economics by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago (endowed by J.D. Rockefeller), in preparation for the 1973 CIA-backed coup that killed Salvador Allende, and brought in General Pinochet and a reign of death squads, disappearances and terror that lasted for seventeen years. (Allende’s crime was being a democratically elected socialist and nationalising Chile’s mines.) In 1957, the Rockefeller Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Prize for community leaders in Asia. It was named after Ramon Magsaysay, president of the Philippines, a crucial ally in the US campaign against Communism in Southeast Asia. In 2000, the Ford Foundation established the Ramon Magsaysay Emergent Leadership Award. The Magsaysay Award is considered a prestigious award among artists, activists and community workers in India. M.S. Subbulakshmi and Satyajit Ray won it, so did Jayaprakash Narayan and one of India’s finest journalists, P. Sainath. But they did more for the Magsaysay award than it did for them. In general, it has become a gentle arbiter of what kind of activism is “acceptable” and what is not.

johncusackFPF7 karma

Their enthralling history, which has faded from contemporary memory, began in the US in the early 20th century when, kitted out legally in the form of endowed foundations, corporate philanthropy began to replace missionary activity as Capitalism’s (and Imperialism’s) road opening and systems maintenance patrol. Among the first foundations to be set up in the United States were the Carnegie Corporation, endowed in 1911 by profits from the Carnegie Steel Company; and the Rockefeller Foundation, endowed in 1914 by J.D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company. The Tatas and Ambanis of their time. Some of the institutions financed, given seed money or supported by the Rockefeller Foundation are the UN, the CIA, the Council on Foreign Relations, New York’s most fabulous Museum of Modern Art, and, of course, the Rockefeller Center in New York (where Diego Riviera’s mural had to be blasted off the wall because it mischievously depicted reprobate capitalists and a valiant Lenin. Free Speech had taken the day off.) J.D. Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire and the world’s richest man. He was an abolitionist, a supporter of Abraham Lincoln and a teetotaller. He believed his money was given to him by God, which must have been nice for him. Here’s an excerpt from one of Pablo Neruda’s early poems called Standard Oil Company: Their obese emperors from New York are suave smiling assassins who buy silk, nylon, cigars petty tyrants and dictators. They buy countries, people, seas, police, county councils, distant regions where the poor hoard their corn like misers their gold: Standard Oil awakens them, clothes them in uniforms, designates which brother is the enemy. the Paraguayan fights its war, and the Bolivian wastes away in the jungle with its machine gun. A President assassinated for a drop of petroleum, a million-acre mortgage, a swift execution on a morning mortal with light, petrified, a new prison camp for subversives, in Patagonia, a betrayal, scattered shots beneath a petroliferous moon, a subtle change of ministers in the capital, a whisper like an oil tide, and zap, you’ll see how Standard Oil’s letters shine above the clouds, above the seas, in your home, illuminating their dominions. When corporate-endowed foundations first made their appearance in the US, there was a fierce debate about their provenance, legality and lack of accountability. People suggested that if companies had so much surplus money, they should raise the wages of their workers. (People made these outrageous suggestions in those days, even in America.) The idea of these foundations, so ordinary now, was in fact a leap of the business imagination. Non-tax-paying legal entities with massive resources and an almost unlimited brief—wholly unaccountable, wholly non-transparent—what better way to parlay economic wealth into political, social and cultural capital, to turn money into power? What better way for usurers to use a minuscule percentage of their profits to run the world? How else would Bill Gates, who admittedly knows a thing or two about computers, find himself designing education, health and agriculture policies, not just for the US government, but for governments all over the world? Over the years, as people witnessed some of the genuinely good the foundations did (running public libraries, eradicating diseases)—the direct connection between corporations and the foundations they endowed began to blur. Eventually, it faded altogether. Now even those who consider themselves left-wing are not shy to accept their largesse. RIL owns 27 TV channels. But the reverse is also true. Dainik Bhaskar owns 69 companies with interests in mining, power generation, real estate and textiles. By the 1920s, US capitalism had begun to look outwards, for raw materials and overseas markets. Foundations began to formulate the idea of global corporate governance. In 1924, the Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations jointly created what is today the most powerful foreign policy pressure group in the world—the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which later came to be funded by the Ford Foundation as well. By 1947, the newly created CIA was supported by and working closely with the CFR. Over the years, the CFR’s membership has included 22 US secretaries of state. There were five CFR members in the 1943 steering committee that planned the UN, and an $8.5 million grant from J.D. Rockefeller bought the land on which the UN’s New York headquarters stands. All eleven of the World Bank’s presidents since 1946—men who have presented themselves as missionaries of the poor—have been members of the CFR. (The exception was George Woods. And he was a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation and vice-president of Chase-Manhattan Bank.) At Bretton Woods, the World Bank and IMF decided that the US dollar should be the reserve currency of the world, and that in order to enhance the penetration of global capital, it would be necessary to universalise and standardise business practices in an open marketplace. It is towards that end that they spend a large amount of money promoting Good Governance (as long as they control the strings), the concept of the Rule of Law (provided they have a say in making the laws) and hundreds of anti-corruption programmes (to streamline the system they have put in place.) Two of the most opaque, unaccountable organisations in the world go about demanding transparency and accountability from the governments of poorer countries. Given that the World Bank has more or less directed the economic policies of the Third World, coercing and cracking open the markets of country after country for global finance, you could say that corporate philanthropy has turned out to be the most visionary business of all time. Corporate-endowed foundations administer, trade and channelise their power and place their chessmen on the chessboard, through a system of elite clubs and think-tanks, whose members overlap and move in and out through the revolving doors. Contrary to the various conspiracy theories in circulation, particularly among left-wing groups, there is nothing secret, satanic, or Freemason-like about this arrangement. It is not very different from the way corporations use shell companies and offshore accounts to transfer and administer their money—except that the currency is power, not money. The transnational equivalent of the CFR is the Trilateral Commission, set up in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (founder-member of the Afghan Mujahideen, forefathers of the Taliban), the Chase-Manhattan Bank and some other private eminences. Its purpose was to create an enduring bond of friendship and cooperation between the elites of North America, Europe and Japan. It has now become a penta-lateral commission, because it includes members from China and India. (Tarun Das of the CII; N.R. Narayanamurthy, ex-CEO, Infosys; Jamsheyd N. Godrej, managing director, Godrej; Jamshed J. Irani, director, Tata Sons; and Gautam Thapar, CEO, Avantha Group). The Aspen Institute is an international club of local elites, businessmen, bureaucrats, politicians, with franchises in several countries. Tarun Das is the president of the Aspen Institute, India. Gautam Thapar is chairman. Several senior officers of the McKinsey Global Institute (proposer of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor) are members of the CFR, the Trilateral Commission and the Aspen Institute. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. Coercing a woman out of a burqa is as bad as coercing her into one. The Ford Foundation (liberal foil to the more conservative Rockefeller Foundation, though the two work together constantly) was set up in 1936. Though it is often underplayed, the Ford Foundation has a very clear, well-defined ideology and works extremely closely with the US state department. Its project of deepening democracy and “good governance” are very much part of the Bretton Woods scheme of standardising business practice and promoting efficiency in the free market. After the Second World War, when Communists replaced Fascists as the US government’s enemy number one, new kinds of institutions were needed to deal with the Cold War. Ford funded RAND (Research and Development Corporation), a military think-tank that began with weapons research for the US defense services. In 1952, to thwart “the persistent Communist effort to penetrate and disrupt free nations”, it established the Fund for the Republic, which then morphed into the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions whose brief was to wage the cold war intelligently without McCarthyite excesses. It is through this lens that we need to view the work Ford Foundation is doing, with the millions of dollars it has invested in India—its funding of artists, filmmakers and activists, its generous endowment of university courses and scholarships.

johncusackFPF6 karma

Martin Luther King Jr made the forbidden connections between Capitalism, Imperialism, Racism and the Vietnam War. As a result, after he was assassinated, even his memory became a toxic threat to public order. Foundations and Corporations worked hard to remodel his legacy to fit a market-friendly format. The Martin Luther King Junior Centre for Non-Violent Social Change, with an operational grant of $2 million, was set up by, among others, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mobil, Western Electric, Procter & Gamble, US Steel and Monsanto. The Center maintains the King Library and Archives of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the many programmes the King Center runs have been projects that “work closely with the United States Department of Defense, the Armed Forces Chaplains Board and others”. It co-sponsored the Martin Luther King Jr Lecture Series called ‘The Free Enterprise System: An Agent for Non-violent Social Change’. Amen.

liamquane1 karma

What was it like working with Bill Pohlad?

johncusackFPF6 karma

terrific! so smart and talented

liamquane1 karma

Can you describe your worst time on a set?

johncusackFPF8 karma

i could but why focus on negative. too much going around!