Yesterday and today was the 10th annual Texas Book Festival. A creation of former Texas First Lady Laura Bush, this event, for all the corporate (read: Barnes and Noble/Penguin) flavor of this event it is one I like. Particularly ever since I got barred from the local independent/quasi-hippie bookstore BookPeople (In 2007 I baited that yankee two-legged turd John Kerry into saying that Austin Texas was responsible for the war in Iraq, which didn’t go over too well with his audience of affluent white suburban elderly saphead Democrat loyalists)* and the staff filed a restraining order on me, I don’t get the chance to see or hear authors much any on the tour circuit, and the Book Festival makes up for it.
I didn’t bother with Laura Bush or Karl Rove shilling for their books and can’t tell you how many people bothered to either. But C-Span/Book TV had a full-up and then some 250 seat tent on Congress Avenue where this Sunday morning they had four journalist heavy-hitters talking about President Obama’s first year in office–authors of books on same Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, Ari Berman of The Nation, and William Jelani from Spellman College. Moderator was Evan Smith, former editor of Texas Monthly, currently editor of the new Texas Tribune. Book TV is apparently going to turn it into a show of theirs, you can contact them for the details if you are curious about seeing it.
The audience was of course entirely Obama loyalists, or at least people who’d voted for him. The Book Festival has had a problem for the last several years–all the years I’ve gone to it up to this one–of having an entirely white, afflulent, elderly attendance at the author events. This one had a pretty decent demographic, a good sprinkling of black faces, some people 30 and younger, even a few students from UT, basically none of whom ever have attended the prior book festivals. Casi ningun chicanos, que lastima. Panelists were sharp and there was a good deal of heated discussion, real heated discussion of facts, ideas and opinions, not the usual interrupt and namecall that stinks up TV nowadays. It wasn’t half bad, and no doubt will make for good TV. Most of it revolved around Obama’s liberal supporters relaxing after the election while the Tea Partiers organized, which seemed to be the Official Commentator view of things in DC this past year or so. What with all the good back and forth going on, Evan Smith called for a quick yea or nay from the crowd about whether or not to have the usual 10-15 minutes of audience questions. There was enough noise from the crowd for Evan Smith to keep on playing to the TV cameras with his panel, and he did so for the remainder of the hour.
I caught up with Evan Smith afterwards, and gave him a piece. “Damn you Evan Smith, you and three other journalist heavy hitters yakked for an hour plus on Obama’s first year and none of you mentioned the wars. What gives there? If there is any one issue that President Obama can fix just by giving orders, it is the wars–he is the commander in chief and can just issue an order for the evacuation of all US forces from the theater in 180 days any time he wants and he hasn’t and none of you think that matters? For all the talk of how well read President Obama is, and the people around him are, and how you all claim to be, none of you dared touch the question of just what the US war goals are in each of these two wars and how the US Army is the appropriate tool and means to achieve them. Do you think anyone in DC can answer this question? Have any of you ever thought to ask them? Why not? Why isn’t the war an issue to you?
Evan Smith didn’t like hearing any of this and made some banality of an excuse about the war being a big issue and made tracks away from me about as fast as he could without breaking and running. But this was a revealing episode, revealing about us and how things are. I was the only person irritated about the war enough to badger any of those clowns any, in a crowd of mostly, judging from the applause points, diehard Obama fans and diehard Democrat loyalists. So much for the war as an issue to this demographic. If it aint an issue with them, well hell it aint gonna be an issue with anyone else in this country, either. More than that, the media clowns have accepted the unstated premises of discussion about the war, which are set by Official DC, and are two: 1) The war is a terribly complicated issue that we don’t understand enough because we don’t have the knowledge that the US military does, and 2) We really shouldn’t discuss it because it isn’t Obama’s fault and I want to support our troops.
So the war doesn’t get discussed much by anyone, least of all the people whose job it is to do so. People just accept it as an ongoing problem that nothing can be done about now. The wars, with all their wrongness and futility and death and economic idiocy are just the wallpaper in the background in American society. We pay them no more attention than that; we think that’s all the attention they deserve. This being the case, they are going to continue, and others may well be launched. We are going to keep this stupidity up until the rest of the world stops letting us kite checks to them to pay for them. That’s all there is to it, and I hate it. Whatever the hard ugly consequences are for us when that happens, well, we deserve all of it. That’s what the rest of the world will say, and what our kids will as well.
* I always maintained back in the day that there was nothing keeping you from being a hippie and a Nazi both, and BookPeople is certainly proof of that nowadays.
[DS added the link to the video.]
2010 Texas Book Festival
Sunday – C-SPAN Video Library
A replay of live coverage by Book TV from the 2010 Texas Book Festival on Sunday, October 17th (Noon-5:45pm ET). The schedule ws: Noon – 1:00pm ET Famous Fugitives Malcolm Beith, The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord Jonathan Eig, Get Capone Hampton Sides, Hellbound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin James Swanson, Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse 1:15 – 2:15pm ET Panel on President Obama Jonathan Alter, The Promise Ari Berman, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics William Jelani Cobb, The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress 2:30 – 3:30pm ET The Drug Wars: Dispatches from the Border Charles Bowden, Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields Ed Vulliamy, Amexica: War Along the Borderline Malcolm Beith, The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord 4:00 – 4:45pm ET Ingrid Betancourt Ingrid Betancourt, Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle 5:00 – 5:45pm ET Sam Harris Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values Various taped programs were shown during the intermissions.
[Note: Alan Maass is interviewed at 2:15 pm – 2:30 pm, author of The Case for Socialism.]