The late Richard Belzer wasn't just a celebrity, but also a journalist and info-activist. MSM obituaries don't do him justice. In this interview, recorded May 29, 2017, he discusses a long list of controversial topics that the media doesn't want you to know about. Below is a lightly-edited transcript of the interview.
Spoilers: Roughly halfway through the interview Belzer lets slip that he’s a fan of Veterans Today. At the end, we argue about Israel-Palestine.
Kevin Barrett Interviews Richard Belzer
Kevin Barrett: Hello, this is Kevin Barrett. After I published We Are Not Charlie Hebdo two years ago, I was attacked by the think tank of the President of France, banned from entering Canada, and banned from speaking at the Unitarian Church in Berkeley, California. They took down my GoFundMe database. (And stole over $1,000.) And now I've been banned from the Left Forum in New York City. Last year I did a talk on why Noam Chomsky is wrong about 9/11 at the Left Forum. And apparently they don't want me back, but I'm going anyway. For details, you can check out my website and go to the Veterans Today rubric. That's TruthJihad.com. Click on the Veterans Today rubric and you'll find the story about how the Left Forum tried to stop the discussion of 9/11 Truth, false flags and fake terror. Well, I have to somehow survive in the face of all this opposition. If you'd like to help, please go to TruthJihad.com and subscribe to these radio shows or make a one time contribution through the PayPal button. Once again, that's TruthJihad.com, waging the all out struggle for truth on the Internet airwaves since 2006.
We're living in a corporatocracy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy, whatever you want to call it. It's pretty much a word for rule of the wealthy and powerful few over the rest of us. And they're getting more and more bold and more dastardly every minute. And I just came across an excellent new book that covers a whole lot of this huge problem that we're facing, and it's called Corporate Conspiracies by Richard Belzer and David Wayne. They're the same guys who did the book on the killings of the JFK Witnesses. Richard Belzer, welcome to the show. And remind me the name of your book on the JFK thing.
Richard Belzer: Oh, it was Hit List.
Kevin Barrett: Hit List. That's right. Yeah. Great book.
Richard Belzer: There's another book called Dead Wrong about JFK and Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and all these major deaths, famous deaths that were all all involved in coverups.
Kevin Barrett: Right. It's really fascinating stuff. I'm glad you're covering this because there's a pretty serious lid put on all of this in the mainstream. And now with the Internet, people are gradually waking up to it. But this is a real big-picture book. You cover the waterfront on the corporate takeover.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Well, we've been doing this for a long time. I used to be a reporter before I was an actor, so actually I'd be a journalist if I wasn't in show business. So this is kind of my first love, really. And this book is more of a history, a journalistic history book. The other books, people can debate us about, even though they're full of factual information. But this—we have an amazing bibliography in this. My partner, David Wayne, is a great researcher. And we just really cover the waterfront, as you said. And one of the things that we want is: don't take our word for it! I never take anybody's word for anything. I'm sure you guys are the same way. You have to get corroboration, find out where the information is coming from. Not everybody has time to do that. But fortunately, we do as researchers delve into this stuff for long periods of time. You don't have to make anything up, Kevin. You know, reality is horrific and beautiful and scary enough.
Kevin Barrett: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate your courage in this book in taking up the 9/11 issue. That's the one that got me chased out of academia. And your segment on Building 7 in the chapter on mainstream media consolidation is excellent. And I imagine that the mainstream reviewers are probably not going to appreciate it, but they should, because this is such an obviously important thing.
Richard Belzer: It's funny, The New York Times doesn't review my books, but I make their bestseller list.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, well, someday they may have to notice you.
Richard Belzer: Oh, the irony. Well, you know, it's interesting. In the book, we talk about the term conspiracy theory, the phrase conspiracy theorist. It was actually invented by the CIA. I don't know if you know that.
Kevin Barrett: I sure do. Yeah, I hammer on that one as often as I can.
Richard Belzer: Oh, good. You know, it's a weaponized term that they used after the Warren Commission came out, and everybody was doubting the reputation of the American government. And if people want to look this up it's CIA document 1035-960. April 1st, 1967. Talk about April Fools!
Kevin Barrett: So that's the conspiracy theorist conspiracy.
Richard Belzer: It's funny. The term conspiracy theorist is is a conspiracy in itself!
Kevin Barrett: Right! It's kind of...irony? The concept of irony hardly does it justice. But the way it's been applied, post-9/11 is even more absurd. With 911, everybody admits it had to have been some kind of conspiracy, since it couldn't have been the work of one person acting alone as they claimed the JFK hit was. So they're applying this term in a ludicrously inappropriate way. And yet it still seems to work to shut people's minds down.
Richard Belzer: Well, it depends on who they're talking about. And I don't shy away from the term conspiracy theorist because we back everything up with facts. We're not talking about "We didn't go to the moon" or chemtrails, two things that are fascinating subjects. But this is hard facts that are suitable to put in the book, that can be checked. And we're very, very vehement about that: "Please look at this stuff up on your own!"
Kevin Barrett: Right. In this book, you put your finger on a really important issue for all of us in these kinds of cases: the role of money in virtually all of them. For instance, in your chapter on Perpetual War, America's Biggest Export. You make the case that we talk about geostrategy and we talk about ideology and American exceptionalism, Israeli exceptionalism, all this kind of stuff. But when you get right down to it, a whole lot of the reason that we have these 9/11-style publicity stunts to drag us into wars is that a whole lot of people are making a lot of money off it.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Eisenhower warned us, but I always felt that should have been his first State of the Union address and not as his farewell. You know, "the world is run by the worst people, good night." Thank you, Ike. But anyway, the United States spends more on defense, on weapons of war, than the rest of the world's nations put together. And we detail many wasteful programs in the book, such as the F-35. The F-35 cost $1.5 trillion. That's trillion with a T, which is $1,000 billion. You know, I always think of it that way, $1,000 billion on a plane that many experts say is already obsolete.
That's just one example of waste. There are many more in the book. But here's what's diabolical about the Pentagon or the defense industry. The Pentagon goes around to every congressional district, the nation's 535 congressional districts. And what they do is they have contracts in each of these districts. So any time that there is a threat of not funding one of their precious Pentagon programs, they blackmail that congressman and say that it would mean a huge loss of jobs in their district, a fact which they would make very public if necessary. And that's why these ridiculously wasteful Pentagon programs never, or rarely, get eliminated, as they should. It's a cute trick, isn't it?
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, that's a good point. And there's a geographical element here, too. My friend and colleague, Dr. Bob Reuschlein here in Madison, Wisconsin, has done a bunch of work on what he calls peace economics. Looking at the economic aspect of the military industrial complex, what he finds is that the mainstream of the economics profession actually overstates the benefits and understates the downsides of military spending. And if you crunch the numbers properly, what you find is that there's a direct correlation between high military spending and all sorts of negative indicators, and that if you chart the economy before World War Two, for example, it wasn't really World War Two that pulled the U.S. out of the Depression. World War Two actually slowed our emergence from the Depression. And what Bob also points out is that the military industrial complex controls the states where they have a lot of investment, where they're important to the state economy. And those states tend to be along the coasts and to some extent in the south. Whereas here where I live in Wisconsin, that's part of what he calls "the hole in the doughnut" where there's not that much military spending. And so they're taking our taxes here and they're not putting anything back.
He also analyzes the way that the high military spending states are typically the ones that get the most attention politically, where the politicians are the most bought and paid for, and so on and so forth. So, yeah, it's interesting that Eisenhower made that warning more than half a century ago, and we still aren't paying attention.
Richard Belzer: Right after this started, after World War Two...when I think about the $1.5 trillion, it's like, how much of that could we have used to create millions of jobs, rebuild America's infrastructure? I mean, it's so obvious. And I think people are becoming more and more aware of the disparity. And, as the old saying goes, follow the money. Where do your tax dollars go and what can you do about the the misuse of them? And it's very frustrating for the average person to take this all in. But as we say in the book, there's a lot of stuff that people can do individually. It's not as hopeless and overwhelming as it seems.
Kevin Barrett: That's a good idea, to put in ways that people can actually do something positive. What are a couple of those?
Richard Belzer: As you know, the day after the inauguration, there were millions of people in the street and from all political persuasions. So that was really heartening, that people were galvanized and were demonstrating and they haven't stopped. And there are things that people can do besides demonstrating. We can lobby against closing that revolving door and make it illegal for officers of corporations to receive positions at government agencies that are responsible for the oversight of the same corporations. That's got to stop.
And we can make banks play by the rules by closing the loopholes for Wall Street and returning to the safeguards that were in place prior to the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act. And we can make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of tax—that everybody agrees on—that even some wealthy Americans and forced corporations should pay their fair share—by totally eliminating these elaborate tax breaks like deferrals and offshore capital that politicians are always giving them. And we can return to reasonable limits on campaign contributions—that I think also everyone agrees on—so that so that our political representatives can't be bought and sold so easily. And we can petition Congress to reduce the defense budget. And we'd still be armed to the teeth and kick everybody's ass in the world. And going green, there's so much money can be made by going green. It's not the end of the world to get off of oil. And we can eliminate the use of public money and pension funds to invest like in Vegas, in corporate corruption and stuff like that. So...People getting involved in the environment and in health care and in their local school boards. And so it's kind of heartening. Yeah.
Kevin Barrett: As I look at this, the two key issues that I would focus on if I were to run for Congress again, like I did in 2008—and of course that was on the 9/11 truth platform, so I wasn't expecting to win, or at least to win and live. But seriously, the two issues I would go for now would be: One public banking—that is, transparent currency. Right now we have a currency system in which private banksters create the currency out of nothing by lending it into existence at interest. All of our currency is debt! And then the second issue would be antitrust legislation. Let's actually bust up monopolies. We have some antitrust legislation, but it isn't clear and straightforward enough. We need to make all forms of monopolies illegal. Any form, any situation where there's not absolute full free competition should be illegal, and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department should go in and bust up the company. And that should be done to virtually all of the biggest companies in America, especially in the media.
Richard Belzer: Yeah, that's what Teddy Roosevelt, and even Franklin Roosevelt, did a little bit of. And you're right: People don't still don't know that the Federal Reserve is really not federal and it's not a reserve. It's private banks lending money to the United States.
John Kennedy wanted to end that. And that's one of the reasons that contributed to his demise, (his) ending the Federal Reserve. He wanted to, and actually he did start, using silver certificates to determine the value of the dollar, and he actually started printing them. And that ended, of course, after his assassination.
And Lincoln was against central banks. And and every once in a while people realize that the Federal Reserve or central bank is the cause of our problems. And then the central banks will cause a run on the dollar or a depression and convince people "you need a central bank." This vicious cycle happens every 15, 20, 30 years, starting in the 1890s—there was a depression that was manufactured—and then 1908, and then the creation of the Federal Reserve. It's been going on a long time and people are becoming more and more aware.
Kevin Barrett: I think so. And we are seeing some of that in the success of populist political campaigns. Trump and Bernie Sanders would not have been candidates that most people would have expected to do that well. In fact, it looks like Bernie might have been headed for the White House if he hadn't been swindled out of votes. You didn't really mention the election fraud issue in the book, did you?
Richard Belzer: No, that's not a really a corporate conspiracy.
Kevin Barrett: Maybe the voting machine manufacturers?
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Greg Palast—do you know Greg Palast? He's the greatest. I highly recommend his book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. And he's been researching the Koch brothers for like 35 years. He's got stacks and stacks of stuff. And he's one of the great gumshoe reporters ever.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, he's doing great work. Well, you also talk about the prison industrial complex as legalized slavery. Maybe you could elaborate on that expression.
Richard Belzer: Most people aren't aware that the privatization of prisons has resulted in a really evil situation where it is in the financial interests of state governments and multibillion dollar corporations to incarcerate as many people as humanly—or, in this case, inhumanely— possible. That's why the United States now has the highest incarceration in the history of the world. Most of the incarcerated are blacks and Latinos. You know, they're in there on very minor crimes, a huge amount of them. Nothing more serious than like two joints or something. It's really a shamefully racist process, and it needs to be corrected. Another issue is what goes on in these prisons with rape and drugs. And it's horrendous. Especially when you privatize a prison, you have very little control over who they hire. Who wants to be a guard in a high security prison? The personality of the guards is pretty scary. But anyway, it's an industry and it's shameful. Obama was cutting back on it, but Trump is reversing it because...it's money.
Kevin Barrett: It seems like sometimes we project onto others our own faults. And with all the obsession about "the barbaric Sharia law that's coming to get you," you know, "the Sharia people are going to take over and cut off our hands." We hear that kind of talk in right wing circles. It seems to me that's a reaction to the way that our own prison industrial complex, our so-called justice system, is incredibly barbaric.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. The Sharia law thing shouldn't be bandied about, because people will turn off as soon as they hear it. I understand intellectually the analogy, but you really lose the argument. It's like calling someone Hitler: the debate is over.
Kevin Barrett: I've been Muslim since 1993 and, you know, Shariah, like jihad, is a good word for us Muslims.
Richard Belzer: Most people don't know that, though.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, I'm trying to trying to explain it. That's why it's Truth Jihad Radio with a little definition of jihad on the front of the website, pointing out that "the best jihad is a word of truth thrown in the face of a tyrant," and that what jihad actually means is "the struggle to be a better person and to defend the community if necessary." Tnat's what it means. And Shariah just means the path, walking on the path of God. And nobody, we all admit, knows what that path is exactly. We just do our best to try to figure out what it is.
Richard Belzer: Right. People have demonized the word. And I'm so glad that you elaborate on the true meaning, because that happens a lot when someone wants to make the case and and demonize or marginalize a group. They'll make stuff up, things that that aren't true or summarily dismiss an entire religion because of what some people have perverted. You could say the same thing about Christianity or Judaism. There are things in the history of those religions that people don't really want to talk or think about. But there are also some good things in there, too.
So ironic that the three major religions have the same God. That always kind of breaks my heart.
Kevin Barrett: I used to totally not relate to the monotheistic conception of God. I was brought up in a family of lapsed Unitarians, and that's his lapsed as you can get.
Richard Belzer: I dig Unitarians.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, I still like Unitarians. So we live out here near Frank Lloyd Wright's place in Spring Green, Wisconsin. But anyway, the the thing is, I found that this anthropomorphic conception of God was what didn't work with me. This patriarchal, anthropomorphic idea of God is a big, hairy guy...
Richard Belzer: (?)sm is one of the worst ideas in the history of mankind.
Kevin Barrett: But (there's a) more abstract and spiritual monotheism in which God is the source of creation. Compare the picture on the top of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, of the patriarchal God, a human being pointing to Adam and creating him with his finger, versus the mural on the top of the Dome of the Rock, which is a series of fractals kind of exploding out of a point of absolute oneness in the middle. And that's what Christians call the Godhead, and that's much closer to the Islamic conception of God. So I read monotheism as a history of gradually moving out of a tribal and anthropomorphic kind of vision of God to a more abstract, spiritual and accurate one.
Richard Belzer: Did you know that about 30 or 40 years ago they discovered that the the painting on the Sistine Chapel, where the anthropomorphicized God is touching Adam—if you look at it, it's the exact same shape as the human brain. What do you think about that?
Kevin Barrett: Yeah. Leonardo was probably a member of one of these cults that Dan Brown writes about.
Richard Belzer: Well, you know, there are certainly cults and secret societies in all of history. But I think it's interesting that that the num da Vinci's painting on the Sistine Chapel is a painting of the brain. If you look at it, you can see that it's shaped like the brain, which means that he's trying to tell us that God comes from us and is us.
Kevin Barrett: Wow, that's great. I hadn't even considered that. Did you notice that yourself, or where...?
Richard Belzer: No, I just found that out recently. My wife and I read a lot of history, and we came across this thing about—I forget the guy's name, but I'll send it to you when I find it. But it's very interesting because I think he's trying to tell us something. Maybe covertly. Da Vinci was afraid to say that at the time. Like Galileo was locked up for saying we may not be the center of the universe.
Kevin Barrett: Right. Yeah. It sounds like he was suggesting that the anthropomorphic vision of God is indeed the product of our own brain and our own imagination, which, of course, it is. Ibn al-Arabi, the great Muslim philosopher, had similar insights. He talked about the difference between God as God really is, which none of us can possibly know, and each of our own conceptions.
Richard Belzer: Right. I'm glad that you said that God is not verbal and unknowable. No mortal can really truly comprehend, I don't think. And those that come close are usually martyred.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah. That's that's where I think my Shia Muslim friends are onto something. They have this whole mythos of the martyred imams. And their idea is that genuinely good spiritual leaders always get martyred. And looking at our own history here in the US, I think they're on to something.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. When you think of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy and Malcolm X and John Kennedy and Fred Hampton and you know, you got time for the list?
Kevin Barrett: That could be another book, I guess.
Richard Belzer: Yeah, that's my book. Dead Wrong.
Kevin Barrett: I don't know if I would consider Marilyn Monroe a spiritual icon or not. I guess some people do.
Richard Belzer: Well, no. Just the fact that she was murdered and it wasn't suicide was why she was in the book.
Kevin Barrett: Right. And so what's the back story with the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn Monroe?
Richard Belzer: Well, I'll tell you a nice true story. When John Kennedy was with Marilyn they had tape recorded it. So we know that Jack Kennedy was with Marilyn. And we know that Bobby saw Marilyn the day she died, but left way before. Some people said the Kennedys murdered her. No such thing. What happened was that Hoover and the mob wanted to embarrass Kennedy. So one or the other, or both with each other's knowledge, murdered her to embarrass the Kennedys. But people got there way before the cops and cleaned it up. So the whole thing kind of backfired on Hoover and the mob.
The Kennedys were very close to Marilyn. And there are some people that think she was going to spill the beans on a few things. I'm not ready to say that, but I wouldn't disbelieve it. Some people believe that that she was going to have a big press conference. But that sounds too sensational to me.
Kevin Barrett: There were a bunch of these people, as you point out, in Hit List, who were threatening to expose things about the Kennedy assassination. Dorothy Kilgallen. And what what was her name? Mary Meyer. Those are some amazing stories.
Richard Belzer: Yeah, she (Mary Meyer) used to get high with Kennedy, and they did acid together and smoked pot, and she was kind of his hip mistress. And she was murdered on the towpath in Georgetown. They blamed this homeless black gentleman who was kind of short, and he would have had to have got up on a ladder to kill her the way they said she was murdered. It was impossible for this guy to do to her what was done. But all these murders are so (implausible). Suicides with the wrong hand. Suicides where people are shot five times. Suicides where people shot themselves in the back, and on and on. It's almost laughable. But they're all on record. The Hit List book is very corroborated, because so many things are in the public domain now. Over the last 50, 60 years, the Freedom of Information Act has allowed us to really get a lot of stuff out of the FBI and Justice Department that was not known contemporaneously. So there's stuff that keeps coming out over time that just adds to the puzzle of the Kennedy murder and 9/11 and the banking crisis and all these manufactured things.
Kevin Barrett: Interesting you add the banking crisis to that list. But sticking with the Kennedy thing, isn't Trump about to have to decide whether to reveal the JFK Records Act records, the last remaining ones, or not? I think that was a story we covered a couple of weeks ago at False Flag Weekly News. So have you heard about that?
Richard Belzer: No. Please tell me about it.
Kevin Barrett: The JFK Records Act, as I'm sure you know, was passed right after the Oliver Stone movie came out and mandated that all records pertaining to the JFK assassination had to be made public before such and such a date. And so there's kind of a been a progressive...
Richard Belzer: In 1999 they released a million pages.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah.
Richard Belzer: There are still tons that aren't.
Kevin Barrett: Exactly. Well, the rest of them are all supposed to be released unless Trump decides not to and signs an order to that effect by about the end of this month.
Richard Belzer: I did not know that. And I should know that. And I will definitely call my people.
Kevin Barrett: So we'll look into that. And speaking of Trump and the JFK records, I think the way I noticed this was there was a story in some of the London papers, not only the tabloids like The Daily Mirror, but I think there was one in The Independent. This was from two, three, four weeks ago. It pointed out that having this "conspiracy theorist," Trump, being the guy to decide whether or not to spill the rest of the JFK stuff, was an interesting situation.
Richard Belzer: Yeah, they're trying to marginalize it if he decides to do it.
Kevin Barrett: I think so. Roger Stone, a close Trump adviser, wrote that book on LBJ's role in the assassination.
Richard Belzer: He's clinically insane.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, he sounds like a kind of a weird guy. He's a political dirty trickster.
Richard Belzer: This loathsome, misogynistic, racist... He's....He's not a good guy.
Kevin Barrett: Well, that's what my colleagues at Veterans Today tell me.
Richard Belzer: Those guys are very sharp. You know, they've learned the hard way.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah. I think some of them have for sure. Well, speaking of the brain, you mentioned the masterpiece on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the creation of Adam, resembling the brain. And you have a chapter in your book on big Pharma about the chemical effects on the brain of some of these antidepressants and the Parkinson's stuff that Robin Williams was taking. That's pretty eye-opening.
Richard Belzer: I dedicate the book to Robin Williams, my dear friend. We did a lot of research on pharmaceuticals for this book, and we included very detailed charts showing what prescription drugs can do. And Robin apparently was given four different powerful prescriptions in his final months: Mirtazapine, also known as Remeron, Seroquel, Marapex, Sinemet. The so-called side effects of these drugs include strong suicidal ideation, thoughts of self-harm, depression, you know, all these unhealthy urges and compulsions. And Robin was clean and sober at the time of his death. The news said there were no drugs. Yeah, right. This is a drug. The news reports that no drugs were found in his body were very misleading. Psychiatric drugs were found in his body. And in our opinion and the opinion of many others, that was the real cause of his death and what drove him to it. You don't hear this on the news, but there are about 23,000 people a year that commit suicide that are on these pharmaceuticals. It can be attributed to the the prescribing or the overprescribing or the abuse of these drugs that, in my opinion, are too casually dispensed.
Kevin Barrett: It seems that many of the mass shootings have also been traced to the possible influence of some of these drugs.
Richard Belzer: Well, one in four Americans are now taking psychiatric drugs like these. And they're frying people's brains. A study that we cite in the book reveals that in most of the mass shootings, like school shootings, in America, the shooter is either on or is withdrawing from these psychiatric medications. That's scary. And I don't mean to demonize medication and drugs and pharmaceuticals, because I would not be here if it wasn't for certain drugs. And likewise many people that I know who had health issues, not just mental issues, but all kinds of issues. So we've got to be careful not to demonize all pharmaceuticals. We're just talking about these psychiatric drugs that are prescribed and misused.
Kevin Barrett: How could this be fixed? I mean, what would be the way to do that? You know, I did an interview with Mary Ruwart, a famous libertarian doctor, who says deregulate everything. But I just see that as turning it over to the the the companies to sell us even more stuff.
Richard Belzer: Just deregulate what?
Kevin Barrett: Her claim was that we're not getting the effective drugs we need because of the regulation barrier. And I was skeptical. I challenged her on that because it seems to me that that would just exacerbate the kinds of problems that you're describing here. So then the question becomes, well, what would solve this problem? How could we get these pharmaceutical companies under control? Ban advertising? What are the steps that we should take?
Richard Belzer: First of all, (deregulation) is a crazy idea. Just let them flood the market with (drugs) whenever they want. That's all about money, not about helping humanity. And one of the things that that makes me laugh and get distressed is all these ads on TV for drugs. When I was a kid, I guess when you were a kid, I don't know how old you are, you went to the doctor and he would prescribe something if needed. And the visit was $7 or $15 or whatever. Nowadays, people go to the doctor and they say, I saw this thing on TV and could you give it to me? And so we're now telling the doctors. The roles are reversed. And that's why people see these ads on TV and they say, oh, I have that symptom or I want to be happy or, you know, I accidentally peed in my pants once maybe. And the side effects of the drugs are terrifying. I don't know about banning advertising because then you get into free speech and all this. But we did get cigarettes off the air, didn't we? And alcohol. So now I'm thinking out loud, Kevin. I guess I wouldn't be allergic to banning these drugs from being advertised on television. And I think the public is waking up and people have to be more informed about what they're putting in their bodies. It's a two way street. There's a lot of irresponsibility in the medical profession.
Kevin Barrett: On the opposite extreme from the libertarian doctor Mary Ruwart, I also have radio guests who are on the far left side of the spectrum, people like Andre Vltchek, who are convinced that all of these problems are just symptomatic of the underlying problem of capitalism and that the real solution is to radically change that system so that the people making drugs to help humanity would be doing it to help humanity rather than trying to make lots of money. Where do you stand on that debate about whether capitalism needs to be overthrown?
Richard Belzer: An admirable utopian cat out of the bag. That will never happen. The best we can hope for is to regulate and modify the false information about drugs, these miracle claims, and clamp down on how liberally certain things are prescribed. And there's a lot that can be done. But, you know, a lot of people are self-prescribing, they're doctor shopping, and they're getting drugs from friends. And that's never happened before. And I think people have every right to ingest what they want. I think a lot of drugs should be legal and regulated like alcohol is, like tobacco is. This happened with marijuana. Nothing happened but all this tax revenue going into Colorado and Washington and these places that have legalized that are just making money, and crime is the same. There's no spike in crime. So certain things should be up to the individual and not society.
Kevin Barrett: I recently had a guest, Dr. James Petras, who's one of the world's top sociologists, and he did an article on the working class dependence on opioids, these artificial legal painkillers. It's a huge epidemic and apparently causing a lot of problems, including a collapse in life expectancy. So there's another example. And with the opioids, I don't know about full legalization with treatment for people to try to get off them, (whether that is) a good idea. But modern science can invent stuff ...like when you give rats cocaine, they just keep pushing the button to get the cocaine injection to change their brain, and they wither up and die happy. And you don't really want people doing that. In Aldous Huxley's dystopian society...
Richard Belzer: No, I totally agree. And, you know, heroin was invented by the Bayer Company.
Kevin Barrett: They were involved in Nazi Germany.
Richard Belzer: Oh, yeah. But that's another show, another five shows. But they created it because after the Civil War, a lot of soldiers were on morphine. And they called it the soldiers' disease. They became addicted. And so Bayer said, "we came up with this stuff that will get them off the morphine." And it was heroin. So I'm all for finding something to replace opioids. But I can tell you from personal experience, from after surgery, when used as prescribed, they're they're great for pain, but of course, they're open for abuse. And if you notice it's the Confederate states, Appalachia, where the highest use of opiates is reported. And I find that fascinating.
Kevin Barrett: Why do you think that is? It's too hot down there?
Richard Belzer: No, I think despair, economic despair, feeling left out. You know, terrible health care, no jobs, loss of hope. I think that has a lot to do with it.
Kevin Barrett: So the solution isn't just changing drug laws. It's changing society so that people have decent jobs and something to live for.
Richard Belzer: I think there has to be a spiritual awakening. Not in a corny kind of way, but in a way that slowly informs. Everyone wants the same thing. If you think about it, they want good health care. They want clean air. They want to make sure their food doesn't have shit in it. And there are basic things that everybody wants. They want the disenfranchised to be taken care of. And it's just that the messaging and the venality and the contentiousness that has popped up since the eighties particularly has really gotten out of hand. Civility—I'm a big believer in manners and civility, and that's kind of going out the window. People can't talk to each other anymore if they have different beliefs. I always believe the marketplace of free ideas. Everybody—there's room for everybody because we all believe in the same thing, I thought. And then the messages get perverted and people like...Roger Ailes just passed away and his legacy is poisoning the atmosphere of politics and civil discourse, and glorifying misogyny and overtly flirting with racism. When you have one person that powerful who creates an entity that becomes the arm of a political party and is on 24 hours a day for years and shapes the thoughts of millions of people, that's Orwellian. Unfortunately, 1984 goes both ways. They may be watching us, but we're watching them, too.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, I remember when I was first dragged on to Fox News for a so called interview with Hannity. I'd never actually watched Hannity. I had no idea what I was getting into. But you mentioned the decline in civility. My goodness. A couple of minutes into the interview, he's calling me names. So it made it a good two or three minute YouTube. But as far as exchanging ideas, there's no way you can do that in that format.
Richard Belzer: I've always said if these guys are right and I don't mean right wing, I mean they're right, then why do they constantly demonize and yell at and turn off the mic of people? It's just poison. I never watch Fox News because it's poison. You get upset if you watch it. And who needs that? You know what they're doing. You know what they're going to say. And it's a sorry-ass place to get your information. As a matter of fact, two years ago, there was a survey taken. And it turns out that people who don't watch any news know more about current events than people who watch Fox News.
Kevin Barrett: So it's a negative source.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Isn't it amazing?
Kevin Barrett: Drains your brain.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Literally. I mean, it's like, wait a minute.
Kevin Barrett: But I don't know if it's just the right wing. I agree that the right wing is at the cutting edge of this.
Richard Belzer: Right. "Fox on the left."
Kevin Barrett: This breakdown of civility, this unwillingness to hear ideas that you disagree with, that's very much spread to the left. Here's a case in point. They just banned three panels at the Left Forum—which is the biggest event for the left, happening in New York, June 2nd to 4th—because I was on them. At least that's what I'm hearing. I'm Muslim and I'm a 9/11 truth guy. I got chased out of the academy for talking about that issue. And naturally I went down various rabbit holes, including the rabbit hole of, Hey, is the state of Israel really such a good idea? And I discovered, well, no, it's not. And so I've been talking about that and I've been labeled an evil anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist. And apparently there are enough people involved with the left forum that can get your panels canceled.
Richard Belzer: It's not just the left that you would upset by saying that about Israel.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah. Even before I was saying anything about Israel, when I was just talking about 9/11, it was the Republicans that got me chased out of the University of Wisconsin. So I'm not very popular among certain quarters of either side.
Richard Belzer: Well, you you mean only because of 9/11 you were thrown out?
Kevin Barrett: Because I went on a radio show and expressed my belief that it was an inside job. That was it. That's that was enough to get the state legislature up in arms. And 61 Republicans signed on to a letter demanding that I be fired.
Richard Belzer: What year?
Kevin Barrett: That was in 2006. So then I was all over Fox and CNN for for a summer and and part of the fall because the university refused to cancel the class. But I never could get hired again after that because I was an adjunct on semester to semester hiring. So I became financially toxic to all American universities. And I haven't able to work in the Academy ever since.
Richard Belzer: Well, not because of 9/11 or because of your—you don't think Israel is a good idea?
Kevin Barrett: No, (just) 9/11. I didn't even start really talking about Israel until years after that.
Richard Belzer: Well, I'd be very careful if I were you. Intellectually, spiritually, historically. And it's a very complex thing. You can't really, in this day and age, make that statement..
Kevin Barrett: So. So let's have a conversation. Tell me why Israel could be considered a good idea, why the people of Palestine should be ethnically cleansed.
Richard Belzer: Why it's a good idea? Why isn't it a good idea?
Kevin Barrett: The people of Palestine—some of them were Jews, Arab Jews—Arabs were living in Palestine, and invaders from outside came in and ethnically cleansed them and mass murdered them to get them out. And now the majority are either exiled or living in de facto concentration camps. And all of this for what? Because I guess the rationale is, depending on who you are, from one quarters, it's that "God gave us this land thousands of years ago and we're going to keep taking more and more of it till we get everything from the Nile to the Euphrates," and in other quarters, it's that "we are a persecuted group and the world owes us something, so we're going to take this, even though it wasn't the Palestinians that did it to us." And neither of those rationales withstands critical scrutiny.
Richard Belzer: Also, I think that a lot of the people...you're talking about the Balfour agreement in 1914.
Kevin Barrett: 1917.
Richard Belzer: 1917. I am not a fan of a lot of the things that Israel does to the Palestinians. And I you know, I'm Jewish. And it's very hard for Jews to criticize Israel. But I don't think that's rational. I think you should be able to. And there are certain things that everyone would agree that Israel does that are way over the line. Inarguably. And when you consider that they're surrounded by 50 million people that want to kill them all, it's a very touchy situation.
Kevin Barrett: Wait, wait a minute. Where do you—what's the evidence that anybody wants to kill them all? I agree that the entire Middle East, other than Jewish people in Israel, doesn't want a Jewish state there. They want one Palestine for everybody there on an equal basis. But I mean, I go to conferences in Iran with the hardcore anti-Zionist contingent. Nobody wants to kill everybody. Nobody wants to kill anybody. They just want fair treatment for everybody.
Richard Belzer: Want to drive them into the sea.
Kevin Barrett: Somebody wants to drive somebody into the sea. But I'm not sure if you've got the the characters straight, who's driving who.
Richard Belzer: Yeah, well, that's a good question. I'm not a fan of the settlements at all. I'll tell you that up front. And Zionism has changed since its inception. The original genesis of it was after the Holocaust. The Jews were looking for a home and...
Kevin Barrett: The Zionist movement colonized and came in against the will of the Palestinians in the 1920s and 1930s. There was no Holocaust then.
Richard Belzer: No, you're right. But there was a tremendous amount...there was a diaspora and there were Jews from all over the world that were that did not have a homeland and have been persecuted for thousands of years, as you know. At any rate, the Holocaust, certainly would justify a state for those people, but not the means. A lot of the means by which it was came into existence.
Kevin Barrett: Should it be in Palestine? Why would that justify a state in Palestine? Why would that justify the genocide against the Palestinians?
Richard Belzer: I wouldn't call it genocide.
Kevin Barrett: Lawrence Davidson does. He's a Jewish professor at Westchester University. It's cultural genocide that meets the definition under international law of genocide.
Richard Belzer: Genocide?
Kevin Barrett: Yeah.
Richard Belzer: As opposed to?
Kevin Barrett: Yeah, a people has been destroyed.
Richard Belzer: There's elimination of the people.
Kevin Barrett: Well, they're physically eliminated from their land and their way of life.
Richard Belzer: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, I'm not I'm not disagreeing with you, but I think it's too late to say that. I think. Do you think there should be two states?
Kevin Barrett: No, I think that there should be one state and everybody should be equal. And I think that that one state could be a tremendous success. I think it could become the economic and intellectual engine of the Middle East.
Richard Belzer: What would you call it? Israel-Palestine?
Kevin Barrett: Sure, why not? I don't think it matters.
Richard Belzer: I'll tell you what. If I would be for ending these settlements, because you have a few hundred people in them and thousands of soldiers that have to protect them. It doesn't make any sense. And there's a lot of Jews in Israel who aren't a fan of the settlements and who, you know, are not a fan of a lot of the things that are going on. And they all live there and they all don't hate the Palestinians, believe me.
Kevin Barrett: Well, wait, wait, wait a second, Richard. During Operation Cast Lead, a poll showed that 90% of Israelis—and that must have meant about 100%, virtually 100% of Israeli Jews—supported Cast Lead, the murder of more than 2000 people, white phosphorus, bombings of U.N. installations, ambulances, hospitals, refugee shelters, the mowing down of kids on the beach and so on and so forth. Virtually the entire Jewish population of Israel supported that. And sure, there are a very few holdouts and, you know, more power to them. But there's a real problem with public opinion in Israel toda.
Richard Belzer: I've never heard 90%.
Kevin Barrett: I can show you the polls.
Richard Belzer: No, I believe you. I just have never seen that or heard that.
Kevin Barrett: American Jews, by and large, I think are pretty have good intentions. The majority, vast majority of American Jews have good intentions, but are misinformed about the actual state of affairs and especially Jewish opinion in Israel itself. I think there's been a turn for the worse.
Richard Belzer: So I read a lot and I know a lot, and I know people that live in Israel or live in America and have relatives in Israel. And believe me, there's a tremendous amount of Israelis who are repelled by this, by the settlements and a lot of other things that we're talking about. So I wouldn't...the 90% figure. I'll take your word for it. But I wouldn't summarily dismissed all the Jews in Israel as having the same mindset and wanting the same thing. There are many, many people that work with Palestinians, and I know a doctor that does pro bono work over there and a couple of teachers. And so it's a very, very tricky issue. And I totally respect everything that you're saying and I certainly intellectually respect what you're saying.
Kevin Barrett: And I appreciate your willingness to have a conversation on this, which puts you one step ahead of the Left Forum.
Richard Belzer: Well, I think, a lot of people, left and right don't want to talk about this.
Kevin Barrett: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, it's amazing. ou know, you've you're open to stuff like 911 JFK.
Richard Belzer: Right wing Jews shut me down once on a panel because I was, you know, mildly criticizing Israel.
Kevin Barrett: You're too reasonable for those people.
Richard Belzer: Well, I think you're right. A lot of them really don't know what's going on and are misinformed.
Kevin Barrett: People are misinformed on so many things. Well, we're about at the end of the hour. So thank you so much because you've done more than your share at attempting to better inform people on a very wide range of critically important issues. You've done excellent work. I really do appreciate it.
Richard Belzer: Thank you, Kevin. Thanks for having me on.
Kevin Barrett: Okay. Thank you. Richard Belzer, keep up the great work.