Episode 524 Hochschild on American Midnight

Adam Hochschild’s new book, American Midnight, records the dramatic and deplorable phase of hysteria in the United States during and shortly after World War I. The details about the violation of civil liberties can only shock, for numerous instances were even worse, in Hochschild’s opinion, than during the Trump presidency. The book presents numerous profiles and biographical sketches of prominent figures during the period; we discuss Woodrow Wilson, Eugene V. Debs and Emma Goldman. For the video, audio podcast, transcript, and comments: https://tosavetheworld.ca/episode-524-hochschild-on-american-midnight.


Adam Hochschild


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WOODROW WILSON OR DONALD TRUMP? METTA SPENCER: I was really surprised couple of years ago when in a conversation you said that that period was worse than the Trump period. That was before the January 6th insurrection, which I think maybe puts the Trump hysteria a little bit ahead. ADAM HOCHSCHILD: No, I think I would still award the prize for hysteria and violence to the 1917 to ’21 period. SPENCER: Really. Give us some examples. You have an abundance of horror stories. HOCHSCHILD: Well, here’s what happened. First, the US entering the war, then the Russian Revolution, set off this period of hysteria in the United States. It was reflected in several ways that have been unparalleled by anything since then, including even the nasty stuff that happened under Trump. For one thing, there was something Trump would have liked to do, but wasn’t able: to shut up dissenting… Read more »

It would be hard to attribute Donald Trump’s popularity to war. The Afghanistan war was already boring old news when he was elected. The economy was good too. It should have been a harmonious period of American history, apart from the looming climate threat, which Americans were already ignoring and continued to ignore while he was president. So how to explain it?

Whatever the explanation may be, it must be something world-wide. Trump is not the only demagogue of his day. Maybe backlash against sophisticated contemporary culture? Not sure.

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