John Paul Cusack is an American actor, producer and screenwriter. He appeared in several teen films in the mid-1980s, most notably Better Off Dead, before he starred in Cameron Crowe's romantic comedy-drama Say Anything... in 1989.
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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
We just released a book called Things That Can and Cannot Be Said,
published by Haymarket Books.
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
OK I'm here!
How many roles has Joan beat you out for?
zero. saved by gender I'm sure
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?
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
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.
One of my favorite movies is High Fidelity. What would be your Top 5 favorite movies of all time?
that's so hard to say, like music it depends on your mood ..
What is your favorite on-set memory?
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
Would you and Arundhati Roy ever consider collaborating on a dark satirical screenplay together?
oh man i would love that...
Do you think Snowden should be pardoned?
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.
Any chances of a Hot Tub Time Machine 3 happening with you coming back?
nah not unless i produce it like the first one..
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??
To me its an ongoing sense of seeing deeper into things and through official narratives and assumptions ...
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?
i think trump is either the end of something or the beginning
ill quote agin 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.
Why should everyone be concerned about mass surveillance? Law abiding citizens have argued it doesn't apply to them, so why worry?
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
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?
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….
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.
DE: And he sold flags to every classroom...
ES: That’s so capitalist.
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…
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!
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.
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/?
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.
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!
thanks for saying that. glad you liked them:)
Hmmm, this seems like something your sister would be most vocal about compared to you. Are we sure this isn't Joan???
she's less public about her thoughts.. but she is very interested in psychology and how to be a great mom...
What do you look for in a script?
Do you think president Trump will actually follow through on deporting foreign citizens?
its very critical that you take him at his word even though he lies with relish everyday.
Can you describe your worst time on a set?
i could but why focus on negative. too much going around!
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).
I would like to see it abolished and go to popular vote.