Sander Hicks: Blowing The Whistle

There are muckrakers out there, journalists who prod and poke and grope their way to the truth. And then there are a rare few who just break stuff. Sander Hicks, publisher of Vox Pop Books, is one of the most dynamic political troublemakers on the scene. Once he starts gnawing on a case — whether it has to do with George Bush’s sordid past or the relationships between the US government and foreign terrorist groups leading to 9-11 — you know he’s going to keep biting until something snaps, and something is revealed.

Hicks’ willingness to take chances has led him into tough territory before. As the publisher of Soft Skull, a downtown New York outfit specializing in street poetry and punk/political comix in the 90’s, he acquired the rights to Fortunate Son, a substantial unauthorized biography of George Bush Jr. by James Hatfield. This was a bold move for the downtown kid, and the Bush campaign quickly got the better of Hicks and Hatfield in the public relations poker game that ensued. This story is best told in a documentary movie, Horns and Halos, which reveals that Bush advisor Karl Rove had been puppeting Hatfield for longer than anyone else realized. The evidence seems strong that Rove hand-picked Hatfield to break the stories of Bush’s past cocaine arrests and absences from government service, because Hatfield, a second-rate celebrity biographer with his own criminal record, was easy to ridicule and dismiss. Score one for the Bush team: Horns and Halos ends with the depressing news of James Hatfield’s suicide.

Unlike Hatfield, though, Hicks is still in the game. As defiant as ever, he created Vox Pop as both a book publisher and a funky Brooklyn cafe, and he’s trying to get the mass media to pay attention to his new book about international terrorism, The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistle Blowers and the Cover Up. Hicks lays out the numerous connections between known terrorists and American and European financial and governmental organizations, and asks us to add up the evidence.

Hicks would be a good lawyer; he doesn’t push too far, and is clearly aware that when conspiracy theorists overstate their case they lose credibility. The introduction to the book revisits the Hatfield/Rove story, and while at first this seemed an unnecessary diversion, I gradually came to realize that the lessons Hicks learned during the Hatfield affair are completely informing his approach now. Trust no sources, and always look out for the bluff. The Big Wedding is Hicks smartened-up, and back on the case.

Reading this careful summary of various hypotheses involving international terrorism and international finance, I am disturbed and perplexed. I have my own strong intuitions about the origins of terrorism, but my private investigations in this area have led me towards Nietzsche and Plato rather than the Wall Street Journal or Al Jazeera. I don’t know what to think or who to believe. But I respect this book, mainly because I respect the author’s tenacity and conviction.

Hicks is also a talented and passionate writer. See for yourself — Chapter 9 is up on his website, and it’s worth your time.

4 Responses

  1. Nietzsche, Plato DisconnectI
    Nietzsche, Plato Disconnect

    I believe that Nietzsche attacked Plato’s moral and political theories and that Plato was a dualist and Nietzsche a perspecivist so I don’t see the metaphor in the original poster’s “strong intuitions about the origins of terrorism, but my private investigations in this area have led me towards Nietzsche and Plato rather than the Wall Street Journal or Al Jazeera”.

    The writing in The Economist is better than WSJ and they get their numbers right. All I know about Al Jazeera is their claim to be the only politically independent television station in the Middle East and could be the most watched news channel in the Middle East for that reason.

    Woodard and Bernstein initially attracted me to writing because it seemed to prove the pen is mightier than the sword until I learned that people believed what they wanted to believe no matter what proof was presented to them.

  2. That’s a good point, WW —
    That’s a good point, WW — Plato and Nietzsche fall on opposite sides of the basic question of the meaning of morality. Plato argued that morality is a meaningful and important concept (thus, yes, he is a dualist) whereas Nietzsche deconstructed morality into a combination of elements including human gullability, fear from danger and lack of imagination. However, while they reached opposite conclusions, they are two of the very best writers in the field of ethical philosophy, and they both described the problem — the human dilemma — vividly and accurately. I think of them as the two poles of ethical thought.

    I guess the only reason I mentioned this is that I don’t really feel qualified to review Sander Hicks’ book about 9-11 on factual grounds, because a lot of the names, politicians and journalists he talks about are unfamiliar to me. It’s not that I haven’t done a whole lot of thinking about the meaning of terrorism, but there are different ways to approach the subject. I guess I just meant that line as a kind of disclaimer, because I don’t really feel qualified to judge the veracity of the claims in Hicks’ book. But if anybody wants to compare Gorgias to The Birth of Tragedy in light of recent events, I’m there.

  3. Ethical Philosophy?What about
    Ethical Philosophy?

    What about Sartre: if you don’t actively, passionately oppose Hitler (Bush), then you are silently assenting (approving of) Hitler (Bush); and your silent approval is as powerful as Goebbel’s (O’Reilly’s) propaganda.

    Or: everything we think, do, say; is our demonstrative of how we believe everyone should speak, act, think.

    Or: circa 1950; how could America claim to be the land of, when they are racists?

    I don’t read much, but some ideas stick wid me.

    What about Martin Buber’s: treat the other guy like he was Thou (like you’s talkin t’God, or like everything you do is being observed at this time by God).

    Correct me because I’m wrong, but I tend to interpret Nietzsche as speaking to individuals – like you could be your potential (oberman); not speaking to the whole group, because by logical definition, then there’d be no one left to be ober to.

  4. Assuming (what’s a *very
    Assuming (what’s a *very great deal* as I see things) that ‘terrorism/s’ is a real noun:

    As I read Levi’s posts they draw attention to the following facts(?) of intellectual history.
    (1) *One* of Plato’s Socrateses – the Socrates of say *Gorgias* (yes: *Gorgias* really is I think the best example) would say (for our purposes some:)) terrorism/s is/are grounded in non-Ideal/non-Formal – and therefore irreal – deontologies or (sets of) norms; are that is still open to proper dialectical interrogation. (Of course it’s as true(…) that dialectical interrogation so-conceived’s not *Plato*’s dialectic as it is that one can’t – strictly – speak of a *Platonic* ontology. But hey. Anyhow) – Y’ end up w/ a specifically non-material(ist) genetics of terrorism/s – i.e. a different (and sotospeak monadic) definition of its (the) relevant terrain.
    (2) Analogously – at least as far as displacement of materialism’s concerned – Nietzsche would vilify terrorism/s (being agendae which’re only able to be fulfilled … shall we say ‘ontologically (*for ‘ontically’*)’? i.e. *in a certain way* contingently?) as being dependent on the fiction of (stable) being/identity/ies; that is inauthentic (tho’ obviously not Heideggerianly:)). – Enlightenment in sum. (No?) – So another nonmaterial(ist) definition of terrorism/s’s relevant terrain.
    So warrenweappa: I’m not sure I see in what way Levi’s post contained a ‘metaphor’. – It seems *literally* true to me that one can have synthesised non-material(ist) terrain-concepts w/r/t terrorism/s. (Otherwise when’d old-style positivism turn so horizonal?)
    (Also: Nietszche a perspectivist? Mightn’t it be more oh-I-don’t-know to call him a rhetorical analyst? *Tim Leary*’s a perspectivist. (And Kierkegaard? – Trickier question.) – And wouldn’t y’ want to say Tim and Fred’re more or less perpendicular (sic) to one another?:))
    Stokey: I agree w/ y’. It’s my take too that the overman’s non-relational i.e. no classical Marxist mass-anything (i.e. ironically enough – and provided Nietzsche’s transvaluation’s taken on more of a language-game hue(?) in the interim – (one member of) the *properly positive* Marxian multitude. – That tho’s a stray thought).
    None of this to attack anyone. I a’n’t even on a hobbyhorse here.:)

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!