Introduction: Los Angeles-based Roger L. Simon is co-founder of the well-known conservative news site Pajamas Media. Simon is the author of ten novels, including the prize-winning Moses Wine detective series, and six screenplays, including "Enemies: A Love Story" for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. He served as president of the West Coast branch of PEN and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America. Mr. Simon was on the faculty of the American Film Institute and the Sundance Institute. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Yale School of Drama. In February 2009, he published his first non-fiction book – Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror. Pajamas Media, which began in 2005 as an affiliation of some of the most influential weblogs on the Internet, has significantly expanded its reach over the years. The PJM Portal now provides exclusive news and opinion 24/7 with correspondents in over forty countries. Its distinguished line-up of XpressBloggers is widely respected for their punditry. Pajamas Media also has its own weekly show on Sirius satellite radio – PJM Political. In September 2008, Pajamas Media debuted its own online television network – PJTV – that broadcasts daily from studios in Los Angeles, Washington DC, New York, Denver, Knoxville and Tel Aviv.
Daily Bell: You have gone through a considerable philosophical evolution. Tell us about your background. When and how did you get interested in writing?
Roger Simon: Since early childhood. I always made up stories and I will go to my grave doing that.
Daily Bell: In college were you a socialist?
Roger Simon: That depends on how you define socialist. From college on, I had Marxist leanings, but I was never orthodox about them. They started to change in the Nineties. By 9/11, they had vanished.
Daily Bell: How did you end up in Hollywood?
Roger Simon: I wrote a novel when I was twenty-one called Heir. People in Hollywood bought it. They also thought I wrote dialogue well, so out to Hollywood I went. I got jobs writing screenplays almost immediately. Those things happened more easily in those days (early seventies).
Daily Bell: Were you a socialist in Hollywood?
Roger Simon: Absolutely. And I backed it up with actions you could read about in Blacklisting Myself.
Daily Bell: Is it safer to be a democratic socialist in Hollywood? Why?
Roger Simon: Of course, it is. It's always safer to be part of the majority culture in any situation, not just Hollywood.
Daily Bell: How did you find success in Hollywood? Tell us about your books and movies.
Roger Simon: Finding success in Hollywood is a mixture of talent, luck and hard work. And it really is hard work, no matter what your politics. Conservatives who feel discriminated against in the movie industry should stop feeling sorry for themselves and get down to it. As for me, one of my secrets was that I wrote screenplays and books. The movie people thought my books netted me more income than they actually did. Because of that, they had less hold on me. Particularly with writers, the trick is to seem elusive, like you don't need them for a livelihood – even if you do.
Daily Bell: What is wrong with the free-market – why do people in Hollywood shy away from it?
Roger Simon: Oh, please. Hollywood loves the free market. They're brilliant at it. They just PRETEND they don't like it. It's a shell game. Who's a bigger capitalist than Barbra Streisand? Hollywood Liberalism isn't real. It's a charade. For public consumption, not for private living. Remember that.
Daily Bell: Who controls Hollywood?
Roger Simon: No one, anymore. Not for a long time.
Daily Bell: Is there a larger power elite interested in driving the world toward global unity? Is Hollywood part of the propaganda?
Roger Simon: Sort of. But it's not that simple. Most of these people are ultimately in it for themselves. As I wrote above, it's a charade. You're making zillions, so you want others to think you're a "good guy" lest they look under the hood and see the greedy, ambitious bastard you really are.
Daily Bell: When did you start to change?
Roger Simon: During the OJ Trial of all things… and possibly before. If you want to know more details, read my book Blacklisting Myself. Hey, I'm a writer and write for a living, so I need people to buy my books.
Daily Bell: When and why did you found Pajamas Media?
Roger Simon: Originally I started to blog to promote a novel I had coming out from a big publisher in 2003. (Simon & Schuster). It didn't help the book that much but the blog took and was taking a lot of my time. I got together with other successful bloggers to try to make some money out of it and leverage our power. At first there were people on all parts of the ideological spectrum, but that dwindled away because they couldn't work and play well together. That became the Pajamas Media of today.
Daily Bell: Tell us about Pajamas Media and why its various enterprises are so successful
Roger Simon: Pajamas Media is evolving, I think, into one of those future media companies, which combine text and video. For us to continue to evolve and to succeed quality of writing and performing is of the utmost importance, secondarily maintaining our niche, which is on the center-right, of course. But with attitude. We are always looking for better writers and performers. It's what we do.
Daily Bell: Are you still welcome in Hollywood?
Roger Simon: In some places, others not. Remember, Hollywood is finally about money. Sean Penn would crawl across the floor to work with Clint Eastwood, as would any so-called liberal. Also, most writers in Hollywood have a tough time, conservatives only slightly more so. As in everything else, it's important not to be what Larry Elder calls a Victocrat.
Daily Bell: Are your views still changing?
Roger Simon: I hope so.
Daily Bell: Are you more of a libertarian now?
Roger Simon: On many issues. But I reject being put in a box and don't care for ideological simplifications. Nevertheless, I would describe myself as more or less libertarian on economic and social issues. The freer the markets the better. And on social issues, I want the government as far from the bedroom as possible. Gay marriage is fine with me. My marriage opinion is super simple: I decide whom I marry; you decide whom you marry.
Daily Bell: Can you define the difference between libertarian and conservative and explain the bad blood between them?
Roger Simon: That's not my area of expertise. As I noted above, I oppose ideological reductionism. I saw too much of it on the Left. It's a form of blindness. Someone should think this or that because they're a liberal or a conservative or a libertarian or whatever. People should get over that. These ideologies are mighty old. We should get past them.
Daily Bell: Congressman Ron Paul who we respect and admire is a Libertarian in many ways – especially when it comes to the American military and its overseas entanglements. Do you believe the American military has a significant overseas role?
Roger Simon: Absolutely the military has a role. I don't agree with Ron Paul on this at all. I favor a strong defense and take Radical Islam and its doctrine of jihad quite seriously, just as I would take Nazism or Stalinism. Ron Paul is a nice guy, but horribly naïve in this area. He needs to read some works on Islam. They are serious about jihad. They want Sharia law to rule the world and say so quite clearly. It is misogynistic and totalitarian. If you are really a believer in freedom, you have to be willing to defend it.
Daily Bell: Do you believe the war on terror has provided a rationale for an attack of domestic freedoms as Ron Paul believes?
Roger Simon: That's baloney. I don't know a single person whose freedoms have been seriously restricted. I have asked many people to produce such a person – and they can't. And this is a country of 300 million. Where are these people with restricted freedoms? Produce them, then we'll talk. I have lived in or visited about 60 nations (love to travel) and there is no place as free as the US.
Daily Bell: Do you believe the war on terror will ever end?
Roger Simon: At some point, I hope without too much violence.
Daily Bell: Would America be better off with a smaller military dedicated to defending its own borders?
Roger Simon: No. There are no borders in the conventional sense anymore. The world is technologically minute.
Daily Bell: Would America be better off with less regulation?
Roger Simon: Yes. I am for more deregulation, but only to a point. We do need some rules of business and a level playing field. Extreme libertarianism has its problems like extreme everything else.
Daily Bell: Could it do without a central bank?
Roger Simon: We are in a world economy and the US cannot act unilaterally, even if we wished to. So, unfortunately, we need a central bank. Unless you want to stop foreign trade and subsist by ourselves. That's always a possibility, but our lives would be a lot different. Frankly, I'm happy as a consumer the way things are, assuming it lasts.
Daily Bell: Could it do without fiat money?
Roger Simon: I doubt it, but I'm no expert.
Daily Bell: Tell us more about your recent book, Blacklisting Myself: Memoir of a Hollywood Apostate in the Age of Terror.
Roger Simon: This is a book I wrote last year about my political transformation. It also contains some (I hope) amusing Hollywood war stories and my observations about life and politics in general. You can find it on Amazon along with a number of very friendly reader reviews. (No, they're not all my friends.)
Daily Bell: What's next for you? Do you have a movie in the works?
Roger Simon: I am working on a stage play with my wife and screenwriter Sheryl Longin. We don't reveal the subject matter until we finish.
Daily Bell: What's next for Pajamas Media?
Roger Simon: More video, more articles, expansion in general. Also, we have recently gotten into polling, as in the Brown-Coakley special election.
Daily Bell: Thanks for your time.
Roger Simon is undeniably a brilliant man, and in many ways the above interview speaks for itself. Certainly, the ability to write readable fiction at the age of 21 is an almost spooky accomplishment – one that demands unconscious mathematics, empathy, poetry and observational skills that most don't full acquire until much later in life.
How did he manage it so young? We can't answer that question anymore than we can explain how he has managed to double his success by starting one of the nation's pre-eminent "blogs" – Pajamas Media, which continues to grow as a high-profile "conservative" news, information and opinion website. It is truly one of the mainstream/alternative destinations of choice these days.
Operating a conservative-oriented website that has accumulated a fairly massive readership, Simon has become an ever more fascinating and powerful figure. It was most interesting to interview him because it was a chance to receive insights from someone who is truly setting the tone and substance of portions of the conservative rhetorical platform in the US. Simon's views are resonant for this reason. His knowledge base and perceptions about the US money system, military posture and general systemic operations are undeniably important.
Daily Bell readers are getting a special treat when they read the above interview because it does provide a window into the thinking of a new breed of media mogul. We appreciate his time and courtesy in speaking to us. Having said this, we would also point out that as a free-market oriented entity, the Daily Bell has some differences of opinion – even with one so successful as Simon.
We are not, for instance, pro-war here at the Bell, considering the war on terror to be something of a power-elite manipulation. And we are anti-central bank for the same reason. We believe the market should decide about money and we don't believe that the US should be aggressively pursuing military actions around the world.
In fact, we do not shy away from concluding there are many questions about 9/11 – the event that started the current spate of militarism and generated what we consider to be an enormous loss of personal liberty in the US, and certainly in Britain. Nonetheless, different opinions are part of life, and Simon's perspective has proven popular and durable within the media/blogging franchise he has created. In fact, his opinions and perspectives are likely (certainly) more "mainstream" than the Bell's when it comes to military and economic issues.
We have made these points, above, to set the table for the single area to which we most wanted to respond. Simon was kind enough to give us his views on the American military and the war on terror as follows:
I favor a strong defense and take Radical Islam and its doctrine of jihad quite seriously, just as I would take Nazism or Stalinism. Ron Paul is a nice guy, but horribly naïve in this area. He needs to read some works on Islam. They are serious about jihad. They want Sharia law to rule the world and say so quite clearly. It is misogynistic and totalitarian. If you are really a believer in freedom, you have to be willing to defend it.
Simon, of course, is not alone in these sentiments, which are shared by a goodly amount of Americans as well as the government power structure itself. We do not believe that, absent the state, that organized warfare can be either protracted or widespread. Absent the coercive taxing authority of the state and its ability to mobilize masses of fighters, wars, even in the modern world, would tend to be familial vendettas, tribal skirmishes or evanescent piratical adventures.
Simon mentions Nazism and Stalinism to make additional cogent points. Yet here, too, we have a quibble: We do not think these equate to Islam because these were eventually STATE ideologies (which is where they did all the damage). This is in fact a fairly powerful delineation and one we believe that free market thinkers would subscribe to based on all the fundaments of Austrian economics – marginal utility, spontaneous order and of course, most importantly, Misesian human action.
We have to ask ourselves why, then, has the war on terror taken hold. Is it a war against radical Islam? The answer for free-market thinkers (we believe) is perhaps "no." The various wars on terror, as we try to point out regularly, are actually, possibly, a single war for global control. Yes, seen from a consolidated standpoint, the war is being waged against what may the world's last untamed tribal entity – the Pashtuns. This stiff-necked tribe (or portions of it, anyway) occupying much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, does not recognize Western ways nor does it wish, so far as we can tell, to accommodate Western civilization.
The danger, as the power elite sees it from our point of view is that the Pashtuns are the thin wedge of a larger discontented population (Muslims in the hundreds of millions) that is not nearly so warlike but sympathetic to the Pashtun point of view.
The Pashtuns are not a stateless entity. They have the inchoate backing of parts of the formal governmental apparatus of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US is at war, in a sense, with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is at war with a specific STATE ideology (a tribal culture, actually) as represented by the Pashtuns.
Modern wars are prosecuted between STATES. This is why the war on terror is, from our point of view, a promotion, a kind of dominant social theme. The idea of Al Qaeda, as elaborated by Western governmental brain-trusts, flies in the face of what we know to be true about human behavior and social organization. THERE IS NO LONG-LASTING, ORGANIZED WARFARE WITHOUT STATE INVOLVEMENT. Lift the covers of even the most resolute "terror" organization and you will likely find some sort of ongoing state support, somewhere.
The idea that groups of young men are gathering together to pursue global Jihad against the West under the banner of Al Qaeda is rightly, as the BBC pointed out, a fantasy likely spun from an intelligence database. Why are we able to propose this? Because Al Qaeda as it is postulated by Western intel, is NOT apparently affiliated directly – or even indirectly – with any official Middle Eastern government and thus does not fit the profile of what we know and understand about how wars develop and are prosecuted in the 21st century. (There are groups that Western intelligence seems to identify as Al Qaeda, but when one researches them more closely, it turns out to be something of a misnomer.)
Who or what fits the profile? The Pashtuns do. Ergo, the West is at war with 40 million or so Pashtuns. And indeed, when one examines these people more closely, it becomes evident that the Taliban movement is a Pashtun emanation – one unfortunately it seems cultivated by Western intel back in the 1980s along with Bin Laden, etc.
From our perspective, then, (as surprising as it sounds) there can be no such thing as radical Islam, either – or not as a threat to the West in an operative military sense. Radical passages in the Koran do not provide either the justification or the framework for the kind of warfare that is taking place today – anymore than violent passages in the Bible might. Theology, unlinked to state power is merely opinion (however sacred it may be). The Pashtuns, however, have survived as an independent and un-co-opted entity because the Afghan terrain has made it difficult to subject them.
This same line of reasoning, by the way, can be applied to the Jewish blood libel. "Jews" are not responsible for the bad state of the world, nor could they be as a religion that lacked a state for thousands of years. Today, certainly accusations could be made against the STATE of Israel and its backers – but that is much different than accusing all Jews present and past of being part of a plot to create and then dominate a miserable, blood-soaked world.
There is nothing inherently wrong, evil or dangerous about any religion unless it is assumes the mantle of state powers – and therefore becomes a theocracy. These days, Iran, perhaps, comes closest to fitting the bill when it comes to the Muslim religion. But it is most instructive that the West is NOT at war with Iran, or not yet. There are reasons why, but we have gone on too long already.