Two mindbending Mike Wallace interviews: Salvador Dali and Aldous Huxley
In Wallace’s roughly 56-year journalistic career, he interviewed some of the greatest and most controversial figures of the 20th century, including Ayn Rand, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ayotollah Khomeini; but, for my money, two of his greatest and, indeed, most mindbending interviews were with Aldous Huxley and Salvador Dali.
Huxley, author of “Brave New World,” is in many ways the grandfather of psychedelic culture but also a fantastic writer of fiction. (Essential Huxley reading includes “Island,” “The Doors of Perception,” “Heaven & Hell,” and “The Perennial Philosophy.”) Not only was he well-versed in psychedelics, he had studied and written on Eastern religions, mysticism, philosophy, pavlovian conditioning, capitalist mass production, and pacifism, amongst other subjects—in the process, Huxley displayed one of the 20th century’s most flexible minds.
Wallace notes in his introduction that Huxley had “written some of the most electric novels and social criticism of this century.” Wallace doesn’t flinch, asking Huxley to name those forces in the US who are threatening American freedoms; to which Huxley responds:
I do think, first of all, that there are a number of impersonal forces which are pushing in the direction of less and less freedom. And I also think there are a number of technological devices which anybody who wishes to use can use to accelerate this process of going away from freedom, imposing control…
Huxley states that overpopulation, while not exactly a problem in the US, is a big problem in other countries. Overpopulation pushes toward a totalitarian regime because food shortages trigger state intervention, which then triggers social unrest, which necessitates more state intervention, and so on recursively. Another threat, according to Huxley, is the science of “over-organization” and hierarchical systems controlled by bureaucracies.
As if the foregoing weren’t prophetic enough, Huxley then hints that propaganda and television both pose potential threats to America, which could be used in the future. Television, to be specific, is an immensely powerful technology and used to “distract everybody all the time,” according to Huxley.
“We mustn’t be caught by surprise by our own advancing technology,” says Huxley. “This has happened again and again in history, when technology is advanced, this changes social conditions and suddenly people have found themselves in a situation they didn’t foresee and doing all sorts of things they didn’t really want to do.”
Dali, of course, needs no introduction. It is truly a wonder to see him being interviewed by Wallace. The only way it might have been more interesting is if William F. Buckley happened to coax Dali onto “Firing Line.”
Below, watch the Huxley and Dali interviews.
Aldous Huxley (Full)
Salvador Dali Part 1
Salvador Dali Part 2