The novelist Roger L. Simon is the author of, among other works, the Moses Wine crime novel series, and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for his screenplay of Enemies: A Love Story, the 1989 movie based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer novel. Simon was formerly the CEO of Pajama Media and now serves as PJM's CEO emeritus. He has also just finished a book of nonfiction, I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn't Already.

I spoke with him recently about his new book, and we touched on other issues, too, including politics, O.J. Simpson, and the one movie that Hollywood really needs to make.

Lee Smith: What is moral narcissism, or how is it different from, say, Freud's understanding of narcissism?

Roger Simon: Basically, narcissism, whether Freudian or otherwise, can be defined as "excessive selfishness." Freud looked at the psychoanalytic basis for this, which is individual and a unique problem for that individual and his or her family and friends. My concern in I Know Best was to describe a societal form of narcissism that I felt had become destructive to our republic.

Moral narcissism is one source of the political correctness that pervades our culture. In the book, I explain that: "What you believe or claim to believe or say you believe—not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be—defines you as a person and makes you 'good.' It is how your life will be judged by others and by yourself. … You are what you proclaim your values to be, irrespective of their consequences."

LS: In I Know Best, you tie moral narcissism back to Rachel Carson, author of the environmental classic Silent Spring.

RS: Carson was an early example of moral narcissism. The proclaimed "good" of the banning of DDT that came from her book Silent Spring resulted in many malaria deaths.

Carson's book, though well-intentioned, marked the beginning of a change from conservation (something all can applaud) to the green/environmental movement, which is essentially morally narcissistic, only intermittently beneficial, and often the reverse.

Today we live under a diktat from that movement. At your average Brentwood (Los Angeles) or Upper West Side (Manhattan) cocktail party you will be told of the imminent dangers of anthropogenic global warning by someone who doesn't know the second law of thermodynamics. They are obeying the diktat. If they didn't, they would find themselves ostracized by colleagues, friends, and family.

LS: You participated in the civil rights movement. What was your role in it?

RS: In 1966, when I was 22 and a playwriting student at the Yale School of Drama, I went to South Carolina to register black field workers to vote, teach black history to African-American kids (a white guy could do that then), and direct the first production of A Raisin in the Sun in the state. We performed it in the fields for the workers. I tried to fight the good fight and met and worked with many of the remarkable civil rights leaders of the era, even lived in a rooming house owned by Martin Luther King's cousin. Many people were committed to the civil rights movement. My best friend in my New York City kindergarten class, Andrew Goodman, was murdered by the Klan.

A few years later, when I got lucky and became, at a young age, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, I became a financial backer of the Black Panther Breakfast Program. I have to say now that I was uncomfortable even then working with the Panthers. It ended quickly.

LS: You devote some attention here to one of the key cultural moments of the 1990s, the trial of O.J. Simpson. How did this shape your political views?

RS: The O.J. trial was the beginning of the end for my leftism, although I didn't know it at the time. What disturbed me, as a former civil rights worker, were the depths of black racism the trial revealed. I wasn't naïve. But I hadn't realized, or accepted, that this reverse racism had gone so far as to control the results of a murder trial, especially when the obviously guilty defendant, Simpson, had lived to a large extent as a white man. What was going on? Why were the lawyers so gleefully participating in this desecration of justice? Looking back, I could say the O.J. trial prepared the ground for my ideological change after 9/11.

LS: It seems that nostalgia is one of the keywords in I Know Best; do you attach a special meaning to it?

RS: We are all prey to nostalgia. It creates powerful and usually misleading emotions and thoughts, a yearning for a better past that most often never was.

In I Know Best, I see nostalgia affecting two key areas: race and socialism (actually Marxism). My chapter "Nostalgia for Racism" has an incendiary title, but I stand by my contention that our country has been, consciously or unconsciously, driven back to racism during the Obama years just at the point we were supposed to be free of it. Thus we've seen a nostalgia for the days of George Wallace and Bull Connor, when it was obvious who the bad guys were. It represents an orchestrated flight from the complicated reality of the present by pretending that progress had not really been made.

LS: Does "nostalgia" explain the romance with Bernie Sanders and an apparent misunderstanding of what socialism actually represented? Or is it just a matter of faulty education? Or just the fact that lots of people who supported Sanders weren't even alive when the Berlin Wall fell?

RS: It's all of the above. Bernie Sanders is a perfect representation of "Nostalgia for Marxism." Marx was the greatest of all moral narcissists, off in the library of the British Museum writing his prescriptions for humanity that led to death in very large numbers. Only the kids who backed Sanders seem not to know it. I don't know if I've ever been more depressed than I was on the campaign trial for PJ Media, attending a Bernie rally. The young people filling that Des Moines college auditorium seemed at first to be carbon copies of my peers at similar rallies in the sixties and seventies. They were chanting almost identical slogans. And if the first instance was tragedy, to use Marx's famous phrase, this second time was farce.

LS: You founded PJ Media in 2004. What role do you think you've had in shaping the media since then?

RS: I'm not sure I've had much. I just do what I do and keep plugging along. The original intention was to be politically evenhanded, a place for respectful debate between left and right. Not surprisingly, given our current situation, that didn't last long. The proximate cause was that the leftist writers demanded more money. I was CEO at the time and couldn't, in good conscience, pay the left more than the right.

LS: A nonfiction book is something of a departure for you, a novelist and screenwriter; is nonfiction, in your eyes, a more direct way to address the issues of the day? Or can novels cover the same ground just as or more powerfully, if more indirectly?

RS: Well, I'm not getting any younger and I wanted to get my views out now via non-fiction, while I have a chance. It takes a very great novel, along the lines of, say, Anna Karenina, to cover the intellectual ground you can cover in non-fiction relatively quickly. That said, the attraction of novels, films and plays is that you can, in the words of W. S. Gilbert, "make your fellow creatures wise," without their knowing it.

LS: What's the movie you'd most want to make now? What movie most needs to be made now?

Witness by Whittaker Chambers. The extraordinary memoir of the journalist/writer who was a key witness in the Alger Hiss trial is one of the great life stories of the 20th century, embodying everything from the disillusionment with left-wing politics to the struggles of a gay man in the fifties. It is at once an epic, a moving personal story, and a thriller. On top of that, it would be a real education for the public about the realities of the McCarthy Period. For that reason, liberal Hollywood would never make it. Conservatives, if they were serious about producing films, should rush to do it. Unfortunately, they're not.