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7 June 2004
We Got Gypped by the Gipper

The death of beatified Ronald Reagan over the weekend has allowed America’s craven and feckless broadcast media to polish their “we are not liberal” halos while at the same time inundating the airwaves with recycled footage from the 1980s, enabling them to fill hours with canned video, probably prepared months in advance, and costing them hardly a penny. The perfect opportunity for Big Media’s corporate honchos to give the GOP 10 days of free advertising as one more thank-you for allowing the massive mergers that give a handful of media lords feudal control over U.S. opinion, while saving money by avoiding real-news stories such as the anti-democratic carving up of the world economy under way at Sea Island, Georgia, under totalitarian-style guard, or the continuing chaos in Iraq. Between the D-Day anniversary and the Reagan death, television will be able to broadcast on the cheap (no new reporting required) long past the date when the public will be thoroughly sick of the Reagan apotheosis.

So, before the Great Communicator’s face is added to Mount Rushmore, let this non-fan remind his tiny readership of Reagan’s true legacy.

Reagan gained national attention in the 1960s as something other than the genial old uncle he portrayed as President. He was an angry, far-right ideologue who advocated bombing North Vietnam back to the Stone Age or turning the country into a “parking lot.” He was thus the most vocal exponent of American genocide since the Indian wars. And, while the Goldwater-Reagan faction did not have their way in flattening Indochina, their legacy lives on in America’s imperialistic treatment of Iraq and its spineless support of Ariel Sharon’s war crimes. Reagan’s support for mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan led, via blowback, to Al Qaeda. What a guy.

Reagan also neglected the HIV crisis till far too late. No commentator that I know of has picked up on this, but I suspect the real reason Reagan refused to speak the word “gay” or “AIDS” had to do with a scandal that erupted when he was a new governor of California: Two of his major appointees were outed as gay. Nowadays, no big deal, but, for a divorcé, further non–Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle revelations were to be avoided. So, when the crisis flared the feds did nothing and thousands became infected. Thanks for the plague, Ron.

And who can forget Reagan celebrating the stealthy chopping down of the world’s tallest tree before environmentalists could get the stand protected? “A tree is a tree — how many more do you need to see?” he growled. Reagan’s hatred for forests continued when, as President, he opined that trees cause pollution. The same shortsighted contempt for nature, of course, defines the GOP today.

Reagan’s presidency, in fact, began the toxic politics we experience today in which a politician’s style and personality are paramount and what interests the pol represents are minimized as unimportant to the tabloid-reading, celebrity-obsessed, apathetic voter. One talking head after another has been beaming with admiration over the Great Communicator’s ability to charm his way out of getting caught in a lie, or feigning deafness in response to an unwelcome question. Sam Donaldson, it now seems, thought it was great every time Reagan avoided one of his tough questions. Who knew?

Reagan shut down small radio stations and gave their licenses to bigger, more profitable entities. One such action silenced a beloved classical broadcaster in the Boston area who had received an award under Carter. Reagan threw out the Fairness Doctrine, enabling the filth fest of Limbaugh, Hannity, Boortz, and their many clones while preventing anyone who doesn’t own a media outlet — that is, anyone who isn’t from the social class of Richard Mellon Scaife — to express a contrary opinion. Yes, Reagan more than anyone else encouraged the conglomeration of broadcasting and its conversion into a near-mindless platform for propaganda glorifying rich, white, religious right-wing males and vilifying everybody else.

So, for those of us whose values are a notch or two above the rock-bottom ethics of America’s broadcast media, let’s remember the real Reagan. It’s telling how many of the bilking heads have noted that Reagan spoke constant falsehoods, but managed to get the public to accept the most outrageous fibs based on his acting ability. Sounds like a model for the networks themselves. No wonder they’re ready to canonize the old bird.

Turn over another new leaf:
31 March 2004
Live Music Gulag

Denver should want to be less like Austin.

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