The Silencing of “The Reagans”

Too Bad, It Might Have Been Good For a Laugh

by Josh Frank

Dissident Voice
November 6, 2003


CBS chopped their plans of airing a Ronald Regan mini-series “The Reagans” this week, although their parent company Viacom plans to run the program on Showtime sometime next month instead. Conservative critics thought the show was a tasteless liberal smear campaign of the ol’ Gipper.


The drama, which apparently depicts Ronald as an aloof airhead president, and Nancy as a self-indulged control freak, was thought by right-wingers to be a propaganda film; meant to tarnish Regan’s hallowed “legacy.” Viacom defends the show's neutrality, but has refused to air it on CBS.


Almost a month ago a protest-CBS website emerged, in hopes to halt the airing of the mini-series.  The creator of the website, Michael Paranzino said: "The idea that a TV network can make a buck... while a great American president lies on his deathbed with his wife taking care of him at his side is repugnant to the American people."  It didn't help the case that "liberal-light" Barbara Streisand's husband, James Brolin was cast the lead role.


But Paranzino should have just turned the channel -- because this is one American who would have enjoyed the laugh.


It is quite doubtful that the show Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and other leading conservative pundits railed against, truly depicted Reagan for what he was; a Neo Conservative warmonger who gave us Iran Contra, George Bush Sr, and tax cuts George W. could only dream of passing.  But lets not forget the good side, he also gave us a plethora of idiotic quotes that give Dubya’s blunders a run their money.


A few of the choice ones:


“Trees cause pollution.”


“Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”


“Facts are stupid things.”


“All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.”


“The neutron warhead is a defensive weapon designed to offset the great superiority that the Soviet Union has on the western front against the NATO nations.“


And lastly, my favorite;


"Permanent brain damage is one of the inevitable results of the use of marijuana."


So what’s the big deal with having hardy laugh at a president’s expense? 


The conservatives who opposed its airing couldn’t have really thought a major network would put out a critical show of Reagan’s ignorance of International law, contempt for justice, etc.  They simply didn’t want folks to think of Reagan as a sick feeble-minded man, who was controlled from behind the scenes, by the likes of George Schultz, James Baker, and Frank Carlucci.  Perhaps it would have been too easy to make similar correlations between Reagan and our current President, who is being controlled from behind the curtain by the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove.


However, you know even if Ronald had passed on, the same conservative ideologues would have opposed this film.  If anything, their success in halting the show’s airing on CBS, should be a testament of who really has power over what regular Americans can watch on their TVs.


Too bad, “The Reagans” might just have been good for a laugh or two.


Josh Frank is a writer and activist living in New York City. He can be reached at frank_joshua@hotmail.com.


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