CBS Cancels Reagan Miniseries
For further proof that the First Amendment only protects free speech from the US government (mostly), but not from the large corporations, CBS has caved to rightwing pressure to shelve their miniseries on Ronald Reagan. It was a relatively negative portrayal. But the presidents don’t belong to the right wing, they belong to all Americans, and we can all be critical of any of them when we choose.
In fact, of course, Ronald Reagan bears substantial responsibility for September 11. He and his administration were so gung ho to roll back Communism that they funneled billions of dollars to scruffy far rightwing radical Muslim mujahidin in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. Orrin Hatch even flew to Beijing for Reagan in 1985 to ask the Chinese to pressure Pakistan to allow the US to provide the Mujahidin with ever more sophisticated weaponry. Even the Pakistani military had initially balked at this crazy idea, knowing who the Gulbuddin Hikmatyars and Usama Bin Ladens really were (unlike clueless Reagan, who called them freedom fighters). But the US twisted the Pakistanis’ arms, and they gave in. Likewise, Reagan forced the timid Saudis to match US contributions to the Mujahidin. (And then after Sept. 11 the former Reagan officials who had twisted the arms of the Saudis, like Richard Perle, turned around and blamed Riyadh for spreading radical Muslim ideas!!) It was the CIA that first established terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to hit the leftist government in Kabul. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the camps used by al-Qaeda had been built originally by the Reagan administration.
Then after the Reagan administration contributed to the destruction of Afghanistan with this proxy war, its successor, the Bush administration, made a deal with the Soviets for a US withdrawal from Afghanistan once the Soviets were gone. The US just walked away, leaving the country in chaos. The right often tries to blame Clinton for this, but it was Bush senior that agreed to the deal and walked away, before Clinton ever got in.
The Christian Coalition and other rightwing religious groups supporting Reagan even had a “biblical checklist” by which they wanted all senators and congressmen to be judged. And one of the items in the “biblical checklist” was “support for the Afghan ‘freedom fighters.’ The rightwing Christians were saying in the 1980s that if you didn’t support al-Qaeda and its Mujahidin allies, you didn’t deserve to be in Congress! They wanted representatives tossed out for this crime. And now the same groups are droning on about how the Prophet Muhammad was a terrorist, cashing in on Sept. 11 to spread religious bigotry. But the Prophet Muhammad opposed terrorism. Who promoted al-Qaeda and kindred groups? Jerry Falwell and Ronald Reagan.
Why did CBS cave? Maybe some advertisers threatened to pull out, in the face of threatened boycotts by special interest advocacy groups. The US has the oddest system. Technically, the airwaves belong to the US public. But the unelected Federal Communications Commission gives away the right to broadcast on them virtually for free to large corporations. Initially the corporations were supposed to broadcast some socially useful programs in return, and were supposed to maintain some sort of political balance. But now they don’t do either. (People who watched CBS news were as likely as people who watched Fox Cable News to believe falsehoods such as that Saddam was mixed up in 9/11 or that Iraq was close to having a nuke.)
Then once the people’s airwaves have been given away to the corporations, they rent them to other corporations to sell us their products, thus paying for the programs we see. Programming is subsidiary to the advertisements that pay for it. If advertisers won’t support programming, it gets pulled, so that they have a veto on what the people can watch. Of course, there is a double corporate veto, since the networks themselves censor what can be seen to begin with. Television execs active in the 1960s remember being told to avoid showing labor activists in their programs, e.g. When’s the last time you saw a character on t.v. who was explicitly active in a union?
Michael Powell (Colin’s son who is far more rightwing than his father) was even going to let a handful of corporations control all programming, but that was too much even for Congress.
So the US is becoming Berlusconi-ized, with a few fabulously wealthy men deciding what appears in our media, and with Bush’s tax giveaways to the super-rich giving them the wherewithal to buy up even more of the country’s media.
And we can’t even point out on television, with the people’s airwaves, that Reagan went off the deep end on Afghanistan, or that he shredded the Constitution with Iran-Contra.