Page 10


photo: Pete Sous7n/courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Library, from War, which was hellbent for nuclear holocaust. But Gorbachev is the great liberator, the man who beat communism. And what else should be said? Ah, here’s the downside. Reagan initiated and launched the consolidation of the domination of the United States by gigantic multinational corporations. He relentlessly hawked the ideology that the federal government is the problem, not the solution, proposing thereby to strip the people of the country of that very government, our only instrument of interest and defense strong enough to govern those very same rapacious corporations. Turning from a liberal into a reactionary as soon as he got rich from acting, he predictably and consistently favored the rich over the poor in tax, spending, and every other governmental policy. He intended to totally abolish Social Security. One of the things I’m proudest of concerning my 1983 book about him is that from his own radio broadcasts in the 1970s, which I had obtained by hook if not by crook, I nailed him \(especially the social insurance and medical care system without which a huge portion of older Americans would be abandoned, very poor, and as sick as nature chose. That’s one set of things. The other thing, equally noxious though only in one realm, is what Reagan did, below the radar of public attention, to television and radio. Through Mark Fowler and his other appointments to the FCC, Reagan abolished the fairness doctrine, which required the networks and stations to be fairto give someone unfairly attacked the right to reply. The people own the airways. We ought to be using them for vital public education and debate. Instead we have let a few gigantic conglomerates use networks of the stations to sell us products while treating our brains as greedballs and our elections as horse races. The result two decades later is an evolutionary maladapation of democracy from which the United States may never recover. The Fox network is the flagrant precursor of the pollution of all the airways with deliberately slanted, delib erately inflammatory corporate and rightwing special pleading, the very pollution that was the foul intent and purpose of Reagan’s abolition of the fairness doctrine. Nothing restrains or rebukes the all-day, all-evening reactionary cant of the Fox network because there is no fairness doctrine. Reagan fought for what he believed in. As Gorbachev has also said since Reagan died, “he was sincere.” To win his points, though, he lied frequently and spun out fairy tales as if he were Walt Disney. He invaded left-leaning little Grenada \(can anyone remember the in the Iran-Contra affair he dishonored and disgraced the Presidency, violating acts of Congress and misappropriating federal money, clearly impeachable offenses. On balance, Reagan played a vital and original role in the ending of the Cold War, violated his oath of office and the Constitution in the Iran-Contra matter, fostered the domination of the American government by transnational corporations, and enabled the domination of the collective mind of the American people by TV and radio networks whose owners are now the commanding propagandists of the American system. How accountable he will be held for his failings in the longest run depends, I think, on whether our present condition, which is crypto-fascist, is permitted to descend next November further toward or altogether into all-out militaristic fascism. Perhaps as a people we can pull back from the Reagan era and win some more time to try to save ourselves from the federally sanctioned propaganda, socio-ethical debasements, and wars of aggression that Reagan and his successors have wrought in the once-shining name of the United States. Maybe Reagan’s luck, as well as our own, will hold and we’ll take back the country in November. But if we don’t I believe that Reagan will be damned in history as the most important of the killers of the American democracy during the long, darkening turn into the Third Millennium that began with his election. Ronnie Dugger, the founding editor of The Texas Observer and now a member of the board of the Texas Democracy Foundation, wrote The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson \(W. W. Norton On Reagan: The Man and His Presidency 7/2/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31