I have to admit that I was hesitant to buy the latest installment in Rick Perlstein's outstanding series on the rise of the modern American right-wing at first. The book entitled "The Invisible Bridge" was pretty pricey for an e-book at 19.99 (Amazon.com) but after hearing the caterwauling of the poor, poor, perpetually persecuted pack of professional victims of movement conservatism I ponied up immediately. There is never a better endorsement than that of the 'conservative' outrage machine, I would hope that I was not the only one that was influenced to shell out the dough for this outstanding book. As I type this it is numero uno on Amazon bestsellers in the political leadership category so I am sure that Perlstein is laughing his ass off as he rakes in the money after the latest bag of dogshit went up in flames in the paws of the fascist American right.
Mr. Perlstein, the author of books on Republican icons Barry Goldwater in "Before the Storm" and Richard M. Nixon in "Nixonland" had already established himself as a historian to be reckoned with before his filthy blaspheming of Ronald Reagan in "The Invisible Bridge". The right-wingers flew into action to trash the book as well as to level accusations of plagiarism at the author. I except from a Slate online piece about the attack on Perlstein - by none other than the publicist of that whiny, washed up wraith who resembles a haggard, horse-faced meth whore: Ann Coulter. Slate's David Weigel sums it up nicely in "The Simplifier" :
If anyone is able to buy a copy of Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge, we’ll know that Craig Shirley lost. Last week, in advance of the Tuesday release of the third volume of Perlstein’s conservative movement history, right-winger Shirley claimed that Perlstein had plagiarized his book about Ronald Reagan’s 1976 primary challenge to President Gerald Ford. Shirley was asking for every copy of The Invisible Bridge to be destroyed, and for $25 million to be kindly deposited in his bank account.
Perlstein’s publisher did not budge. Shirley was credited in the book, after all, for saving the new author “3.76 months in research,” and the endnotes (published online, not in the book) slathered him with attributions. Simon and Schuster quickly rebutted the charges. The “plagiarism” story rocketed around the righty Internet anyway. The Daily Caller phoned up Shirley, who called the new book “a liberal’s version of conservative history.” The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, who had written the foreword to Shirley’s book, dutifully warned readers of the new controversy.
It was already plenty surreal, and then Roger Stone showed up. On Twitter, the Republican dirty trickster (whose avatar shows off his Richard Nixon back tattoo) asked whether the “lefty propagandist” was guilty ofplagiarism. On Facebook, Stone continued his Purple Rose of Cairo act, walking from his history pages onto Perlstein’s wall, challenging and tweaking him. “Everyone in this controversy is a partisan,” wrote Stone, “but then, controversy sells books.”
This just isn’t what happens when Rick Perlstein releases a book. The first in his series, 2001’s Before the Storm, was praised by William F. Buckley. George Will called it “the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential candidacy”—in a largely positive review of Perlstein’s second book, Nixonland, which became a best-seller. What changed? This time Perlstein is writing about Ronald Reagan.
Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan—Perlstein has moved from covering a minor saint, to a martyr, to God.
I am in the process of reading "The Invisible Bridge" and will have my own comments as I go but I absolutely have to agree wholeheartedly with the author on this very important snippet because the majority of the woes that we currently are facing as Reagangrad spectacularly implodes with global implications have their roots in how "the great communicator" was so easily able to sell his snake-oil:
Immanuel Kant defined the Enlightenment, the sweeping eighteenth century intellectual-cum-political movement that saw all all settled conceptions of society thrown up in the air, which introduced radical new notions of liberty and dignity, dethroned God, and made human reason the new measure of moral worth - a little like the 1960s and '70s-as "man's emergence from his self incurred immaturity.". For these citizens what Reagan achieved foreclosed that imperative: that Americans might learn to question leaders ruthlessly, throw aside the silly notion that American power was always innocent, and think like grown ups. They had been proposing a new definition of patriotism, one built upon questioning authority and unsettling ossified norms. Then along came Ronald Reagan, encouraging citizens to think like children, waiting for a man on a horseback to rescue them: a tragedy.
A "tragedy" indeed, one of which the enormous suffering of this grave historical error still lies ahead of us.
I will close out now with a republishing of a piece I wrote a couple of years back on the putrid orgy of Reagan worship when The Gipper's 100th birthday coincided with the Super Bowl (note that all links may not work):
Reagan Idolatry, the Super Bowl and American Fascism
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
The Super Bowl pre-game party nacho cheese dip had hardly been touched before the FOX Republican propaganda megaphone, took full advantage of the largest viewing audience of the year to exhume the rotting, smirking carcass of Ronald Reagan and park it in the one of luxury suite at Jerry Jones’ Texas Palace like some sick sequel to Weekend at Bernie’s. Or maybe it was one of those forced worship sessions of long dead ideological leaders that were regularly dredged up by despots, murders and U.S. puppet banana republic dictators and their Eastern Bloc Communist counterparts. The Super Bowl, already being the most grotesque public consumption of the rotted fruits of bastardized American looter capitalism is the ideal place to honor Ronald Reagan, an odd synthesis of warmed-over nostalgic yearning for a bygone past that never really existed (outside of TV that is) and pure corporate marketing that would give Don Draper a hard-on and has the newest version of the product, Barack Obama likely spending many a sleepless night in trying to tap into that same sort of serendipitous magic that has made Reagan second to only Jesus Christ in our putrescent Empire. A putrescent empire that was on full global display on Sunday, in what very well be the Empire's Last Supper party.
It was a full two years since the King David Petraeus strutted out to midfield, to stand upon the NFL logo in Tampa in full dress regalia to flip the coin for Super Bowl XLIII, at the time the gold standard for American fascist shamelessness. Now the deification of the Gipper, on the world’s largest HDTV screen and broadcast to billions is the ultimate con job, at a time when the ruinous nature of the scurrilous policies and pandering to half-wits drunk on Jesus juice poured through the blessed American flag are on full display for the monstrous failures that they always were (see the streets of Cairo) it is truly a crowning moment for America. Despite his Reagan idolatry, Obama, the new Pope of Hope has nothing on the finely-tuned public relations machine that has turned Ronald Reagan into a transcendent life form even while his criminally degenerate carcass is roasting on a spit in bowels of Hades. Perhaps he can invite Nancy Reagan to the White House for a seance and a game of Ouija, with Obama already on record as admiring Reagan and now splitting time with the old dead phony on the cover of Time Magazine, Reagan's stock is as high as ever and with generations of indoctrinated suckers, schmucks and chumps he is salivating at a shot at grabbing a ride on the gravy train. If one thing can truly be said about BOTH Obama and Reagan is that they are exquisitely marketed corporate products, teflon slick shit salesmen for the oligarchy with a built in customer base clamoring for a messiah.
Yesterday in frigid Arlington TX, the national orgy of gauche consumerism, idiocy, militarism, celebrity worship and a little football mixed in took place and with a global viewing audience in the low hundred millions, FOX also made sure to kick up the fascism a notch or three. Never shy about wrapping their propaganda in a flag and getting right into the faces of Americans that Goddamn it! We are more fucking patriotic than you!, the early Super Bowl coverage was a magnum opus for that conniving foreign pig Rupert Murdoch, water-carrier for the fascist Republican party. From the FOX blowhard demagogue Bill O’Reilly interview with Obama, through the blood boiling intro by Gordon Gekko himself featuring scenes of flag worship insterspersed with historic iconic images of 9/11 first responders raising up ole glory among the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center (and of course shots of The Gipper) and continuing on through a gut churning shot of still at-large war criminals George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice partying in Jerry Jones’s suite it was a Roger Ailes production for the ages. Nicely timed to coincide with what is now going to likely become an American holiday, Reagan's Birthday, hell, give it a while and the cult of Reagan will have him right up there neck and neck with Jesus Christ. The Michael Douglas video has to be right up there with one of the most dastardly pieces of propaganda ever made for the diabolically cunning mixture of American exceptionalism, war worship and raw post 9/11 fascism interspersed with clips of FDR, JFK and the decidedly anti-war Martin Luther King. Goebbels would have gotten a boner watching it.
The cult of Reagan has a kick-ass public relations machine, always has and always will, thanks to the love child of tax chiseler Grover Norquist The Reagan Legacy Project that was created with a duty to promulgate the big lie of Reagan the Great and a dedicated army of flacks, shills, foot soldiers and clueless dopes and sycophants whose fervor towards Dutch as a messianic figure is right up there with worshippers of Mao. There is nary a conservative running for office who can go three minutes without invoking the name of the hallowed Reagan as an inspirational figure despite the fact that the GOP post-Gingrich and now owned by the Alaskan murder inciter Sarah Palin would oust the real Reagan about a quickly as they would send Barry Goldwater and Dick Nixon packing for their anti-American liberalism. We live in a society that today has been tipped on it's head, turned inside out and then pushed through the looking glass where illusion is reality, war is peace, slavery is freedom and pretty much damned near everything works exactly in the opposite way that it should. A large amount of credit goes to the cult of Ronald Reagan that emerged from the rubble of Vietnam and Watergate, took on career parasites like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney as power-crazed, bittermen with a bloodlust to avenge the takedown of Nixon, engaged in a longtime period of hot and nasty fornicaton with the Religious Right and with longtime Eastern Establishment operative and former CIA director George H.W. Bush playing hardball in the backtround hijacked the country. The now rising force of the Ronald Reagan Centennial takes the false idol and using emerging technology, the near total corporate fascist takeover of the U.S. government and an increasingly dumbed down public (Dostyevsky once famously said that one could judge the degree of civiliation by entering the prisons in a society, here in USA we could easily do the same by watching the Super Bowl commercials) to push for actual godhood for the Gipper, the idea is being floated that his ghoulish mug should be featured on Mount Rushmore. The pre-kickoff Reagan video that was shown before Super Bowl XLV is the logical next step towards the United States of Ronald Reagan.
BIG, HARD MASS; A BLOCK OF ORANGE-YELLOW PROCESSED "USDA CHEESE FOOD" ISSUED BY "DA GUBMENT" United States GOVERNMENT to aid needy families by supplementing their food resources. Used for making Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Macaroni & Cheese but ALSO CAUSES severe, bowel obstructing constipation, silent but deadly stinky gas, and / or "the runs" diarrhea in those who are lactose intolerant
-Government Cheese Definition: The Urban Dictionary
Ronald Wilson Reagan was a fraud while he walked the planet and as all myths and legends, his iconic status years after he was officially planted the falsehoods only grow stronger. As in the old western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring another dude ranch desperado named Marion Morrison but more famously known as John Wayne, the classic line is "when the legend becomes fact, print the legend." The ultimate phony, was of course John Wayne, a rabid right-wing freak whose celluloid heroics belied the truth that while starring in multiple war movies never actually fired a shot in anger while in the uniform for his country and while being a rip-snortin, Injun bashing iconic American cowboy was a tenderfoot. The western imagery would come to serve Reagan well, is there a more famous picture of the old charlatan than the one of his leather-faced, beaming smile shining out from out from under a cowboy hat? It was such a great shot that after his death in 2004 both Time and Newseek featured the exact same picture on the cover of their weekly editions. Later, George W. Bush would also go to the bread and butter of the cowboy mythos, prior to his successful 2000 presidential bid (thanks to a rigged Florida vote and an assist to the Supreme Court) Bush's image makers purchased a piece of ranchland in Crawford, TX and began to cultivate the image of their ass kicker in a Stestson. The whole cowboy thing was bullshit of course, just as it was with Wayne and Reagan; Bush though took it to the next level in that he was actually afraid of horses, did you ever see a picture of him riding one? Give it to Reagan, he blew Bush away when it came to being a real actor. Ronald Reagan would grab hold of the tits of the false legend of the great western manly man and milk the bitch for all that it was worth. Note that Reagan curried favor with the risign menace of the uber-fascist right by turning fink and ratting out leftist Hollywood peers during the great scourge of the McCarthy years that served as a shining example for today’s “unpatriotic” jihadists in screaming traitor at anyone who dares to question the growing authoritarianism of the U.S Empire, now with Obama as caretaker.
But this all plays into something much bigger, the necessary destruction of the scourge of the Ronald Reagan idolatry among Americans because let’s face it, every stinking rotten problem that we face today originated with Reagan. The Egyptian uprising that is roiling the Middle East is directed at the puppet dictator and thug torturer Hosni Mubarak whose presidency began during the early days of the Reagan administration. The economic crisis and coming global collapse can be attributed to the deregulatory looting spree presided over by Reagan whose corrupt cronies flipped the latch on the gate and unleashed the pigs, how very apropos that Michael Douglas would be the one giving the benediction at Super Bowl XLV yesterday, "Greed Is Good" as proclaimed by his Best Actor award winning Gordon Gekko was the ethos of the Reagan era. The police state that has decimated traditional American liberties and is now a money-sucking monstrosity run amok in the fear sodden era of post 9/11 America had roots in the Reagan administration with Ollie North and his REX 84 progam that laid out plans for the suspension of the Constitution and the implementation of martial law including the roundup of American dissidents. The Continuity of Government (C.O.G.) programs that would be implemented as an emergency on 9/11 by embeds Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in defense against Reagan's "freedom fighters', the Mujahadeen who were ostensibly behind the plot and to this day provide justification for both the Homeland fascist police state as well as the ongoing and never-ending wars abroad. The deregulation under Reagan may have had many an American shrieking in approval as if cheering on their team in the Super Bowl when their hero emphatically fired striking air traffic controllers and issued his open declaration of war on the unions that were so instumental in building a middle class that once the envy of the civilized world has now had it's back broken by three decades of plunder and undermining of the very legal protections that built it. You name it and it either had a genesis in the Reagan administration or was made much worse during those years.
Ronald Reagan's single-handed defeat of those evil Commie bastards and the winning of the Cold War is the greatest myth of those eight years after the post-Vietnam/Watergate era when America cavorted with it's failings, began to recognize the worms in the apple and rather than to become a better nation chose the wrong fork in the road. The toppling of the USSR and the Gipper getting credit is like adage about Paul Revere's horse: the horse did all the work and the guy riding it got all of the credit. Note that Mr. Reagan's messianic anti-Communism (he was linked to the notorious World Anti-Communist League or WACL - an organization so extreme that it was shunned by the John Birch Society) that had roots in a festering, deep-seated contempt of egalitarianism among the elite had as much to do with this falsehood than anything that Reagan himself actually did.
Buying The Myth, Selling Our Souls
The idle rich, the chiselers, the corporatists, and of course the Wall Street grifters were looking for a champion and in Dutch they found one and they crowned him for his efforts. The hatred of having to share the wealth contributed to the wars at home against labor and the middle class as well as a series of brutal U.S. backed extreme right-wing regimes putting down `leftist' movements in Central America. The horrors of the torture states and blood soaked counterinsurgencies sponsored by covert CIA operatives and cowboys like Ollie North are an ugly blight upon our history that will never be removed.
The Reagan era also institutionalized the freewheeling style of fuck you anything goes vulture Capitalism that has gutted today's economy, destroyed our manufacturing capability, wrecked the regulatory agencies that were created to keep corporations and Wall Street looters at least somewhat honest and the environment clean, seriously undermined the public education system, crippled organized labor and made the Social Darwinist race to the bottom line the nation's economic religion. CEO's became folk heroes and the poor were shamed into blaming themselves for losing the birth lottery.
Ronald Reagan also blamed government for all social problems, he often invoked the crowd pleaser that the nine most terrifying words in the English language were "I'm from the government and I'm here to help". Truthfully Reagan and the so-called conservatives love government - as long as it is government that works to further their own self-interests and to keep the rabble in their place. Reagan style government consists of an exponentially growing military machine, a surveillance industrial complex, agencies that bestow taxpayer money to radical religious groups (Christian Socialism), corporate welfare and an enforcement arm that allows the government to meddle in every aspect of the lives of Americans who don't share the same `values' of the ruling elite.
Reagan style conservatism wants to invade citizen's homes, regulate what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms, meddle in the education of their children by deliberately undermining the public educational system, promote a virulent state favored religion that has been hijacked by fanatics, destroy social programs like Medicare and Medicaid and of course that crown jewel of leveling the playing field Social Security. Reagan was able to successfully dupe the people that big government was the problem, the unspoken caveat being that only those governmental agencies that served the people, held industry accountable and protected the rights of the American worker were evil. Big government is even better when it is used as the foundation for a police state that acts to crush dissent and political opposition to Anti American, neo-fascist policies.
And the Star-Bellied Sneetches were exalting the coronation of their new king from the very beginning. In January 1981 the Washington D.C. air was filled with the musk of greedheads in heat, their delight in having a fox as the henhouse gatekeeper bordered on orgasmic. Haynes Johnson's excellent book on the entire sordid Reagan era, Sleepwalking Through History describes the atmosphere at the inauguration as follows:
It was an outpouring of wealth and privilege. At National Airport, corporate jets were parked wing to wing on the tarmac. The airport was unable to accommodate the private planes seeking space. They touched down, dropped off invited inaugural guests, then departed to bring back more. One group of Indiana Republicans traveled to Washington in an elegant railroad car once owned by J.P.Morgan. Limousines were the preferred symbol of status. "They give you a feeling of pride and accomplishment," explained a Republican national committeeman from Salt Lake City, "They give you a feeling of enthusiasm for your leaders"
So brisk was the limousine business that all available ones in the capital were quickly leased. Calls went out to dispatch others from as far south as Atlanta and as far north as New York. They poured into the city, vanguards of a new era bearing special inaugural plates with names of the corporations that had leased them. Gliding up to museums and galleries and other public buildings, they discharged women in designer dresses and diamonds and men in formal wear. Society page writers, with press entry credentials to the private festivities, strained for metaphors to describe the display of affluence. Hotel coat racks, laden with mink, "looked like furry beasts." At Sunday brunches in Georgetown, "furs swallowed the beds." At a black-tie-and boots Texas party, "a perfumed herd of thousands drank beer and wore emeralds."
The catering business had never been better. "There are ten times as many parties this inaugural as last time" said Jeff Ellis of Ridgewell's, a firm that had been waiting on Washington's social-diplomatic set for generations. Ridgewell's alone served more than four hundred thousand hors d'oeuvres during the pre-inaugural parites. "I've never seen anything like this" Ellis remarked happily. "These people have really fine taste. Rather than shrimp salad, they want the whole shrimp."It was the costliest, most opulent inauguration in American history, and some of the scenes gave credence to critics who likened it to "a bacchanalia of the haves".
It was indeed a feeding frenzy, a gathering of pigs at the trough to worship at the altar of unfettered greed based dogma of monopoly capitalism and this was six years prior to Gordon Gekko's oft-repeated commandment that "Greed Is Good" was chiseled into stone inside the temple of the moneychangers. The Reagan administration went for the throat right out of the gates. The return of the wealthy elite and robber barons to power and prominence was facilitated by the ability to distract and deceive. Karl Marx was only partially right when he stated that religion was the opiate of the masses, it is but that was prior to the advent of television and when the two are combined the potency is jacked up to the highest possible level, like black tar heroin. The elitist power brokers knew this and with his Hollywood background Ronald Wilson Reagan was the perfect front man for the myriad of their ideological schemes and voodoo economics that would wage war on progressive society and deal a staggering blow to fairness and equality in the land of plenty. It was the great national regeneration decade and that fabulous and almighty leader was our champion, the iconic president who would make things right, who would deal harshly with those bastards in Iran unlike his milquetoast predecessor, who would restore the national glory and make us that shining city on the hill. After a prolonged darkness clouded by nuance it was morning in America again, black was black and white was white it was Pleasantville in the US of A and as the they say in the movie "what's outside of Pleasantville?" - it was perfect, it was Americana and it was Ronald Reagan was our national treasure.Were Jerry Jones at the time anything but an obscure social climber yet to ascend to the summit of the American capitalist money pile before he bought the Dallas Cowboys then he would have been there to worhip his hero firsthand rather than to just drool over the fawning tribute broadcast on his grand stadium's gargantuan HDTV.
Yes indeed, those were the days, the 1980s, the demarcation point from reality and the base camp for our national descent into the abyss of post the 9/11 world of fear and globalist economics. But I am getting ahead of myself here. The Reagan years were the period when America went back to the future in pursuit of that mythical period of greatness and nostalgia that Kevin Phillips wrote about in Post Conservative America. It was a time where a nation wounded by the twin betrayals of Vietnam and Watergate failed the test and rather than gathering together to shape a future that would prevent the amoral interest of a greedy ruling class and their corrupt system from ever again resulting in such disaster we as a nation looked into the mirror and were horrified at the monster glimpsing back, we were in denial and in desperate need of a return to better days. As Phillips so aptly put it:
"More precisely, the 1980s must be considered a decade following a twenty-year period of turbulence in which the American people lost their first war, saw a number of prominent leaders assassinated, their first President forced from office, their currency at one point lose 95 percent of its value against gold, and generally came to feel that their "Heaven-bless'd nation" was somehow no longer favored."
The possibilities were infinite, an increasing prosperity for the well to do and government cheese for the rest. The days of ketchup as a school lunch vegetable, Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk, Rambo and Chuck Norris exacting blood vengeance in Vietnam to finally WIN the war, Sonny and Rico, stylishly kicking ass clad in Armani, Marty McFly and Doc Brown time tripping in a flying De Lorean, J.R. and Alexis flaunting wealth and power, MTV in every household through the miracle of cable, televangelism exploded and took the first steps towards allowing video preachers to become political kingmakers and the personal computer became a force that would eventually transform every aspect of our lives and society. We were mesmerized by the images on the tube, the VCR made available fantasy at the fingertips in your very own living room and the bread and circuses made it all the easier to ignore the looting and dismantling of the infrastructure in the background.
Again I quote from Johnson's Sleepwalking Through History:
"In the eighties the symbiosis between Reagan and television raised new questions. Was it possible the predominant values of success, winning, fame, and fortune that television transmitted into American homes had begun to manifest themselves in the character of the country? Were Americans becoming what they saw? Were they being held hostage by the miracles of their own technical inventions? Did their repeated exposure to fictional happy endings create an appetite for more of them in real life and make it more difficult for them to face lifes realities?"
"Reagan affected television and the viewing public in two significant ways. First, and most important, was the power of his own soothing personality. Both he and television offered new opportunity for diversion and helped breed a new passivity in public life. Under Reagan's lulling spell and the television trance, increasing numbers of Americans became spectators instead of participants. Politically and personally they were couch potatoes."
Couch Potatoes Who Bought The Myth and Continue to Do So.
And you think you're so clever and class less and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
-John Lennon –
... the systematic destruction of everything this country claims to stand for except the rights of the rich to put saddles on the backs of the poor and use public funds to build jails for anybody who complained about it.”
Grand poobah host Jerry Jones’guests including the aforementioned war criminals Dubya and Condi have now departed the mothership of the stadium that has yet to generate a sufficient bidder for corporate naming rights. In an interesting footnote there were 400 poor schmucks who shelled out big bucks for tickets to the big game and then were denied access to the JerryDome, the additional perches were solely added to ensure that the attendance record for the great game would be set in the temple of Jerry and then commoditized as just another selling feature. Welcome to Chumpland!
As for the Super Bowl itself it was amazingly under-whelming for a 31-25 score that would indicate much more excitement, truthfully it was blasé beyond belief. That it was played inside of a climate-controlled tomb with ugly turf that made it hard to tell the difference between the playing surface and the green jerseys of the Green Bay Packers and a top attribute that is the world’s largest indoor Jumbotron probably played a part. I suppose that the FOXed up coverage that was more focused on pimping phony patriotism and the big lie of the Reagan legacy along with millions of dollars in shitty commercials that glorified misogyny, drunkenness, debauchery, consumerism, junk food, movies, homoerotic finger-sucking, baby smashing, cars that nobody but the rich can afford to buy (or qualify for financing for) and the endless promos for FOX’s electronic buffet of idiocy. And then there was the sales job that continued to exalt American exceptionalism, the war machine and the violent culture that supports it, this is why FOX is so very valuable to the oligarchy. Newt Gingrich understood that back when he took 4.5 million dollars from Rupert Murdoch for a book deal back in 1994 – the same year that the fledgling network hit it big by securing broadcast rights for National Football League games.
I suppose that it is somehow poetic justice that the Super Bowl XLV winner, The Green Bay Packers are technically a socialist entity, public owned and now, for the day at least honored heroes in Ronald Reagan’s America.