Sunday, February 6, 2011

100 Years of Folksy Fascism

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000...1f there is an authoritarian regime in the American future, Ronald Reagan is tailored to the image of a friendly fascist. - Robert Lekachman

About the only true good thing that could be said about Ronald Reagan was that he'd retired from the most stressful job in the world with a full head of hair and he didn't do the damage he could've on account of all the naps he took.

Today is Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday and his fascistic followers are celebrating the day with all the pomp, circumstance and money-grubbing alacrity as unabashed fascists celebrate April 20th. You go to any bookstore, there will be the obligatory retrospective hagiographies commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth courtesy of our nation's most premier wingnuts and publishing houses. As with everything else, it's a great opportunity to make money and young college Republicans can now learn through his official biographers how Saint Ronnie of the Jelly Bean nearly completely destroyed middle class families like theirs.

To put it simply, as far as full term presidents go, Ronald Reagan is absolutely the worst, most destructive and dishonest president (George W. Bush would get that top honor if he was actually elected) this republic has ever produced. Under Reagan, the deficit tripled, national defense spending increased, he got a massive wave of tax breaks designed primarily to benefit his wealthy campaign contributors, public education took a rogering, he tried unsuccessfully to take food and milk out of our childrens' mouths at the same time he was giving tax breaks to corporations, more soldiers than ever died for his foreign policy adventurism, he was a coward and cut and ran when terrorists killed 241 of our Marines in Beirut, he cut back room deals with the contras under the fictional guise of combating the Commies, funneled money to them through arms sales to Iran and before he was even elected, sent envoys to talk to Iranian officials and illegally meddling with the hostage crisis under Carter (the all-but-discredited October Surprise which is making a comeback).

In late 1983, he sent another special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld (about to be anointed by CPAC with the Defender of the Constitution Award), to sell Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction and satellite photos of the Iranian army's encampments, thereby resulting in the murders of thousands of Iranians (and Kurdish and Shi'ite Iraqis). But earlier, he made it up to the Iranians by immediately lifting an arms sales ban and brokered a sale of weapons by ex-Mossad gun runners. He flexed his muscles on the beach while in reality doing nothing more than watching the surf crumble the sand castle of Communism then took credit for kicking it down. He overthrew another left wing government under Maurice Bishop by invading Grenada. His "supply side economics" was the forerunner of the unbridled and unchecked greed and capitalism that served as the successful template of the nightmare that ensued under Bush II.

That's just a partial laundry list of what a galactic-class scumbag Ronald Reagan was, a man who demonized the victims of his economic policies and dredged up stereotypes of the welfare queen, used dog whistle politics for racists by announcing his candidacy in a city in which three civil rights workers were murdered just 16 years earlier and smashed one union after another. He stole Jimmy Carter's playbook during that same campaign. His axe man, future jailbird David Stockman, immediately targeted the poor and sickly, immediately eliminating government-subsidized job training such as CETA (resulting in 300,000 suddenly unemployed federal workers) that still hasn't made a comeback. (I guess Reagan took the government underwriting training designed to make people more employable to be the "meddling" that he'd warned us about.)

He not only coddled and protected Noriega, but he even put him on the CIA's payroll and turned a blind eye when Nicaraguan drugs were making their way onto America's streets while having the nerve to appoint an ineffectual "Drug Czar" and his equally clueless wife was saying, "Just Say No!". He coddled and protected Pinochet in Chile until Pinochet's hideous exceeses were too much even for Reagan to tolerate (.pdf file). But the ends justified the means because they were our staunch allies in the war on terrorism the dying Communists. He mentioned the word AIDS only once, in 1985, and otherwise pretended the pandemic didn't exist.

And through it all, the Teflon President sailed, smiled and waved through all these scandals like some befuddled old duffer unaware of his family's murderous, chaotic greed and ambition swirling around him. In point of fact, the man's evil was so systemic and so far-flung that we still haven't cataloged what a truly evil man he really was.

Kind of like the guy we have in the Oval Office now. As with Reagan before him, Obama puts a fresh face on fascism, the man who pats you on the back and tells you everything will be alright while his TSA, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and God only knows how many other government goons are frisking the rest of your body. Both men have other things in common, including the highest unemployment rates since the Great Depression (Reagan still outshines Obama, as the unemployment rate in 1983 peaked at a whopping 10.2%.) But Obama, friendly fascist though he is, had also had a lot of mud unfairly flung at him and much of it sticks.

He's a Socialist, a Muslim, a fraud who was born in Kenya. He pals around with terrorists. He's bound and determined to hand over 1/6th of our economy into the grasping hands of Big Gubmint. He didn't put his hand over his heart. He's not wearing his flag lapel pin. He disrespected the Office of the Presidency by not wearing his jacket. He muffed a Bible verse. He wants to impose Sharia law on the United States.

And he's a smoker.

All bullshit.

Yet nothing, certainly not the truth, stuck to Reagan thanks to those slick, tailored suits and an endless supply of Brylcreem. He represented to many ignorant people, well-meaning folks and fascists-in-waiting a return to the good old days when he actually had a career in acting, a return to a glorious America somewhere between 40 acres and a mule and Jimmy Carter's sweaters, as if we could actually get that dusty, dog-eared 1955 calendar out of the attic and begin reusing it.

How soon we forgot that those good old days, let's say the 50's, were ones in which, under Eisenhower, the wealthiest paid 90% in taxes, that Reagan was a liberal Democrat who headed up a large union called the Screen Actor's Guild. How fast we chose to forget that by 1962 Reagan had turned from a so-called Democrat to a staunch, union-busting Republican, that he would follow in the footsteps of not Dwight D. Eisenhower but Joe McCarthy. In fact, Reagan's example had not only gone uncriticized, it even spawned a still-famous movement involving petty turncoats who were dubbed "Reagan Democrats." (They've since awakened from their slumber and have switched back.)

12 years of policies ranging from the ruinous to the neglectful ensued and once St. Ronnie was out of office, we all suddenly blinked and rubbed our eyes and wondered where the devastation came from. By 1992, three years after Reagan stumbled back to his California ranch and beginning 12 more years of mistaking his tapioca for hair tonic, 48% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Reagan. Less than a quarter of those polled said we were better off, a bitter counterpoint to Reagan's campaign mantra of, "Can you say you're better off now than you were four years ago?"

But 1992 was almost a generation ago and now The Gipper is making a comeback like another dictator is in his own country.

Yet, in case all this hasn't made an impression on you, let's take a look at the real "Dutch" Reagan, who wasn't really Dutch anymore than he was The Gipper, in this video that was secretly taped at the Oval Office.

Yeah, that about gets it right.

So, here's my idea. In lieu of a minute of silence, let's have a minute of piss while we're standing over or sitting on the toilet and think of Ronald Reagan's grave.


At February 6, 2011 at 11:59 AM, Blogger Jill said...

God, I miss Phil Hartman. He was a funny, funny man.

At February 6, 2011 at 12:46 PM, Blogger Dusty,Hells most vocal Bitch said...

I think this is the best piece I have read all day on the bastard known to me, a Cali resident and native, as St. Ronnie of Cali. As Dylan said, and I quote:
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Because I did go and spit on his grave.

At February 6, 2011 at 1:02 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I would've left something a lot more substantial than that, Dusty, believe you me.

At February 6, 2011 at 1:10 PM, Blogger Dusty,Hells most vocal Bitch said...

I thought about it m'dear but they have cameras and guards and stuff. ;)

As it was..hacking a clam got me escorted off the premises.

At February 8, 2011 at 8:28 AM, Anonymous Harv said...


You hit many of the relevant points re. Reagan. But . . .

Your chronicle contains a very grave omission – one that belies a severe ideological and empirical blindspot. There can be virtually no question that Reagan’s most profound impact during his 8 years as President was his backing of ruthless military dictatorships in Latin America, especially in Guatemala. With the enthusiastic backing, military, economic, political and diplomatic support of Washington, the Rios Montt regime carried out a ruthless campaign of repression, resulting in widespread terror, kidnapping, torture, imprisonment and murder. Tens of thousands were killed and over 100,000 were made refugees. All this was well known to Washington though virtually invisible in the U.S. mainstream news. It was, of course, well known to everybody else in the world,

Comparable practices continued throughout the decade in Central America and South America. Indeed, very conservative estimates indicate that as between El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, roughly 300,000 people were killed and over a million made refugees as a result of Reagan’s scorched earth support for rightwing authoritarian governments.

It is very telling that even among those who profess to be “on the left” etc. in the U.S., there is a virtual categorical absence of discussion or even cursory reference to Reagan’s Central America policy in the 1980s. I reviewed hundreds of articles over the weekend in the wake of the celebration of Reagan’s 100 birthday. I did not find ONE SINGLE SOLITARY REFERENCE to his policy of backing to neo-nazi Guatemalan government – policies the resulted in widespread massacres of tens of thousands, in a country that is less than 1000 miles away from the U.S. References to Reagan’s Central American and South American neo-nazi states were all but non-existence in the vast majority of print, tv and on-line media in the U.S.

This all tells us a great deal about just how blind most Americans are to their own government’s actions and their own history. Such blindness is all the more remarkable given the fact that under the Bush II administration, much of GWH’s national security staff were simply recycled Reaganites (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Negroponte).


At February 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Harv: I'm very well aware of Reagan's adventurism and imperialist policies in Latin America. Like I said, it was a "partial laundry list" and there's no way one could catalog all of Reagan's evil within the normal confines of a single blog post. That's something for which one would need to write a book.

But I'm all too well aware of Reagan's hideous record in the banana republics of Latin America.

At February 8, 2011 at 11:52 AM, Anonymous Harv said...

Thanks for the quick response. Your blog is among the best on the web. Has been for years. Keep it up.

That said, I guess MY point is that even on the "left" (whatever that word is supposed to mean), recriminations of Reagan very rarely mention what are arguably his most heinous crimes. The practice is nearly uniform -- which thus begs the question, "WHY?"

I propose that a very plausible explanation is that Reagan's critics in the U.S. remain substantially "inside" the ideological framework of the political and intellectual establishment. (It is of a piece with those who criticized Nixon for the Watergate break-in, while routinely ignoring the far-greater crimes of authorizing the massive aerial bombardment of heavy populated civilian concentrations in Southeast Asia -- conduct that is, by any sober assessment -- well within the official definitions of war crimes under various codes.)

Perhaps it is best to consider the following thought experiment:

Suppose that in 1983, Rios Montt staged a military coup in the U.S., overthrew the Reagan government, installed a ruthless, right-wing authoritarian police state, and that in the years following the military and rural guard engaged in hundreds of ground sweeps in Western Massachusetts, upstate NY, Ohio, Nebraska, and so on, rounding up farmers, burning their farms and houses, cutting off their heads, raping their wives, killing their children and so on. Assume that at least 100,000 American civilians had been killed and over a million refugees created, now living in Canada, Mexico, and elsewhere. Assume further that tens of thousands more were imprisoned and tortured, their land taken away; that journalists, priests, academics, labor organizers, and the like were major targets, and opposition media were physically destroyed.

Now imagine that in 2026, a sector of Guatemalan society sought to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rios Montt's birth. On the fringes of dissent, some Guatemalan critics noted that Montt was a hypocrite, that he raised taxes on the poor, that he gave big breaks to corporations, that he lifted a ban on the sale of arms to known terror states and sold weapons to other dictators, that he ignored the spread of AIDs in Guatemala, implemented policies that caused high unemployment, smoked cigarettes, and so on.

Yet, NOT A SINGLE PERSON mentioned Montt's record w/r/t the U.S.

Wouldn't that result strike you as begging some explanation? More to the point, wouldn't such a result belie a failure of dissenting voices in Guatemala to know about, understand, appreciate and come to terms with the realities perpetrated by political leaders within their own country? Under my hypothetical, wouldn't you agree that Americans would regard the failure to acknowledge -- front and center -- the worst of Montt's crimes as symptomatic of a deeply-rooted ideological blindness, if not an unconscionable ignorance?

At February 8, 2011 at 1:25 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

You make a good point. Years ago, I'd offered a similar assessment of what would happen had a larger super power than us done to the US what we'd done to Iraq, only adjusting the numbers to reflect America's far larger population. The numbers were sobering when you multiplied them by the US-Iraq population ratio. Thousands of Americans killed daily. Millions maimed every year. No military to speak of and what was left of the military was corrupt and sectarian in nature.

And if Montt had indeed pulled a Prescott Bush and overthrew the Reagan government and installed an even more authoritarian right wing dictatorship, Reagan would be hailed, thanks to some Overton window wrenching, as a liberal martyr.

But I didn't have time to dwell on Reagan's many, many crimes against humanity because after the first 1-2000 words, people start to lose interest no matter how compelling the subject matter or the prosody. I always have to make concessions to the goldfish mentality of the people who get their news and commentary from the internet. Many of my readers stay with Mikey and me during our long-winded rants but many of them don't. That's why my posts don't generally exceed 1500-1800 words and why some things get left out or glossed over.

At February 8, 2011 at 2:12 PM, Anonymous Harv said...


The thought experiment re. Iraq is an apt one. In truth, if Iraq had invaded the U.S. on the pretext that the U.S. had developed WMDs and was planning to use them in Iraq, and had a comparable disaster ensued in the U.S. as has followed in Iraq, the mass of the U.S. population, mainstream press and political and intellectual establishment would regard the lot as the greatest crime in the history of the world, and would be demanding wholesale justice, including massive reparations.

But should one so much as suggest that the U.S. owes reparations to Iraq as a result of the Bush II invasion, you are immediately reviled as some sort of "anti-American" fanatic. Orwell's remark on the blindness of the nationalist remains as relevant as ever.


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