So the word from the land that invented freedom of expression is that CBS's miniseries on Ronald Reagan, to air Nov. 16 and 18 during the sweeps period, is a vicious pack of lies constructed by the left-wing media to denigrate the patron saint of tax cuts for the rich.
Now I'm not saying that The Reagans — which stars James Brolin, hubby of that diva of the Democrats, Barbra Streisand — isn't a "naked, brutal hatchet work, a smear of a good man by haters who fabricate and lie to paint Reagan as a religious bigot who thinks those dying of AIDS are getting what God intends for them" the way conservative commentator Pat Buchanan does. It may well be. But I don't know since I haven't seen it.
But then, neither has Buchanan. Nor has the Republican Party leadership, which has demanded either changes or a constant "crawl'' warning viewers that this is a distortion of reality. Nor has anybody at the Media Research Center, a right wing watchdog, which called for an advertiser boycott of the show. Nor has Ronald's son Michael, who has been fulminating against the production on his nationally syndicated radio show, available in 200 markets.
"Hollywood has been hijacked by the liberal left," Michael Reagan complains, forgetting his dad once headed a Hollywood union, the Screen Actors Guild.
All these critics have based their attacks on an Oct. 21 New York Times story in which TV reporter Jim Rutenberg reveals that he got his hands on a final script. But as anybody in the business knows, what's on paper isn't always what lands on the screen.
While the series credits Reagan "for ending the Cold War and paints him as an exceptionally gifted politician and a moral man who stuck to his beliefs," wrote Rutenberg, "there is no mention of the economic recovery or the creation of wealth during his administration."
This upsets the right, which is demanding that Reagonomics be praised.
But none of the program's critics mention how his economic policies not only made the poor poorer, it also made more of them.
What is alarming about all this is how little reference there is to other recent instances of TV cooking the historical books and coming up with partisan propaganda.
For example, where were these critics in September when Showtime's D.C. 9/11, made with the White House's co-operation and approval, had President George W. Bush (on the day Air Force One was wandering the stratosphere), crying out, "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home, waiting for the bastard!"
Or what about A&E's recent biodoc on Jessica Lynch, she who did not shoot her way out of a firefight?
It's tough to take these guys' claim of left-wing bias in the U.S. media seriously when few news organizations are reporting on the dead or wounded troops coming home from Iraq.
And, in the online magazine Salon, Eric Boehlert pointed out that last week, when "terrorists turned downtown Baghdad into a shooting gallery," killing more than 30 people and wounding more than 200, including 29 U.S. soldiers, CNN, MSNBC and Fox downplayed the story, often putting it behind the release of a tell-all book about the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
So, Bush's constant ragging on the media lately — and about how they never tell the good news stories from Iraq — is just another lie from the folks who gave us that weapons-of-mass-destruction-are-about-to-land-on-our-heads story.
Consider his beef that the media never report on all the school and hospital re-openings in Iraq.
As Newsweek pointed out last week, the reason that nobody is reporting on that is because no major hospitals ever closed, even during the war, and many schools have been open for months.
But that Newsweek story is the exception, not the rule.
Most media outlets accept the spin. And so they get access to the Bush team for interviews and guest spots. Those that don't buy the Bush line — ABC's Nightline and PBS' Frontline, to name two rare examples — get snubbed.
Which is why more and more Americans turn to foreign sources for their news.
As one woman wrote to the New York Times on Sunday, responding to a brilliant Frank Rich commentary comparing the coverage of the Iraq attack with that of the Vietnam war, "The sloth of the American news media toward the Bushies, as exposed by Mr. Rich's article, is why I am pro-choice. I choose to watch BBC America and NWI (from Canada) for news that hasn't been filtered by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Judging by the controversy surrounding The Reagans, the filter threatens to become a dam.
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