Censorship and Slander: CBS’s “The Reagans” Gets Moved from TV to Cable

by | Nov 10, 2003

Now that the made for TV miniseries about Ronald Reagan’s presidency called The Reagans has been moved from CBS to Showtime the rewriting of history about the controversy has already begun. According to the left, the fact that CBS moved the miniseries to Showtime is the result of a right wing censoring effort to stifle […]

Now that the made for TV miniseries about Ronald Reagan’s presidency called The Reagans has been moved from CBS to Showtime the rewriting of history about the controversy has already begun. According to the left, the fact that CBS moved the miniseries to Showtime is the result of a right wing censoring effort to stifle free expression and artistic effort. What?

Apparently it’s lost upon certain leftist pundits that only the government can censor people. But beyond that, the objections raised by many people, not just right wingers, but historians and others who have studied the Reagan presidency, is that the people who produced the movie made up things about Ronald Reagan to portray him as negatively as possible. The objection was that a man’s character was being defamed; it was not simply that people who didn’t like Reagan were making a movie about him.

Certainly very few, if any, of the people who make movies about Adolf Hitler like the man. But what purpose is served by making things up about him and in his case why would you have to? If you disapprove of the subject of your historical film it is because you’ve made value judgments about that character’s actions and beliefs. The truth is what you based your judgments on so why alter reality when presenting the truth to everyone else? Perhaps the producers of this film aren’t confident that simply dramatizing the truth will create the anti-Reagan feelings they are seemingly desirous of.

One need not be a fan of Ronald Reagan to see the problem in what CBS was doing. Just because you are guaranteed a fundamental right to free speech doesn’t mean you have the right to libel and slander people or make up new historical information. None of the people who worked in the White House with Reagan seems to have been contacted for research purposes or for getting some idea of what the dialogue of the President was like. Instead we hear that in the miniseries the former President curses quite a bit, refers to himself as the Anti-Christ, and is highly indifferent in the Old Testament sense to the people suffering from AIDS in Africa.

Wait! The arguments from the left continue. Former President Kennedy is unfairly “demonized” all the time in movies, why do these movies get to air and the Reagan picture does not? Perhaps, before they get on TV and jabber, these pundits should research a little on Kennedy. In his excellent biography of the former President, A Question of Character, historian Thomas Reeves documents all sorts of indecent and impeachable offenses committed by President Kennedy that range from drug use to sleeping with dozens of different women including a Soviet spy. These actions made him susceptible not only to being an unwitting ally of the Soviet Union, but making him beholden to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who knew of all these events and used that knowledge to make himself untouchable.

These are documented facts of history; the dialogue of The Reagans is just made up. But wait, yet another argument. Dialogue in any historical drama has to be made up because there is no stenographer present to transcribe the exact words of the many conversations the President has. This is certainly true, but does this give the writers of movies license to just make up anything they want? If this is true then they could just write in dialogue for Ronald Reagan to the effect of, “I hate black people and I wish we could just have them all killed.” Even if you think Reagan was a racist you can’t just attribute statements and ideas to him that aren’t backed up by some sort of evidence. Either go by the historical record, which is very rich considering most of the people who served in the two Reagan administrations are still alive, or keep your opinions to yourself.

The way this story has played out is really telling of the left and how they view the world. Because CBS realized they weren’t going to get away with making things up and moved the movie from TV to Cable (apparently it’s ok to lie about people if you have to pay to watch it) it is called “censorship.” They utter absurdities like, “If the speech in the movie is false then the way to combat it is more speech.” This effectively gives license to everyone to say or print whatever they want about anyone with nothing to worry about. It’s one thing to call someone an idiot because as an unsupported statement it is just a hollow ad hominem attack that anybody would recognize as such. But when people fabricate “facts” to support their assertions and there is no consequence, then the onus is effectively put on the victim of the lie to defend himself from any made up absurdity.

The fact that CBS was caught in the act is promising, but the fact that the miniseries is still being aired is troubling. It’s indicative of not only how liberal CBS is, but how little they care for reality. Hopefully, since President Reagan is still alive, someone will file a lawsuit on his behalf against Showtime when the movie airs (assuming there is no disclaimer stating that the movie is a fictitious account of Reagan’s Presidency) to show these people that smearing someone’s character and lying about them is unacceptable and will be punished. However, given what happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency, lying doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore.

Alexander Marriott is currently a graduate student of the early republic at Clark University in Worcester, MA. He earned his B.A. in history in 2004 from the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, where he was an Op-Ed columnist for the UNLV Rebel Yell. Marriott grew up in Chicago and lived in Saudi Arabia for four and a half years and has resided in Las Vegas since 1996.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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