Carnival of False Mourning

Article excerpt

Ah, that a man can smile and smile, and be a villain ...
--Hamlet

For anyone who paid any attention to the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), media coverage of his death on June 5, 2004 was nothing less than a crazy-making experience. Who was the man in that coffin? Certainly not the man on historical record.

Not since the naive, simplistic and racist reporting of September 11, 2001 has so bold a collection of drooling lies, liars, theatre and tears been perpetrated on Americans, and by extension, Canadians on any single occasion.

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In the many days of enforced public mourning nobody came to bury Ceasar, but many showed up to praise him. Indeed, by the time this article reaches print, the Titan, the Great Communicator, Liberator, (take your pick) has probably risen and returned to us, still wearing the white hat and the disingenuous smile with which he was planted.

Ironically, the Ronnie Reaganthon took us back to the days when ancient Soviet cold warriors died, and Russians endured weeks of martial music and canned tributes bearing little or no resemblance to the truth. Unlike many comtemporary Westerners, however, the Russians at least knew a joke when they saw one.

It is polite custom to speak charitably about the dead. But the inimitable American public relations machine, fuelled by political interests and tactical scriptwriters, took us much further than that, using the dead to imprison the living in a fog of grandiose and toxic self-deception, a fog meant also to justify and enable contemporary Caesar George W. Bush to stay his lethal course in the Middle East.

By virtue of media magic, the fortieth president of the USA was transformed into an all-benevolent and heroic figure, lifting America up and away from the sordid events of Watergate and Vietnam with one hand and liberating the slaves of Soviet communism with the other. Hands behind his back, he apparently called for the fall of the Berlin Wall, and behold, it fell down before him.

All this Reagan did with characteristic humility. As he said, typically, when defending the hugely unpopular seal hunt in Canada, "I couldn't actually club a seal myself."

And there were other things he couldn't do. In 1987, he couldn't explain the secret sales of weapons to Iran, a strategy designed to ransom American hostages and fund CIA Contra rebels attempting to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. "Try as I might, I simply cannot recall anything whatsoever," he said, and miraculously remained both unprosecuted and unimpeached. …