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i've got a bad feeling about this

Does anyone besides me think the CBS cancellation of the Reagan movie sets a dangerous precedent?

I do understand the uproar over the content; if there were outright lies included in the script that certainly would not be fair to President Reagan, especially since he is unable to defend himself. But caving to political pressure - especially from people who have not even seen the movie in question - just makes way for that ubiquitous slippery slope.

What's next? Will all biographical movies undergo the same scrutiny? Will pieces of historical fiction be taken off the shelves for inaccuracies?

I shudder to think about what this means for the future. Will this give the green light to special interest groups to start putting on the pressure to take programming they don't like off the air?

I just don't like where this could go.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference i've got a bad feeling about this:

» History Defended from The American Mind
Gus [click here and scroll down to "Getting it straight"] at The Chapin Nation on the Reagan mini-series moving to [Read More]

» I'll make this brief. Wait, I Lied. from Tightly Wound
You knew it was inevitable--but it's fun to read anyway. Sort of. Well, if you consider taking long thin strips of bamboo, setting them aflame, and then ramming them under your fingernails fun. But enough about my Friday evenings... I... [Read More]

» Precedent? Nah. from insignificant thoughts
Michele is of the mindset that CBS moving the Reagans movie to may create a bad chain reaction of events in the future. She may be right, to a degree, but this movie had to be shelved even if it... [Read More]


Networks don't have to the pressure of a few special interests in politics. It's my understanding that CBS was FLOODED with millions of phone calls, emails, faxes and letters.

In addition, the final script was made available and there was several scenes that were made available as well, so the protests about this film were not made blindly.

I don't necessarily support or disagree with the decision by CBS, but it was a business decision, not a political one.

The problem with your worries lies here. Michael Moore is the expert and has sullied anything that follows. Sort of like a president in a court ruling. People of sound mind and concience are going to call people on stuff like this. And that is what happened with the Reagan film. Nothing to be afraid of except that some people do not tolerate lies and distortion.


Pronunciation: (dok"yu-men'tu-rE, -trE), [key]
—adj., n., pl. -ries.

1. Also,doc•u•men•talPronunciation: (dok"yu-men'tl). [key]pertaining to, consisting of, or derived from documents: a documentary history of France.
2. Motion Pictures, Television.based on or re-creating an actual event, era, life story, etc., that purports to be factually accurate and contains no fictional elements: a documentary life of Gandhi.

Motion Pictures, Television.a documentary film, radio or television program, etc.

Now the word is they're moving it to Showtime. So it's all pretty screwy. Either it's a complete web of lies, a factual biopic, or a based on a true story type crap mellow drama, or whatever. But all this drama about showing the thing is weird. Why move it to a cable channel?

What if a similar move was made on your bud Mr. Rall?If enough people told his publishers that to continue to print his balderdash would cost them $ ?CBS knew they had a questionable stinker on their hands and they let some of the script"leak" to test the waters(market).They got their asses handed to them and decided to put something else in that spot during sweeps.They are THRILLED,I'm sure that they found out sooner thatn later. $.ya know.

Showtime isn't dependent on advertisers for its existence. CBS is. Most network and cable channels rely on advertisers for a huge chunk of their revenues. Showtime, being a premium channel, has much more controversial fare as the audience itself decides whether to pay the price for the content.

Yeah, I'm with Jay & MBruce: it's all about business. No one should cry "censorship" over network TV. If they don't get ad $ to pay for a program, it's a loser for them. So sell it to a premium cable channel - why not? It avoids the bad P.R. and loss of revenue. They wouldn't be able to afford padding the ad breaks with promos for CBS shows. I don't imagine they have enough to fill all the ad time necessary.

If a political party can pressure a network to pull a movie, where's the free press? This is Norquist-land we're in, and it worries me. Leslie Voorhees is gutless for not telling the RNC to go to hell.

Without falling into the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" tinfoil hat camp, I have to wonder if the public outcry would have been as large without a concerted effort by the RNC to vet the content? There is a potential problem when political constitiuencies affect what is shown on publicly owned airwaves.

These are networks that are fighting over rights to Samantha Smarts story. These are the networks that bring us reality programming and hatchet jobs on Princess Diana before she was even cold. These people are not exactly known for compassion. I don't believe for a second that they are concerned with advertising revenue, if aired, this program would bring record ratings after the controversy.

This is about the relaxation of media ownership rules, the RNC's desire to preserve fond memories of a man whose subordinates are in power today, and about major advertisers terrified at the prospect of alienating an administration as friendly to their interests as the current one.

But...but...but...that's not fair! Only liberals get to use boycotts!

But seriously:
Will all biographical movies undergo the same scrutiny?
They damn sure should.
Will pieces of historical fiction be taken off the shelves for inaccuracies?
Not if they are only historical fiction. But if they are vicious lies, the producers should feel some heat.

I am also disturbed by this. I am a pretty conservitive republican leaning to libertarian and i was horrified by the reports of the film.

I am not at all comfortable with the show being pulled. It is identical to the political correctness that so many of us have been fighting against.

Exposing the lies in the film is a good thing as is shameing the lying bile that made it, but to get something pulled is creepy and very much what those of us amongst the campus conservatives have been railing against.

In fairness, the blame lies largely with CBS IMHO. Those who protested it were excersizing their rights to protest something that offended them, much like the people who are up-in arms about the Mel Gibson movie or anything else.

CBS did not stand by its people, (they say it was because the film was tardily discovered to be flawed BS! Jay is right about the bottom line).

I think they have set a VERY bad precedent.

I am also VERY upset that so many right wing personalities consider this to be a good thing.


You're right. They should have aired the equally-factual "Horseman Without A Horse" like the Arabic world did for their Ramadan Sweeps. Would have sparked less controversy than urinating on Reagan's grave before he even got put in it.

Michele, it just means CBS is a business...and has been for years, and like so many businesses, wants to make money, not lose it. It's pretty apparent that the backlash scared off sponsors (and therefore money). That's all it means.

If the predominant opinion is "don't do this"...that's just the prevailing opinion. Ain't no conspiracy.

I am much more concerned about the PC censorship and rewriting of textbooks.

CBS is free to air it if they choose to do so, they are not being censored. They folded to avoid losing share during sweeps...that is as cynical as it gets.

It's been a long time coming but the TV consumer has finally got off it's ass and opened the window.

"So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' " --Howard Beale, "Network" (1976)

Jeff Jarvis agrees with you.

It was portended to be a biography.
It was NOT.
It is a lie.
People called on THE LIE.
That is a good thing.
'Nuff said.
Settle down.
People called shit, well, shit.
Good thing.

Well, believe what you want, but both in the article you cited and on Drudge, CBS says their decision wasn't affected by the pressure.

Jesus, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let us never forget the moral fiber of those who look down upon me from the Hollywood Hills. They will swallow whatever jizz it takes for publicity, for fame, for adulation.

Actually work on a camera crew? Actually know the difference between the Mitchell-Fries movement versus those born of ArriFlex? Burn their hand on a light?

I believe CBS yanked the film for several reasons. Yes, one of those reasons was political pressure, but economic and artistic concerns ranked right up the with such pressure.

First, does anyone actually believe that a movie about a noted conservative, produced by one of the most liberal networks, written by commie-liberal writers and starring liberal actors could be anything but a political hatchet-job? Even the stars of the movie refused to promote it!

Second, had CBS run the film they would have cleaned up in the sweeps ratings due to all the advance publicity. But since what Reagan is or was is very dear to many Americans, the ensuing backlash against CBS's advertisers would have been equally enormous. No, this wouldn't do.

And third, the "aids" line spoken by the Reagan character in the film was truly vile. CBS (correctly) realized that they would have to tone down the foaming-at-the-mouth rhetoric a bit. In desparation, CBS sent the film back to the cutting room and the movie simply didn't survive the re-edit. They were left with a piece of cheesy trash.

CBS has learned a $9 million lesson (or at least let's hope they learned). CBS rightly pulled the film for several sound reasons. Simple as that.

Gee, just for fun let's say the film was called "The Clintons" and instead of the "aids" line, it featured a scene with Bill discussing the Rwanda situation with Hitlery. The Bill Clinton character would then speak his line: "Who cares about a couple hundred thousand friggin' African niggers. Let them die", refering of course to "the first black President's" non-intervention policy in that part of the world.

That would have gone over like a turd in the punchbowl, wouldn't it? Can you imagine how the media would've screamed over that one?

the "aids" line spoken by the Reagan character in the film was truly vile.

Yes, it was.

What he was quoted as saying in his official biography isn't a whole lot better. It could be argued that the line in the script got the general idea correct.

How come no one is mentioning the letter Marc Christian wrote to Les Moonves, telling him that Reagan as homophobe was BS, since Regan personally called Rock Hudson weeks before his death to offer sympathy and encouragement. If Reagan believed gays are sinners and should die, why did he have to care about Rock Hudson?

Getting high ratings so you can sell your advertising at a higher price doesn't mean much if you have alienated or scared off many of your advertisers. BoycottCBS.com was offering to send a list of the movie's advertisers after it aired to anyone who was willing to contact them to complain. I have to believe that a fear of being inundated by emails, letters, and phone calls (and a loss of sales for products advertised) had something to do with it.

I don't think it sets any kind of precedent. This movie was going to air on the CBS flagship station. How much do you want to bet that if the movie was going to air on some other Viacom station there wouldn't have been as much uproar. CBS is a name brand and Viacom should have put it on one of its higher rated cable channels.

Think of it this way: Something happens to Jimmy Carter that seriously incapacitates him. Roslyn spends her time tending to him. The country feels tremendous sympathy for their plight. Rupert Murdoch commissions a movie about the Carters, showing him to be a bible-thumping nutball with a crazy brother and screwed up kids. A movie that has no balance and gives little regard to his accomplishments. An over-acted potboiler with an agenda.

You think Dems wouldn't be up in arms (and rightly so)?

This thing just came off as mean and unseemly. "Artistic freedom" my butt. That's like saying we should all get on board to protect the "artistic freedom" of shows like Temptation Island or I Want To Be A Porn Star.

Drudge probably did CBS a favor, and they know it.

Here's a bit of perspective from OpinionJournal. It reminds people of some of the previous dumb moves CBS prez Moonves has made. This isn't happening separate from all the other programming decisions CBS has made. It would be safe to say that Moonves in particular is clueless as to his viewers' reality.

I'm not sure the right-wing is really as concerned with the truth as the comments here suggest. It seems more likely that they don't like their favorite president to be bad-mouthed. Since advertisers were pulling out because they were afraid of the boycott, CBS didn't really have a choice.

and the band played on.

unlike reagan's studied inattention to the aids crisis, a crappy biopic isn't going to kill anyone.

I tend to agree with Laurence Simon on this one.

Considering the reasons seem [from all the news stories I've read on it] to have been a business decision based on outcry from viewers [potential advertising customers], I don't see it as any different than the customer outcry against the Dixie Chicks earlier. Not a "dangerous precedent of censorship"...

It's a dangerous precedent of customers letting it be known they'll vote with their wallets and credit cards against CBS's sponsors.

Like, free market pressures, dudes. And that's a pretty nifty and dangerous thing in itself. ;]

Ummm... what was the old 60's phrase? Ah yes: "Powah to da People!" snicker

Murdoch wouldn't have cared about the public pressure and run the Carter biopic anyway. That's the difference between Fox and CBS: how they back the big lie. CBS lacks the courage of their convictions, because they're one of the Big 3, and it's easier for them to absorb the cost of making the series rather than piss off a large portion of the viewing public and their advertisers. We should not confuse their self-interest with a realization on their part that the piece was a hatchet job on Reagan and that they knew it would reflect poorly on them.

A hatchet job like this might have been a nice alternative to the free ride that Reagan's had in bios so far. After all, someone has to dispel myths like "ending the cold war" and "fiscal responsibility."

reagan's studied inattention to the aids crisis

Stymied at every turn by the "gay community", something they're still doing. But blame Reagan over their leaders. It's the politically correct thing to do.

Right, because the "gay community," whatever that means, was so interested in stymieing research and studying of a disease that was killing thousands.

Look, Reagan wasn't the monster when it comes to AIDS that many depict him as; frankly, he has far worse skeletons to deal with, such as committing treason by authorizing the selling of weapons to enemies of the United States. But he certainly wasn't wishing peope dead simply because they were gay. At worst, he didn't commit the resources that could have been committed.

I don't think anyone who's posted comments here really gives a flip about the artistic quality (or lack thereof) of this TV movie. It's probably bad, as most TV movies are, but that has nothing to do with the discussion. You're just happily grinding away at your axes.

Any honest biographical effort of ANY president is going to show unflattering things. It's hard to get too up in arms about the RNC's efforts against this particular movie, since it's most likely not very well made and "docu-drama" is a very questionable category in general, but I doubt conservatives would be much happier with a true documentary film that was well made.

So, even though this particular movie is probably not very good, I agree with Michele that CBS' caving in to political pressure sets a worrisome precedent.

Some political documentaries are going to be biased, offensive, and bad. Networks need to cancel bad political programs, just as they cancel any other drek that gets produced.

What is the alternative? To give any potentially controversial program sacred cow status, just because it is controversial? There are already a lot of people who think they have something meaningful to say just because they are offensive. And all that they have to offer is their spite and their exhibitionism; they have no meaningful arguments to make. It's fun to fisk them, but nothing that they do means anything.

Precedent? I think Jimmy the Greek, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, Greg Easterbrook et al. might suggest that the precedent already's been set.

There's another angle to Floyd's "What is the alternative?" question:

What's the alternative? Make it illegal for consumers to affect a company and it's sponsors products [and networks are companies and their shows are products] by voting vocally with their wallets against the programming? Who gets to decide what it's "right" for me or anyone else to boycott an advertiser over?

That sends a lot farther reaching of a precedent than CBS dropping a program because of consumer outcry.