11. PBS awards leftist editor Lewis Lapham a six-part series or “essay” to trash militaristic American foreign policy from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan (1989).
In 1989, PBS aired a six-part series titled America’s Century, starring Lewis Lapham, the leftist editor of Harper’s magazine. He called it an “essay in television documentary form.” In Lapham’s view, the entire 20th century was an unfolding mess of American violence. Lapham began with the troubling “militarism and imperialism” of Theodore Roosevelt, and kept the attack on until he’d reached Ronald Reagan and the “confidence of his belief in all the American fairy tales.”
Lapham compared Reagan to John Wayne: “They admired Wayne just as later they admired Ronald Reagan, his friend and understudy, because they knew could count on Wayne to defend the sanctity of myth against the heresy of fact.”
Grenada was just another example of imperialism, and Lapham even insisted the U.S. barely won. “The conquest of Grenada was a photo opportunity to which the American press was belatedly invited, only after 6,000 American troops had barely managed to defeat 750 Cuban engineers. As a military exercise, the invasion was as clumsy as it was unconstitutional.”
The anti-communist Nicaraguan resistance was evil: “For the most part, the Nicaraguan Contras burned villages and murdered civilians. On behalf of their cause, Reagan sold out his oath of office and subverted the Constitution.” Reagan was a despot and his aide Oliver North had no conscience: “Oliver North presented himself as the immortal boy in the heroic green uniform of Peter Pan. Although wishing to be seen as a humble patriot, the Colonel’s testimony showed him to be a treacherous and lying agent of the national security state, willing to do anything asked of him by a President to whom he granted the powers of an Oriental despot.”
While Lapham admitted the series leaned left, PBS press rep Mary Jane McKinven denied that to MRC at the time: “It’s not our business to label our programs like that. Over the wide range and scheme of things, we have exhibited balance in programming.”
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