SPIN ONE FOR THE GIPPER

Seattle

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your June 28 coverage of Ronald Reagan. The media milked every last tear from “the American people” about this “American President,” making everyone think he saved the country from communism and brought it back from the brink of destruction. You covered all my memories: Iran/contra, ignoring the AIDS crisis, deregulation, the S&L scandal, the firing of air-traffic controllers… Those eight years were a nightmare that we are all still paying for.

PENNY RIKER


Los Angeles

Your coverage of Reagan was excellent, and you didn’t even get into the damage he did as governor of California or how much it cost the taxpayers to bury the bum. It is refreshing, after all the media glorification of this right-wing mediocrity and hypocrite, to encounter the plain, unvarnished truth.

CHARLES B. EDELMAN


Hamden, Conn.

Thank you for your reality-based recapitulation of the Reagan presidency. Like Dorothy Parker’s famous “tonstant reader,” the recent orgy of propagandistic revisionism made me want to “frow up.”

EDWARD M. ROTHCHILD


Caparra, Puerto Rico

My congratulations for your brave editorial on the Reagan legacy, the first US medium to express an honest point of view about a figure who for us, the Latin Americans, did not represent the best of the American people. It is good to know that there are brave people who do not fear to express the truth. The New York Times should learn from you.

ALBERTO RIERA FERRO


San Francisco

Before Ronald Reagan enters the beatification phase, it would behoove those taken in by the puffery put out by his Administration (those not indicted) to pay heed to what Tip O’Neill said in his book Man of the House: “Ronald Reagan lacked the knowledge he should have had in every sphere both domestic and international. Most of the time he was an actor reading lines who didn’t understand his own programs. I hate to say this about such an agreeable man but it was sinful that Ronald Reagan ever became president.” He went on to say, “I’ve known every president since Harry Truman and there’s no question in my mind that Ronald Reagan was the worst.”

ARTHUR INERFIELD


Santa Cruz, Calif.

My feelings about the Reagan years: “It was mourning in America.” California’s Prop 13 had just passed and the country’s mood was one of not taking responsibility. Rather than taking us to the woodshed for a lesson in that responsibility, Reagan gave us his dalliance with Rosy Scenario. His morning was more like evening. I see the Clinton years as the brilliant glow you get just as the sun sets.

ALVIN HOWARD


Corte Madera, Calif.

My dad was a photographer at Modern Screen in the 1940s. He requested photo sessions with some stars who were in the armed forces, but they didn’t want the publicity. Ronald Reagan, however, wished to be photographed on his front step, in full uniform, kissing his wife goodbye. Then he went to his desk job in Culver City. That makes him the Patriarch of the Chickenhawks. My dad loathed him ever after.

BARBARA BREGER


Seattle

In 1940, Ronald Reagan starred as Brass Bancroft, secret service agent, in Murder in the Air. Brass’s job was to keep enemy spies from stealing the plans to a new secret weapon, the Inertia Protector. Presumably, screenwriter Raymond Schrock based the weapon on Nikola Tesla’s death ray particle accelerator. This reared its ugly head during the Reagan years–as SDI, or “Star Wars.” Was Reagan already on board, having seen it in the movies?

STEVE STUART


Munich

I believe that in the history books, Reagan will be most noted for one of the first acts of his Administration: the elimination of solar- and alternative-energy tax credits, in 1981. It is almost too painful to contemplate how much healthier and wealthier the world would be today if the remarkable momentum of the research and progress of the 1960s and ’70s in these areas had been encouraged and supported instead of stopped nearly dead at the behest of the oil and auto industries.

JOHN BROWNER


Boston

You omitted one salient fact: Ronald Reagan was responsible for creating the best marijuana in the world! When Reagan initiated his “war on drugs,” the marijuana growers were hard pressed to beat the Feds. They had to re-engineer their plant, and they did so in one of the greatest breeding undertakings ever–no recombinant DNA, just conventional breeding technology. In a few years the marijuana plant was a dwarf plant that lacked the typical acrid odor, thereby allowing it to be grown indoors. Along with these changes came additional benefits–the best and most potent sinsemilla marijuana in the world. Bravo, Mr. President.

STEVEN ACKERMAN


Boston

I’d like to propose putting the likeness of Ronald Wilson Reagan on the one-cent coin. Since Lincoln is already honored on the five-dollar bill, no one gets shuffled aside, and the “trickle down theory” will be suitably honored and enshrined. Pennies from heaven instead of E Pluribus Unum.

MURRAY WILLOUGHBY


Robbinsville, NJ

Your face could go on a dime
Or maybe a ten-dollar bill,
For gutting a union (a crime!)
Or finding Grenadans to kill.

But you got your message across–
I don’t think I saw you fail.
And though many mourned your loss,
I’d rather have gotten my mail.

CHRIS LEGGETTE


Port Reyes Station, Calif.

This notice was on the door of our post office the day of Ronald Reagan’s funeral: “This U.S. Post Office Will Be Closed June 11th, a Day of National Mourning for a Great American, Ray Charles.”

MARK DOWIE


STERN REBUKES

Mail, clean and obscene, poured in after our May 17 issue, with Howard Stern and “F*cked by the F*CC” on the cover, hit the stands. Subscriptions were canceled, the magazine was kept off coffee tables for fear that children or neighbors would be contaminated, and we, author Jeff Jarvis and Stern were trashed. But others defended our right to publish it–and Stern’s right to be Stern. Herewith, a sampling.


Kent, Ohio

I love your magazine and usually read it cover to cover. But then came the issue with the smug mug of the shock jock and the puerile sensationalism of almost-profanity. On a week when you might have featured the million-woman march, instead you lionized one of the biggest sexist morons in America.

CHRIS COTTON


San Dimas, Calif.

To paraphrase Jonathan Swift, Howard Stern is the most pernicious breed of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth. Jeff Jarvis notwithstanding, Stern is a sexist, a racist and, above all, a bully. His show is a hideous spectacle wherein Howard and his merry band of losers defecate on one another (metaphorically speaking, of course) when they are not abusing his guests. For me, however, the most disturbing thing about Stern is that he simply isn’t funny. As Johnny Carson is reputed to have said about one of his potential replacements, “The man couldn’t ad lib a fart.”

But the First Amendment must apply to everyone, even Howard Stern. Is this a great country, or what?

RICHARD W. BRAY


Grandville, Mich.


The Nation crossed the line with its Howard Stern F*CKED BY THE F*CC cover. While I am all for free speech, I live in a small Midwest Bible Belt town, and the postmen talk. Seriously, I like to keep my liberal views under cover. There are Bush lovers galore here, and I feel like I don’t live in the land of the free anymore–and I really do want to continue to hear what’s really going on in the world!

ROBIN MCLAUGHLIN


New York City

Kudos to Jeff Jarvis for his thoughtful, honest assessment of the campaign against Howard Stern. Jarvis not only supports Stern’s right to free speech but also the validity of Stern’s speech itself. Stern may not be the voice of a progressive agenda, but his activism against Bush and his policies place him clearly on our team. That he doesn’t fit the progressive mold perfectly should remind us that those who desire truth, justice and freedom are most often as complex as the principles they espouse.

TYLER FEREIRA


Cupertino, Calif.

First Jeff Jarvis allows Advertising Age to define the terms of our culture war, then he goes on to conflate government censorship intended to protect the powerful with speech codes intended to protect the weak. Howard Stern’s brand of offensive speech rests on exclusion and derision, particularly of women. Jarvis doesn’t seem to recognize the difference between offensive speech that challenges authority or convention and offensive speech that indulges bigotry and sustains stereotypes. As a society, we continually revise what constitutes legally or socially acceptable speech while trying to maintain the bedrock principle that the powerless must have a voice. When we find we’ve created monsters like the two young DJs who broadcast a young man’s pre-death screams and joked about it, I hope the majority of us would agree that it’s past time to alter the media culture that nurtured them. Of course we should all support Stern’s struggle against censorship while working to change the laws that have allowed a few companies to flood the airwaves with these childish and resentful men, but I’m sick to death of the self-styled rebels who reduce complicated free-speech issues to a matter of Authoritarian Right/Puritanical Left vs. Really Cool Guys. As citizens of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia know, radio can be a force with violent consequences.

K. SHOWALTER


Los Angeles

Thanks for Jeff Jarvis’s excellent piece on the FCC’s attack on free speech and the unconstitutional indecency legislation pending in Congress. AFTRA, the union that represents over 80,000 television and radio announcers, actors and sound-recording artists nationwide, has been deeply involved in fighting this siege.

As Jarvis discussed, the bills pending in Congress are dangerous for performers because the standards are vague and undefined, with the apparent purpose of pressuring artists to self-censor. The vast majority of these artists earn only modest incomes in a very fickle job market, and the threat of a $500,000 fine is more than enough to cause self-censorship. These bills seek to punish artists far more harshly than the companies that control the programming. The Senate bill, for example, permits the FCC to reduce a fine because of a broadcast company’s “inability to pay,” but there is no such leniency for artists. While the bill contains a graduated fine structure for companies of $250,000 for a first offense going up to $500,000 for a third or later one, artists are crushed by a $500,000 fine for a first offense. Artists are also facing corporate attempts to insert “indemnification” clauses in their contracts that would require them to pay any FCC fines imposed on their employers, in addition to any fines imposed on the artist.

While AFTRA has been fighting at the bargaining table, in Congress and before the FCC, what has been missing is public outrage at this latest form of government censorship. With a little luck–and a lot of public support–perhaps these terrible bills can wither on the vine now that the first wave of self-righteous demagoguery has passed.

JOHN P. CONNOLLY
AFTRA National President