Welcome David Sirota and Host Teddy Partridge.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  - bev]

Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now — Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

Teddy Partridge, Host:

David Sirota has written a wonderful new book with an expansive Theory of Our Zeitgeist: that the toxic 1980s — as well as our current culture’s funhouse-mirror view of that warped decade — are still poisoning our country. His powerful argument will be familiar to Firepups: the adulation of Ronald Reagan, along with our renewed taxcut fetish, admiration of greed, and mainstreaming of militarism have ruined any chance of restoring balance to our nation’s income inequity and spoiled our planet’s chance for peace, harmony and (possibly) survival.

David Sirota’s 1980s differed from mine. His toys were action figures from Star Wars. My talisman of the 1980s was the very first Macintosh. The movies important to David’s theory of America besotted with a culture of violence, government ineptitude and rugged individualism are Red Dawn, Ghostbusters, Top Gun and Rambo. The important movies in my 1980s were Blue Velvet, Maurice and Torch Song Trilogy, along with Making Love, Blade Runner, Querrelle, and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.

Despite our very dissimilar perspectives on this awful American decade, though, David and I agree that the current false narratives about the 1980s are dangerous and destructive to American political debate and cultural progress.

In the 1980s, I learned the hard way not to trust our government: the government was letting my friends and neighbors die. I spent the decade trying to understand the strange new disease killing people around me. We got no help from the government. Those of us whose 1980s were disaffected from the hideous popular culture learned right then and there that the awful values foisted on us were corrupting America and mocking what was good about our country.

We don’t need the current, corporate-washed Green Movement to tell us we’re poisoning our planet, because we marched with the anti-nuke protesters and got arrested at the gates of bases for subs carrying Trident missiles. We don’t need Lady GaGa to comment ironically on the nature of sexuality with her Madonna homage, because we were there for Madonna’s own self-referential sexual transgressions. We don’t need Barack Obama to tell us anew about the menace Ghaddafi represents; my brother just missed the final boarding call for Pan Am 103.

What struck me, reading David’s book, is that growing up in any decade is not the same as living in it as an adult. People who, like David, experienced the 1980s as children mainlining the cultural uptake of militarism, anti-drug hysteria, and the glamor of rich, powerful celebrities and athletes do need the wakeup call his book provides: there is very little about the 1980s we should celebrate in America. The 1980s are when the covenant of The Great Compression began to come apart: middle class wages stagnated, more people fell into poverty, elites invented a narrative of racial transcendence to excuse their racism. Additionally, gays were harassed and our issues ignored, women were marginalized as the E.R.A. expired, and immigrants were demonized.

Just like now.

There was nothing very good about the 1980s. But people who experienced the decade as children need reminding. This book speaks most clearly to them, showing why the fetishization of the decade that is currently underway (disenfranchising public employees, hello?) is unfolding so that elites can sell a warped story to the American people. And because our cultural touchstones differ so widely, David’s book also provides good arguments for us greybeards to use with the Alex P Keatons in our lives, who can’t help remember the 1980s’ glitz and greed and Cult of Individualism fondly.

After all, they grew up on it.

The folks in charge of our economy, our polity, and our elite institutions want us — especially younger people who experienced the decade through their television, their movies, and their adulation of sports heroes — to remember the 1980s as a time when everyone lived like a Colby or a Carrington or a Ewing or a Jordan, a time when everyone could achieve their goals if only they would Just Do It, and a time when race was no longer an impediment to becoming a beloved sweater-clad sitcom star who made one television network very, very rich.

Most sweeping narratives propounded by elites have a single purpose: making those elites richer, more comfortable, and less fraught with the difficulties of daily life you and I face. David Sirota shows us — and our young friends — why the 1980s is no decade to emulate, let alone admire. Along the way, he’s written a funny, revelatory, and sharp-witted book that adds to his already excellent continuing commentary on American life in the 21st century.

Join me in welcoming David Sirota, please.

145 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes David Sirota, Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now — Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything”

BevW March 19th, 2011 at 1:56 pm

David, Welcome back to the Lake.

Teddy, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Welcome, David, thanks so much for joining us today, I am delighted to host our third FDL Book Salon together!

March 19th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Bev, Teddy!

Hey David! Great to see you here, been looking forward to this. Maybe you’ll remember we met a year ago this week, as Jane hooked us up for delivering the Public Option petition to Thurston Bennet III’s office.

I have a bunch of questions and comments but I’ll start with the launch of the book itself. How did it go at The Mercury Wednesday? I really wanted to attend but was precluded.

dakine01 March 19th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon and welcome to FDL this afternoon David

Good afternoon Teddy!

David, I have not had an opportunity to read your book but do have a question based on Teddy’s intro – why is it, in your opinion, that it is so easy to look nostalgically at the decades we grew up in and so often tend to romanticize them, all evidence to the contrary (I’m in my late fifties and grew up in the ’50s and ’60s and see the same issue with a lot of folks my age as Teddy is seeing in your book about the ’80s)

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

I’m starting out my questions with a meta toss for you as an author: David, you’ve had a remarkable media run this week, with pieces in the Washington Post, The USA Today, HuffPost, and an extensive NPR interview. You’ve talked before about the difficulties of getting heard from a platform away from the Boston-Washington axis. How are you working the publicity for your book from Denver differently this time than for your two previous books?

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for having me – as you know, I’m a big FDL fan, and a daily reader!

Something for everyone to consider as we begin our discussion of how the 1980s remains with us today: It was almost exactly 25 years ago (and when I mean exact – I mean, within a few weeks) that the United States bombed Libya and the world saw a massive nuclear meltdown (Chernobyl). Yes, in April of 1986, both of those events occurred. Now, we see almost exactly the same thing.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:04 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 6

David, you’ve also tweeted this week to remind us that the last Libya aerial bombardment and Chernobyl were both almost exactly 25 years ago. Other symmetries include the first and last Space Shuttle launches. the similar anti-authoritarian spasms in Eastern Europe and the Arab street, and the start and end of GM’s Saturn experiment. Do you think this recapitulation (like the 1980s tried to enshrine the imagined 1950s) is a particularly market-driven exercise? Or is it an American phenomenon, a longing for the familiar touchstones of one’s youth?

eCAHNomics March 19th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I was on Wall St. in the 1980s. The difference bet then and now is steroids.

March 19th, 2011 at 2:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 8

Sure it is, in one sense. But there’s this cultural set-up that Sirota is talking about. Here’s an excerpt; a quick read.

Edit: oops, link: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/7066/in_celebrities_we_trust

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 4

The question of nostalgia is an important one. Nostalgia is a natural instinct – we look back on our past, and yearn for what seems like a simpler time. Often, this time was only “simpler” because for most of us, childhood was a time of less responsibility than adulthood. That is, things were taken care of us for us in a way they are not as adults.

However, natural nostalgia is also deliberately manipulated in the multimedia age – and starting in its current form in the 1980s. As I recount in my book (citing fascinating research by Carolyn Kitch at Temple University), the 1980s was the first time advertisers started using generational labeling (and, thus, nostalgia) as a key weapon to market products. At the same time, there was a political battle in the 1980s to redefine the concepts of “The Fifties” and “The Sixties.” Specifically, Reaganites used revivalist themes to suggest that “The Fifties” was a time we should want to go back to and “The Sixties” was some awful time that had ruined the country. This came from Reagan himself, who as California governor railing on Berkeley hippies was a key backlash figure in the 1960s – and it came from the conservative movement as a whole.

So in the 1980s, you had the creation of “The Fifties” (ie. the image of national unity, harmony, etc.) as distinct from the actual 1950s (ie. an era of lynch mobs, and religious bigotry, and institutional male chauvinism, to name a few things), and you had the creation of “The Sixties” (ie. chaos, political assassinations, radicalism, etc.) as distinct from the actual 1960s (which while including some of that, was also a time of great civil rights progress). Again, this was amplified by marketers, Reaganites and, of course, pop culture (movies like Back to the Future which idealized the 1950s, and movies like The Big Chill which denigrated the 1960s).

This is how nostalgia was manipulated and this battle between the 1980s version of “The Fifties” and the 1980s version of “The Sixties” still very much defines our politics today.

dakine01 March 19th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 10

(FWIW the ’50s nostalgia actually began in the early/mid ’70s with things like “Happy Days” on TV /old fart harrumph harrumph)

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to Teddy Partridge @ 5

This is a good question – and I don’t know if I have a great answer, other than to say that I think the very topic matter of the book may be more accessible to mass media outlets than the two other books I wrote. That is, this book is certainly very political (and progressive!), but it is also about popular culture, which by its very definition, is “popular” and a mass commodity.

So the answer is that I haven’t really done anything totally differently in the tactics of trying to get the book out there (and frankly, it’s only gotten tougher to get books out there since my last two books). I think the material may just have a wider audience. At least that’s what I’m telling myself – rather than simply chalking it up to dumb luck!

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 10

Exactly. And gays and women now see The Seventies mocked as a decade when ‘nothing happened except disco’ when it was an era of tremendous social upheaval and progress and acceptance.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 3

Kelly – yes, and thanks for showing up to that Public Option protest! You’ll note the Denver Post used a picture of that protest in its writeup of the book:


The Mercury Cafe event was absolutely amazing. We had about 450 people out – which is an absolutely huge crowd anywhere, but especially in a mid-sized city on a Wednesday night!

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 14

FYI: David’s upcoming events.

Looking forward to seeing you in Portland in June!

Kathryn in MA March 19th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I think eCAHN is right – every Standard Operating Procedure has done from “being a good citizen of the community” to “greed is good” and is now done in a feeding frenzy, in a berserk grab for the last of the assets as the consumer driven merry-go-round grinds to a halt and collapses. Now, where the elites intend to go with their bags of loot puzzles me – the US was considered safe ground in an uncertain world.

March 19th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 14

Good to hear!

Sorry for this long question but it needs some framing.

Haven’t bought the book yet, but am planning to during tomorrow’s errands as I’m passing by Tattered Cover. I have read some reviews and some of your selections that are out there though, and the one I like most so far is Taibbi’s review and the chunk in In These Times mag about Celebrities. (Linked above for eCHAN.)

Now it seems to me that there is a bit of tension between your thesis in Uprising! and Back to Our Future. Is that in spite or because of the forces at work in Uprising! and the static landscape in Back? If you could just flesh that out a bit.

And btw I thought Uprising! was prescient about what later happened with the Tea Party.

eCAHNomics March 19th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 9

I’m a popular culture moron, so I don’t remember anything like that from the 1980s. I’ll just lurk & learn.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

David, do you feel that your childhood was especially manipulated?

Your descriptions of the forces bearing down on kids through the television and marketing juggernauts made me wonder if the powers-that-be had learned their lesson from the out-of-control Boomer adolescence and college years, and took much greater care to feed more malleable narratives to kids.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 17

I actually think The Uprising and Back to Our Future go together in this way: The Uprising posited back in 2007 that there was a lot of anger out there on both the right and left, and that anger had not yet coalesced as a movement, but was something in between pure chaos and a cohesive movement – ie. an uprising. Back to Our Future‘s fundamental argument is that our politics and social discourse is confined and defined by a lot of the pop and political culture that came out of the 1980s. Put the two theses together, and what I’m arguing in totality is that the uprisings that are happening in the United States are often working within those same narratives and storylines we started telling ourselves in the 1980s.

So here’s two concrete examples: As noted in a post above, a big theme in 1980s political rhetoric and pop culture was that “The Fifties” was something we should aspire to revive and go back to. As I show in the first chapter of my book, this is one of the explicit and overarching themes of the Tea Party folks.

Another example that I just came upon yesterday: Driving home, I heard a progressive talk show host praising President Obama for backing war in Libya not because it was the right or moral thing to do, but because it “makes Obama look like a hawk” – the idea being that that’s a good thing. This, again, is right out of the 1980s – at the beginning of the 1980s, polls showed America didn’t want overly hawkish/militaristic government – but by the end of the Reagan era, those numbers had reversed, where they stay today. Now, we’re at the point where it’s considered an assumed virtue on both sides of the political debate for a president to be an overt militarist.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 18

This is an especially valuable book for those of us (like you and me!) who had a different 1980s than David’s. The list of movies that makes up David’s thesis — and it’s not just movies, but there’s a significant part of the book about movies and video games to which kids were exposed — were almost entirely unseen by me.

I’m told by my 12-year-younger partner that these are significant cultural gaps in my experience. But it meant I had to take a lot of the cultural underpinnings of this book on faith; not a problem, since I trust David’s narration implicitly. But we lived in two different decades with the same dates.

warp9 March 19th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 11

(FWIW the ’50s nostalgia actually began in the early/mid ’70s with things like “Happy Days” on TV /old fart harrumph harrumph)

Yeah. I’m kind of in the middle between the older people who were adults in the 80s, and the younger people who were children in the 1980s. In turned 13 in 1980.

I remember in my elementary school days, we had stuff like “50s day.” A big part of that kind of thing also relates to an indirect sort of nostalgia because many of the kids in the 1970s had parents who grew up in the 50s.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I do think ’80s kids childhoods were manipulated, but I don’t think it was an overarching conspiracy. That is, I don’t necessarily think, say, the anti-government messages of the A-Team (the most popular program among pre-teens in its day), The Dukes of Hazzard, E.T. or the Ghostbusters were part of some grand conspiracy to make kids hate the government. As I say in the book, it’s more subtle than that. The purveyors of popular culture in Hollywood act out of pure capitalistic instinct – they want to fill seats, sell tickets, get ratings, etc. So what I think was really going on was that those purveyors of pop culture were shaping their products around the underlying zeitgeist of the Reagan years, because they thought that would best resonate.

So again, yes, I think child-focused popular culture in the 1980s was as powerful – if not more powerful – a form of ideological propaganda than rhetoric in the electoral/political arena, because it was aimed at kids whose less-developed brains couldn’t recognize propaganda, and because it came in a form (entertainment products) that don’t overtly seem to be political. I just don’t think it was some grand conspiracy of a few people in a room – more like a larger cultural shift.

zeabow March 19th, 2011 at 2:28 pm


I have a lot of respect for your writing and perspectives … you are a very objective thinker. Good luck on your book.


Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 23

I was amazed to read about the Keyboard Kommandos’ favorite movie, Red Dawn, if you’d like to type about that, please.

March 19th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to warp9 @ 22

Well, it is a bit of a generational thing. I was in high-school in the ’70s and there were LOTS of “nostalgia products” then so to say. Happy Days came from that movie “Lords of the Flatbush.”

But there were also a bunch of Depression Era “nostalgia products” too, like “The Waltons” “Bonnie & Clyde” and so forth.

What I’m getting from the Sirota excerpts is that there is more a “cementing” of the narrative about the different Decades that gels for the current era.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I’m glad you bring up Red Dawn – because it is so important. When the Guiliani aide Ken Kurson reviewed my book for the Wall Street Journal, he insisted that my book was inaccurate because it “cherry picked minor influencers such as ‘The A-Team’ and the Soviet-invasion movie ‘Red Dawn’.” Boy, I wish those were minor influencers – but they weren’t. The A-Team was not only one of the most highly rated TV shows in general during its huge run, it was also one of the most highly rated show among children. Similarly, Red Dawn was a big hit, and so enduring in the American psyche that the Pentagon named the operation to apprehend Saddam Hussein “Operation Red Dawn” – and the commanders who named it that said they did so because the movie is so revered among today’s soldiers.

So these were hardly “minor influencers” – these were huge.

And what was Red Dawn’s message? If you listen to the dialogue, it was all about how a supposedly overly liberal and weak America had made itself susceptible to a Soviet invasion, about how a similarly overly liberal and weak Europe refused to come to America’s rescue, and how therefore, people have to band together in militias (like the Wolverines) to take matters into their own hands. In short, it’s about the most succinct amalgamation of every right-wing trope that still infects our political discourse today.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 26

The impact on the developing latchkey brain, plopped in front of the tv while mom and dad both work late to keep up the family’s living standards in an era of sliding income, is much greater than the pop culture aimed at adults. There’s a reason why mid-thirties folks now are stirred — and ratings go wayyyyy up — when Michael J Fox makes a guest appearance on The Good Wife.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 27

It is also the most violent mass-released movie ever, right?

Scarecrow March 19th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

David, Welcome. Don’t you think it ironic that the Tea-GOP has this nostalgia for the 50s, but others have noted that the Ike years were essentially one of making the New Deal progressive view of government bipartisan. Ike didn’t reject Social Security, he embrace it.

so what the Tea-GOP is doing now could be described as a rejection of Ike’s bipartisan embrace of how the US won the war, restored the economy and created the middle class — complete with unions, government safety nets, and so on.

And then Nixon embraces environmental protection as a legitimate task of government. The Tea-GOPs are rejecting many of the things that kept Republicanism alive in the 50s and 60s.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Yes, I should have mentioned that – Red Dawn was indeed the Guinness Book of Worlds Record holder for violence/killing in a movie, in terms of killings/maimings per hour. And here’s the even more ridiculous point: At the same time it was the most violent movie ever made, it was also the first movie to receive a PG-13 rating!

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

David, what do you make of the Reagan fetishization and mythology? There’s no question that that tax-raiser, deficit-spender, amnesty-granter could NEVER get the nomination of the current GOP. And yet the candidates vie to be his ‘ideological heir’ without ever acknowledging his actual record.

Is our culture doing to the 1980s what the 1980s did to the 1950s?

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 30

Yes, that’s a great point, and underscores exactly what I’m saying about the 1980s – it’s not the Tea Party that’s pioneered the reimagining/revision of the actual 1950s. It started in the 1980s. That was the decade that the 1950s was re-remembered not as the time of religious/racial bigotry, male chauvinism, a 90% top tax bracket, a huge investment in public infrastructure and a general expansion of the New Deal. It was re-remembered only as a time of supposed national unity, simplicity, patriotism, religious piety, etc.

Today’s Tea Party, then, is really just an extension of that 1980s zeitgeist – they are the most recent face of the 1980s version of “The Fifties,” regardless of how different the idea of “The Fifties” is from the actual 1950s.

March 19th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Awww, you beat me to that question. :)

Tammany Tiger March 19th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I was in my 30s during that decade. May I offer a couple of observations?

MTV, which debuted in August 1981*, was a symptom of (and perhaps a contributing factor to) our becoming a visual culture and having short attention spans. It didn’t take long for Madison Avenue and the mainstream media to make their product more like music videos.

Then we have ESPN, which launched in September 1979 but was unavailable in many communities until 1980. Before long, TV cameras became the rule, not the exception, at sporting events. One result was fans mugging for the cameras, a symptom of (and perhaps a contributing factor to) our pervasive “look at me” culture.

* Bonus trivia tidbit: The first video aired on MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. That might come up someday in a pub quiz.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

It’s a good question, but I see it a slightly different way – I think that basically we had a historical era we think of as “The Fifties” (which in our memory was really the end of WWII in the 1940s until the JFK assassination in 1963), we had a historical era we think of as “The Sixties” (which in our memory was post-JFK assassination through to the mid-1970s) and then we had a historical era we think of as “The Eighties, which started with the ascent of Reagan and hasn’t really ever ended. So if you think of it that way – and you see that Reagan was the most popular Republican icon of that ongoing era – then it makes sense that every Republican since has tried to portray themselves as a Reagan incarnate. My guess is this will not change until we truly enter a new era – an era that fundamentally challenges the storylines and narratives of the 1980s. We’re not in that era yet (as evidenced by what I show in the book).

dakine01 March 19th, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 33

FWIW, I think a lot of the folks who would push a re-imagining of the ’50s do so precisely because it was a time when the white males still ruled the world and the Jim Crow laws were alive and women knew their place in the home and not the work force

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 35

This is a good point – and the 1980s was also the beginning of Reality TV (depending on how you define what “reality TV” is, it either started with COPS or with Star Search and Dance Fever). I have a whole chapter on what this really meant for us – and IMHO, you are right on about the “look at me” culture. I think one of the big reasons we saw a spike in the basic metrics of narcissism is because that me-focused culture was intensified by the quest for television/movie fame which really accelerated in the 1980s.

Scarecrow March 19th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 33

I view all these rewriting of history as not just convenient revisionism but as pathological. If you look at the things the Tea-GOP are doing, they’re incredibly destructive. They hurt everyone: children, old people, women, poor, middle class, vital public services, employment, economic growth.

It would be hard to invent a foreign enemy more destructive, cruel and vicious, and yet they wrap themselves in the flag.

So . . . how do we reverse this destructive behavior. What will it take to restore sanity and to isolate/marginalize the crazies?

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

The contrast between movies which received Pentagon ‘cooperation’ and those that didn’t is amazing. I don’t think anyone realizes how much the taxpayer subsidizes the worshipful releases like Top Gun. Do you think this part of the Pentagon budget — enabling the production of movies the Pentagon likes — is something liberals and teabaggers can agree needs cutting?

Tammany Tiger March 19th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 37

Not just home, but making babies. The national fertility rate peaked in 1957, and was more than twice as high then as it is now. There are few countries on the planet today that have fertility rates that high.

And yes, the right wing would like to see Americans marry earlier and have bigger families. They just haven’t figured out how to make that happen.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 37

Great point – and one I deal with in the book, as well. One of the reasons why whites in the 1980s flocked to the “Fifties Was Great” revision was because that whole revision was infused with themes that resonated as a backlash to the civil rights movement. And why was “The Fifities Was Great” such an effective tool specifically as a backlash to the civil rights movement? Because before civil rights, things were (in relative terms) better for White America, because White America was the majority specifically privileged by Jim Crow laws.

Scarecrow March 19th, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 36

I agree we need a new era that rejects that view of Reagan. So, what about Obama’s obsession with Reagan and his transformative powers? Seems to me, one can argue that Reaganism was on its way to corners of silliness, and Obama has made him, and that amiable, “gosh, we can all get alone” mindset respectable. How does your book address today’s dynamics?

Tammany Tiger March 19th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Last summer, I read an interesting book titled Right Star Rising by Laura Kallman. She calls the Seventies a short decade, which began with Nixon’s resignation and ended with Reagan’s inauguration. Her book focuses on the right-wing activism–yes, many of the activists were white Christian Southerners reacting to the civil rights movement in particular–that brought about Reagan’s election.

Kallman offers this observation about the Reagan myth: “Perhaps [the right wing] had learned the valuable lesson taught by the contrast between Reagan’s conservative rhetoric and pragmatism. In politics, appearances matter more than reality. Moreover, legends can be useful.

gesneri March 19th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

None of it, 1950s, 1960s, etc., was really as anyone remembers it. It’s all so subjective, based on your personal experiences and feelings. I know people who got in serious trouble with drugs, and they don’t remember the 60s in nearly the same way as people who were involved in protests, idealistic movements, etc.

That being said, all the free-floating nostalgia these days is a total creation of the powers-that-be for a completely fictitious time when things were just the way the PTB would have wanted them to be. It’s all part of a carefully orchestrated plan to guide the country in exactly the direction they want it to go. People are allowing themselves to be manipulated because the current reality is simply too frightening for most of them.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The Military-Entertainment Complex – ie. the direct financial connections between the Pentagon and Hollywood – was one of the most eye-opening and disturbing parts of this book for me. I just couldn’t believe what I was finding – and you are right to key in on the most disturbing part of that connection of all. The Pentagon quite literally grants access to its facilities to Hollywood studios on the basis of what’s in those studios screenplays. If a screenplay is “pro-war” or “pro-military,” the studio can expect to have access to whatever military hardware it wants, and at rock-bottom (read: taxpayer subsidized) prices. As just one example, note this passage from my book:

According to Maclean’s, Paramount Pictures paid just “$1.1 million for the use of warplanes and an aircraft carrier” for the Pentagon-subsidized Top Gun, far less than it would have cost the studio had it been compelled to finance the eye candy itself.

The flip side of the coin is that screenplays that have anti-war or anti-militarist themes can expect to not be granted access to military hardware when shooting their movies.

Put the two together – the Pentagon subsidization of pro-war movies and blocking access for anti-war movies – and you have an entertainment industry economy that disincentivizes the production of anything that questions the military. Indeed, as the director of “The Hunt for Red October” recounted, this new reality prompted studios in the eighties to start telling screenwriters and directors to “get the cooperation of the [military], or forget about making the picture.”

The problem in trying to fix this politically is two-fold: First and foremost, our political establishment is still lockstep behind militarism since the 1980s, and therefore it’s going to be hard to find a politician willing to say that the Pentagon should start granting filmmakers equal access to its facilities regardless of whether or not the filmmakers are questioning the military. Second, because this is on its surface about granting access, it doesn’t seem at first like a taxpayer subsidy. It just seems like an access question – but as described above, it ends up being a HUGE taxpayer subsidy on the basis of content.

I think the hope for fixing this lies in the court system. As I show in the book, this is a legal gray area when it comes to the First Amendment – can the government privilege one kind of speech (pro-war speech) on the basis of content, and discriminate against another kind of speech (anti-war) on the basis of content? That’s a real constitutional question.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I just learned from my teevee, incidentally, that today’s bombing campaign on Libya is called (wait for it) OPERATION AUDACITY DAWN.

Right from the President’s autobiography, with a dash of popular red-ness.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 43

I agree with Obama that Reagan was “transformative” but the idea that Obama wants to be similarly “transformative” is so ridiculous as to be laughable. The reason Reagan was “transformative” was because he was using the presidential bully pulpit to join in the effort to reorient America around a whole new narratives like “greed is good,” militarism is critical, The Fifties Were Great, etc. Obama hasn’t introduced any new narratives – he’s played within and even promoted most of those 1980s narratives.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

In the chapter on militarism in my book, I go into how the naming of military missions before the 1980s was done with computers, which basically spit out random names. But then in the late 1980s, political leaders changed that so that they could name missions with specifically politicized/propagandized names.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I have not read your book, but now I’m very interested in it. Thank you for being here, David.

A personal observation: I was a dfh activist in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Left the USA in ’77 and didn’t come back until ’85. Was *shocked* how much the country had changed in ways that you mention: the fetishizing of “fake” 1950s nostalgia. I believe it was around 1985 when there was a study published that said that single women in their mid-30s had a “better chance” at getting killed by a terrorist than in getting married – talk about a feminist backlash!

And I really wondered (but didn’t research it) whether the DoD was funding some of the movies, like “Top Gun,” which everyone else was so in love with, but which I found, uh, less than appealing.

Final observatiion: when I returned to the States in the mid-80s, that’s when I really started hearing my rightwing fundie family *endlessly* whiiiiining about the so-called “liberal media.”

and so: on it goes…

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 46

We should ask for a truth moment and huge outcry from Cruise and Ford. I guess we should not be surprise, but the stark facts are shocking and sickening. No effort to give Peace a chance, here.

spocko March 19th, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Hi David: Been a fan since your appearances on the Al Franken show.

I grew up in a midwest Red State. Red Dawn was indeed a huge favorite. I think that when others see the violence or politics they miss one of the reason it was loved. Family. Loyalty. Protecting your friends. It is a very, very emotional film for men. The violence is unreal but the emotion real.

I’m all about logic, but it is emotion that moves millions. The harnessing of positive emotion is what I see Reagan’s ad work about.

Question: Does anyone on the left understand how to do this for anti-war politicians and politics?

(as an example, MASH made me profoundly anti-war.)

March 19th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

[It's Odyssey Dawn.]

Tammany Tiger March 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 46

Didn’t the White House bring in Jerry Bruckheimer (who was a Bush supporter) to work on the government’s post-9/11 propaganda efforts?

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 46

Very very interesting, and I’m glad to see that you discuss this in your book. I doubt that many citizens really grasp the impact and intent of this, so it’s great to have a resource where this is adequately researched.

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 50

And that study that got a lot of press turned out to be a complete hoax…as in made up. Having been said to come out of Harvard.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 49

Naming an operation — this president’s first in his own name, I think — after his autobiography strikes me as a new low, though.

Obama is reportedly taking regular campus meets with small groups of students wherever he appears out in the country now, in hopes of restoring the coalition that got him elected. Do you think the 1980s War on Drugs mentality that inform his broken promises over medical marijuana dispensary raids in California and Montana this week — as well as his continued mockery whenever faced with serious, life-or-death questions about decriminalization and legalization — will make those younger voters less susceptible to his entreaties for re-election?

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 53

{emily litella}

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to spocko @ 52

I think the left did understand this in the 1960s and 1970s. There were some great films of real progressive social commentary in the 1980s that were hugely powerful. We have them today, as well – but they are still overwhelmed by films with quite conservative themes IMHO.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 55

David’s list, in the book, of the movies that got Pentagon ‘assistance’ and those that were refused any cooperation is very telling.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I’m not sure how it will play electorally – but I do think that it comes from his fear of being portrayed as an icon of “The Sixties” (ie. the 80s manufactured idea of the 1960s). We saw this on the campaign with him running away from Bill Ayres and Jeremiah Wright, and we saw it with his constant refrain of wanting to get away from the “old battles” of the 1960s. So my concern is that even though decriminalization/drug policy reform so clearly should be a bipartisan priority, he’s not willing to touch it because he’s still afraid of being tarred and feathered with a fundamentally 1980s attack on “The Sixties.”

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to RevBev @ 56

Yep. Made up, but it made a huge splash in the mid-80s, and many women I knew back then were negatively impacted by it. As in, a certain percentage of men took advantage of that to play around on the basis of “so whaddaya gonna do about it, you over 35 singleton LOSER”!! Really did some damage, while also attempting to reinforce the glass ceiling.

Everyone back to the ’50s where mom looked like Barbara Billingsley & spent the day mopping the floor in her twin-set & pearls… ack.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I can’t wait to check it out.

BTW bc I was out of the country for quite some years, there’s films & tv shows that I either never saw or had only a passing awareness of.

It’s *only recently* that I’ve actually learned about Red Dawn. It sounds like I’d hate it, but I’m actually sort of curious about it now in order to learn about the propoganda.

March 19th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 61

Yep. It would make him “liberal” gawd forbid.

But electorally speaking; say your 21 years old today. You were 19 and eligible to vote last go-round.

That specific cohort is a bit different, i.e. a bit more evolved than in decades past. More open to marriage equality, marijuana legalization etc.

1)How does this group fit in your argument? and 2) Is there a chance that they are part of the myth collapsing/model breaking that needs to happen for a new era?

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Is there something about Back to the Future that has made our recent Presidential choices so lacking in character…that would be Clinton, W, Obama. All of these are men who have come to be defined by a lack of candor or ability to speak the truth, it appears. Could throw in Edwards to add to the group. Is there a link? Do they all just read a script?

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm
In response to RevBev @ 65

I think the link is that since the Reagan Era, televisual semiotics have been seen as more important in presidential politics than anything else. So the meta-idea of “mimicking Reagan” is for a president to be far more of a two-dimensional TV icon and far less of a serious, deep policymaker.

john in sacramento March 19th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Yea. Red Dawn was iconic. I easily watched that movie tens of times. As spocko pointed out, it hit on everything you idolized as a teenage boy in a red state

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

David, Haley Barbour’s nascent presidential campaign is described by Versailles Media has having hit some ‘speed bumps’ with his failure to denounce the Nathan Bedford Forrest license plate movement in Mississippi and his portrayal of Medicaid recipients negotiating pharmaceutical co-pays at the drugstore drive-in from the seat of their BMWs.

Don’t you suspect, though, that this evocation of Ronald Reagan’s Philadelphia campaign launch and mythical (if successful) wailing about ‘welfare queens with their brand-new Cadillacs and hundreds of Social Security numbers’ is a direct dog-whistle to the innate racism of the anti-Obama brand of tea-partier?

Are we hearing the same song with different lyrics?

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Yes, I think so. Ronald Reagan was the master of the dog-whistle on racial politics – a guy who kicked off his 1980 campaign with a call for “states rights” at the site of the murder of civil rights workers, a guy who berated “welfare queens” and yet a guy who regularly cited Martin Luther King’s words as proof that we supposedly live in a “colorblind” society. So I think when you look at a Republican Party that still very much aspires to follow in Reagan’s footsteps, and you see a Republican politician doing what Haley Barbour is doing, you can’t look at it as some accident – it’s quite deliberate.

gesneri March 19th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 62

The version I heard was if you were over 40, your chances of being struck by lightening were greater than your chances of marriage. To which I replied, thank God, because I would rather be struck by lightening. It was sad to see some people I had thought were enlightened get bummed out by that stupid factoid.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 66

Certainly seems that way – the POTUS as empty suit upon which voters can project whatever it is they want to see (usually something narcissistic) – as in: gee I’d just love to have a beer with W; what a guy!

spocko March 19th, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 61

I was wondering if you found out how much money the military spent on supporting the recent Battle: Los Angeles.

BTW, that was a very big pro-military movie. We were fighting aliens (from outer space not Mexico) everyone could feel good about killing them. Plus they attacked us preemptively! (Of course for all we know someone on Mars attacked them first but there were no good targets on Mars … And besides humans have WMDS! And we killed our own people with gas…)

selise March 19th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The 1980s are when the covenant of The Great Compression began to come apart: middle class wages stagnated, more people fell into poverty,…

reagan provided the narrative to justify and expand this, but the actual economic foundation for was set in the carter years. the effect of interest rates and the repeal of usury laws affected many millions of people (and not just in the usa). it also was when the growth of the financial sector decoupled from the growth of the non-financial economy.

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 69

What hope or alternative do you see? Pretty amazing we haven’t all just checked out.

glacierpeak March 19th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Off-topic, but David I really enjoyed your book Uprising (heard you speak in Seattle on your book tour), especially the chapter on the WFP.

With everything going on in the Midwest, you would think this would be their hour…or at least their hour of visibility. But I haven’t heard anything from them. Moreover, after your book came out I tried several times to contact them through their various offices in NY, OR, CT, and SC…never heard back.

Are these guys really interested in party building, or is it simply an inside game they are playing?

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Okay, here’s the elephant in the room, which I mentioned in my introduction: if you mentioned AIDS (GRID, or ARC, in early eighties parlance) in your book, David, I missed it.

It seems to me you lost a chance to draw a direct line from Reagan’s dismissive attitude toward my community’s plague and W’s (and Rove’s and Mehlman’s) 2004 campaign to exploit state anti-equality initiatives to energize the homophobic GOP Xtianist base in swing states.

Can you tell us why LGBT and AIDS culture — the distrust of an uncaring government, the development of a patient-center disease treatment model, and patient-oriented community empowerment in the face of prejudice and discrimination, all of which have spread to other illnesses and disabilities — doesn’t feature more prominently in your book?

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to spocko @ 72

I don’t know the exact figure, but check this out from Air Force Times:


The ramrod stiffness has an explanation: The Marine Corps gave the filmmakers what looks to be an MEU’s worth of support — most of it out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. — in personnel, equipment and transport aircraft.

Interestingly, the aircraft are all older Sea Knights, not newer Ospreys; official Corps largesse seems to extend only so far.

That kind of military support has a steep price: Pentagon script approval. So what you get is a square-jawed, born-again-hard recruiting poster with no mention of oil checks, credit card swipes, abuse of duct tape — no hint of the unique grab-assery that makes Marine camaraderie so dementedly entertaining.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to gesneri @ 70

I’ve heard the lightening myth as well, but as said, there was actually a lot of media-hype around this fake “Harvard study” about women over 35 being kaputt in the marriage-sweepstakes. I had compassion for friends, who had broken a lot of barriers to craft careers in what was essentially a “man’s world” of the late ’60s/’70s/’80s – and put off marriage bc a lot of women couldn’t really get ahead if it was thought they might get pregnant. And then only to be bashed, just as their biological clocks were sounding the “final” alarm, and told: eff you, sister. Too bad, so sad: you made a *bad* choice.

As I indicated, I believe it was done as a real feminist backlash; to keep women “down,” and to reinforce the glass ceiling.

It was pretty insidious at the time.

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I experienced the 80s as an adult and at the time saw what I feared to be the beginning decline in the culture and social bonds. Unfortunately I was right. It is I think difficult for those who were not already adults by that time to perceive how profound and rapid this decline has been.

spocko March 19th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I want to ask you about hope.

Coming out of the 70′s Reagan seemed to offer hope.
Coming out of the 00′s Obama seemed to offer hope.

Reagan delivered on his hope to a powerful minority, who kept up the charade.

Obama is delivering on his hope to a powerful minority, why aren’t they keeping up the charade?

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 78

O, I agree. In the middle of the You Can Have It All (while killing yourself) and no one to come home to….It was shattering for awhile.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

The answer is that a book is finite, and that a decade is infinite. What I mean is that a book can only give proper due treatment to a certain set amount of issues, and that an infinite number of things happens in an entire decade. That’s not a cop out – what I’m saying is that I basically had to draw a line somewhere, and my book takes a look at the huge issues of historical revisionism of the 50s/60s; the rise of greed, narcissism, rogue glorification and mass conceit; the intensification of militarism; and the reshaping of our discussions about racism. These are massively huge issues that were themselves difficult to condense down into 300 pages, and I just didn’t have the space to take on another set of issues. That doesn’t mean I don’t think other issues are hugely important from the 1980s – they sure were, as you allude to, and if I was writing a multi-book anthology of the 1980s, I’d certainly have a whole book on what you are talking about. But I was only writing one book.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 77

The star of the movie told Jon Stewart all about the cast’s three weeks in ‘boot camp’ to learn how to hold their weapons, gear, kits. How to call a helicopter a ‘helo’ and not a ‘chopper.’ He said the most important thing for him in making the movie was that the Marines who saw it would think they were accurately and fairly portrayed.

I guess it’s good that reviews weren’t important to him, because the movie’s been savaged despite its winning the weekend.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 79

In my set of chapters called “The Jump Man Chronicles” (named after that iconic Nike image of the individual Michael Jordan soaring above everything else), I go into the data that shows how those social bonds broke down. It’s fascinating – and disturbing. And it’s really incredible how empirically you can document that cultural shift.

eCAHNomics March 19th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Isn’t the O aping of Raygun getting a little ridiculous with the Libya do-over. What’s that line about history repeating as farce…

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 78

The primitive attacks on feminism and women’s status as free standing humans has been shameful. Almost as shameful as its acceptance by women born in the 70s forward.

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 84

Do you or the book hold out cause for optimism?

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to RevBev @ 81

I still have a cohort of single female friends, who never married or had kids – or – who ended up finally having a kid on their own. Everyone’s fine and had a pretty good life so far. It’s up to us to do what we can to make the best of our choices. Not too many regrets now, but frankly that report was more damaging than some imagine. It still pisses me off on behalf of some friends I can think of. Propoganda is powerful, and as has been discussed here, propoganda that works on emotions and is backed up by powerful dog whistles can be really effective.

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 3:40 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 84

And it’s really incredible how empirically you can document that cultural shift.

Yes. I remain really perplexed at how obviously and how easily we gave in to it.

BTW I love your writing and read all I can find. I will read this book with great interest and, I imagine, sadness.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 82

Yeah, I don’t mean to sound like the blog visitor who complains “Why don’t you write about MY issue!?” but its omission isolated me from the book in a way. Don’t misunderstand, I think you covered your brief well and thoroughly. It just meant that in addition to reading about movies and video games I knew very little about, there was a huge hole in the narrative that I think could have been useful.

But, as I said in my intro, folks with your generation’s perspective are much more in need of the wake-up call about the 1980s than mine. Just as we fell for the the recapitulation of the 1950s, I worry that (for all the reasons you cite) folks in their late thirties and early forties might be susceptible to a re-casting of the 1980s that is fundamentally untrue.

This is a great book, it’s simply a little more narrowcasted than your previous works, I think. But it certainly provided me with a perspective I never previously had on the decade.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to RevBev @ 87

Yes – the reason I wrote the book, I think, is out of optimism. The book underscores how the 1980s represented a radical departure for America in terms of the stories we started telling ourselves. We moved, for instance, from a culture that valued “we’re all in this together” to a culture that now values “greed is good.” The reason I wrote the book was to show that the 1980s was a big change – and in showing that it was a CHANGE from something, rather than the long-term norm, I try to make the point that there are alternatives.

Additionally, the last chapter of the book shows how on some issues the 1980s zeitgeist seems to be fraying – or at least the possibility of it fraying seems to be there.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 86

Agreed. I’m saddened by how many younger women are either cowed under or indifferent to their rights to abortion being taken away. Despite a youth culture that seems to be “no holds barred” in terms of dress & in-your-face sexuality (sex tapes on the Internet, etc), it’s more than confounding to witness women today in their late teens/20s/30s refuse to speak out for abortion rights. Anecdotally, I’m told by some younger women that it’s just “not done.” (paraphrase) Can’t get a coherent reason why; seems like there’s a LOT of shame & guilt holding them back, more’s the pity.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

And I don’t fault you at all for feeling that way. But this was the inevitable – and unavoidable – problem of writing a book about a decade. Everyone’s individual experiences in a decade are different. I’m not sure how to get around that when writing a book on such a big topic.

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 91

Thanks for the perspective…..Do you anticipate a reading/signing in Austin? There’s a store here that brings a lot of writers.

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

So how much harder is it to write a book with a kid?

spocko March 19th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I watched the movie, it was predictably gung ho military. And I could tell that the military was totally behind it.

Aaron Ekhart was good, but the “noble” warrior came through loud and clear. It was like a WWII movie with the aliens as Nazis. There were ever characters with WWII nick names. “Doc”, Specs. The dumb recruit, the grizzled Sargent, the green lieutenant.
The think that made me laugh (in a sick way) was the issue of how unprepared we would be in the US for this attack on our “homeland” all our National Guard are in the Middle East! All our jets are on carriers off the cost of Libya.

(BTW, I used my voucher for the movie I got when I gave a pint of whole blood. I figured that way the movie studio wouldn’t get my money and needy people who might actually be shot in real life could benefit from my desire to see fictional shooting.)

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Teddy. There was a huge expanse of denial re AIDs across the board, not just among the Reagans. As a physician I saw it as the first “new pandemic” that had the capacity to kill us all. I think a lot of us just were too overwhelmed to pick it up and tried to pretend — well you know what we pretended.

Once I began seeing AIDs in my catchment of patients and of course public activism I was forced to take it on personally and professionally.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to RevBev @ 94

I sure hope so, but it’s harder to do events on the road now that I host a morning radio show and now that we have a 4 month old son.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 91

Yes, it’s interesting to me how the Tea Party/GOP rants on about “I want my country back!!!!” but they seem so selfish and self-centered to me, and it is the “greed is good” mantra on steriods.

I grew up in the ’50s where my recollections are very much colored by WWII quasi-nostalgia (lots of WWII movies in those days), but the underlying ethos & message of many of those films, no matter how silly & hokum, was that “we’re all in this together,” “we can make it if we help each other out,” etc.

I’ve commented here at FDL often how, for better or worse, it *used to be* considered our patriotic duty to contribute to society, to help each other out, which extended to such issues, as building & sustaining our infrastructure, being actually PROUD of our teachers and public school systems, and so on.

Almost all of that has flown out the window via these 1980s narratives, and now we’re lectured here at FDL by so-called “libertarians” who say that only super rugged “individualists” are true patriots (or something, who can tell, it’s all such jingoistic nonsense).

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I didn’t write the book when we had my son, Isaac. He’s just 4 months old, so I finished the bulk of the writing before he was born. That said, just EDITING the book was a lot harder with a child – so I assume it’ll be that much harder to write. But that’s OK – he’s the priority.

Twain March 19th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 98

Congrats! Getting any sleep?

March 19th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 93

Hmmm. You can make it up to me [and Teddy, if you're ondboard] if you let us file an Amicus Brief in an upcoming trial, Justice Sirota, in the Supreme Court of Assholedom.

One of those ’80s jerks who hurt our community will surely come up on trial soon.

johnnysaynever March 19th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I was the target demo when Red Dawn came out–it was the first PG-13 movie, and I was 13 years old. And yes, that movie was huge (and not just in red states). The 1980 election, Korean Airlines 007, all these added to the impression that the Russians were ‘winning’ and that the US was ‘weak.’ The endless string of Schwarzenegger movies also helped herd a lot of my childhood friends to the right by the end of the decade. Steven Seagal, too.

After Platoon came out (a movie with a much different message), they had a Vietnam Vet come into our high school and one of his main points was how ‘unrealistic’ that particular movie was.

Look forward to reading this.

dmlod60 March 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm


RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 98

Well, yeah;) No doubt…..

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 99

As someone else who’ll be a Book Salon guest shortly wrote (The Rude Pundit): “Remember *civics class* in high school? Where we learned what our responsibilities as citizens were?”

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 97

I lived in Sydney Aus when “GRID/ARC” was first starting to be discovered, and I had a friend in the USA who was among the earlier dentists to work on AIDs patients when the disease first started manifesting.

I distinctly remember what was said and it wasn’t very nice. But beyond that, there was this abject stupidity about it was “only a gay” disease. We could go on about the homophobia forever, but the other side of the coin was that it clear from Day 1 that AIDS wasn’t a “gay” disease. Talk about denial. A lot of ground was lost in the early days bc of it causing suffering for many. Alas.

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Twain @ 101

About 3 hours a night. Not good.

BevW March 19th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

As we come to the end of the great Book Salon,

David, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the real 1980s.

Teddy, Thank you again for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
David’s website and book

Teddy’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great evening!

March 19th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

And btw David, nice new website re-design. Looks great! Your brother in law take your photos?

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

OH boy! Is Mr. Rude gonna be here???

Yeah: exactly that. WTF happened to all of that “patriotic duty”?? I so doubt that they even teach “Civics” anymore.

perris March 19th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

very sorry I am late to this thread and certainly haven’t had time to read through the comments but I see david is still here and I sure am glad to have him

funny how much everyone hated reagan his first semester yet he was still re-elected

I believe I can give direct attribution to rush limbaugh.

I remember telling everyone;

“reagan isn’t cutting taxes, he’s taking assets and giving penny’s on the dollar, which we will all pay for in years to come”

recently I had occasion to remind just one of those people I told that to that I predicted this because of reagan’s rediculous trickle down econommic policy

AS I point out today, claiming jobs comes from wealth is the same thing as claiming the oceans come from the rain, the reverse is true in both cases

March 19th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Will you have a book party at the Tattered Cover anytime soon? Or am I going to have to hunt you down at Bull&Bush and bribe you with an IPA to get you to sign my copy? :)

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Thanks for dropping by, David!!! I can’t wait to read your book. I’ve been wondering about just these issues for a while, and I’m glad that you are “connecting the dots” for us.

Thanks, Teddy, for hosting. This was great.

… and now I gotta check out this Red Dawn thing…

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Yes – photos by Zach Lipp, my bro-in-law. ZachLipp.com

Peterr March 19th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 84

David, I’m way late to this chat, but thanks for writing the book.

I was eating lunch earlier with my nine year old, and a McDonalds commercial came on with two NBA players having a contest to see who gets the McDonalds meal. The contest ended when one player shattered the backboard with a dunk. Cut to the bench, and you see Larry Bird wiping his mouth after eating the prize. “Nice job” (or words to that effect) he tells the two players, who look at him with confusion. “Who is that old guy?” says one to the other.

I fell over with laughter, which prompted my nine year old to ask what was so funny. The ad designers clearly tapped into my memory of the Jordan vs Bird “off the highway, off the billboard, nothing but net” commercials, but those without such memories don’t quite get it.

I’m not done with your book, but I can’t help but note the difference between these two commercials. The victor among the contemporary players is the brutal slam dunk artist, while in the Jordan v Bird commercial, the idea was to be the more elegant shooter.

Lots to think about here, David. Thanks for writing!

BevW March 19th, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 111

Saturday, April 9th – The Rude Pundit, Hosted by Watertiger

David Sirota March 19th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

We will probably have a Tattered Cover event at some point, but not for a while. So get a copy now!

Teddy Partridge March 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks, David, for giving us some time today. I hope we sold some books!

Firepups, this is a wonderful book by a real ally of ours. In the spirit of supporting progressive authors’ work, I can’t think of a better investment. But, in addition, it’s fun to read. Additionally, if you’re my age, you’ll learn something — it’ll confirm what you know about the 1980s but from a completely different perspective.

And… this book will give you some real ammunition with the whippersnappers in your life. Buy it for that alone!

Twain March 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to BevW @ 117

That should be really funny. Can’t wait.

BevW March 19th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thank you again and safe travels with the book tour.

RevBev March 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

This has been great…in case one thinks we can forget Reagan, just think of the funeral that went on for days…..Royalty indeed.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to perris @ 112

reagan isn’t cutting taxes, he’s taking assets and giving penny’s on the dollar, which we will all pay for in years to come

You weren’t the only one saying this, but it’s nice to know that mine wasn’t the only voice crying out in the wilderness. Agree re Limbaugh, too. It continues to *amaze* me how deeply in denial citizens were about Reagan and his sh*tty “trickle down economics.” Bogus! And to our collective deteriments to this day and beyond.

BevW March 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm
onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 117

yeeehaw! I shall put that one on my calendar (albeit when I have the chance I always attend the book salon; one of my favorite features of FDL, which saying a lot). thanks for the tip.

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 4:01 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 107

Yes. Too much time was lost, making it more dangerous. And certainly the homophobia made it easier for the majority to deny. But I will cut a little slack for all of us across the spectrum on the basis that when faced with overwhelming danger this is just how most humans act. You have to notice that in all the coverage of the nuclear accident no one is really speaking what the true worst scenario is, for this accident and if we continue to risk more and more of these accidents. You can’t even get any of the scientists to really describe the effects of all life being exposed to “too high levels.”

And the message brought to us in the 80s Let’s just deny. “It’s morning in America.”

selise March 19th, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 108

yikes! good luck and congrats!

CTuttle March 19th, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Aloha, David…! Mahalo for writing the book and being here today…!

I came of age in the ’80s… I joined the Army straight out of HS in ’85…! Interestingly, altho I still like Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn and all, I actually avoided some of the American excesses during the ’80s by being stationed in Germany…! Btw, I was ‘locked down’ during Ray Gun’s attack on Libya…!

hektor6766 March 19th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 23

Not a word about Happy Days, but Leave it to Beaver and The Ozzie and Harriet Show were definitely idealized. You may not be old enough to recall the original runs, but they’re out there in reruns.

But let’s look back further. To the ’20s, and Babe Ruth and Red Grange, Douglas Fairbanks and Mae West. Cult of Personality, a la Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Always there in the hedonistic halcyon days of conservative movements-that is, before the crash.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 4:05 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 127

Yes, exactly.

As far as seeing what happens when exposed to “too high” levels of radiation, I suggest another movie called “K19 the WidowMaker.” Made in 2002 about a Soviet nuclear sub sent out to sea with inadequate prepartion. Based on a true story:


The movie is hard to watch bc of what the Soviet navy endured to avoid a complete melt-down of the nuclear reactor, and it’s pretty graphic what happens – and how fast & with what pain and devastation – when humans are exposed to that level of radiation.

Recommended. It’s a real object lesson, as well as a history lesson.

hektor6766 March 19th, 2011 at 4:05 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 123

I didn’t trust the SOB since Death Valley Days.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 4:07 pm
In response to hektor6766 @ 132

heh… I remember 20 mule-team borax. and they still have a few working borax mines out Death Valley-way.

Never fond of Bonzo, myself.

hektor6766 March 19th, 2011 at 4:10 pm
In response to Peterr @ 116

That’s the problem-no collective memory. That’s how the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s all got revised and bastardized into the perverted parodies we see in media today.

warp9 March 19th, 2011 at 4:10 pm
In response to David Sirota @ 20

Going back to this point here. . . .

This, again, is right out of the 1980s – at the beginning of the 1980s, polls showed America didn’t want overly hawkish/militaristic government – but by the end of the Reagan era, those numbers had reversed, where they stay today. Now, we’re at the point where it’s considered an assumed virtue on both sides of the political debate for a president to be an overt militarist.

I do agree that there has been a push for pro-military stuff. However, I wonder if this issue is not more complex.

At the start of the 1980s, we weren’t that far from Vietnam—so people might have changed a bit over time as the memory of Vietnam grew dimmer.

And I’d argue that the wars are not that popular today either—I think most people want us out of Afghanistan. So is it really an “assumed virtue” to be pro-war? For much of the media it does seem to be that way, but I wonder if they speak for average Americans.

mafr March 19th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

hi dave

tune you in on 760 sometimes from here in Manitoba. thanks for all your efforts.

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 4:22 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 127

Thanks. When I feel like suffering I will check it out. :-) I am more familiar than I wish with the effects of irradiation. I read Hersey’s Hiroshima just as I was finishing high school and then went into a first career that involved seeing first hand some of those effects.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 4:25 pm
In response to warp9 @ 135

You make a good point, and to add to that: Viet Nam was a war actually “fought” on tv. Every evening citizens got to watch US soldiers being shot at, not to mention the Viet Cong, Viet Namese citizens, etc.

Then there was Walter Cronkite who went there and spoke out against the war. That made a HUGE difference.

As we know, these days the wars are pretty much kept off the radar screen. Citizens see very little about them and certainly not the coverage Viet Nam got. Remember how the GOP was so outraged when PBS started listing the names of the soldiers who got killed? There was a huge hue & cry about that, as if PBS – of course that bastion of terrible horrible liberalness – was doing something scurrilous & unpatriotic.

Citizens – bamboozled by the 80s – dutifully drank the Kool Aid and lambasted PBS for doing that. Of course, these days no one pays any attention, more’s the pity.

onitgoes March 19th, 2011 at 4:27 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 137

Thanks for your efforts at working with such “illnesses.” The medical prof dedication in these efforts is very much a public service.

hektor6766 March 19th, 2011 at 4:41 pm
In response to warp9 @ 135

Precisely why Reagan picked low-hanging fruit like Granada, and didn’t overtly go into Nicaragua, but helped the Samosistas from Honduras, and bargained for Iranian hostages. Needed a “win” for his “Morning in America”. Another Vietnamese debacle wouldn’t have worked so well.

TheLurkingMod March 19th, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Bin Quick’s diary is upstairs!
Obama, “You’re A Goddamned Quarterback!”

whattheincorporated March 19th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Teddy…you don’t see how mad max influenced the 10′s?

Mad Max is the republican parties IDEAL SOCIETY where everyones a gun toting rugged individualist shooting up people trying to raid the survivalist camp.

That’s the entire parties raison d’etre, most look at that movie and see a post apocalyptic hellscape…

The teatards see it as the society they want to turn us into.

Max Max might have nothing to do with 2012 or 2011 america…but in 2015 you better have your shotguns ready for when lord humongous comes to get revenge for his dead gimp.

Lorraine Watkins March 19th, 2011 at 6:42 pm
In response to onitgoes @ 139

No thanks necessary. I have gained so much more from the people I have known than I ever took to them. Most of what little knowledge and wisdom I have gained has come by force of circumstances than by virtue.

And now I am shamelessly enjoying selfish curmudgeonliness.

gmoke March 19th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Reagan killed us.

If we count only his total rejection of Carter’s energy program, 20% of energy from renewables by 2000, Reagan killed us.

Reagan killed us. Pass the meme.

oddsox March 20th, 2011 at 4:55 am

When Sirota takes a stroll down memory lane to a land before Fox News, what does he see?
Not visions of sugar plums, but of neo-con psy-ops?
In the words of the great ’80s philosopher, Clubber Lang: “I pity the foo’!”

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