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Ronald ReaganThe Movie

Ronald ReaganThe Movie: And Other Episodes in Political Demonology

Michael Paul Rogin
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Ronald ReaganThe Movie
    Book Description:

    The fear of the subversive has governed American politics, from the racial conflicts of the early republic to the Hollywood anti-Communism of Ronald Reagan. Political monsters—the Indian cannibal, the black rapist, the demon rum, the bomb-throwing anarchist, the many-tentacled Communist conspiracy, the agents of international terrorism—are familiar figures in the dream life that so often dominates American political consciousness. What are the meanings and sources of these demons? Why does the American political imagination conjure them up? Michael Rogin answers these questions by examining the American countersubversive tradition.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90899-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. CHAPTER I Ronald Reagan, the Movie
    (pp. 1-43)

    The year is 1940, Stalin and Hitler have signed their pact, and Europe is at war. Saboteurs are operating inside America as well, blowing up bridges and trains. The House Un-American Activities Committee, investigating sabotage and sedition, subpoenas Joe Garvey, the chairman of the Society of Loyal Naturalized Americans. Garvey speaks with a foreign accent; he insists that the purpose of his organization is simply to preserve American neutrality and keep the country out of war. When asked by HUAC’s chairman if his organization’s labor racketeering, unlawful assembly, and sabotage are the activities of loyal Americans, Garvey responds that such...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. CHAPTER II Political Repression in the United States
    (pp. 44-80)

    Most treatments of the countersubversive mentality, as we shall see in chapter 9, disconnect demonology both from major American social divisions and from institutionalized political repression. Most versions of American history, by a complementary set of choices, chart a progress toward freedom and inclusion. To link countersubversive thinking to political repression is to write another history. Such an account hardly stands in for American history as a whole. But if certain familiar patterns recede into the shadows, neglected, dark areas emerge into light.

    At the same time, the subject of political repression must not be confined to the suppression of...

  8. CHAPTER III The King’s Two Bodies: Lincoln, Wilson, Nixon, and Presidential Self-Sacrifice
    (pp. 81-114)

    “The king has in him two Bodies,” wrote the Elizabethan jurist Edmund Plowden, “viz, a Body natural, and a Body politic. His Body natural . . . is a Body mortal, subject to all infirmities that come by Nature or Accident. But his Body politic is a Body that cannot be seen or handled . . . and this Body is utterly void of Infancy, and old Age, and other natural Defects and Imbecilities.”¹ The doctrine of the king’s two bodies pointed politics in two directions. On the one hand, it separated person from office and made the realm independent...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER IV Nonpartisanship and the Group Interest
    (pp. 115-133)

    “Name the political scientist who has made the most important contributions to the discipline since World War II,” members of the American Political Science Association were asked in 1962. David Truman was among the six men most often mentioned.¹ Truman’s classic work of “group theory,”The Governmental Process,²had legitimized both a politics of group conflict and a process-oriented approach to the political world. Obscured by the frenetic activity Truman presented, however, were the masses of largely inactive group constituents. How were these masses connected to the political process? How could one assert that the active minority represented the inactive...

  11. CHAPTER V Liberal Society and the Indian Question
    (pp. 134-168)

    I Underneath the “ambitious expansionism” of modern western societies, writes Henri Baudet inParadise on Earth,“with their economic savoir faire, their social ideology, and their organizational talents,” lies “a psychological disposition out of all political reality. It exists independently of objective facts, which seem to have become irrelevant. It is a disposition that leads [its adherent] ‘to die’ rather than ‘to do,’ and forces him to repent of his wickedness, covetousness, pride, and complacency.”¹ The worldly orientation, Baudet argues, points to history and practical consequences, the inner disposition to a primitiveness beyond history. The first is expansive, the second...

  12. CHAPTER VI Nature as Politics and Nature as Romance in America
    (pp. 169-189)

    Since the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, organized in covenants as a joint stock company, imagined themselves a mystic brotherhood reborn in the body of Christ, American history has progressed under the sway of two conflicting vocabularies. One, the language of exterior, marketplace relations, takes the contract as its master symbol. The other, the language of interior religious and psychological experience, centers around regeneration. The first vocabulary is economic, the second is familial.

    At first both vocabularies defended the Puritan community against an alien wilderness. In time, however, American identity shifted from the Puritan God and his European interests to New...

  13. CHAPTER VII “The Sword Became a Flashing Vision” D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation
    (pp. 190-235)

    “He achieved what no other known man has ever achieved,” wrote James Agee. “To watch his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel; the emergence, coordination, and first eloquence of language; the birth of an art: and to realize that this is all the work of one man.” The man was D. W. Griffith. The work climaxed in a single movie,The Birth of a Nation,“the first, the most stunning and durably audacious of all American film masterpieces,” wrote Arlene Croce, “and the most wonderful...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. CHAPTER VIII Kiss Me Deadly: Communism, Motherhood, and Cold War Movies
    (pp. 236-271)

    The history of dcmonology in American politics comprises three major moments. The first is racial, pitting whites against peoples of color and placing race at the center of the most important divisions in American political life. Class and ethnic conflict define the second demonological moment. The targets of countersubversion moved from the reds and blacks of frontier, agrarian America to the working-class “savages” and alien “Reds” of urban, industrializing America. The defense of civilization against savagery still derived from repressive conditions of labor and internal, imperial expansion against autonomous communities. Class struggle did not displace racial combat, moreover, but rather...

  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  17. CHAPTER IX American Political Demonology: A Retrospective
    (pp. 272-300)

    The countersubversive imagination is not a new subject in American historiography. But efforts to comprehend the meaning of American political demonology suffer from a split that echoes the splitting mechanism in countersubvcrsion itself, namely the bifurcation between the symbol and the real. There are two schools of thought about American political demonology. Realist scholars point to the rational purposes or descriptive accuracy of demonological images. They view such images as ways either of mobilizing support against political enemies or of focusing attention on the genuinely threatening character of the targeted group. American anti-Communism, for example, is reduced (from one political...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 301-356)
  19. Index
    (pp. 357-366)