Some 32 years ago when I organized Free Congress Foundation, as it is now called, I swiftly acquired a reputation for holding some paper in my hand while shouting "This is an outrage." My staff soon began to mock me. I would hear myself declaring my outrage 100 times over. So by and large I phased it out of my vocabulary. Perhaps I should bring it back.
My recent commentary about the woman who was holed up in a Methodist Church in Chicago to keep the immigration authorities from going after her drew an unusually high response. I began the commentary declaring that I was angry. So were many of my fellow citizens, as I learned.
Perhaps I should begin an "outrage of the week" series, because I don't mind telling you, what the British are doing on Channel 4 Television is a docudrama on what? The assassination of an American President. And who is that President? None other than George W. Bush.
Regular readers of this Commentary know that I am an advocate for and defender of free speech. Free speech here is not the issue. I don't know of anyone who is saying Channel 4 doesn't have the right to air this. What I am arguing is that at the very least this docudrama is in extremely bad taste and perhaps may strain relations between the United States and Great Britain.
The producers go to great length to advertise how real this docudrama will look because of the enormous file footage Channel 4 has acquired after six years of Bush in office and Channel 4's ability to create new figures through the digital approach. The President attends a political rally in Chicago. The President is killed by a sniper and the investigation quickly centers around a British citizen born in Syria.
Read what Channel 4 says in its release announcing the film: "It's a pointed political examination of what the war on terror is doing to the American body politic." Other promotional materials, according to Adam Patrick of Reuters News Agency, describe the program as a "thought provoking critique of the American political landscape."
Really? You mean to say that as much as the left hates President Bush the leftists would want him killed so that Vice President Richard B. Cheney would serve out his term? I don't think so. I am also outraged that no one in the Blair Government has said a word about this. Although they can't order the program discontinued, they surely ought to condemn the film for what it is. It is a thinly disguised invitation for those who see the docudrama to transpose fiction into reality.
I am not saying this because I know President Bush and have supported many of his policies. I would feel exactly the same way if it were 1998 and the storyline had President William J. Clinton murdered.
Channel 4 is publicly owned but, unlike other channels in the BBC system, is supported by advertising dollars. I hope advertisers cancel by the dozens. The outgoing chief of ITV, Charles Allen, a week ago blasted Channel 4 for its reliance on reality TV shows and "shock jocks." In the fall line-up, on what is known as the More4 Channel, is a show entitled "The Trial of Tony Blair." It is a satirical program about the future resignation of Prime Minister Blair. How very nice. They have a funny little skit about their own Prime Minister but it is acceptable for them to kill our President, docudrama style.
Our government will not comment on the show, only saying that comment would dignify the program. I think that is plain wrong. Of course, the President should stay out of the fray and the State Department would not want to offend anyone by speaking out so there is only one other obvious choice to let them have it-Vice President Cheney. I cannot understand the British Government's staying out of the fray. Supposing an American station produced a docudrama on the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II. Do you think the British Government would have something to say?
The most important docudrama was the 1938 radio version of an invasion of the United States by space ships in New Jersey. Despite repeated assertions that this was just a dramatic presentation and not an actual event, millions still believed the radio program. The highways were clogged with drivers heading for the supposed landing site. Not all cars had radios then so if a person half asleep heard the supposed tale of what purported to have happened and grabbed his wife and her cat to see the men from Mars all he would see when he got there were other automobiles with their headlights shining on the area where the men from Mars supposedly landed. There was so much criticism of that docudrama, which is much further from reality than one on the assassination of President Bush, that radio believed it was its social responsibility never again so to scare listeners.
We now are in the era of anything-goes television. If you can't make it with throwing a man into a bathtub filled with snakes, then how about a hefty desert of live worms. When people have enough of that then why not kill the President of the United States. I hope you are as outraged about this as I am.