"Amerika" | Sojourners


At about the time this magazine reaches most subscribers, ABC's 12-hour miniseries "Amerika" will be fouling the airwaves. There is a certain irony in the fact that the "Amerika" chest-thumping call to arms arrives just as the neo-Spartan cult of the mercenary is beginning to crumble in the White House. The networks are always just behind the trends. But then again "Amerika" could be just what Reagan's doctor ordered. "Amerika" star Kris Kristofferson is certainly a more salable "national hero" than Ollie North.

However the series' effects may play out in the current White House tragicomedy, the battle for (and against) "Amerika" has already established some frightening precedents--and a few small but hopeful ones--in the political struggle for American popular culture.

From its very inception, "Amerika" has been a blunt instrument in the hands of America's Far Right propagandists. The idea for the series began with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner's right-wing columnist Ben Stein, formerly a speech-writer in the Nixon-Ford White House.

Writing in 1983, just before the airing of ABC's mega-death melodrama "The Day After," Stein suggested that if the network was going to scare the public about a little thing like total thermonuclear war then it should also be "balanced" enough to show what might happen in a world without our friend Mr. Nuke. He pitched a TV movie showing what life would be like if the Soviet Union invaded and conquered the U.S.A. Stein recommended the title "In Red America" and eventually sold a 10-page outline to ABC production mogul Brandon Stoddard. The wheels of Hollywood began grinding.

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