the iron lady was an enemy of the people and should not be celebrated as a hero

This week, the movie "The Iron Lady" opens, a big-budget biopic starring Meryl Streep as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. No technical or directorial skills, nor the inevitable genius of Streep's performance, could justify my seeing this movie. Its very existence as a myth-making celebration of a dangerous, war-mongering, ideologue is anathema to me.

Margaret Thatcher destroyed the public sector in the United Kingdom, privatising and deregulating transportation, energy, housing, banking, and other major sectors. She gutted the national healthcare system and public education. She broke unions, because working people were not important to her scheme, but the creation of a millionaire class was.

Thatcher engineered a huge transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, creating income inequality unprecedented in UK history to that point. She created unemployment, poverty, and despair.

Thatcher destroyed industry and heavy manufacturing while privileging the banking and financial sector. Her policies did not create prosperity: they inflated property values and a small wedge of private wealth.

Then she started a war to distract an uninformed public from the economic chaos she had created and to secure her continued reign. That bears repeating. She started a war for cynical, political purposes. People died, and killed, and were maimed, and left homeless, because it was convenient and useful for her and her financial backers. Think about that before you celebrate this Iron Lady.

I suppose one could say, "It's only a movie. It's not important." Can we live in our media-saturated, truth-challenged world and casually dismiss a major movie as unimportant? This is how myths are created and propagated.

When the war-loving, torture-defending writer Christopher Hitchens died recently, Glenn Greenwald wrote about "the protocol for public figure deaths", and how our cultural taboo against "speaking ill of the dead" has altered the public conception of several people. The example Greenwald looks at most closely is that of Ronald Reagan. After describing the unrelenting, gushing media worship of Reagan during the week following his death, Greenwald notes the effect of that lovefest.
The key claim there was that “politics is put aside.” That’s precisely what did not happen. The entire spectacle was political to its core. Following Woodruff’s proclamation were funeral speeches, all broadcast by CNN, by then-House Speaker Denny Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney hailing the former President for gifting the nation with peace and prosperity, rejuvenating national greatness, and winning the Cold War. This scene repeated itself over and over during that week: extremely politicized tributes to the greatness of Ronald Reagan continuously broadcast to the nation without challenge and endorsed by its “neutral” media — all shielded from refutation or balance by the grief of a widow and social mores that bar one from speaking ill of the dead.

That week forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived. As Gallup put it in 2004: Reagan had, at best, “routinely average ratings . . . while he served in office between 1981 and 1989.” Indeed, “the two presidents who followed Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, each had higher average ratings than Reagan, as did three earlier presidents — Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower.”

Though he became more popular after leaving office (like most Presidents), it was that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader. As media and political figures lavished him with politicized praise, there was virtually no mention of the brutal, civilian-extinguishing covert wars he waged in Central America, his funding of terrorists in Nicaragua, the pervasive illegality of the Iran-contra scandal perpetrated by his top aides and possibly himself, the explosion of wealth and income inequality ushered in by “Reagonmics” which persists today, his escalation of the racially disparate Drug War, his slashing of domestic programs for the poor accompanied by a deficit-causing build-up in the military budget, the racially-tinged (at least) attacks on welfare-queens-in-Cadillacs, the Savings & Loan crisis resulting from deregulation, his refusal even to acknowledge AIDS as tens of thousands of the Wrong People died, the training of Muslim radicals in Afghanistan and arming of the Iranian regime, the attempt to appoint the radical Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, or virtually anything else that would undermine the canonization. The country was drowned by a full, uninterrupted week of pure, leader-reverent propaganda.
Then there's the gender card. Some people will claim that Thatcher is worthy of celebration because she was the UK's first female Prime Minister, and succeeded as a woman in a relentlessly male world. As a feminist and a socialist, and a person of peace and conscience, I conclude that that alone does not a hero make. Hundreds, thousands, millions of women, both famous and unknown, have had to push themselves into previously all-male domains. They have had to be smarter, stronger, and tougher than their male counterparts in order to succeed. Margaret Thatcher tread a path beaten by Nancy Astor, Constance Markievicz, and countless anonymous women, whether they succeeded or tried and failed. The mere fact of a woman's trailblazing should not be enough to win our praise and admiration. In fact, that's a sexist conceit, setting the bar far too low. Our admiration should be reserved for people who contribute positively to society, not the reverse.

Perhaps you have heard that Thatcher only did what was necessary, that she fed the UK the "bad medicine" it needed. It's not so. Start with this: Neil Clark: Don't believe the myth. Margaret Thatcher ruined egalitarian 1970s Britain.

Here's an excellent piece from a Brit, Harry Paterson, anticipating the reaction when Thatcher dies: The Best Way To Deal With Margaret Thatcher’s Legacy Is To Destroy It.

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