On the evening of Monday, October 20, I was doing what many news junkies do when we sit at our computers–I was reading the Drudge Report. It was breaking word of a New York Times piece scheduled for the following day that exposed some of the lies in the upcoming CBS smear of the Reagans. I was furious. Like millions of Americans, I deeply admire the Reagans. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Enough said.
But while I had spent a decade in the political/government world–my claim to fame is a short time working at Ari Fleischer’s knee, learning the craft–for the past few years I’ve been an “at home” dad who just does a bit of government-affairs consulting during nappy time. What could I do other than seethe?
So I spent $8.95 buying a web address called www.boycottCBS.com. That might have been the end of it, but I found myself as the weekend arrived still angry about the lies contained in the Reagan series. So using a web tool that permits rudimentary website building by dummies, I punched out an essay calling for a boycott of the CBS series and its advertisers. I then wrote a press release–conjuring my best Ari mojo–and sent it to a few media outlets Monday morning. The tagline: “Don’t let the Hollywood Left smear the Reagans and the Reagan Legacy.”
Monday was fun. A couple hundred people signed up, especially after I appeared on a radio show hosted by Geoff Metcalf. It was a bit bothersome–the e-mails kept coming as I tried to do work, and I was literally adding the e-mail addresses manually to an Excel spreadsheet. One of the e-mails late Monday night happened to be from someone who had a “signature line” that mentioned her work with computer databases. At 2 A.M. Tuesday morning, I sent this complete stranger, Stacey Feldman, a desperate e-mail, requesting her help. The P.S. will give you a taste for my state of mind: “P.S. 16 MORE HAVE SIGNED UP SINCE I STARTED THIS EMAIL—THIS MOVEMENT IS DOOMED WITHOUT YOUR HELP!!!!”
At 1 A.M. Tuesday morning, there was an Internet article up about the boycott site. My 15 minutes of fame had begun.
I woke up Tuesday with several hundred e-mails in my inbox. Someone on Fox had mentioned the site and so the e-mails were rolling in 6, 8, 10 each minute. Radio shows were lining up, too. I was doing live radio interviews with my young son in the next room, capable of making loud noises at any moment.
I commandeered his computer and turned that into a repository for boycott e-mails. By the time Stacey had a database system up and running later that day, my computer had several thousand pro-boycott e-mails on it and my son’s computer had more than 15,000.
People love the Reagans.
Wednesday brought even greater chaos. I did Bill O’Reilly’s radio show and then his Fox News Channel TV show that night. Two hours before show time, I realized I had no clean dress shirts. (I’m an at home dad, after all.) So on the #1-rated cable-news program in America, I wore a shirt that had been sitting in a pile for the dry cleaner.
Shortly after the O’Reilly segment began, our servers crashed. They were fixed an hour later, and the next morning, Wednesday, I was back at the studio to tape Fox & Friends (wearing the same shirt). Shortly after that segment ended, hits to the site peaked at 100 per minute before the site crashed again. This time, it was serious. The site would not go live again for more than 48 hours–tens of thousands of visitors would find only an error message in the interim–but when it did, it was on the “ReaganServer.”
The ReaganServer is the brains of Thomas Marshall, another guy I have never met. Thomas left me a voicemail after the second crash offering to host my site with his company at no charge. I was skeptical, paranoid that I am, but when he said he had named his son Reagan, I knew I had my man. The site is now invincible.
You can burn a lot of hours reading 75,000 e-mails. So many people revere Ronald Reagan, and so many want to protect Nancy Reagan like they would protect their own mother–it’s an emotional experience to read their messages. Of course, you get a few hate e-mails, too. A few liberals have told me they wish me and my family would die. (For them, I guess, it’s Saddam’s rape rooms: O.K. A guy who opposes a TV show: Evil.) But my favorite hate e-mails are from the Lefties who have mocked me for being an at home dad.
CBS is now backpedaling. With the show just two weeks away, the most-egregious lies are evidently being edited out and the network is reportedly handing the movie over to its cable relative, Showtime (guaranteeing a much smaller audience).
Last weekend I heard that Merv Griffin told a national TV audience on Scarborough Country that Nancy Reagan is gratified by the “boycott” effort. I never got to thank Ronald Reagan for all he did for our country and the world, but it’s nice to know that Nancy Reagan now knows how much we appreciate them.
Now excuse me while I return to potty training and playgrounds. My 15 minutes are about up.
–Michael Paranzino is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.