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We’re Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan and the Real Culture War Of 1980s America

SSU Public History Speaker Series: Public Historians and Artists Reckon with the Past

Kevin Mattson, currently a professor of history at Ohio University, was active in the punk rock movement of the 1980s. He joins us to talk about his book and its depiction of what Kurt Cobain once called a “punk rock world”—the all encompassing hardcore-indie culture that transformed into a widespread cultural and political movement.

Mattson will put the movement into a wider context by locating it in a culture war that pitted the blossoming punk scene against the new president, Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s talk about end days and nuclear warfare generated panic; his tax cuts for the rich and simultaneous slashing of school lunch program funding made punks, who saw themselves as underdogs, seethe at his meanness. The anger went deep, since punks saw Reagan as the country’s entertainer-in-chief; his career, from radio to Hollywood and television, synched to the very world punks rejected.

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Andrew T. Darien
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