Evil empire

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

The term "evil empire" originated with an infamous 1982 speech by President Ronald Reagan, given to the House of Commons in England[1]. Later, Reagan's term "evil empire" was branded forever, as he gave a speech in 1983, in Orlando, Florida, describing the totalitarian rule of the former Soviet Union.

In one of the speeches, Reagan said the following:

"So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride -- the temptation to blithely declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil." [2]

While Reagan's allegation that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire" led to nearly universal condemnation that the former President was inflaming relations with Moscow and possibly even inviting nuclear conflict, the comment was viewed as a turning point in American foreign policy. A small circle of Reagan's champions vigorously defended the speech and the depiction of the Soviet Union as "evil." The Heritage Foundation's Michael Johns, for instance, authored a lengthy Policy Review article, "Seventy Years of Evil: Soviet Crimes from Lenin to Gorbachev," in which he leveled 208 specific allegations of the Soviet Union acting in ways that, he argued, were, in fact, "evil."[3]

Strengthened by the defense of his speech, Reagan never retracted his allegation, despite repeated requests to do so.


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