'Raise Hell' shows how legendary journalist Molly Ivins scared powerful leaders with her unparalleled wit and superior articulation
The first big injustice that caught the eyes of Molly Ivins was institutional racism, because of the rampant segregation that existed everywhere, especially in Texas in the 50s and 60s
Molly Ivins, the legendary political commentator from Texas, had the power in her words to scare the most powerful people in the country in the ‘80s, 90s, and 2000s. The “radical liberal” is well-known for aiming stinging criticism at political personalities of both national and state level.
The political establishment feared her and tried to silence her, only to learn that she is not afraid of anyone – definitely not bullies. Ivins, who died after battling cancer at four separate instances from 1999 to 2007, on January 31, 2007, aged 62, used her unparalleled wit and superior articulation to hold people in power accountable. And people paid attention, with 400 newspapers carrying her column at the height of her popularity.
While the rest of the world has forgotten her, it is imperative that anyone who believes in journalism being the watchdog of the democracy learn about Ivins and how she fought the establishment her entire life.
A decade and a couple of years after her death, we get a glimpse of who Ivins was and what she stood for, in the powerful documentary ‘Raising Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins’ co-written and directed by Janice Engel. The film, which is set for release in Texas theaters August 30th, NY theaters September 6th, and LA theaters September 13th, features her own interviews, along with speeches, along with anecdotes shared by friends, family, and fans who followed her work.
In the movie, we see over and over how Ivins stood up to the proverbial man. It started with the first man in her life – her father. She questioned him and stood up to him, which was not something he was used to, and her sensible arguments challenged her family’s fundamental belief system.
Despite commanding respect from everyone around him, Jim Ivins aka General Jim was unable to control his own daughter. This infuriated him, and their relationship was troubled from the start because of this. However, from the documentary, it is fairly safe to assume that she inherited her alcoholism from him, but while his' surfaced in the form of rage, hers, more often than not, surfaced in the form of publically embarrassing herself.
The first big injustice that caught the eyes of Ivins is institutional racism, because of the rampant segregation that existed everywhere, especially in Texas in the 50s and 60s. She made many powerful enemies with the liked of Ku Klux Klan and some lifelong friends from the civil rights movement.
She wore the hatred that far-right reserved for her like a badge of honor, even going as far as to thank her “targets” in her book ‘Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?’Always calling herself the "outsider journalist," she worked with conviction and passion, and wholeheartedly believed that she did not owe anyone anything, which made her a powerful force. She even made it a point to not keep in touch with her lifelong friend Ann Richards, Former Mayor of Texas, when she was in office.
Much like her mentor and radio show host John Henry Faulk, she wholeheartedly believed in the First Amendment of the constitution and fully utilized it, going as far as to protect the First Amendment rights of her critics.
Over the years, she worked in many places, from Texas to the capital, and managed to maintain her reputation as the woman to fear everywhere. Especially during the George W Bush administration, when criticizing the president or the war in Iraq was considered anti-national, she was one of the first people to rightly predict that the war wouldn’t end well.
Bush allies tried to censor her by buying her stories and not publishing them, but it didn’t work, because her mind worked fast and her hand faster. Despite battling cancer multiple times, she wrote till the very last moments of her, life. As her friends reflect in ‘Raising Hell,’ she faced cancer like she faced everything else in life – “Head high, and her eyes open.”
Even though she cut her travels short, towards the end of her life, she was working on a book and a couple of columns, because she believed that it was her duty to not only call out injustice but also to give voice to the heroes of small communities, who would have been otherwise forgotten.
When she died at the age of 62, surrounded by friends and family, one thing was certain - She loved America. She loved Texas. That is why she was hard on the people that were chosen to protect them.