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How a remixed Ronald Reagan speech went viral years before internet memes

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Ronald and Nancy Reagan
Ronald and Nancy Reagan

The concept of mashing together disparate elements to create something new may have hit the mainstream thanks to the internet and the ubiquity of easy-to-use editing tools, but that doesn't mean it wasn't done in the analog age. One of the more famous pre-internet viral videos was "The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs," a re-edit of Ronald and Nancy Reagan's famous "just say no" speech, except the re-imagined version has the Reagan's urging viewers to do drugs as much as possible. The video was released on VHS in 1988 and quickly became a popular meme that got passed along person-to-person. Now, creator Cliff Roth has come forward on the 25th anniversary of the video's first release; he's just released a high-quality version of his video to YouTube and sat down for an extensive interview with io9.

The genesis behind the video was an assignment Roth gave to audio engineering students at the Millenium Film Workshop in New York City in 1986. He asked them to re-edit the Reagan's speech into an pro-drug message — but one of his students was able to get the video from his job at ABC News. Roth then spent two whole years making the creation look as authentic as possible. That's probably the best example of how Roth views his creation — while he "wear[s] the badge of subversive remix video artist, or political video mashup artist, with pride," his first love is the technology behind editing audio and video. Visit io9 for more on Roth's creation and how he views the current viral video landscape, or just check out his most famous creation below.