Bill Moyers Fights Back

Have I ever mentioned that I’m madly in love with Bill Moyers? Not in an I-wanna-do-ya kind of way, but more a download-everything-you-know-directly-into-my-brain-Matrix-style kind of way. And every time his glorious name is in the news, it just strengthens my devotion, because he is, quite simply, brilliant.

This time, it was the closing speech at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, during which he took the opportunity to respond to reports that Republican operatives are attempting to conservatize PBS.
"I should put my detractors on notice," declared the veteran journalist who stepped down in January as the host of PBS's Now with Bill Moyers, who recently turned 70. "They might compel me out of the rocking chair and into the anchor chair."


"I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. And that's what (CPB chair) Kenneth Tomlinson has been doing."

Recalling former President Richard Nixon's failed attempt to cut the funding for public broadcasting in the early 1970s, Moyers said, "I always knew that Nixon would be back -- again and again. I just didn't know that this time he would ask to be the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."


Moyers revealed to the crowd of 2,000 media reform activists that he had written Tomlinson on Friday, suggesting that the pair appear on a PBS program to discuss the controversy. He also revealed that he had tried three times to meet with the full CPB board but had been refused. Expressing his sense that the board had "crossed the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out," Moyers said, "I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can't."

The man who has won 30 Emmy Awards for his hosting of various PBS programs was blunt about his critics. "They've been after me for years now and I am sure they will be stomping on my grave after I'm dead," he said. As the laughter from the crowd of 2,300 media reform activists quieted, however, he added, "I should remind them that one of our boys made it out 2,000 years ago."
Leave it to Bill Moyers. In one fell swoop, he links the current administration to infamously secretive and image-controlling Nixonian tactics, plainly states the White House itself is involved in media manipulation, and reminds everyone that Jesus was a liberal!

I can count on my opposable thumbs the number of newsmen (Bill Moyers and Sam Donaldson) who are really standing up to the onslaught of intimidation and strong-arming by the administration that has turned our media into a bunch of pathetic, capitulating mouthpieces of Rove who genuflect to the irreproachable graven image that our president has become, in no small debt to their collectively endless willingness to treat him as humble and trembling servants regard their king. There is no limit to the damage such shameless servility can do; just ask the Iraqis. The truly pitiful coverage, and, more importantly, dearth of rigorous examination of the veracity of the administration’s claims, leading up to the war, was integral in helping the White House garner wide support from the public for that war.

Moyers knows the importance of a free, open, and objective media; he’s no fool.
"An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical," Moyers said. "And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us, too."
What I find disturbing (and quite upsetting) is the willingness of so many people to be unconscious, indoctrinated, unquestioning, and unskeptical, to live wholly on a steady diet of propaganda. I don’t want to be any of those things (and, despite charges that I am a partisan, I often find myself angry with the Dems as much as the GOP, for various and sundry reasons). I am and have always been a voracious reader, a devourer of information, on a myriad of topics, and when it comes to politics, I feel a particular responsibility as a voter and a citizen to know what the fuck I’m talking about. That I am the exception, rather than the rule, means we are even more dependent on media accuracy and fairness to ensure a well-informed electorate. When that goes, the level of ignorance and apathy among the populace is staggering—as we have seen over the past four+ years.

We need more men (and women) like Moyers—both in our newsrooms and in every house across America. If only people had a better sense of responsibility for what they absorbed, more critical eyes and ears, longer attention spans…well, we probably wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in, would we?

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