The Wisdom of Bill Moyers

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomBill Moyers (born 1934) is a respected journalist and political commentator. He served President Lyndon Johnson as White House Press Secretary in the 1960s. After his work at the White House, he produced many award-winning documentaries and news journal programs for PBS, including Bill Moyers Journal; The Power of Myth; The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis; In Search of the Constitution; A World of Ideas; Now with Bill Moyers; Faith and Reason; and Moyers on America. Moyer has received many awards: more than 30 Emmy Awards, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, a lifetime Peabody Award, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, and the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award. In bestowing the last award, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences noted: “Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns.” His observations and commentaries are as relevant today, particularly in a Trumpian world, as they were a decade ago (and earlier):

“The corporate right and the political right declared class war on working people a quarter of a century ago and they’ve won. The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn’t matter if the rising tide lifted all boats. But the inequality gap is the widest it’s been since 1929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water. The corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory — politics, when all is said and done, comes down to who gets what and who pays for it — while the public is distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes.”

“[The public is] distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes. [Consider] the paradox of Rush Limbaugh, ensconced in a Palm Beach mansion massaging the resentments across the country of white-knuckled wage earners, who are barely making ends meet in no small part because of the corporate and ideological forces for whom Rush has been a hero… As Eric Alterman reports in his recent book [What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, 2003]… part of the red-meat strategy is to attack mainstream media relentlessly, knowing that if the press is effectively intimidated, either by the accusation of liberal bias or by a reporter’s own mistaken belief in the charge’s validity, the institutions that conservatives revere — corporate America, the military, organized religion, and their own ideological bastions of influence — will be able to escape scrutiny and increase their influence over American public life with relatively no challenge.”

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. Free Press is at the heart of that struggle.”

“For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.”

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it — as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience-there and then gone.”

“Television can stir emotions, but it doesn’t invite reflection as much as the printed page.”

“We see more and more of our Presidents and know less and less about what they do.”

“This is the first time in my 32 years in public broadcasting that PBS has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons.”

“There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians — they stay bought.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience — there and then gone.”

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”

“I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.”

“Hyperbole was to Lyndon Johnson what oxygen is to life.”

“Democracy may not prove in the long run to be as efficient as other forms of government, but it has one saving grace: it allows us to know and say that it isn’t.”

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

“As a student I learned from wonderful teachers and ever since then I’ve thought everyone is a teacher.”

“Democracy belongs to those who exercise it.”

“We don’t care really about children as a society and television reflects that indifference to children as human beings.”

“Our very lives depend on the ethics of strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.”

“When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.”

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For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: https://practicaltheory.org/blog/2003/11/02/bill-moyers-interview/


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