Last night, Bill Moyers was a guest on The Daily Show (video below) and through his conversation and example, demonstrated how bankrupt modern day journalism has become.
Though the issue of financial deficits currently consume the political agenda in Washington, the glaring deficit in knowledge and truth among the American public looms as a greater threat to the prospering of our society and democracy.
What good are balanced budgets and resolved deficits if a poorly informed citizenry loses control of their democracy to corporations and the wealthy? An economically sound tyranny is hardly preferable to an economically messy democracy.
Thankfully, our venerated press are using their critical position in our society to explore the underwear of a congressman and closely follow the fake campaign of a woman who is seen as unfit for office by a majority of her own party.
By doing so, they are throwing grit in the eyes of America, blinding Americans to what’s really going on around them. We are inundated with the salacious and trivial instead of how Climate Change is threatening our very survival on the planet, how a mercenary upper class is robbing Americans and their children of their wealth, democracy and future and how our education system and standard of living are deteriorating and dropping our nation’s standing below most other developed countries.
This is why hearing the insightful, reasoned, folksy and knowledgeable voice of Bill Moyers last night, sharing observations about what journalism was and still is to him, was so resonant. Here are parts 1 and 2 of Bill Moyers on The Daily Show:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Bill Moyers Pt. 1|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Bill Moyers Pt. 2|
Moyers was part of the last generation of conscientious television journalists who sought and reported actual news and substantive, previously hidden truths. As Moyers and Jon Stewart discussed last night, the problem with modern day news is that they have slashed their news gathering budgets and substitute opinion or narration of others’ opinions as news.
Consider the typical newscast on any of the news channels. The majority of newscasters/hosts are not trained journalists and in fact, are often just actors/performers reading teleprompters or following instructions that are dictated into their earpiece.
They recite information that other organizations have gathered with the spin that their management has chosen to put on it. Even their seemingly spontaneous moronic banter is dishonest and rarely just that, it is often pre-arranged or piped into their earpiece.
Then there are the interviews where these hosts often play the role of The Price is Right models, they sweep their arms towards their guest propagandist(s) and smile widely, presenting the Flat Earther and the scientist as equally legitimate because there are always two valid sides to every issue (such as being pro-AIDS and anti-clean water).
The main decline of the tv news industry began when news divisions of networks and later cable news, were required to turn a profit. Up until the 70’s and 80’s, news divisions were loss leaders, they were a public service that were required in a democracy and never expected by networks to be a profit center.
With the gobbling up of tv networks by huge corporations (if you haven’t seen the movie, “Network”, it’s all exposed in such searing satire and insight courtesy of Paddy Chayefsky), the corporate imperative to earn the most revenue from all directions, was the death knell for the concept of news as a social responsibility. It was now an inefficient division of an entertainment business whose revenue stream needed to be made far more profitable.
This meant slashing the unnecessary expense of investigative reporting and international news bureaus, they don’t produce any direct revenues (also, investigative stories could expose their own secretive corporate agendas and political lobbying that benefits them at the expense of the public). To fill in the gap this created, they provide provocative stories and guests that will titillate and entertain…after all, this is show business.
Thomas Jefferson and other Founders saw the press as the final safeguard in our democracy. If all else failed, if the three branches and their balance of powers rotted, the press would be the unofficial fourth branch of government that protected our democracy.
Now that corporations, which are sociopathic and anti-democratic by design, own the mass media in America, that safety net is not only gone, it has been turned into a blindfold. Corporate news outlets work hard every day to keep Americans distracted from focusing on the most important and meaningful truths that they need to know to be empowered. They spoon feed corporate-think as fact, framing issues as they choose but presenting them as unquestionable reality. They now create events and realities instead of just reporting on them.
The press made Sarah Palin what she is and gave her the power she has. The press made the Tea Party what it is and gave it the power that it has. The press succeeded at convincing the public to support going to war in Iraq and nearly succeeded in killing healthcare reform.
The cliche states that knowledge is power and the proof of that is inescapable. To any who doubt this, look at the opposite end of this proposition, how powerful are the most uninformed? Does critical thinking and independent thinking prosper among the lesser-informed or is unquestioned conformity to the views of their authority figures more often the case?
Bill Moyers’ Journal, like his previous shows and specials, did just the opposite. They informed people about truths they really need to know in a democracy, not by bringing on talking heads from think tanks and partisan publications but through thoughtful questioning of those who know the most about a particular subject.
Here is a link to Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS’ site, you can view episodes there on such a wide range of topics with a remarkable array of people who share very enlightening and valuable insights:
It’s unlikely that there will ever be a return to the integrity of journalism there once was and of which Bill Moyers was a valuable part. Hopefully, his example and those of his generation will at least inspire those bloggers on the web, who aren’t a part of the corporate media machinery, to do the job the Corporate Media won’t do anymore. To seek and tell the truths that they won’t tell. To be that safety net for democracy that Jefferson saw as necessary to preserve American Democracy.