Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Via our indefatigable colleagues at Cursor, tonight's Item That Everyone Else Linked to Hours Ago: the great Bill Moyers on right-wing delusions of liberal bias:
First, let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right wingers who have not given up demonizing me although I retired over six months ago. They’ve been after me for years now, and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead. I should point out to them that one of our boys pulled it off some two thousand years ago after the Pharisees, the Sadducees and Caesar surrogates thought they had shut him up for good. I won’t be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice, they might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.
Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control using the government to threaten and intimidate; I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class to make sure Ahmad Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil; I mean the people who turn faith-based initiatives into Karl Rove’s slush fund; who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets; I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy. That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence . . . .
[T]he rules of the game permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.
I decided long ago that this wasn’t healthy for democracy. I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity. In my documentaries, whether on the Watergate scandal thirty years ago, or the Iran-Contra conspiracy twenty years ago, or Bill Clinton’s fundraising scandals ten years ago, or five years ago the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity was not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference. I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies, as well as the big lie of people in power . . . .
Hear me: 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. And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us, too.