Sunday, July 08, 2012

TV: Bill Moyers' same tired act

At 78, you'd think Bill Moyers would be too old to be American Public Television's 'golden boy' but he's burned all his other bridges and, really, what does American Public Television have to offer after the death of Julia Child?  Apparently not much.


"Not Much," in fact, should be the title of Moyers' new program.  Despite telling a New York Times blog that his show would provide "people not often heard on television," all he's offered is more of the same.

Doubt us?  Review the first 20 episodes that have aired  and you find that he couldn't offer a guest of color until episode five, that people of color make up only 20% of the guests, that women of any color make up only 31% of the guests while White males make up 63% of the guests.

1-13:  Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson
1-20:  Reagan Budget Director David Stockman and New York Times' Gretchen Morgenson
1-27: CitiGroup chair John Reed, former Senator Byron Dorgan
2-3: Jonathan Haidt
2-10: Bruce Bartlett, DEMOS' Heather McGhee
2-17: Kathleen Hall Jamieson; Rita Dove
2-24: Neal Gabler, Christian Wiman
3-23: Andrew Bacevich
3-29: George Goehl, Aj-jen Poo and Sarita Gupta 
4-5: Paul Volcker, Carne Ross
4-13: Angela Glover Blackwell
4-20: New York Times' Ross Douthat and former MSNBC blogger Eric Alterman
4-27: Marty Kaplin
5-4: Luis Alberto Urrea
5-11: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, RoseAnn DeMoro
5-18: Tom Morello
5-25: Creator of cheesecake T&A fluff Covert Affairs' Doug Liman, Larry Siems
6-15: The Wall St. Journal's Thomas Frank, Mother Jones' Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein
6-22: Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, Yves Smith and Peter Edelman
6-29:  Khalil Gibran Muhammad

You should also note that these "people not heard on television" usually are.  Most are TV staples of a variety of networks such as David Stockman  and Andrew Bacevich.  Many others qualify as MSNBC staples (Eric Alterman, Matt Taibbi, Thomas Frank, etc). In addition, if you're writing for The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, etc., you really don't need TV time to get out a message. 

Writers for those and similar publications have no trouble being 'heard.'  Their views are known and usually completely stale and dull.  Where's the Drone War, Bill?

Not on your program.

Al Jazeera's Listening Post can claim to provide stories that aren't widely heard and issues that aren't significantly covered.  Last month, they offered a strong examination of the Drone War (click here for a partial transcript).  The Drone War is being carried out and presided over by US President Barack Obama.  Over 320 innocent civilians have been killed.  But don't hold your breath waiting for Bill Moyers to devote any serious attention to that.

Instead, he wants to chat with TV regulars -- and they pretty much all are that with the possible exception of Aj-jen Poo and Sarita Gupta.  When the two of them were on together in a joint-segment, Bill kept saying things like, "Come on, confess" and "What's the secret?"

And you kept waiting for Sarita Gupta to explode, "Bill, you know I'm a Communist!"

And he does know that.  And it's not a dirty secret.  But for some reason, it's one he refuses to share with the audience.

'Oh, look,' Bill seems to say, 'here are two apolitical activists.'

Bill always has to treat Communism -- in public -- like it's a dirty word.

Which explains how you got the April 27th 'essay' from Old Man Moyers.

He was babbling on about "flush'ing and memory hole and a ghost before he got to what upset him.

US House Rep. Allen West, a Republican, was speaking in his district and was asked how many members of Congress were "Marxists or International Socialists"?  West responded that he'd guess it was about 78 to 81.

Old Man Moyers, and he wasn't the only one, nearly had a heart attack.  How dare he!

How dare he what?  Answer a question?

In the incident that so outraged Moyers, he was responding to a question from a constituent in his district asked at a public townhall.  Was he supposed to refuse to answer?

It's not the same as McCarthyism.

And that little dance is getting real damn tired.

And we warned you here, back in 2008, the American people weren't going to put up with it, that it was like an earlier time period and that people would draw conclusions about that earlier time period.

Bill Moyers wants to paint McCarthyism only one way.  But a lot of people suffered and people are starting to talk.  Eric Alterman has a new book he wrote with Kevin Mattson entitled The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama. In promoting it, Alterman gave many interviews.  Some outraged a lot of people who felt he was practicing some sort of McCarthy tactic.  In some, we'll agree he was lashing out.  We won't agree that he was practicing or aspiring to any form of McCarthyism.  For Eric Alterman, "Democrat" basically means "liberal."  He was speaking from not just his position, but from the position many others hold.  You don't have to agree with him but don't call him crazy about this or think he's out on a limb all by himself.  Especially in the immediate post-McCarthy period, the attitude he's expressing was very, very common.  We're going with one of his milder interviews promoting the book because we want his argument to be clear.  May 24th, he appeared on KERA's Think with Krys Boyd for the first hour.

Krys Boyd:  Talk a little about the McCarthy Era.  When this idea developed that liberalism was a step away from Communism, which at the time was universally  seen as -- almost universally seen as -- an existential threat to the American way of life.

Eric Alterman:  Uhm.  I'm glad you asked me that.  Thank you.  Uh, that's actually the beginning of the problems that we face today -- that liberals face today.  Liberalism was a quite confidant movement under Franklin Roosevelt and, to some degree, under Harry Truman.  Where liberalism started to lose its nerve -- its nerves was during McCarthy Era, when liberals were accused of helping Communists.  Now some liberals were sympathetic to Communism.  They thought Communists were just liberals in a hurry.  But mostly liberals were sympathetic to civil liberties.  They thought that, in this country, you're guaranteed certain rights and if you want to believe something unpopular, you have that right.   That was evidence of being -- that was taken as evidence of being sympathetic to Communism and not just to Communists but to our Communist enemy, the Soviet Union.  So liberals had to choose between their belief in civil liberties or they're being perceived as disloyal.  And, of course, many people lost their jobs for making the wrong choice.  They lost their careers. Some people committed suicide.  Uhm, and so it became a matter of bravery to say I'm a liberal during that period.  And, you know, a lot of people didn't-didn't-didn't want to put their lives and their families and their future on the line -- quite understandably.  And liberals never really figured out how to handle this because the other part of the problem was that the Communists were not honest.  They wouldn't admit to being Communists.  They took the 5th Amendment.  They took over liberal organizations without admitting who they were.  So liberals were being asked to sacrifice themselves on behalf of a group of dishonest people who hated them and were trying to undermine them.  It was an impossible position to be in and they never figured out how to handle it.  And this is the beginning of the liberal loss of self-confidence that went from the New Deal to the Eisenhower period.

Again, that's a valid take.  It's not the only left take but it's a take that the NYC-based left media refuses to give much amplification to.  There's a reason for that but that's another story. 

Or maybe it's not.

It's a Bill Moyers story -- one that goes untold.

Sarita Gupta was on Bill's show.  Just another activist.  Just a middle-of-the-roader.

In 2002, the Young Communist League held their national convention.  Susan Webb reported on it for Peoples' World.  Webb noted:

Sarita Gupta, coordinator of Chicago JwJ and former president of USSA, and current USSA President Jo’ie Taylor greeted the convention. Communist Party Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner led a delegation from the party’s national leadership. He told the gathering that, as in the 1960s, peace was a key challenge for this generation of youth.

Sarita Gupta, just another middle-of-the-road activist . . . speaking at the Young Communist League convention.

Last November in DC, November 11th, in fact, Sarita could be found speaking again.  What this time? The Democratic Socialist of America staged an event.  Sarita spoke.  US House Rep John Conyers spoke -- maybe this is the sort of thing that alarms Allen West?

But there was Sarita on Moyers program and he never noted what she believed in or what she was.  He kept it all hidden from the viewers.

On last week's program, Bill raged and thundered about the Citizens United decision:

Let’s see if we’ve got this right: On the one hand, conservatives declare that corporations and the superrich can spend all they want on exercising their First Amendment rights, but on the other, they demand to keep it secret so the rest of us can’t exercise our First Amendment rights to fight back? Have you ever heard of more cowardly lions?  It’s one big joke. Big enough to make you cry. Three things don’t go together: Money. Secrecy. Democracy. And that’s the nub of the matter. This is all a sham for invalidating democracy in the name of democracy. 

Wait?  Is Bill Moyers objecting to secrecy? The same man who regularly brings on Communists and Socialists and allows viewers to think they're either independents or Democrats?

He did it last week again bringing on Bill Fletcher Jr.  You may remember that, in 2008, when we objected to Bill going on various media and posing as a Democrat while attempting to influence the Democratic Party primary, we outed his ass.  This led to Bill whining on CounterSpin about "Red baiting."

We laughed at that.  We laugh at most things from Bill Fletcher's multi-sided mouth.

We don't have a problem with Communists, with Socialists, with Republicans, with Democrats, with Greens, with Libertarians, etc.  We have a problem with those who pose as one thing when they're really another.

As we noted in 2008, if a Republican is trying to influence the Democratic Party primary, the press has an obligation to note the person is a Republican.  The same should apply for anyone who's not a Democrat.

But the Bill Moyers of this world try to wall off any mention of Communism.  And the idiots like Bill Fletcher want to scream "McCarthyism!" when they're outed as something other than a Democrat.

They're allowed to lie?  They're allowed to deceive?

That's why, in 2008, we told you it would not be a good time for non-Democrats on the left who posed as Democrats.

Eric Alterman, at his most reasoned, speaks for a number of Democrats on the left who feel that people like him in the past went out of their way to be supportive to the Communist Party only to be betrayed and stabbed in the back.  You don't hear Eric's argument very often today.  But it is part of the historical record and it's not an uncommon view on the left.

It's not the only view.  It's not our personal view.  But it exists and the recent lying in 2008 ensured that it was going to be stirred up again.

Bill Moyers brought Bill Fletcher Jr. on his program last week (and Stephen Lerner and Philip Appleman -- again, Bill doesn't provide many women on his supposed 'progressive' show).  And he let Junior babble on about unions and what harmed them and about business in the US and corporations but he never felt the need to tell his viewers that this was a left critique, it was a Marxist critique.

That's dishonest.

It's that dishonesty that ensured Bill left PBS.  The show's from American Public Television, not PBS.  And it reminds us of how Bill left PBS in the mid-90s.

He was briefly at NBC.  Bill loves to claim he was targeted for his opinions by the right-wing.  But the Congress members upset in the mid-90s weren't upset about Bill's opinions.  They were upset that the US taxpayer funded PBS and Bill Moyers got rich.

Grasp that Bill Moyers was not born wealthy and shouldn't be the multi-millionaire he is based on his work at CBS or NBC.

How did Bill Moyers -- raging against capitalism on last week's program and every other -- become so damn rich?

By using public taxpayer money to assemble programs that he then claimed he owned and that he then sold in various formats.

PBS responded to this by stating they would change their rules to make it more difficult for that to happen in the future.  (They sort of half-assed did that.)  But the reality is that Bill Moyers' bank account is stuffed with money that should be in a PBS bank account.

On last week's program, Stephen Lerner fumed, "We don't connect with people 'cause we're not saying who the bad guys are."  That's the least of the problems on a Bill Moyers' program.

Lerner's said to be a Communist.  We don't know.  We know Bill Fletcher which is why we wrote about Fletcher.  That we don't know if Stephen Lerner is a Communist is a problem when you consider that we watched him attack American corporations for over a half-hour on Bill's program.

We're feminists.  We're Democrats.  (We did not vote for Barack in 2008.  We will not vote for him in 2012.)  We're not corporatists and we're not War Hawks.  We do and will shine the light on women and no one ever has to wonder about that.  No one coming here to read one of our articles is unaware that they're reading two feminists.  Or that we're presenting a feminist (not "the" feminist) view.

If people agree, disagree with -- or just consider -- our critiques, arguments, thoughts, reporting, they know where we're coming from.

Bill Moyers spent the opening of last week's program railing that the wealthy (which should include him) had a megaphone and that they could hide who they were.  And then he presented Bill Fletcher and Stephen Lerner and never told his audience who they were.

But, as with Sarita Gupta and so many of his other guests, Bill never does tell.

Think about that.

And while you do, listen again to Eric Alterman's argument regarding the way liberals were harmed by McCarthyism, "And liberals never really figured out how to handle this because the other part of the problem was that the Communists were not honest. They wouldn't admit to being Communists. They took the 5th Amendment. They took over liberal organizations without admitting who they were. So liberals were being asked to sacrifice themselves on behalf of a group of dishonest people who hated them and were trying to undermine them. It was an impossible position to be in and they never figured out how to handle it."

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }