When Congress put PBS on the map by passing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, it included language that the new network should insist on fairness and balance in "all programming of a controversial nature." Seldom in America has legislative language been more ignored, even mocked, on a daily basis. The most obvious personal embodiment of this mockery, Bill Moyers, finally has stepped down from his weekly Friday night complainathon, "Now with Bill Moyers."
But he retired from his show with a typical jeremiad against what he believes to be the biggest threat of our time. Not terrorism, not Islamic radicalism, not even the phantom of global warming. No, the menace is coming from the terrorizing right-wing armies of talk radio and the Internet. As he complained to the Associated Press (AP), "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line." Thus there is no so-called "liberal media," only a meek and lowly collection of profit-obsessed corporate puppets, trumped daily by the much meaner forces of ultra-right white noise.
Moyers is right in one sense. Most in the liberal media are mainstream when compared to Bill Moyers.
The Moyers show unfolded with a collection of little snippets of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and other conservative hosts unloading on John Kerry on Nov. 1, the day before George Bush was re-elected. (Come to think of it, it was for a few brief moments the most balanced Moyers segment ever.) These titans of talk were suggesting that Kerry would be a lousy commander-in-chief who would wind down the war on terrorism for a more squishy and multilateral policy of pleasing Old Europe and Kofi Annan -- and, by extension, Osama bin Laden, who all but endorsed John Kerry in the first place.
This, to Moyers, was simply a damnable lie. But within weeks of the election, National Public Radio (NPR) was proving just how well-founded these conservative fears were. NPR heralded a conference of terrorism experts, and especially promoted the fashionably progressive ones who feel a "war on terrorism" is a flawed, unsophisticated and divisive model, which is to say, too clear and too aggressively pro-democracy. Is there any doubt that this fashionably progressive point of view would have echoed from every corner of a Kerry White House? Is there any question but that this would have been Kerry's foreign policy message to the world?