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?
Beyond being wrong, Moyers is a most obvious hypocrite. No one has heaped more invective, waved more bloody shirts and uncorked more pure propaganda than Moyers in the last three years on his weekly PBS dronefest. Just because he thinks he can get away with lobbing his rhetorical bombs as long as he sounds like a soft-spoken Texas grandpa doesn't mean his words are any less outrageous.
It was Moyers who charged that Bush and Cheney and Co. were "feeding on the corpse of war." It was Moyers who compared people who wear flag pins to those who adored the Little Red Book of the communist mass-murderer Mao Zedong. It was Moyers who suggested the Republicans retaking the Senate in 2002 would unite Washington behind "eviscerating" the environment and transferring all the wealth from the "working people" to the rich, who apparently as a class have never held a job of any kind. And he laments highly opinionated broadcasters who use florid language instead of dry factual recitation?
But that's just one of the Moyers hypocrisies. Who can forget Moyers denouncing the cozy relationships between conservative foundations and conservative policy experts appearing on television ? as Moyers headed the Schumann Foundation and not only funded all his favorite left-wing wonks, but then paraded them all across his programs, paid for by the American taxpayer, without bothering to tell viewers of the trick he was pulling?
There's nothing stranger than Bill Moyers denouncing people for feeding at the public trough in secret deals. Moyers has specialized in "non-profiteering" off PBS Home Video and other Moyers-merchandising projects. It all started with "The Power of Myth," his series with new-age guru Joseph Campbell. As Larry Jarvik recounts in "PBS: Behind the Screen" almost no one knew, including PBS or the press, that Moyers had entered into a secret kickback deal granting Moyers a cut of the book proceeds to Campbell's related book. It was only one of many lucrative deals Moyers has made to profit from the nonprofit television world.
Moyers will continue to funnel millions upon millions of dollars annually to ultra-leftist causes through his foundation. No doubt he'll also continue to lecture the red states about their greedy desire for tax cuts from his lavish apartment in the snobbish heights of Manhattan. But on that score we can give thanks that no one has to listen to him, or bankroll him, any longer.