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Imagine a Bill Moyers and Kenneth Tomlinson showdown at high noon
May 16, 2005 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Sunday the National Conference on Media Reform featured the first public speech by Bill Moyers since he left PBS. "I always knew Nixon would be back, again and again. I just didn’t know that this time he would ask to be Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."
posted by john (41 comments total)

 
thanks for the link, I did download the mp3
posted by matteo at 8:30 PM on May 16, 2005


PBS and NPR jumped the shark after they hired prominent librul spokesmen Newt Gingrich and Tucker Carlson. This year, I decided to spend my pledge money on the HRC and ACLU acronyms.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:45 PM on May 16, 2005


To hear Kenneth Tomlinson talk about CPB and other topics, you may want to listen to this interview from WNYC's On The Media from two weeks ago (third story from top, second in white section).
posted by ltracey at 8:50 PM on May 16, 2005


Wait, what's this about Tucker Carlson and NPR?!
posted by odinsdream at 8:58 PM on May 16, 2005


as dios and devildancedlightly would say 'nothing to see here, move along'.

But in fact there is much to see:

"Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right because people may start believing you. They embrace a world view that cannot be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on “NOW,” Gigot, Viguerie, David Keen of the American Conservative Union, Steven Moore of the Club for Growth. Our reporting – our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn’t the party line. It wasn’t that we were getting it wrong, either. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. I believe our broadcast was the best researched on public broadcasting.

And the problem was that we were telling stories that partisans in power didn’t want told, and we were getting it right, not rightwing."
posted by mk1gti at 9:23 PM on May 16, 2005


On Friday I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson. I asked him to sit down with me for an hour on PBS and talk about all this. I said, “You can choose the moderator, although I don’t see that we need one, two civilized human beings sitting and talking about these important issues affecting the future of a medium we both profess to love.” I said, “You can choose the guidelines.”
I so want to see that.
posted by blendor at 9:24 PM on May 16, 2005


National Public Lunch Meat
posted by troutfishing at 9:34 PM on May 16, 2005


"A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence."

Fucking-A.

Moyers, may you live to be two hundred.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:51 PM on May 16, 2005


Moyers is my genius hero.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:04 PM on May 16, 2005


Hearing this, I spontaneously tried to stand and salute Mr. Moyers, which was awkward, because I was driving at the time.

The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo, the trademark – the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On most Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it’s the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s Little Red Book of orthodoxy on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.
posted by Triode at 10:16 PM on May 16, 2005


.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:26 PM on May 16, 2005


as dios and devildancedlightly would say 'nothing to see here, move along'.

Strawman, anyone?

Can you wait for people to comment before assuming what their positions will be? It makes you look pretty shallow when you can magically predict what other people are going to say.

From the link: The goal: To redirect the most powerful arsenal of communication technology humanity has ever known away from serving corporate interests and into the hands of our citizens and public needs.

Umm, if anybody thinks PBS (or even broadcast TV) is the "most powerful technology ever known" then they need to look into cable and/or the Internet. And last I checked MeFi, IndyMedia, DailyKos, and the rest of the blog revolution weren't controlled by "corporate interests." Unless Matt sold out to pay for the new baby's college fund...

That said, micro-cable and the Internet have really changed the role of PBS. It's possible for anyone to get better reporting on Daily Kos or Indymedia than PBS, so why is PBS trying to be in the journalism business? It's simply impossible to get journalism that everyone will consider to be "fair" -- the best you can probably hope for is to be called left-wing by the righties and right-wing by the lefties.

Personally, I think PBS has a great market in educational, artistic, and other shows that just wouldn't make it on private TV, but do have value. However, why does JOURNALISM CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT sound like a good idea to anybody? It will never be immune from political attack and will always serve as a mouthpiece for those in power.

From his speech: 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... Senator Trent Lott came out squealing like a stuck pig ..

How can he claim with a straight face that he does not have a leftward bias if he makes this kind of speech? It's one thing to think that educated people natually lean left, and journalists lean left due to free speech concerns, but to make this kind of speech and then baldly claim that you are balanced?

You can argue that PBS didn't lean left, but then we're going to get down to counting opinions. I think it's a safe assumption given the above. It doesn't matter to the strengh of the argument - I don't want government controling my journalism. Indymedia is a model of TRUE public broadcasting, not paid for by the government. No, Indymedia is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But nobody can accuse them of being subjected to the will of the governing party.

From his speech: A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.

Sure, but the government shouldn't be in the business of paying people to come to the conclusions that the government wants. You can always find somebody to pay who will come out to support the desired opinion.

PBS shouldn't be in journalism for the left, right, middle, or anybody. It will always be the target of politics. True independent media should not come from government. It cannot and will not ever. True independent media must come from the people.

From his speech:I set it forth in my usual modest Texas way.

How modest of him to let us all know.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:53 PM on May 16, 2005


"A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence."

Fucking-A.

Moyers, may you live to be two hundred.


So if Moyers decided that "the jews" controlled the media establishment and should be removed from power over "our" media, then he should be able to say that on-air without recourse? I mean, there's evidence (that I disagree with) to support that conclusion (that I also disagree with), but plenty of people have come to hold it. Moyers could quite reasonably come to that conclusion. Should Moyers be allowed to use government money to state that conclusion on-air? I agree fully that he should be able to make that speech in private, on a public streetcorner, or in the New York Times. But would I want him to be using my money to preach that opinion? There has to be some oversight of government-sponsored speech. And that oversight will always be political, no matter how much we try to avoid it. So is the solution to complain about the inevitable, or is it to get government out of the propaganda journalism business?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:00 AM on May 17, 2005


mk1gti: as dios and devildancedlightly would say 'nothing to see here, move along'.

thedevildancedlightly: Strawman, anyone?

...

thedevildancedlightly: So if Moyers decided that "the jews" controlled the media establishment...
posted by joe lisboa at 12:27 AM on May 17, 2005


Jew's controll the media establishment!! Hahaha
Like They would put that much control into the mouth that must oneday bite them...
Hahaha!
posted by Balisong at 12:59 AM on May 17, 2005


Ignore idiots and trolls. Two great reasons to not take ddl's bait.

Back to the Moyers discussion. I read the thranscript first, then listened to the audio, thinking it would be better. I liked the text better. Great stuff. Thanks, john.
posted by squirrel at 1:34 AM on May 17, 2005


However, why does JOURNALISM CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT sound like a good idea to anybody?

Interesting straw man; I actually think PBS' "connection" to the government is what makes it so interesting and valuable. You see the same in the BBC and the CBC; these outfits bring us great journalism not because they are controlled by the government (they very clearly are not - though the government is beginning to step in, in the case of PBS, hence why we are here having this discussion) but they are funded by the government. This does precisely what Moyers identifies it as doing - freeing the media from serving corporate interests (profit) and allowing them to focus on the truth.

As a Canadian, I consider the CBC to be a great asset. Their journalism is always excellent. The BBC is similarly brilliant. And all three "government-controlled" corporations are so very far from propaganda; compare to what the free market gives us: Fox News.

also: TDDL, it's very telling that you complained of a straw man and then let loose with your own - with ad hominems to boot!
posted by mek at 1:55 AM on May 17, 2005


Great comment mek. I would only add to that, that those who don't fathom the importance of government probably are the same people who don't feel inclined to involve themselves in it either. Apart from the scientifically marketed reaction-stirring bullshit of FOX et al, people feel no attachment to politics any more than they question what team they cheer for in the Super Bowl. What people fail to realize is that FOX and the rest have set out on an experiment to see whether people will actually consider politics the same way they do spectator sports and celebrity gossip.

Should they be successful in making it illegal to not be inhumanely braindead and actually thoughtfully active, they will have succeeded in proving to an entire swath of extant generations that their lives are open to psychic rape. And we all know what happens to "powerless" victims --those without a law that backs their inherent dignity regardless of popular concensus. Victims who have little power of reaction tend to make amends, suck in their gut and get on with what needs to be done. If what "needs to be done" happens to fall within a time of social insularity and emotional illogical reaction, "what needs to be done" can, as you'd imagine, be quite ugly.

So far they have met with success. For at least nearly 300 million people, reality is on the wane.
posted by crasspastor at 3:19 AM on May 17, 2005


I preferred the audio to the transcript. I like to hear the inflection. Moyers was well spoken but obviously emotional; down but not out. He reminded me of Bugs Bunny saying, "of course you know this means war!"

Awhile ago I was about to react to DevilDancedLightly point for point, but then my Net access went down for an hour and now that I have had a chance to reflect, with his 'the jews' remark, I'm thinking the guy's just being a troll. So screw'm.

Moyers never claimed to be modest, and as an individual he's biased. He's a liberal, and a Texan. As a liberal Texan myself, I can attest to how rare that actually is. Even more rare is to see a liberal Texan like Moyers, in a place where people actually listen to him. Except of course for people like Tomlinson, who instead hire someone to listen to Moyers, using the taxpayers' money.

One can be liberal or conservative and still perform as a journalist. One's own bias will no doubt be reflected, but if the events are reported accurately and fairly, shining a light on the bias of the messenger is pejorative. This can be seen every time a liberal or moderate bitches about someone like O'Reilly, shouting mostly that the guy's conservative. That doesn't work. Challenge the validity to what O'Reilly is saying, and you make better progress, cuz he often takes impressive liberty with the truth.

"...the one thing [conservatives] loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth." Don't shoot the messenger just because he gets it right correct.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:20 AM on May 17, 2005


DDL says:

However, why does JOURNALISM CONTROLLED BY THE GOVERNMENT sound like a good idea to anybody? It will never be immune from political attack and will always serve as a mouthpiece for those in power.

...later on...

You can argue that PBS didn't lean left, but then we're going to get down to counting opinions. I think it's a safe assumption given the above.

It seems to me you're saying that "those in power...lean to the left". Shit, if those in power in the US at the moment lean to the left, I'd hate to see your right-wing. Or I guess, alternatively, public broadcasters are failing to do as DDL expects them to and pander to the government.

The quality of the ABC (Australia), BBC and CBC, as well as PBS is rarely surpassed by the commercial media. I couldn't give a shit who's funding it, as long as they don't fuck with a winning formula.
posted by Jimbob at 4:26 AM on May 17, 2005


Gore/Moyers 2008?
At least the speeches would be good.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:01 AM on May 17, 2005


actually, the derail the troll threw out was a red herring, not a strawman.

Anyways, CPB goes beyond government-funded, it removes it from the vicissitudes of revenue generation and the strings that accompany that.

My mom watches cable news 24/7 and when she complains at the repetitiveness and vapidosity, I just smile wanly and point out that the news organizations are going to present the least amount of "news" that gets the maximum amount of eyeballs watching the commercials. This even goes beyond any systematic top-down bias from eg. Fox.

If an informed citizenry is important to democracy, then CPB should be funded by the government, er the people. 'course, with the Busheviks running the show now, an accurate information is their worst enemy.

I hate Busheviks. They're just So Fucking Clueless. tddl in the other thread yesterday tried to argue that since Harvard and Yale have sliding-scale tuitions based on family resources that anyone could in fact get ahead in this country. Do these people have a functioning brain?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:14 AM on May 17, 2005


I love public television, and I rarely watch the political shows. Any idiot who thinks the free-market is good for broadcasting needs to have his eyelids cut off and forced to watch MTV and FOX for 48 hours straight. PBS programming is just smarter than network and cable, and while its political bent is seen by some as left, I see it as intelligent.

And Bargain Hunters is the best show evar. I guess the host is a bit too fruity for the manly Delay and Frist types.
posted by bardic at 5:44 AM on May 17, 2005


the sad part is public television as we used to know it and love it (NOW - hard hitting reports from FRONTLINE) etc... are being dismantled and watered down - the same is true for a NPR (when was the last time you heard ann garrels report from iraq after she said live on MPR that iraq was "a mess" to stunned silence in the studio).

Tomlinson can add many hash marks to his list of enemies today - as it should be.

call your house member - call your senator - and get your weekly dose of truth from Ian Masters in the interim
posted by specialk420 at 6:10 AM on May 17, 2005


Thank you Bill Moyers.
posted by nofundy at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2005


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.

In no way – in no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.


This speech should be included, discussed, and discected in every journalism class in the world.
posted by spock at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2005


It's possible for anyone to get better reporting on Daily Kos or Indymedia than PBS, so why...

ROTFL

Thanks for the laugh!
posted by keswick at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2005


also: TDDL, it's very telling that you complained of a straw man and then let loose with your own - with ad hominems to boot!

There's a difference between a strawman and a hypothetical. A strawman is "Republicans think 5-year-olds should be armed". It is a false belief attributed to your opponent. A hypothtical is a possible situation about the world in order to show

An ad hominem is not just any attack on a person, it's an attempt to discredit their argument by saying that "TDDL can't be right because he's gay" or similar.

Now, show me the strawman and ad hominem instead of the hypothetical?


tddl in the other thread yesterday tried to argue that since Harvard and Yale have sliding-scale tuitions based on family resources that anyone could in fact get ahead in this country. Do these people have a functioning brain?

1. Fuck you.
2. I said it was interesting in response to somebody's complaing about tuition, I didn't say it was the end-all and be-all about getting ahead in the world.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:36 AM on May 17, 2005


with his 'the jews' remark, I'm thinking the guy's just being a troll. So screw'm.

I think I've learned not to use hypotheticals on MeFi. I clearly said that I don't agree with the "evidence" or conclusion that jews run the media. I clearly said it TWICE in that paragraph. The point was not anything related to jews and the media, but rather what happens if Bill Moyers thought that it was the case and decided to announce that "conclusion" on the air. It's an extreme example, but if he claims an absolute right to say whatver he wants on governemnt-sponsored television then I can show an extreme example of what he could say that would make people think that there should be some oversight of journalists using taxpayer money. Unfortunately the only source for that oversight is political.

I guess the hypothetical was poorly framed or people are looking to jump to conclusions about my beliefs a little too fast.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2005


Moyers undermines his entire rant with these words about the "radical right of the Republican Party... the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth." I disagree with them entirely on nearly every issue, but I don't doubt that they believe their views reflect the truth. That kind of comment from Moyers is just petty and self-indulgent, totally apart from all the important issues raised in this situation (and this MeFi thread).
posted by twsf at 10:40 AM on May 17, 2005


It seems to me you're saying that "those in power...lean to the left"

I think the fact that Bill Moyers got canned proves that those in power, in fact, lean to the right. They realized the dissonance between their propaganda machine and PBS and decided to solve the problem.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2005


Does anyone else long for the days before the politically inclined readers of MeFi got hipped to the whole logical fallacies nomenclature? Truly "Strawman" and "Ad Hominem" have become the "I know you are, but what am I" and "I'm rubber you're glue..." of our age.
posted by idontlikewords at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2005


twsf,

i think what moyers is suggesting is that he feels those on the left are more comfortable being led to conclusions by following crumbs of truth, not that either side is more or less comfortable with the idea of truth. its the horse/cart phenomenon.

i think we might all agree that all idealogues will paint their convictions as truth, but only a special breed care to pull back the curtain to explain the truths that form the foundations for those convictions.

more cynically, i'd suggest there's a real power struggle ahoy to maintain the yoke. if people realized they didn't need to listen to you to find the truth, but could rather follow the same path you did to the knowledge (if in fact the path existed in the first place), why would they listen to you at all? and how would that irrelevance feel? and once that irrelevance made its way to your bottom line? ultimately, you'd think we'd all make sure to avoid such irrelevance by providing real value to one another, but that's a scary transition for peeps who're used to being listened to simply because other people aren't comfortable finding their way in the wide world.
posted by jungturk at 11:39 AM on May 17, 2005


odinsdream,

Tucker has a program called Tucker Carlson Unfiltered.

twsf,

"I disagree with them entirely on nearly every issue, but I don't doubt that they believe their views reflect the truth."

His was a very general statement, but as someone that regularly watches Now the "truth" of which he speaks is not simply the differing beliefs over something like evolution. It is the truth about greed and corruption in government. It is about efforts to hide health information from communities in favor of the polluters. So yes, they don't like the truth. People like Moyers are not afraid of revealing truth that hurts either political party. Sam Smith talking about the hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton is another example.

thedevildancedlightly,

I think there should be some leeway for opinion within broadcast news that mirrors dead-trees op-ed pieces. Moyers has backed up his opinions with careful research and has never come across as someone shoveling an agenda. This comes across in his interviews that are geared to provoke thought and explore issues rather than defend platforms.

twsf's reaction seems to be what happens far too often. Is it because we are too sensitive to critical remarks of any stripe that don't straddle that personal, subjective line we idealistically cling to? Surely it is not easy and next to impossible for every aspect of a speech to sing to us. We should be generous in granting doubt until in the fullness of time we discover better what is intended message.
posted by john at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2005


I think there should be some leeway for opinion within broadcast news that mirrors dead-trees op-ed pieces.

Within private broadcast news, certainly. Over in the "Fairness Doctrine" thread/derail (the search is booting for me, can't find it) a couple of weeks ago there was a pretty good defense of why the government should absolutely stay out of broadcast TV.

The problem with government-sponsored TV is that inevitably the government is going to want to make sure that their dollars are well-spent. Or, more precisely, somebody up for re-election in Congress is going to start a stink by picking out some extreme example (eg, this speech by Bill Moyers) of partisanship in PBS, even if overall it is very even-handed. The result is that PBS has become a poltiical football due to its journalism and opinion pieces.

And even if you have leeway for "opinion" within PBS news, the framing of stories can make a huge difference. I can frame the same story as "Abortionist Kills Fetus in Florida, Prayer Vigil Held" or "Anti-Choice Protesters Try to Stop 14 y/o Incest Victim from Recieving Medical Care." Both are techincally correct factual versions of events, but they frame the story in two different partisan ways. Regardless of how carefully PBS tries to straddle the line, there will always be somebody who tries to get ahead by calling them partisan. Why risk losing PBS entirely if there is plenty of independent news available, blogs have changed the world, and there are other good things to do with the PBS time? Or risk PBS becoming another mouthpiece for the Bush administration?

PBS is GREAT for some things. There are educational programs on PBS that you can't even get on Discovery/History/etc. The Discovery Channel has all but sold out to worthless "When Sharks Attack Biker Garage Myths" shows. PBS does a great job of having REAL educational TV. But that doesn't mean that it's a good idea to have government-related (sponsored or controlled) journalism.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2005


thedevildancedlightly,

I understand what you are saying and it is a sad state of affairs that more and more things get pulled asunder by the polarizing powers of partisan politics in the public sphere. I am not satisfied with being left to "split the difference."

I am a big fan of PBS, but I also enjoy FSTV and LinkTV, which are viewer funded only and sometimes venture much further to the left than PBS would ever dare. I agree that the educational stuff from PBS is great. PBS-U is a perfect example.

Government funding of PBS works on the understanding of giving voice to that which does not normally get heard in the corporate, profit-run arena. Free of that master, it leaves the possibility of the master of government, but as has been mentioned, it does work in the UK and Canada to some extent. So it's more of a matter of a struggle than an impossibility. If each party could be thrown a bone of a show or two to maintain the nature of PBS, I'm for it. I wouldn't want to throw the baby out with the bath-water.
posted by john at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2005


Sorry jungturk and john, I just don't agree. Despite your thoughtful exegeses, Moyers' words ("the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth") are pretty clear.

Folks on all sides think "I know the truth, and anyone who disagrees with me either doesn't understand the truth or doesn't care to know it." Such attitudes rarely lead to the fuller understanding of one's opponents and the complexities and realities of their attitudes that could better help defeat them.
posted by twsf at 1:16 PM on May 17, 2005


I think the fact that Bill Moyers got canned proves that those in power, in fact, lean to the right. They realized the dissonance between their propaganda machine and PBS and decided to solve the problem.

Who got what now?
posted by ahughey at 1:44 PM on May 17, 2005


twsf,

That's OK. I have a feel that you haven't followed Moyers much. He's not about monopolizing the truth. Your taking an interpretation of one statement as the whole of his thoughts and attitude towards truth.

To say the radical right is against truth is just as true as saying the radical left is against truth. They are opposed to it by the mere placement of their positions. That Moyers calls out the right here is only that they are the ones at the controls. If he were in South America it might be the neo-liberals like Hugo's shutting down of the free press that would be the target.
posted by john at 1:47 PM on May 17, 2005


To say the radical right is against truth is just as true as saying the radical left is against truth

Disagree, since the radical right's agenda, being the Establishment, is covering for the crock of shit that we know as the status quo.

Reformers run against the status quo, conservatives have to apologize for its failings.

There is of course bias involved, ie. where we choose to focus our interest and outrage. I was quite amused that my Fox-watching mom hadn't heard one peep on the l'affaire Gannon. Had this been a Dem admin I doubt those ratbastards would have been so circumspect.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:11 PM on May 17, 2005


"Jane you ignorant slut."

God, I love MeFi. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 8:21 PM on May 17, 2005


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