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Welcome To The Plutocracy
November 7, 2010 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Bill Moyers delivers the first Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture at Boston University, from Oct 29, 2010. (video runs 2 hours, transcript of speech)
Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption – a deep, systemic corruption. I urge you to seek out the recent edition of Harper’s Magazine. The former editor Roger D. Hodge brilliantly dissects how democracy has gone on sale in America. Ideally, he writes, our ballots purport to be expressions of political will, which we hope and pray will be translated into legislative and executive action by our pretended representatives. But voting is the beginning of civil virtue, not its end, and the focus of real power is elsewhere. Voters still “matter” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence – money.
Lecture begins approx 7 minutes into video, after introductory remarks.
posted by hippybear (25 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shorter Bill Moyers: "We're really screwed."
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 1:33 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um ... hasn't Chomsky been saying the same thing since, oh, I don't know, forever?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:52 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because it bugged me enough I had to search for it here is the Harper's article he's referring to.
posted by heathkit at 2:20 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the link to the transcript.
posted by zinfandel at 2:22 PM on November 7, 2010


Thank you
posted by Blasdelb at 2:31 PM on November 7, 2010


Um ... hasn't Chomsky been saying the same thing since, oh, I don't know, forever?

Well, Chomsky and Zinn were friends.
posted by phrontist at 3:18 PM on November 7, 2010


"Um ... hasn't Chomsky been saying the same thing since, oh, I don't know, forever?"

There comes a time in the life of every liberal youth when they discover Noam Chomsky, that most lucid gadfly who eviscerates the power structure with breathtaking ease and grace. Later - perhaps years later - the youth realizes that Chomsky's influence outside of academia is...limited, to put it mildly. If he hadn't published his seminal work in linguistics, he might not even have the foothold he has among intellectuals. Don't take my word for it - compare Chomsky with Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on Google Trends.

Moyers has a pretty broad appeal, and despite his political views having been obvious for quite some time, it's incredibly important for this message to be broadcast by people who are not immediately dismissed as leftist demagogues (to be clear, I do not personally dismiss Chomsky; I simply think it's a fact of the matter that he is fairly broadly ignored).

That Chomsky made some claim is neither sufficient for support of that claim nor an appropriate reason to deride others who make that claim. If people listen to Moyers and he gets all the credit, I think Chomsky would be delighted. I know I would, because what is at stake is not at all about citation numbers.
posted by mister-o at 3:20 PM on November 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


shorter Bill Moyers: We've been screwed. Now it's time to get out and kick some butt.

Of course, Moyers wouldn't say "kick butt," he'd say “What are we to do? ORGANIZE! Yes, organize—and don’t count the costs.” But since it's Bill Moyers and he's a very classy act, he'd do it by quoting Howard Zinn.
posted by warbaby at 3:33 PM on November 7, 2010


Voters still “matter” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence – money.

So what else is new?
posted by jonmc at 3:56 PM on November 7, 2010


Good to see that barn door will finally be properly closed. What a relief.

Wait a minute...
posted by pompomtom at 4:06 PM on November 7, 2010


Is this what it's like to read a history book in the broadband internet era?
posted by vectr at 4:10 PM on November 7, 2010


(by which I mean, he's basically explaining current affairs as a historical treatise... it's certainly cogent)
posted by vectr at 4:19 PM on November 7, 2010


Because it bugged me enough I had to search for it here is the Harper's article he's referring to.

Thanks for the link, but man, that is some turgid prose right there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on November 7, 2010


The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption – a deep, systemic corruption

I have always admired Moyers ability to point out the obvious.
posted by clavdivs at 4:58 PM on November 7, 2010


he'd say “What are we to do? ORGANIZE! Yes, organize—and don’t count the costs.”

I've noticed that the liberal answer to every problem is always "organize!" Now, I don't know what exactly this means or how go do that. What I do know is that right wingers don't use this word when proposing solutions nearly as often, but they consistently have as much or more success in influencing policy than liberals.
posted by deanc at 5:18 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I do know is that right wingers don't use this word when proposing solutions nearly as often

Because they're already tightly organized and well-disciplined, with the exception of the recent Tea Party semi-split. The Democrats, on the other hand, should "organize!" and then proceed, often enough, to do the opposite.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:48 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure this will fall on deaf ears but the organization being talked about already exists and has for a century. It is an organization specifically crafted to confront and mitigate the abuses of wealth and power. Because of its very effectiveness it has been relentlessly targeted for decades and is now but a shell of its former self. But it still exists and it still works. It is, of course, organized labor. Unions are kryptonite to the plutocracy...
posted by jim in austin at 5:56 PM on November 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


You wonder... why do most Americans suck all of this bullshit up and do things that with a moment's reflection are absolutely horrible for them? And then the answer comes: because they are trained, if not from birth, then from the moment they enter publicly funded schools to never take that moment to reflect. For the last two generations, schools have progressively been stripped down, by having their budgets removed (by politicians!) to the bare essentials: day-care (so mom & dad can participate in the wage-earner society), and rote learning without reflection: teach-to-the-test. Without critical thinking skills, all the majority can do is regurgitate what they've been fed. And who feeds it to them? The mass media, obviously... which is controlled by the plutocrats.

I do not think ever in the history of our species has so human potential been squandered on such a massive scale and for such a disgustingly selfish purpose as by the latent breeding of three hundred million morons who have precisely zero capability for rational thought.

All those jokes about welcoming the ____ overlords are suddenly sounding very, very hollow right now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:28 PM on November 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't believe in good and evil, but I do believe that Karl Rove is a maniac. I'd be interested to read the unauthorized biography to find out what sort of life experience so terminally fucks a human being's priorities and sensibilities.
I doubt you’ll be surprised to learn that [The Gilded Age] served to inspire Karl Rove, the man said to be George W. Bush’s brain and now a mover and shaker of the money tree for the corporate-conservative complex (more on that later.) The extraordinary coupling of private and political power toward the close of the 19th century – the First Gilded Age – captured Rove’s interest, especially the role of Mark Hanna, the Ohio operative who became the first modern political fund-raiser. (David von Drehle wrote (“Washington Post, July 24, 1999) that “as a tenacious student of political history, Rove had dug so deeply into the McKinley era that he had become “the swami of McKinley mania.” Rove denied it to the writer Ron Susskind, who then went on to talk to old colleagues of Rove “dating back 25 years, one of whom said: “Some kids want to grow up to be president, Karl wanted to grow up to be Mark Hanna. We’d talk about it all the time. We’d say, ‘Jesus,Karl, what kind of kid wants to grow up to be Mark Hanna?”
posted by codacorolla at 7:12 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only way out of this problem is for us all to give more money and power to government. Trust me on this.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:54 PM on November 7, 2010


The purpose of government, at least one constituted to be of the people, by the people and for the people, is meant to be to protect the interests of the people. If it isn't serving that purpose because it's being corrupted that's something to be fought, not ground to be ceded.

Demonization of government in general as implied by ZenMasterThis is an old wheeze and it plays against the people, not for them; the very interests who are corrupting government are the only ones truly served by this attitude. The teabaggers are mere the latest in a very long line to play this card; it's purpose is to get people to distrust the agent which is meant to represent and be constituted by themselves. If it's broken we're supposed to fix it, not help with its demolition. Give more money and power to government? That may have been sarcastically meant but in a sense it's half right: restoring the regulatory aims and power of government is the place to start. It's the instrument we created to protect ourselves from exactly this situation, and if instead of cleaning it up, we push it away because it's become dirty, we lose.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:55 PM on November 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


pet peeve pedantic aside: I really wish Bill would omit that 'r' when saying 'Washington'.
posted by tristero at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggot: Spot on. Well said. I'm going to adopt that line, if it's allright with you.
posted by Freen at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2010


Thank you for posting this! I saw a clip on Democracy Now and couldn't find the full-length video online.
posted by GS1977 at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2010


Remarks by Bill Moyers at the 40th Anniversary of Common Cause
posted by kliuless at 4:19 PM on November 13, 2010


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