A good interviewer and conversationalist, he was thoughtful, inquiring and knowledgeable.
His interviews were designed to elicit views rather than browbeat his guests. He tried to make sense of the terrible problems of America.
This is a book of thoughts and ideas from the “Bill Moyers Journal,” weekly broadcasts on PBS from 2007 to 2010.
As Moyers writes, the right-wing propaganda offensive against President Obama is “the lowest common denominator of public discourse.” Moyers’ interviews were the highest common denominator of public discourse.
Moyers is a good liberal but hardly a radical. He reveals here no anger at the perpetual U.S. wars. He never attacks capitalism. His book omits Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore, severe and valuable critics of U.S. policies.
Nevertheless the book reveals plenty of anger and passion in the 50 interviewees ranging from humorist Jon Stewart to the late historian Howard Zinn. (Moyers premiered the program with Stewart because “truth is more digestible when it’s marinated in humor.”)
Here is Jim Hightower, one of America’s few genuine populists and hence great dissenter, speaking about the Citizens United decision in 2010:
“A black-robed coup by five men on the Supreme Court. These people call themselves conservatives and the media go along with it. There’s nothing conservative about that decision to allow corporations to be ‘people’ and to contribute all the money they want out of their corporate treasuries into our campaigns. That is a usurpation of democratic power.”
Journalist William Greider has long written about how the moneyed interests dominate government decision-making. And he also writes that both the Democratic and Republican parties are guilty.
Greider tells Moyers: “The Federal Reserve, accompanied by the Treasury Department and the Congress, crossed a very dangerous line in their bailout. They essentially said: ‘We will put money on the table, taxpayers’ money, for any financial institution or business that is too big to fail.’ You have this special club that’s privileged, getting benefits from government.”
And here’s Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician from Maryland, who advocates a single-payer health insurance plan —Medicare for all. For her pains she was arrested trying to deliver her message in a letter to President Obama.
“I really believed that medicine was about taking care of patients,” she told Moyers. “I learned otherwise. It was more about fighting with insurance companies and being pushed to see more and more patients.
“Medicare-type administration is simple. It is quick to reimburse you. It doesn’t have a profit to make. Furthermore the Medicare system allows patients to choose their doctor. So it’s universal, full choice.”
Dr. Flowers came to realize the insurance companies and Big Pharma “have such power and so much money to buy influence over members of Congress. If the politicians come out in favor of a Medicare-for-all approach the industries run ads against them. Politicians fear not being reelected.”
And that made her realize the political system is broken.
And here’s James Cone, author, scholar and professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
“Black people are 12 percent of the U.S. population and nearly 50 percent of the prison population,” Cone notes. “That’s a form of lynching — legal lynching.”
Susan Jacoby is highly critical of the mentality of the American people — and rightly so.
“Half of Americans don’t believe in evolution,” she observes. Jacoby also notes that two-thirds of Americans want creationism based on Genesis taught in public schools along with evolution.
Oh, and Jacoby points out that “one out every five Americans still believes that the sun revolves around the earth.”
Here’s more Jacoby: half of American adults believe in ghosts, one-third believe in astrology and four-fifths believe in miracles.
This vast ignorance is abetted by the media. She notes that Time magazine wrote “a cover story in 2002 about the rapture and end-of-the-world scenarios. There wasn’t a single secular person quoted in it. They discussed the rapture from Revelation as though it was a perfectly reasonable thing for people to believe.”
Most media strive for an objectivity that often does not lead to truth. Shouters like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh misinform rather than enlighten.
So it is hardly surprising that boobus Americanus has elected just two good domestic presidents in 70 years: Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Jake Highton teaches journalism part-time at the University of Nevada, Reno.