Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A quick postscript on Bill Moyers


I'm not much given to hyperbole, but DWT's "revered" seems to me a good word for Bill Moyers as a journalist. "We were biased, all right—in favor of uncovering the news that powerful people wanted to keep hidden," he says, and boy, does he have a body of work to back it up.

Can you imagine what a different place this country would be if working journalists took Bill Moyers as a model--as opposed to the Bob Woodward-Judith Miller ("You too can be an insider!") model?

The only reason I'm putting this in the form of a blog entry rather than a "comment" is that it connects all too directly with the point I've been trying to make about the substitution of "reality substitute" for the real thing in our public discourse. It's what allows Fox News to get away with calling its wholesale, unremitting and utterly conscienceless perversion of truth "fair and balanced." A loathsome slug like Kenneth Tomlinson, whose every word is a blatant lie and who has only contempt for the truth and suckers who honor it, can pretend to be a champion of "balance," a crusader against "bias." He probably doesn't have an honest cell in his diseased carcass.

And yet he has the power to defame Bill Moyers. And it's only because his arrogance (and, probably, his stupidity) is so sociopathically over the top that he allowed himself to get caught actually breaking the law. There's some comfort in his downfall (though he has far from disappeared!), but in truth, not all that much. If he hadn't overreached so grotesquely, Moyers' unimpeachable record of accomplishment would have provided him with no protection against Tomlinson's assault on him and public broadcasting.

One of the astonishing features of David Brock's Blinded by the Right, the book in which he chronicled his rise as a right-wing media hit man and then his falling away from the movement, is Brock's own (wildly belated) discovery that what he and all the other right-wing so-called journalists practiced has nothing to do with actual journalism. He came to understand that actual journalists set out to find out what the story is, whereas what he and his peers did was start with some premise, driven purely by extremist ideology, and then go out and find whatever dressing they could--factual or otherwise--to deck it out.

The shame Brock felt seems to have helped convert him to something of a zealot for truth. Actual truth, that is. Of course now hardly anyone listens to him. When he was a professional liar, stitching together vicious fabrications that too many Americans seem to want to hear, he was a media star.

If nothing else, my guess is that he sleeps better now.


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