I always knew the incomparable beacon of light that is Bill Moyers would be featured in this column at some point, so when I learned last weekend that he announced he will resign from PBS in April 2010, I figured now was the time to write a post about him. I have been watching Bill Moyer’s Journal program regularly since it was resurrected for a second life on PBS in 2007 – I believe at the suggestion of my Grandma. I don’t own a television so I watch it online and while I don’t follow the schedule, I check in weekly to see who he’s been talking with.
Qualities he possesses that I respect most include:
1. his commitment to being one of the lone voices speaking truth to power in the tattered shreds of what we call “news media”;
2. the level of sincerity that fuels his investigations and an honest desire to get to the truth of the matter;
3. the courage he demonstrates by presenting important issues from many different sides without apology.
His understanding and mastery of the process behind investigative journalism, knowledge of history and ability to place events in meaningful context is now a dying art in our media. He has been unrelenting in his coverage of the health care reform debate/debacle and very recently challenged the President and members of Congress to reinstate the draft if they feel we should send more troops to Afghanistan.
Earlier this month he featured an interview with Anna Deavere Smith, one of the most awe-inspiring and unflinching voices in American theater, about her current show Let Me Down Easy. Some of my favorite episodes include several conversations with the noteworthy economist Simon Johnson, a fascinating discussion about Thomas Paine with two noted scholars and a mind-bending dissection of potential outcomes in relation to an important case currently under review by the Supreme Court that “could decide to erase the legal distinction between corporations and individuals”.
Last week’s episode was a lesson in history and featured rare recordings of LBJ in conversation with various advisors talking about how to deal with the war in Vietnam. It was particularly compelling given the current political debate about how to deal with Afghanistan (a war I believe we cannot win and should not be fighting) and I am sure Mr. Moyers intended to provoke reflection on our past experiences waging wars in foreign lands against guerrilla fighters. As the (paraphrased) saying goes: Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.
Bill Moyers is one of the last independent journalists in the U.S. who knows his history and is using his position and program to advocate for our society’s progress and evolution, instead of serving the same old interests with the same poor results. Watch him (and check out the show’s archives online) while you can.
Mr. Moyers – you will be sorely missed. Thank you for always shining your light into the dark places of our society.