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tv   [untitled]    May 20, 2011 11:00pm-11:30pm EDT

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video on demand. since we. are going to washington d.c. and here's what's coming up tonight on the big picture award winning journalist and television host bill morning joins me for the first half hour in our conversations with great minds discuss his extraordinary life all it takes and plus it's been four days since the country has the debt ceiling so will we or the foreign creditors be lining up on the steps of the capitol get their money back and talk about rewriting history republicans and try to write watch the presidencies of
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harry truman and dwight eisenhower set the record straight and still take. for tonight's conversations the great minds i'm joined by an icon of television journalism his resume includes being a organizer of the peace corps a press secretary for president lyndon johnson decades of reporting for both print and television outlets its most famous project was bill moyers journal a weekly television show that was one of the highest rated public affairs programs ever on public television through two thousand and seven to two thousand and ten as many as two million viewers tuned in to hear what he had to say every single week and his accomplishments have not gone unnoticed he's a recipient of more than thirty emmy awards and nine peabody awards as well as a slew of other honors and this month he released his latest book bill moyers
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journal the conversation continues. because when he has something to say he will listen that's why i am honored to be joined from new york tonight by none other than bill moyers bill welcome. thank you my pleasure can imagine being you are right now. that's very kind of you you're one of those rare people who have impacted both media and politics it's a remarkable life that you lived in the bush during an interview with tab a smiley a week or so ago you said television isn't ruling out what did you mean by that and how when why did the word liberal the word the george washington was so fond of become a slur. well i had actually didn't use the word liberal somebody interpreted what i said to call for television to be public broadcasting to be more liberal and i think that's probably a logical conclusion what i said was that we need a greater diversity of voices in television including public television we have far
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too many establishment voices elite voices the voices of elite journalist elite experts we don't have enough forces that come outside from outside of the senses of the consensus and a real change ideas come from the margins in and and press all of us to reconsider our conventional wisdom but what i was saying is we need fewer voices of corporate representatives move forces of working people we need fewer abortions of elite journalism and more voices of citizen journalists and if that's liberal then i plead guilty because that means we're open to diversity of opinion conflicts of ideas and to a great plurality of of the put in the public dialogue that's what i mean by that but. there are many economists for example talk with james k. galbraith two weeks ago on this program who was interviewed in your new book who are prince pessimistic about the economic future of this country because the
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fundamentals the economic fundamentals haven't shifted back to where they were before the reagan revolution if you agree with that thesis to what extent do you think that the needy a has played a role in turning politics into sports and keeping the public on. that politics has become a supporters because they love the only lookers through the media like to be entertained and amuse they like the blood and gore as the romans did in the coliseum and no one there's very little serious alternative economic information in the mainstream media you know we have lost seven million jobs since two thousand and eight since the great collapse of two thousand and eight and james galbraith talks about this very vividly and in my new book as you said seven million jobs what is washington debating right now what's the mainstream mirah is the mainstream media holding up to that debate they're debating deficits they're debating interest
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they're debating issues that have nothing to do with people who are out there who are out of work who were chronically unemployed who are struggling to keep their head above water that's why the carnival aspect of of the press is a great travesty of what we need to be talking about in this country apropos of that when when you started your career most of the news media americans consume from t.v. to newspapers magazines radio were locally owned by thousands of companies and individuals and now as ben daggett can as chronicled in his book in the various editions of his books actually are that book the media monopoly over the last decade or two about ninety percent of all the news media now that americans consume is owned or created by five giant corporations what are your observations on those years of transition and your thoughts on where we'll go from here. go where we go from here depends upon the public supporting alternative independent journalists
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like like you tom may be for the kind of work that i have done no public broadcasting. corporate journalist tend to be. tend to be tethered to the value system of the corporations they serve and that's really to perpetuate the old power we've seen in. use that enormous concentration of media power in the last twenty five years in particular and as that has happened as corporations have come to have a vested interest in the washington and washington politic subsidies tax breaks special favors the journalists have tended not consciously but unconsciously to buy into those values into assume a a sense of themselves so that they're not really telling the story and look at what n.b.c. did not do when in b.c. when g.e. sold in b.c. to comcast it was very little coverage of this new merger of two corporate go us
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own in b.c. that's an example of how the media censors itself in response to the perceived values of the corporate giants they work for and it has meant that more and more they try to entertain us the biggest change i think in the press in my time has been to look out and see a country of consumers not a country of citizens you can tell a lot about a producer or journalist a correspondent and editor if you think he or she sees an audience of consumers out there to be sold something or. an audience of citizens to be informed and the big change in what has been to shift the media's attention the media's focus from a society of. citizens to a society of consumers the infotainment problem as it were you you in your book one of the questions that you often ask gas i've known as the so over the years is
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how they reacted to that and i'm curious how you've reacted to this change over the years and for example have you ever looked at the state of the nation or its media and felt to spare or are these challenges and changes actually invigorating t.-t. you see them as it's as you know. a sort of pick up or whatever the appropriate metaphor would be. i try to resist. the disease of this prayer i mean i can understand why so many people feel so many people feel despair at the moment our of our democracy is dysfunctional we no longer have a government of by and for the people representative democracy we have government about to talk or sing to talk recently means the rule of the rich for the rich by the rich and that's what we have to talk or see has one purpose which is to protect wealth and that's what we're seeing in the supreme court about what you've written so eloquently over the years and that's what we're seeing in our democracy i don't feel despair because i can't i can't function if i do i practice what what the
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italian political scientists gramsci call the pessimism of the month and the optimism of the will by that he may add you see the world as it is and we journalists have to see the world without rose colored glasses we have to see the reality no matter how brutal it is but at the same time if you suppose that that through bad pessimism the nothing good ever happens so i wake up every morning trying to imagine a more confident future and then trying that day to do something about it that's what keeps me that's my despair and so this is a top. the message of my book is that democracy is in trouble democracy in america has been a series of narrow scapes and we may be running out of luck because as i said representative government is threatened at this moment by wealth power and
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corporate conglomerated interest but we can't give up the great progressive reformer of the last of the early part of the lesson from robert follett said that mockers see is a life of struggle and frederick douglass said power never concedes anything without a struggle so each of us in our own way every day at the do something to fight the propaganda this is still a mentality and the pornography of politics do you even said that you just said that basically this is no longer a democracy it's a plutocracy it seems to me that we're not fully into that new frame but we're awful awful close to it hi how would you propose or what have you seen as viable ways to break the motion in that direction toward total basically oligarchy in the
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united states. and they expect a democracy. i think just as we witnessed an arab uprising in the middle east we needed an american uprising we saw a hint of it in wisconsin in opposition to the right wing of the ology being imposed a state legislature governed by but by conservatives and it and iraq when government government and we saw people standing up and and demanding more dignity and and the protection of their interests against the color of that state and all over the country i see examples of it i just met yesterday with a wonderful woman named donna smith who works for the california nurses association who are fighting for medicare for all she has given up she was on her way from new york to washington to take part in a public peaceful nonviolent protest against the health interests that are still trying to undermine the reform the health reform of last year there's
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a remarkable young man you should have on your show. who twenty three years old from mississippi unemployed journalists who are year out of morehouse has decided that that he can't just sit by and do four jobs trying to make ends meet he's out now organizing what's called us uncut to to lobby the government and the banks for the banks to pay their fair share of taxes all over the country they get no way from the media they get no mainstream and no no attention from the mainstream media of it all over the country people are filing standing up we just have to make sure they get they get some some of the the attention that they deserve from the media that's the only thing i know organized people is the only answer to organize money so you've got to look around find a group that's working in the interest that that you think are important for the public good in this country join it and get up tomorrow morning and make
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a fight of it but the. we've had the fellow from us on and the b.b.c. represented action on the program a couple of times and i've had them on early history as well great great and they're based on the uncut movement that started in the u.k. which was stopped because it's the camera the administration's bring it in and in the u.k. that actually gets a lot of publicity because the because the b.b.c. and what not. yet either this morning or yesterday's of the front page of the washington post was this giant photo of as i recall was spain and there's like a hundreds of thousands of people protesting the cuts that they're talking about these i.m.f. austerity cuts and things that may be coming down the road and yet there was no story it was just a pretty photo. how how is it that europe has vibrant journalism and we have infotainment. i don't nobody has a question except that there's
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a record of independent journalism in in europe it hasn't been corporate it has been bought by huge conglomerations i mean some of that exist of course put there's also a tradition since world war two of european styling for social democracy for a civil society that looks after the interests and values of working people that we don't have in this country for thirty years in america since the reagan administration there's been a steady right wing corporate right wing assault on the work on the rights of working people and you know there was a story in the times the other day about those manufacturing jobs coming back to the midwest in this country but the jobs that are being created or pay one third what the jobs that were sent overseas paid so they have that history of this are our press loves to say it when it's a broad but if you but they don't like this it at home but they're made uncomfortable about it by the mainstream press because if that is sent succeeds
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it's the threat threat to the corporations for whom they work and to the relationship between the corporate and the corporate powers in the state powers that represent this this sort of tacit consensual seduction that is going to go in this country of the rights and interests of working people very well said we're going to take a quick break and when we come back i'd like to get into. some of the back to the sixty's for a moment if we could and some more of the things that are in your book will continue our conversations of the great minds of the world winning journalist bill moyers after the break. fuck fuck fuck. fuck .
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you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so. you think you understand it and then you blame something else or see some other part of it and realized everything you saw. i'm sorry is a big issue. on the back of conversations with great minds i'm speaking with an american icon bill moyers his latest book is titled bill moyers journal the conversation continues. of the welcome back you helped create the peace corps in one nine hundred sixty one
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wondering what that time was like and what did you and your compatriots have in mind for that institution and its impact on american the world and further what might we learn now from those pretty heady times back then i remember the sixty's as a happy time anyway. well the early part of the sixty's was a time of great idealism it was permissible to be idealistic that's when the civil rights movement in the south begin with the freedom riders of fifty years ago this very year began to really awaken the conscience of the country to what had been the brutal treatment for so long of of black americans out so on oh another front in another part of the country there was this beginning to believe that there was a moral alternative to war and that you to serve your country you didn't have to put on a uniform and go off and kill somebody you could actually go out in the peace corps
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and live in the neighborhoods in the villages of the world's emerging countries and provide a human service of personal contact representing america in the most basic delivery of services so i remember standing in in the cold on january twenty first of the one nine hundred sixty one listening to john f. kennedy whose campaign i had served him listening to the new president the newly inaugurated president make that famous summons asked not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country and feeling that i wanted it to be a part of a movement that expressed the affirmative side of the american experience so i for nagel my way to work for the peace corps i was one of the founding organizers as you said became its deputy director and our mission was to show americans that there was a new way of being in the world but in effect you had two passports one stamped united states citizen and the other stamped citizen of the world that was the the
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mission of the peace corps it is still important today to remember with humility and with gratitude that that there's a different way from being in the in the world as an american in swagger. the big stick that is possible to live side by side with the world learned share and grow together toward a more understanding a greater understanding of each other you say that was the mission of the pre peace corps what what has changed and when did it change when did that stop being the way that we saw ourselves as americans and and and project ourselves out into the world . i think the more militaristic our foreign policy has become over the years and you know we've had almost no year without with real peace in the world in the last twenty five years old always been some military action of one kind or another with
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the increasing militarization of american society and particularly with the travel tragedy of nine eleven we've we've tended not to think of alternatives to national security being being the peace corps and. economic development and person to person relationships like the peace corps represented and tend to think of it in terms of you know surveillance all the methods of the military the the special forces and all of that we have been providing two wars now for ten years after nine eleven the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives abroad and of american soldiers and the trillions of dollars and then that kind of violent world in which huge forces of military forces or the lose it's hard to think of one or one relationships between american
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citizens going abroad or the peace corps and the budget of the peace corps has been consistently cut because it doesn't have the r.-a that it once did i've seen a lot of peace corps volunteers in the last few years they still are doing a terrific job out there are very preserving the essential american values of friendship and openness and collaboration so it's still there thank goodness it hasn't disappeared even though there are far fewer volunteers than they were even twenty years ago but we moving a little farther into the sixty's you were lyndon johnson's press secretary is from sixty five to sixty seven in the white house and if the reports that i've read are correct in october of sixty seven you told noddy and some cambridge the lyndon johnson saw the war in vietnam as his major legacy and as a result was insisting on victory at all costs even in the face of public opposition in your opinion is president obama now doing the same thing in
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afghanistan. well i think he's made the same mistake that in the johnson made in thinking that by escalating the number of troops he could find a he could ultimately triumph there the tragedy of the american presidency is that as we go to war and every life that's lost every ounce of blood that still the president because more and more invested in quote victory because you don't want to you know want to have to send a message to the parents of those million women who died there that it was in vain so that's the paradox of escalation which is you admit you're bound to have more casualties and those casualties are almost bound to cause you to resolve further to win the victory that is usually elusive you know the great another great tragedy of the american presidency particularly a progressive presidency is that this is a continuing cycle and woodrow wilson is like that in one nine hundred twelve as
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a very progressive. politician within two years was within a few years was taking us to war in in europe dr franklin roosevelt dr when the dr new deal became franklin roosevelt dr win the war after world war two happened harry truman a lot of progressive president. wrote wound up taking us to war in korea and his domestic programs were consumed by by by the war and then then johnson sitting on my mind my first job was not his press secretary i was responsible for much of the domestic policy civil rights environmental message economic policy and all of that and suddenly with the escalation of the war in vietnam in one thousand nine hundred sixty i saw all those hopeful possibilities consumed by. by the growing ravenous demands of the military for more and more money and more
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and more troops. and i saw all our hopes for a dream about a great society disappeared of the quagmire of vietnam it was a very sad time a great time costly for those who lost their lives both americans and vietnam the enemies but it also represented a currying away from the possibilities of building a better society whole. if. you very well said if we could move back to the to the media for a second you were the bush appointed kind of thomas as the chairman of the corporation for public broadcasting and apparently he was a regular critic of you on p.b.s. you said there are times when i was threatened by radio stations to tone it down in your opinion are we and actually not even we is is the corporation public broadcasting in general moving away from programming in the public interest. but i
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don't see any evidence of that yet the it's corporation for there you know there are good republicans and there are dangerous republicans because there are good democrats and and bad him a crass in the present president of the corporation for public broadcasting have harrison is a public minded public spirited republican and i think she is really trying to fulfill public broadcasting's mission of greater diversity more service of. the public interest trying to protect the independence of public broadcasting her predecessor kind of thomas that was a right wing operative he was a. kindred spirit of karl rove and i never will forget the day that one of the trustees of the corporation for public broadcasting called me on the phone and said i just heard chemist thomas and who was the in the chairman of the corporation for public broadcasting say i'm here to get rid of bill moyers that's that's not
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what pat harrison would we do not oh no or i just happen to have watched her track record and think she is doing a good job but but but tom this is an old story in the ninety's early nine hundred seventy s. president nixon and his his his a propagandist pat buchanan tried to undermine public broadcasting to. to get me off the air tried to get robin mcneil off the air tried to get sandy but okkar all thir not because we were liberals but because we were reporting what they didn't want reported the alternative to the official white house next only in view of reality robert doe who was then senator from kansas and senate minority leader tried in the late one nine hundred eighty s. to defund public broadcasting then along comes newt gingrich the late newt gingrich in one thousand nine hundred three and for trying to defund public broadcasting and
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then you had george w. bush and kerry with thomas and his henchmen and the corporation for public broadcasting trying to do the same first of all they don't believe in public funding of of of of media as a matter of principle but secondly more importantly they do not believe there should be truth tellers who are countering the official view of reality do not like independent journalism that we repeat that is not true of the present president of the corporation for public broadcasting or the present president of p.b.s. paula kerger i believe they are committed to public television in the interest of the uninformed american public unfortunately for seven straight years public broadcasting's public television's revenue has been flat and the greatest challenge facing public television at the moment is in fact the minish in resources to do the
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kind of quality reporting and the kind of a great program me that the american people deserve. bill moyers thanks so much for being with us here tonight it's better than lies keep it up tom your. important voice out there in the independent world of broadcasting thank you thank you very much sir you can watch. this conversation again as well as other conversations of great minds at our website conversations with great minds dot com coming up the deputy editor for the daily caller jamie weinstein writer for the weekly standard damn good and you'll help or at radio host joe madison i'll join me after the break for tonight's weekly robert.
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let's not forget that we had an apartheid regime right. i think for a beautiful funny well. we have the government says they're going to keep you safe get ready because your freedom. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so sorely sleep you think you understand it and then he glimpse something else here's.


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