The Living Hell of Bill Moyers

By Bethell, Tom | The American Spectator, March 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Living Hell of Bill Moyers


Bethell, Tom, The American Spectator


IN A WAY YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT, Bill Moyers resembles Lenin. Maxim Gorky (sycophantic Soviet author who died in 1936) told us that Lenin enjoyed Beethoven's Appassionata sonata, but couldn't bear to listen to music very often. It made him want to say "sweet silly things," and to pat the heads of people who didn't seem to realize they were "living in a filthy hell."

Sometimes, on Fridays, I watch the PBS program "Now with Bill Moyers." His predictability is remarkable-he could say so many things, yet he keeps on saying the same things. And I disagree with just about all of his opinions. Moyers is well to the left of normal PBS fare, but I don't mind that. The spectrum of tolerated opinion there is narrow, and there's something to be said for broadening it. (Any chance of a right-wing Moyers equivalent? I don't think so.) Anyway, I do watch the program, and sometimes even take notes, as though I were his shrink. Now I have a diagnosis.

Like Lenin, Moyers thinks we are living in a hell. That is his basic message. He can't change it and he won't. There was an interesting moment last May when he responded to viewers. Some had been writing in, evidently a bit concerned about his state of mind. "Do we delight in the dark side of human experience, you ask?" Moyers said in his reply. "Do we never see good in the world?"

He was merely being candid, he explained. Telling it like it is. "I like to think journalists are paid for candor." We need to know "what could kill us, whether it's too many lies or too much pollution." So he was the bearer of uncomfortable truths. That was why he kept coming back to "what ails America ... things like the bribing of Congress, the desecration of the environment, corporate tax havens ..." We know the litany. After the last election he said that George Bush believed he had a mandate to use "the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives," and to use "the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich."

Now, America is a comfortable place to live, perhaps the most comfortable ever, in the history of the world. But there is no point in trying to tell Moyers things like that. You know what his response would be. "Comfortable for some, maybe. Comfortable for rich people." Then he would launch into another tirade. If you expect Moyers to express appreciation of the country that has given him so much, you will have a long wait.

The contrast with Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" struck me the other day. I listen to him, too. Keillor's willingness to dwell on our blessings is striking and perhaps the secret of his success. God (not, as normally said, the devil) is in the details, and Keillor lovingly recites those details week after week. In a recent broadcast from Iowa I was amazed to hear him saying with heartfelt appreciation: "Our town is an alabaster city, in the winter it is, when the roofs are covered with snow; beautiful for its snowy fields and the gray skeletons of trees." Imagine that from Moyers. I suppose Keillor is a liberal of sorts, but his faculty of appreciation, his love of traditional hymns, and the contentment he derives from describing the world, show conservative tendencies. A great gulf separates him from those, like Moyers, who want to change the world, not describe it.

BILL MOYERS, who will be 70 in June, grew up in east Texas and by the age of 30 was press secretary to the President of the United States. He worked for LBJ when the Great Society was forming. He became a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. Ever since he has kept on moving to the left. Now he controls millions of dollars in foundation money (bequeathed by rich businessmen), has access to taxpayer-subsidized airwaves, and his wife on the payroll. Yet he is a profoundly alienated man. Like Lenin, he doesn't want to pat heads when we are living in this hell.

His discontent extends far beyond the nation's borders.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Living Hell of Bill Moyers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?