George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, was also a BBC journalist
Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth. ... So it’s up to you to tell the truth about this country we love. It’s up to you to tell the truth about what’s happening to ordinary people. It’s up to you to remind us that democracy only works when ordinary people claim it as their own. It’s up to you to write the story of America that leaves no one out. And it’s up to you to rekindle the patriot’s dream. Bill Moyers, Fourth Annual National Conference for Media Reform, June 2008
Bill Moyers: "This leaves you with a heavy burden. It is up to you to fight for the freedom that makes all other freedoms possible."
Here are some excerpts from Bill Moyers' powerful keynote address, courtesy of Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! For the full text, click here. Past it on. Better yet, download the podcast, and pass it on. Click here. No further comment from me is necessary. -- Richard Power
AMY GOODMAN: More than 3,500 people gathered this weekend in Minneapolis for the fourth annual National Conference for Media Reform. The thousands of participants took part in panel discussions and strategized about efforts to fight media consolidation and democratize the airwaves. The three-day event was organized by the media reform group Free Press.
The highlight of the weekend was the keynote address by legendary broadcaster, Bill Moyers, host of the weekly PBS program Bill Moyers Journal. Moyers was one of the founding organizers of the Peace Corps, press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson, publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He won more than thirty Emmys and is the author of four bestselling books. His latest, just out, is called Moyers on Democracy. On Saturday morning, Bill Moyers took to the stage and addressed the packed convention auditorium.
BILL MOYERS: You represent millions of Americans who see media consolidation as a corrosive social force. It robs them of their voice in public affairs, pollutes the political culture and turns the debate over profound issues into a shouting match of polarized views promulgated by partisan apologists who trivialize democracy while refusing to speak the truth about how our country is being plundered. ...
I heard this story a long time ago, growing up in Choctaw County in Oklahoma before we moved to Texas, of the tribal elder who was telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, "It is between two wolves, my son. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The boy took this in for a few minutes and then said to his father—to his grandfather, “Which wolf won?” The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one I feed.” Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And media provides the fodder.
So it is that democracy without honest information creates the illusion of popular consent while enhancing the power of the state and the privileged interests protected by it. Democracy without accountability creates the illusion of popular control while offering ordinary Americans only cheap tickets to the balcony, too far away to see that the public stage has become just a reality TV set. Nothing more characterizes corporate media today, mainstream and partisan, than disdain toward the fragile nature of modern life and indifference toward the complex social debate required of a free and self-governing people.
This leaves you with a heavy burden. It is up to you to fight for the freedom that makes all other freedoms possible. In fact, I want to ask you to do something right now. I want you to stand up just a moment. Please, stand up. Now, turn to a neighbor to your left or neighbor to your right. Look that person in the eye. Shake hands. Shake hands, come on. Now turn to the person on the other side. Look that person in the eye. Shake hands. Now, see? Keep standing. You’re surrounded by kindred spirits. Remember—remember this when you go home and continue the fight. Hold your neighbors’ presence and this moment in your heart, and keep reminding yourself, “I’m not alone in this movement.” ...
Be vigilant. Be vigilant. The fate of the cyber-commons is up for grabs here, the future of the mobile web and the benefits of the internet as open architecture. We’ll lose that fight without you, because the antidote, the only antidote, to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people at the net roots. ...
But it’s going to take more than just hopes that the new media will deliver up what we have never fully realized with the old. And the clock is ticking. By 2011, the market analysts tell us, the internet will surpass newspapers in advertising revenues. With MySpace and Dow Jones controlled by Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft determined to acquire Yahoo!, and with advertisers already telling some bloggers, “Your content is unacceptable,” we could see the potential loss of what’s now considered an unstoppable long tail of content offering abundant, new, credible and sustainable sources of news and information.
Advertisers have already aggressively seized the new online world to go back into the programming business themselves, creating what’s called branded content. Imagine the Camel News Caravan revived, but this time online as a sponsored YouTube channel. Already, newspapers and magazines, and soon television, are encouraged to sell keywords to advertisers in the online versions of stories. Can you imagine advertisers going for stories with keywords such as “healthcare reform,” “environmental degradation,” “Iraqi casualties,” “contracting fraud” or “K Street lobbyists”? I don’t think so.
So what will happen to news in the future, as the already tattered boundaries between journalism and advertising is dispensed with entirely and as content programming, commerce and online communities are rolled into one profitably attractive package? Last year, the investment firm of Piper Jaffray predicted that much of the business model for new media would be just that kind of hybrid. They called it “communitainment.” “Communitainment.” O, George Orwell, where are you now that we need you? ...
Now, you know as well as I that all across the media landscape the health of our democracy is imperiled. Buffeted by gale force winds of technological, political and demographic forces, without a truly free and independent press, this 250-year-old experiment in self-government will not make it. I am no romantic about journalism. Some of my best friends are journalists. We are all fallen creatures, like everyone else. But I believe more fervently than ever that as journalism goes, so goes democracy.
Yet as mergers and buyouts change both old and new media, bring a frenzied focus on cost-cutting, while fattening the pockets of the new owners and their investors, we are seeing journalism degraded through the layoffs and buyouts of legions of reporters and editors. Advertising Age reports that US media employment has fallen to a fifteen-year low. The Los Angeles Times alone has experienced a withering series of resignations by editors who refused to turn a red pencil into an editorial scalpel.
The new owner of the Tribune Company, the real estate mogul Sam Zell, recently toured his new property, the Los Angeles Times newsroom, telling employees that the challenge is: how do we get somebody 126 years old to get it up? “Well,” said Zell, “I’m your Viagra.” I’m not making this up. He told his journalists that he didn’t have an editorial agenda or a perspective about newspapers’ roles as civic institutions. “I’m a businessman,” he said. “All that matters in the end is the bottom line.” Just this week, Zell told Wall Street analysts that to save money he intends to eliminate 500 pages of news a week across all of the company’s twelve papers. That can mean eliminating some eighty-two pages every week just from the Los Angeles Times. What will he use to replace reporters and editors? He says to the Wall Street analysts, “I’ll use maps, graphics, lists, rankings and stats.” Sounds to me as if Sam has confused Viagra with Lunesta. ...
Sadly, in many respects, the Fourth Estate has become the fifth column of democracy, colluding with the powers that be in a culture of deception that subverts the thing most necessary to freedom, and that is the truth. ...
So it’s up to you to tell the truth about this country we love. It’s up to you to tell the truth about what’s happening to ordinary people. It’s up to you to remind us that democracy only works when ordinary people claim it as their own. It’s up to you to write the story of America that leaves no one out. And it’s up to you to rekindle the patriot’s dream. ... Democracy Now!, 6-9-08
See also Can the US Mainstream News Media be Reformed Through Legislation? Or Revitalized from Within? I Don't Know. But It May Rapidly Become Irrelevant and Hard Rain Journal 12-3-07: David Gregory Meet I.F. Stone and Tom Paine x 10,000
For Words of Power's archive of posts on Corporate News Media Complicity, Power of Alternative Media, Propaganda & Freedom, click here.
Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.
Bill Moyers, Fourth Estate, News Media, Blogosphere,Alternate Media, Richard Power, Words of Power