Must See TV: Bill Moyers is Back
January 15, 2012 2 Comments
A great new television series began this weekend. And it won’t just be of interest to those of us already following the broader story behind the damage done by the most anti-environmental Congress in history. Moyers & Company probes a range of the deeper issues about democracy in America by presenting riveting interviews with fascinating thinkers not usually seen on television.
It’s very good news that Bill Moyers has come out of retirement to explore the connection between money in politics (and Big Oil money is central), our failing democracy, and the rise of plutocracy in America. His one-line summary of the series, which he picked up from a tee shirt a protester was wearing at an Occupy rally: “The system is not broken; it is fixed.”
If you want to cut to the chase instead of reading my commentary and watching some short introductory clips, the first episode is the first video posted below. It provides an overture of many themes to be taken up in future shows by interviewing Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. This is one of the more important books about American democracy in recent years. Instead of offering mere partisan polemics, it is a trenchant, impeccably researched and beautifully written analysis of how “America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.”
OK, an old guy talking to college professors from Yale and Berkeley may not sound like fast paced entertainment, but remember, Moyers is the guy who brought us Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, one of the most popular shows ever broadcast on public television. Millions of people loved what Moyers recently described as a show whose plot-line was “Two guys in ties discussing mythology.” Here is the entire first show of the new series:
Moyers & Comapany 101: On Winner Take All Politics
The series begins precisely where his last series, Bill Moyers’ Journal, ended. In his editorial sign-off in 2010, Moyers warns of the dangers of money in politics, wealth inequality, and the rise of plutocracy in America. As Joe Romm noted when he posted this clip back in November, Moyers delivered these remarks long before the Occupy Movement began.
And Moyers is still funny and quick on his feet. Have a look at this exchange with Stephen Colbert last week.
Also in conjunction with the beginning of the new series, Arianna Huffington sat down with Moyers for an interview (the audience consists of Huffington Post editors). It’s a great conversation about politics and spiritualty in which Arianna and Bill bring out the best in each other. See it here.
I also like this interview he conducted with Jon Stewart in 2007 on Bill Moyers’ Journal about “fake news:”
Back to the specifically environmental side of things and Moyers’ ability to probe deeply and widely into pressing issues. In talking with students and my own college-age children recently, I was aghast at how many of them did not know Bill Moyers’ work. A few of them to whom I showed some of these clips did recognize him from something he produced with Public Affairs Television in 1991 that I still use in environmental philosophy classes for high school and college students. A gathering he and Laurence Rockefeller organized at Middlebury College (where Rockefeller taught religious studies) was made into an excellent documentary, Spirit and Nature. Among those featured in the discussion: The Dalai Lama; Native American Elder Audrey Shenandoah; Islamic Studies professor Sevyed Hossein Nasr; Protestant theologian Sallie McFague; Rabbi Ishmar Schorsch. And the music provided by the Paul Winter Consort is a nice touch.
Although it is not Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, many young people find Spirit and Nature engaging and thought-provoking 20 years later, as do some atheist philosophy professors. (Watch a clip of the Dalai Lama here.) It’s too early to tell where the new series, Moyers & Company, will go during the next year or two, but it’s off to an excellent start.