TCS Daily

Moyers No More

By C. C. Kraemer - February 24, 2004 12:00 AM

The reign of terror is nearly over. Bill Moyers is leaving the Public Broadcasting System.

Admittedly, Moyers is no Robespierre. Just an insufferable elitist, an inveterate busybody, a mocker of Christians and a belligerent defender of the paternalistic state.

There is a temptation to follow such purple prose by cracking "and those are his good qualities," because Moyers, who was largely a sycophant to President Johnson when he worked on his staff, is most certainly a hypocrite, as well. But let's not kick a man while he's down, or in this case on his way out - no matter how richly he deserves it.

A more dispassionate analysis of the 69-year-old Moyers, however, confirms that the sophomoric name-calling is warranted. It is this truth that provokes otherwise thoughtful, decent folk to spit out Moyers' name and give in to the temptation to blister him with language we'd chastise our kids for using.

Consider his status as an elitist - a term that should not be confused with "elite," the former being someone thinks they are distinguished, the latter being someone who actually is. Moyers the elitist has made a career out of sneering at regular people. He's a Southerner, but can anyone picture him associating with the average working man, not only in the South but anywhere in flyover country, who likes to bowl, slug cheap beer, watch stock car racing, hunt with his buddies and fly the American flag? No. Moyers would certainly be turned off by the flag waving, he probably wouldn't like the brand of beer offered by this working man, and if our average American considered himself a devout Christian who likes George Bush, the PBS celebrity would quickly brand him a right-wing extremist from his WNET studio in Manhattan.

Moyers might deny it all and claim that he does indeed like to swig Pabst Blue Ribbon from a bottle when he watches NASCAR - though he never drinks when he goes deer hunting. But Moyers has left a record of his preferences through his years of broadcasts and the indelible image is one of an elitist who is repulsed by anyone who doesn't see the world the way he does. This man clearly knows what's best for the rest of us, because he lets us know it every time he opens his mouth.

Of course there is the faux populist side of Moyers. Give him a second - and he's had quite a few of them to proselytize on the air at taxpayers' expense through the years - and he will attack corporations with the zealousness of Ralph Nader. Give both credit for being on the right side of corporate welfare (they oppose it). But Moyers enters the world of Bolshevik progressivism when he claims that the "true believers in the god of the market would leave us to the ruthless amorality of unfettered capitalism" and threaten our "democracy," which, apparently is Moyers' flawed knowledge of just which kind of system we live in.

So if Moyers is to be understood, the lesson here is that it's better to be left to the tender sensibilities of government bureaucrats than the self-determination that markets, which are based on freedom, afford every American. He truly believes that there is a right-wing agenda headed by the White House that is "using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich," even though the data show that to be a fantasy, and, in fact, show it to be exactly the opposite.

The Bill Moyers who is a busybody is no more likable than the nanny-state Bill Moyers who believes in "a need for the government to intervene to correct gross inequalities in income and health and opportunity," and would eagerly force Americans to share in some "social contract" to correct what he sees are the failures of capitalism and the dangers of individual liberty.

"I believe in our collective responsibility," he said last year in Salon magazine, confirming that considers forcing a welfare state on an ostensibly free people is not just acceptable, it is desired.

Moyers' palpable contempt and intolerance for Christians just might be the most puzzling thing about this man who regularly sermonizes the country. He was raised a Southern Baptist - one of those extremists he now talks about with disgust - and has a theological degree from a seminary. Yet he seems almost happy to point out both the evil and the bizarre who have claimed to do great works in the name of Christianity. They are easy targets: Ku Klux Klansmen, David Koresh and any group that declares itself to be Christian but so clearly isn't.

Oh, and there's that hypocrisy thing. Moyers, the great guardian of the poor and a droning critic of the perceived capitalistic excesses, has made an estimated tens of millions of dollars for his projects that have been funded by the taxpayer-subsidized PBS. But let a CEO, whose salary is paid by voluntary participants in the free-market system, earn a few million and Moyers will burn him on the cathode ray stake.

But the height of the Moyers hypocrisy is his is role as president of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation. He draws - earns? - an annual salary of $200,000 from the foundation and administers its $90 million in assets. Good for him, but there's more to this than money and authority. Moyers has routinely interviewed people from left-wing groups that his foundation funds and passed if off as legitimate, nonbiased journalism, according to Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. Sometimes Moyers gets around to disclosing the existence of this cabal - who really pays attention to the credits? - but not as often propriety demands.

Moyers will finish 30 years of television journalism - and that term is used loosely here because he is undeniably a biased advocate - after the November elections. His playground will close, his pulpit gone mercifully quiet. Here's hoping the country never has to endure the likes of him again.

C.C. Kraemer is a writer living in Los Angeles. He last wrote for TCS In Defense of Price Gouging.


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