September 15, 2005: Headlines: Figures: Staff: Journalism: Speaking Out: The Ithacan: Bill Moyers up in arms about the state of democracy

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Bill Moyers up in arms about the state of democracy

Bill Moyers up in arms about the state of democracy

ďI believe this nation canít survive half democracy and half oligarchy, just as it canít survive half slave and half free,Ē said Moyers, who at times had the air of a Southern Baptist minister preaching to his congregation. Journalist Bill Moyers was the Deputy Director of the Peace Corps under founding Director Sargent Shriver.

Bill Moyers up in arms about the state of democracy

Bill Moyers up in arms about the state of democracy


Kevin Kirner/The Ithacan

Bill Moyers, longtime public television journalist for PBS, talks about the future of the United States, the future of journalism and his own professional future in a media session Tuesday afternoon in Park 220.

Billy Moyers112.jpg

Kevin Kirner/The Ithacan

Moyers addresses nearly 2,000 people Tuesday night in the Ben Light Gymnasium.

By Jim Hawver / Staff Writer

September 15, 2005

In a fiery and passionate speech, journalist Bill Moyers urged the nearly 2,000 in attendance Tuesday night to fight the crumbling of Americaís democracy through civil engagement.

"I believe this nation canít survive half democracy and half oligarchy, just as it canít survive half slave and half free," said Moyers, who at times had the air of a Southern Baptist minister preaching to his congregation.

Moyers derived much of Tuesdayís lecture, held in the muggy Ben Light Gymnasium, from his latest book "Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times." Moyers, whose three-day visit to the college was part of the annual Park Distinguished Visitor Series, said three forces have aligned to take control of the nation.

"The political right, the religious right and joined with the corporate right create a powerful force in American life," Moyers said in a media session earlier in the day. "The religious right provides the foot soldiers, the political right provide the ideas and the corporate right provides - through all the subsidies and offshore tax breaks - the spoils of victory."

During his public lecture later that night, he said, "The vultures are circling the carcass of democracy."

Recently, Moyers has received even more criticism than usual from the political right. In December, he stepped down after three years as anchor and editor of the Public Broadcasting Service show "NOW With Bill Moyers." Just weeks earlier, Ken Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees PBS and National Public Radio, told PBS executives that the nation had shifted to the right and so should the organizationís programming.

"I always knew Nixon would be back," Moyers said in a speech at the National Conference on Media Reform in May. "I just didnít know this time he would ask to be the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

Moyers said too many people confuse patriotism with nationalism.

"Sometimes the best way to stand up for your country is to stand up to your government," he said in the media session.

Many of Moyersí 30-plus years in the media were spent in public broadcasting. Throughout his career as a journalist, he has won more than 30 Emmy Awards. Before his career as a journalist, Moyers was one of the original organizers of the Peace Corps during the John F. Kennedy administration and served as press secretary and special assistant to the president during the Lyndon Johnson administration.

Junior Christina Nielsen said she hopes Moyersí message was a wake-up call for apathetic students.

"I think itís really good to have people like Bill Moyers here to give us a reality check," Nielsen said. "I think people who go to see Bill Moyers probably agree with him anyways, but there may have been people here who got a jolt."

Dianne Lynch, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, introduced Moyers as his generationís Edward R. Murrow. Shortly after his speech, she said she had already received six requests for video-tape recordings of the event.

"For me, itís so important for students to be exposed to somebody who is as well read, thoughtful and critical of our current political, economic and social condition, and Bill Moyers is known around the world as one of the wise men of our age," Lynch said. "And he speaks from great experience inside government, outside government, in politics, outside politics, as a journalist and no longer as a journalist."

Moyers, 70, said he hasnít made any solid decisions about his future, but he did say he wants to produce documentaries about Hurricane Katrina, the governmentís post-Sept. 11 policy on torture and the fusion of the political right and religious right as the dominant coalition in American politics.

"I have a large filing cabinet of unfulfilled interests, including hundreds of people that I would like to interview and scores of stories that I would like to turn into documentaries," Moyers said.

Elizabeth Pickard contributed to this story.

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Story Source: The Ithacan

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