BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company.

MARTY KAPLAN: It's all about combat. If every political issue is the combat between two polarized sides, then you get great television because people are throwing food at each other. And you have an audience that hasn't a clue, at the end of the story, which is why you'll hear, "Well, we'll have to leave it there." Well, thank you very much. Leave it there.

BILL MOYERS: And how the ghost of Joe McCarthy is back to haunt America.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: They shouldn’t be called Democrats, they should be referred to properly as the Commiecrat Party.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. How about this: enterprising and intrepid journalism students at Kent State University in Ohio took up our challenge to go to nearby television stations, collect data on the political ads they run and post that information on the Internet. It’s supposed to be public information in the first place.

KENT STATE STUDENT: We had one simple question for management at each station. Should these records be put on line? Three stations refused to be interviewed.

BILL MOYERS: Take a look at the complete Kent State video at our website, We’re counting on other journalism students around the country – and maybe you as well – to follow their example and share the results with us. Meanwhile, on with the show, because as you can see, sometimes the truth reveals itself in the darnedest places. In an old movie, for example – one you saw some years ago, forgot, and then, by chance, happen on it again to discover that times have changed, and movies, too. But certain things never change: they just cost more.

Here’s what I mean: remember Eddie Murphy twenty years ago in The Distinguished Gentleman? That’s the term by which members of Congress address each other, no matter how disreputable their conduct.

Murphy, a con man disguised as a waiter, is about to fleece the host of a swanky party, when he overhears this conversation between a big-time energy executive and a veteran Congressman who wants to retire:

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: Yeah well, look, Jeff. You can't retire.

JEFF JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: If I retire this year I get to keep $1.3 million that’s left in my campaign fund. And it’s called the grandfather loophole.

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: Alright, Jeff. I got it. Come here. There's a small software company that's about to go through the roof. Now what you do is buy a few thousand dollars’ worth of stock options. It’s going to bring in a half a million, easy — and that's just for our winners.

JEFF JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: If you put it like that, I suppose I have a duty to continue my career in public service.

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: Duty.

BILL MOYERS: Fate intervenes, the Congressman dies of a heart attack, and Murphy gets himself elected in his place. At a Washington dinner for freshmen members of Congress, he begins to learn the ropes from the lobbyist Terry Corrigan:

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: Say, could I host a welcome- to-Washington fundraiser for you down at my law firm on K street?

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: Absolutely!

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: At five hundred dollars a head — you could pick up twenty, twenty-five grand to help you get started.

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: And how much of that are you going to get?

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: It doesn't come off the top. Down the road, I'll bill each of ‘em five hundred an hour whenever I take you to lunch.

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: You know Terry, you and I are going to be so close.

BILL MOYERS: Soon, he’s making a beeline for the honey pot.

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: I'd like to do more money for you – but first I’ve gotta get your positions on a few issues. Now where are you on sugar price supports?

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: Sugar price supports. Where should I be, Terry?

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: It makes no difference to me. If you're for 'em, I got money for you from my sugar producers in Louisiana and Hawaii. If you're against 'em, I got money for you from the candy manufacturers.

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: You pick […]Terry, tell me something — with all this money coming in from both sides, how could anything possibly ever get done?

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: It doesn't! That's the genius of the system!

BILL MOYERS: Now in the good graces of a powerful committee chairman, he joins the shakedown of a corporate executive who wants a favor from Congress.

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: Seven figures? I suppose a million dollars isn’t too much to insure against losing $5 billion.

DICK DODGE: The Distinguished Gentleman: Now you talking.

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: But how can I funnel this kind of money to you?

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: If that’s what you want, we can find a loophole. No one will see your fingerprints.

OLAF ANDERSEN : The Distinguished Gentleman: No one will know?

TERRY CORRIGAN: The Distinguished Gentleman: No one will know.

DICK DODGE: The Distinguished Gentleman: Olaf's just making a contribution as a patriotic citizen. And in return for that, he's getting…

TOMMY JEFFERSON JOHNSON: The Distinguished Gentleman: Good government.

DICK DODGE: The Distinguished Gentleman: Exactly. A little access, that's all.

BILL MOYERS: I’ll not remind you of how the movie ends, in case you want to see it for yourself. But I can assure you – the revelations ring as true today as they did then. And no one knows this better than my next guest who wrote The Distinguished Gentlemen.

Marty Kaplan majored in molecular biology at Harvard, got a Ph. D. in literature from Stanford and went to work for U.S. Commissioner of Education Ernest Boyer and then with Vice President Walter Mondale After Washington he joined the Walt Disney Company as a writer/producer on such diverse projects as that Eddie Murphy satire and the Peter Bogdanovich adaptation of Noises Off. After becoming a dean at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, he founded and heads the Norman Lear Center, which studies politics, entertainment, and commerce – and their impact on us. He’s an expert on how big money and big media have coupled to create a Disney World of democracy. Marty, welcome.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thanks, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote The Distinguished Gentleman 20 years ago. Could you write it today?

MARTY KAPLAN: Oh God, it still is the same. All you have to do is add a couple of zeros to the amount of money. And the same laws still apply. It is fabulous and miserable at the same time.

BILL MOYERS: Was Washington then, and is it now, the biggest con game going?

MARTY KAPLAN: It is the biggest con game going. And the stakes are enormous. And the effort to regulate them is hopeless, because the very people who are in charge of regulating them are the same people who are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the lobbies that run them.

BILL MOYERS: I have it on very good authority that a prominent Washington senator recently told a group of lobbyists in Washington, a room full of lobbyists, that they are the lifeblood of the city. And I thought, "Kaplan has to do a vampire movie now." Right?

MARTY KAPLAN: Exactly. The connection between the legislators and the lobbyists is so intimate that it's not even embarrassing for a senator to say that in front of a room. The culture is so hermetically sealed from the rest of the country that it doesn't occur to them that there is something deeply outrageous and offensive and corrosive of democracy to admit that the money side of politics and the elected side of politics belong to each other.

BILL MOYERS: You wrestle with this, you and your colleagues at the Norman Lear Center, and all the time, on how, on what the system is doing to us. So let me ask you, "How did this happen in America? How did our political system become the problem instead of the answer?"

MARTY KAPLAN: Part of it is the nexus of media, money, and special interest politics. The citizens have given the airwaves to the station. We own the electromagnetic spectrum and for free we give out licenses to television stations. Those stations, in turn, use that spectrum to get enormous amounts of money from special interests and from members of Congress in order to send these ads back to us to influence us. So we lose it in both ways. The other day, the president of CBS, Les Moonves, was reported by "Bloomberg" to have said "Super PACs may be bad for America, but they're … good for CBS." I mean, there it is. This is a windfall every election season, which seems not to even stop ever, for the broadcast industry. So not only are they raking it in, they're also creating a toxic environment for civic discourse. People don't hear about issues. They hear these negative charges, which only turn them off more. The more negative stuff you hear, the less interested you are in going out to vote. And so they're being turned off, the stations are raking it in, and the people who are chortling all the way to Washington and the bank are the ones who get to keep their hands on the levers of power. So one of the big reasons that things are at the pass they are is that the founders never could have anticipated that a small group of people, a financial enterprise and the technology could create this environment in which facts, truth, accountability, that stuff just isn't entertaining. So because it's not entertaining, because the stations think it's ratings poison, they don't cover it on the news. BILL MOYERS: They don't cover the news.

MARTY KAPLAN: They don't cover politics and government in the sense of issues. They're happy, occasionally to cover horse race and scandal and personality and crime and that aspect of politics. But if you look at a typical half hour of news, local news, because local news is one of the most important sources of news for Americans about campaigns. A lot—

BILL MOYERS: You and your colleagues have done a lot of research on local news.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes, we've been studying it now since 1998. And each year it gets more depressing and it's hard to believe. We, not long ago, did a study of the Los Angeles media market. We looked at every station airing news and every news broadcast they aired round the clock. And we put together a composite half hour of news. And if you ask, "How much in that half hour was about transportation, education law enforcement, ordinances, tax policy?" everything involving locals, from city to county. The answer is, in a half hour, 22 seconds.

BILL MOYERS: Twenty-two seconds devoted to what one would think are the serious issues of democracy, right?

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes. Whereas, in fact, there are three minutes about crime, and two and a half minutes about the ugliest dog contest, and two minutes about entertainment. There's plenty of room for stuff that the stations believe will keep people from changing the dial.

BILL MOYERS: What is the irony to me is that these very same stations that are giving 22 seconds out of a half hour to serious news, are raking— and not covering politics, are raking in money from the ads that the politicians and their contributors are spending on those same papers.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes, they're earning hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars from the ads that they are being paid to run. And not even risking running a minute of news, which might actually check on the accuracy of an ad. Truth watches, they're almost invisible now.

BILL MOYERS: So they will tell you, however, that they're in the entertainment business. That they're in the business to amuse the public, to entertain the public. And if they do these serious stories about the schools or about the highways or about this or that, the public tunes out. That the clicks begin to register as—

MARTY KAPLAN: It's one of the great lies about broadcasting now. There are consultants who go all around the country and they tell the general managers and the news directors, "It is only at your peril that you cover this stuff." But one of the things that we do is, the Lear Center gives out the Walter Cronkite award for excellence in television political journalism every two years. And we get amazing entries from all over the country of stations large and small of reporters under these horrendous odds doing brilliant pieces and series of pieces, which prove that you can not only do these pieces on a limited budget, but you can still be the market leader.

BILL MOYERS: What do they say when you say, "But look, you have this public franchise. You've been given this hotdog stand in your neighborhood to sell all the hotdogs you want to. In return, we'd just like more attention to serious issues and to take politics seriously." What do they say?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, some of them say, "You're right. We're going to do it. And hold us accountable." That's the miracle. The Hearst chain of television stations, for example, has won the Cronkite Award over and over, because they've risen to the challenge. If you have management and ownership from top down, saying to all their stations, "Okay, you are required to run news stories about campaigns. You have to run five minutes a night for the last 30 days of a campaign. And we're going to judge you." If their management and ownership says, "You have to do it," they do it. And they can do an amazing job of it. The problem is that management like that is few and far between.

BILL MOYERS: So what is driving it?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, what's really driving it, if you think of this as a symptom and not a cause, I think what's really driving it is the absolute demonization of any kind of idea of public interest as embodied by government. And at the same time, a kind of corporate triumphalism, in which the corporations, the oligarchs, the plutocrats, running this country want to hold onto absolute power absolutely. And it's an irritant to them to have the accountability that news once used to play.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by that? News challenges their assumptions, challenges their power?

MARTY KAPLAN: It used to be that the news programs that aired, believe it or not, had news on them. They had investigative stories.

But then somewhere in the 1980s, when 60 Minutes started making a profit, CBS put the news division inside the entertainment division. And then everyone followed suit. So ever since then, news has been a branch of entertainment and, infotainment, at best.

But there was a time in which the press, the print press, news on television and radio were speaking truth to power, people paid attention, and it made a difference. The— I don't think the Watergate trials would have happened, the Senate hearings, had there not been the kind of commitment from the news to cover the news rather than cutting away to Aruba and a kidnapping.

BILL MOYERS: What is the basic consequence of taking the news out of the journalism box and putting it over into the entertainment box?

MARTY KAPLAN: People are left on their own to fend for themselves. And the problem is that there's not that much information out there, if you're an ordinary citizen, that comes to you. You can ferret it out. But it oughtn't be like that in a democracy. Education and journalism were supposed to, according to our founders, inform our public and to make democracy work.

You can't do it unless we're smart. And so the consequence is that we're not smart. And you can see it in one study after another. Some Americans think that climate change is a hoax cooked up by scientists, that there's no consensus about it. This kind of view could not survive in a news environment, which said, "This is true and that's false." Instead we have an environment in which you have special interest groups manipulating their way onto shows and playing the system, gaming the notion that he said she said is basically the way in which politics is now covered.

It's all about combat. If every political issue is the combat between two polarized sides, then you get great television because people are throwing food at each other. And you have an audience that hasn't a clue, at the end of the story, which is why you'll hear, "Well, we'll have to leave it there." Well, thank you very much. Leave it there.

BILL MOYERS: You have talked and written about "the straightjacket of objectivity." Right? What is that?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, the problem with telling the truth is that in this postmodern world, there's not supposed to be something as truth anymore. So all you can do if you are a journalist is to say, "Some people say." Maybe you can report a poll. Maybe you can quote somebody. But objectivity is only this phony notion of balance, rather than fact-checking.

There are some gallant and valiant efforts, like PolitiFact and that are trying to hold ads and news reports accountable. But by and large, that's not what you're getting. Instead the real straightjacket is entertainment. That's what all these sources are being forced to be. Walter Lippmann in the 1920s had a concept called "spectator democracy" in which he said that the public was a herd that needed steering by the elites. Now he thought that people just didn't have the capacity to understand all these complicated issues and had to delegate it to experts of various kinds.

But since then, the notion of spectator democracy has, I think, extended to include the need to divert the country from the master narrative, which is the influence and importance and imperviousness to accountability of large corporations and the increasing impotence of the public through its agency, the government, to do anything about it. So the more diversion and the more entertainment, the less news, the less you focus on that story, the better off it is.

BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the people who run this political media business, the people who fund it, want to divert the public's attention from their economic power? Is that what you're saying?


Let us fight about you know, whether this circus or that circus is better than each other, but please don't focus on the big change which has happened in this country, which is the absolute triumph of these large, unaccountable corporations.

This is about as dismal and effective a conspiracy, out in plain sight, as there possibly could be. So I don't say that this is going to be solved or taken care of. What I do say is the first step toward it is at least acknowledging how toxic the situation has become.

BILL MOYERS: But isn't it possible that a lot of people prefer the entertainment side of politics and even the news, because they have seen what you have just described. That they see the problems. They write on my website and say, "Look, you know, you're describing this. You're investigating that. But tell me what I can do. What can I do? I do something and nothing happens." And so people just say, "Enough's enough." And they go their merry way.

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, merry is the word. Self-medication is probably a decent thing to do, when you're that depressed about what's going on. If only every once in a while, you get some headline for some demonstration you're in, or maybe you defeat somebody. Look at Wisconsin, for example. There's a reason for hope. Citizens came out and have made a difference. They are recalling the governor. They have terrified a state legislature, which has acted not in their interest. So citizen activism is showing signs of making a difference. And you can see it in Ohio. You can see a bit of it in Arizona. These things are not completely hopeless. And—

BILL MOYERS: So how did it happen, given what you say about who controls the spigots of information and the money going into the— into the media process? How did that happen?

MARTY KAPLAN: The public, by turning out in vast numbers and not giving up, forced the media to pay attention to them. And as long as the media reflects a view of yourself in which you're impotent, there's no reason to go out and try. But as soon as the mirror that the media provides says, "Wait a minute, all these people are doing something." That has what they call a network effect. More creates more. And finally it becomes a force in politics that even the Koch brothers funding the governor of Wisconsin can't completely suffocate.

BILL MOYERS: You watched the Republican primaries, right?


BILL MOYERS: What did you see?

MARTY KAPLAN: I saw the most amazing effort to brand the entities that sponsored the debates.

ANNOUNCER #1: This is the ABC news.

ANNOUNCER #2: This is the NBC news.

MARTY KAPLAN: I mean, every big network and every brand was out in order to sell their brand to the public. The content of the debate was almost laughable.

BILL MOYERS: Entertaining.


BILL MOYERS: But it's fun.


BILL MOYERS: You against fun?

MARTY KAPLAN: I'm for Herman Cain.

HERMAIN CAIN: This economy is on life support, that's why my 999 plan is a bold solution.

MICHELE BACHMANN: When you take the 999 plan and turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details.

MARTY KAPLAN: I'm for Michele Bachmann as entertainers. But American politics shouldn't only be a reality show. And that's what it's become.

BILL MOYERS: But aren't we suckers for melodrama? Don't we like the soap opera up and down, in and out quality of the political race today?

MARTY KAPLAN: We are programmed to love stories. That is in our genes. Our wiring says that when you say, "Once upon a time," I am hooked. When you show me conflict between two people, I want to know who's going to win. That's how it's always been. And it happens that politics is now the substance and television is now the medium in which to bedazzle us, to enthrall us, which means enslave us just as it has been all through human history.

BILL MOYERS: What struck me in those Republican debates is that they'd get into 15 to 20, maybe 30 minutes of an exchange, and then the moderator would say, "Hold it right there. We'll be back after a commercial."

BRIAN WILLIAMS: We have to go to a break. When we come back we’ll talk foreclosure, we’ll talk about foreign policy.

BILL MOYERS: I kept thinking of the great debates between Lincoln and Douglass, "Wait a moment, Mr. Lincoln, before you take up the issue of slavery, we have a commercial for you." They have taken over the process, in that regard. You can't play unless you play on their turf, which is governed by the rules of commerce.

MARTY KAPLAN: The League of Women Voters doesn't have a chance any more—

BILL MOYERS: They used to be the sponsors of the presidential debates.

MARTY KAPLAN: Exactly. Instead, the purpose of these debates is in order to have commercials. The suspense and coming back, those are devices deployed, in order to have people watch what happens in between. These are moneymaking propositions. They give bragging rights for those that get high ratings. They have nothing to do with the content.

Because if they did have to do with the content, then the moderators would have to spend all their time saying, "I can't believe you just said that. That is so wrong. How can you say that?" Instead they say, "Well, Governor Perry, what do you think of what Congressman Bachmann just said?" That's what happens. That's what passes for journalism. And that's what gets us to watch the ads for soap.

BILL MOYERS: What you're saying is that the political square is now a commercial enterprise, owned and operated for the benefit of the brand, CNN, Fox, all of those, right?

MARTY KAPLAN: That's correct.

BILL MOYERS: How did it happen? How did we sell what belonged to everyone?

MARTY KAPLAN: By believing that what is, is what always has been and what should be. The notion that what goes on is actually made by people, changes through time, represents the deployment of political power. That notion has gone away. We think it's always been this way. People now watching these CNN and Fox. They think this is how it works. They don't have a sense of history. The amnesia, which has been cultivated by journalism, by entertainment in this country, helps prevent people from saying, "Wait a minute, that's the wrong path to be on."

BILL MOYERS: Amnesia, forgetfulness? You say that they're cultivating forgetfulness?

MARTY KAPLAN: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: Deliberately?

MARTY KAPLAN: Look at the way in which it— the march toward war in Iran, if that's what's going to happen, is being—

BILL MOYERS: Or slithering toward war.

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, it— when we get there we may feel as though the serpent bit us, no matter how we got to that point. But Iran should be covered through the prism of what happened in Iraq. All of the neoconservatives and right-wingers, who called for us to go into Iraq because of W.M.D.'s and because Saddam was bad. There is a history there. That history is within living memory of a lot of grownups in this country.

And unless people are willing to do the hard work of presenting the history and holding people accountable for the past, we will be condemned as it's been said, to repeat it first in tragedy and then in farce.

BILL MOYERS: Here's something I wrestle with and a lot of journalists wrestle with it. That I'd like for you to address. We sometimes bend ourselves into euphemistic pretzels in order not to call a spade a spade or a lie a lie. For example, when Rick Santorum's opponents took his words out of context to make him say something he clearly had not intended to say.

NARRATOR: On the economy, Rick Santorum says:

RICK SANTORUM: I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be.

BILL MOYERS: I didn't hear any prestige journalist speak up and say, "You know, that's a lie."

MARTY KAPLAN: No, what you heard instead was, isn't that something? What a deft maneuver. What a great political thing that they have done. How shrewd it was to change the focus. How merciless toward their opponents this move has been. There is admiration for playing the game brilliantly. No one is appalled. No one is shocked anymore. No one is able to say, wait a minute, that's not true. That's inappropriate. That's wrong.

'Cause if a reporter does do that, they're completely playing into the hands of the candidate, as we saw over and over in the Republican debate. George Stephanopoulos asks a question about contraception and the candidates come down on him like a ton of bricks.

MITT ROMNEY: I don’t know whether the state has the right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do, that no state wants to do, and asking me whether they can do it or not is kind of a silly thing I think.

MARTY KAPLAN: "How dare you do this? That's just the liberal media." They have this trope of the liberal media, which they use in order to demonize anybody who is willing to enforce standards of accuracy.

BILL MOYERS: You once proposed that political ads be accompanied by a disclaimer. And it was this disclaimer, quote, "The scary music, photo shopped pictures, and misleading sound bites in this ad are tricks intended to manipulate you in ways of which you are not consciously aware. Voting for this candidate is unlikely to improve how awful things are." When I read that, I thought, "Fat chance."

MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, fat chance. But at least we're talking about it. At least front and center is the notion that these ads are so powerful, because they are mini movies. They are dazzling dramas. They are full of conflict and story. We love paying attention to that stuff. We are suckered into them.

BILL MOYERS: Do you think these ads make us stupid?

MARTY KAPLAN: We start stupid. The brain is wired to be entertained. We don't pay attention to the words. We pay attention to the pictures and the drama and the story. If it's pretty, if it's exciting, if it's violent, if it's fast, that's where we are. So the fact that these mini dramas are being used to get us to vote for one person or another is just like what we all learned propaganda was used for and thought we learned our lessons from in World War II. They are propaganda. And propaganda is irresistible. If it were resistible, people wouldn't do it.

BILL MOYERS: It's why people smoke. It's why they go to war often.

MARTY KAPLAN: Exactly. And that's why even in the case of cigarettes, there is now an effort to add pictures to the packs. Because those warnings don't quite do it You've got to see an image of what your lungs look like, in order to make you not reach for it.

BILL MOYERS: And it's why when you see a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug, the picture's lovely even though the words are horrifying.

PHARMACEUTICAL COMMERCIAL #1: Common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain.

PHARMACEUTICAL COMMERCIAL #2: Severe liver problems, some fatal, were reported.

PHARMACEUTICAL COMMERCIAL #3: Shortness of breath, swelling of your tongue or throat may occur, and in rare cases may be fatal.

MARTY KAPLAN: Imagine after seeing that saying to your doctor, "You want to write me a script for that? I think it'll be good for me." And the reason is because what we're seeing is this lovely story. Somebody was sad and now they're happy.

BILL MOYERS: Don't you think most people are now jaundiced about these ads? They know it's a con?

MARTY KAPLAN: People say they know it's a con, just as they say that they are not being swayed by the ads for products that they see on television. If that were true, there would not be a multibillion dollar advertising industry. If that stuff didn't work, that would not be on the air. So no matter what we say, no matter how clever we are, we are susceptible to it. "24," that TV series, is a favorite example of mine. When—

BILL MOYERS: The series about C.I.A.—

MARTY KAPLAN: It was a rogue C.I.A. agent played by Kiefer Sutherland. And often the storyline would turn on his using torture because some terrible thing was about to happen. And even though it was against the rules, he knew that that was something you had to do. You had to overrule the handbook at moments like this. And then he would get the information from the suspect.

The problem is that torture doesn't work. Not only is it illegal and immoral, it doesn't produce the kind of information we want. But the cadets at West Point, who are watching "24," decided, involuntarily, "Well, that's how it works." So that even though their textbooks, even though their teachers in class were telling them, "Torture's wrong and it doesn't work." Even though that was happening, they were absorbing the lesson of this melodrama on television.

And it was so scary to the military brass that the dean of West Point had to go to Hollywood and plead with the shows not to do it. To tell them, "You have the power. You have a power that is beyond what you understand. And with that power comes responsibility. So please understand you can work black magic on our troops. Don't do that."

BILL MOYERS: You wrote a fascinating piece a number of years ago in a book called What Orwell Didn't Know, a collection of essays by people like yourself. And if I remember correctly, you said— you predicted in there that the internet opened new possibilities for democracy by creating new networks of information gathering and information sharing. Do you still think that?

MARTY KAPLAN: I do. The problem is that the internet is at best the Wild West, in which that kind of information competes with other stuff in this great bazaar. I mean, at this booth over here, you get some important investigative journalism. At that booth over there, you get Charlie Bit My Finger or whatever the YouTube hit of the month happens to be. And they're all on equal footing.

And it's up to the public, the herd, in some cases, to make stuff popular or not. I'm glad, at least, that this tool has brought diversity and ordinary people's voices into the mix. Look at something like Kony 2012. Whatever the problems that there might be with that, it did prove that the public can rally around an idea and make an idea famous.

BILL MOYERS: But the internet is also awash with contaminated, unsubstantiated toxins that if you just take them into your system will mislead you too.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes, and every once in a while I feel a need to go on a media fast. Because the stuff is so toxic that if you pay attention to it, it has to be harming you.

BILL MOYERS: You've done that recently.

MARTY KAPLAN: I have indeed.

BILL MOYERS: What did you do?

MARTY KAPLAN: I went to the high desert. And I spent a week paying no attention to television or to the internet or to the newspaper. And I didn't have a political conversation.

BILL MOYERS: You were on detox?

MARTY KAPLAN: I was on a media fast. And by the end, I felt great. The challenge was taking that wisdom of the mountaintop back into the valley of the shadow, which is where we all dwell.

BILL MOYERS: But you had to come back.

MARTY KAPLAN: I did indeed.

BILL MOYERS: And what happened when you came back and there it all was waiting for you?

MARTY KAPLAN: It was being exposed to a poison and I wanted to numb myself the moment that I was exposed to it. It's hard.

BILL MOYERS: How much bad information is too much, Marty? When does it start transforming our brain and our body politic?

MARTY KAPLAN: I think we're there now. I think there is so much misinformation out there that on issue after issue, we have opinions but not facts. And we despair of ever being able to get to the bottom of it and despair of ever having a decision being based on what is accurate, true, and useful, rather than who has the most money to put up enough ads in order to sway the public debate.

BILL MOYERS: You made a very important speech not long ago at a media conference in Barcelona. And you tried and did draw the distinction between— you said the battle of the future is between big data and big democracy. In layman's language, what is that?

MARTY KAPLAN: Big data, the age of big data that we're supposed to be in, refers to the way in which, as we go on the internet, as we do all these media activities, watching television, which are at the center of our lives, we're leaving a trail behind. We're giving bits of ourselves up. And that set of bits is being collected and mined relentlessly.

So every time we buy a product or send an e-mail or vote how many stars to a restaurant, all this stuff creates a profile that companies buy and sell to each other. And that stuff is being used currently not only to market to us, to target ads toward us, but it's also being used to profile us. There's something called "web lining." Which is similar to what used to be called "red lining." The— that phenomenon, which is now illegal, in which people who were discriminated against because of the neighborhoods they live in. Right now—

BILL MOYERS: Banks drew a red line around impoverished neighborhoods that they would not then serve.

MARTY KAPLAN: Exactly. And so today imagine if you were to permit a private detective to follow you as you went to your drug store and bought a medication to help you with depression or as you made a phone call to a bankruptcy lawyer, because you needed one. Imagine if that kind of information could be put together and used against you to decide that you're a bad credit risk or that maybe your insurance company should turn you down, because you suffer from this problem.

That kind of information, that kind of digital profiling is something which is emerging as a huge industry. And unless there are controls on it and constraints, as they have to some degree in Europe but not nearly enough even there, we are about to kiss goodbye our ownership of our privacy and also even the ownership financially of our information. We are the people who make Facebook and Twitter worth the billions of dollars that they're worth, because we are giving up our information to them, which they are then selling and raising capital around.

BILL MOYERS: But in a libertarian era, what are the restraints and constraints against that? Where are they going to come from?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, right now, the constraints in this country are voluntary. The Obama White House not long ago issued a digital code of conduct, which included privacy. In which they asked companies and companies did step up to it to say, "We're not going to track people if they don't want to be tracked." And other such efforts to get people in control.

But what we do know, the record of just the past couple of months, is that company after company was doing stuff to us that's astonishing, that we didn't know about. The ways in which the apps that you use on your smartphones were vacuuming up information about you, your address book and all your pictures.

Stuff that you had no idea you had consented to, which in fact usually you had not, suddenly was all owned by other people, as well. You have not given permission, but that essential part of you is now not yours. That's the name of the game now. This is baked into the business model of data mining, which is at the heart of so much of the digital economy.

BILL MOYERS: But that's big data. You talked about big democracy.

MARTY KAPLAN: So at the same time as our data is being mined, there is this movement to protect people using technology to give them the power to say, "I'm not going to opt into this stuff.” We're still at the beginning of this industry. And there has to be rules of the road. And part of those rules include my attention rights. My rights to control my identity, my privacy, and my ownership of information."

BILL MOYERS: In your speech in Barcelona, you pointed to two simultaneous covers of TIME Magazine appearing the same week. One for the editions in Europe, Asia, and South Pacific, and it was about the crisis in Europe. The other, which appeared in the American edition, featured a cover about animal friendships. You use these two covers to illustrate the difference between what you call "push journalism" and "pull journalism." What's the difference?

MARTY KAPLAN: Push journalism is the old days, which seem no longer to apply in the era of the internet, in which an editor, a gatekeeper, says, "Here's the package which you need to know." All of that is ancient history now.

Instead, now, it's all driven by what the consumer is pulling. And if the consumer says, "I want ice cream all the time." And whether that ice cream is Lindsay Lohan, or the latest crime story, that's what's delivered. And as long as it's being pulled, that's what is being provided. So it's quite possible that in the U.S., the calculation was made that the crisis in Europe and the head of Italy would not be a cover that one could use. But that pet friendships would be the sort of thing that would fly off the newsstand.

BILL MOYERS: So the reader is determining what we get from the publication?

MARTY KAPLAN: On a minute by minute basis, stories that the reader's interested in immediately go to the top of the home page. There are actually pieces of software that give editorial prominence to stuff that people by voting with their clickers have said is of interest to them. No one is there to intervene and say, "Wait a minute, that story is just too trivial to occupy more than this small spot below the fold." Instead, the audience's demand is what drives the placement and the importance of journalistic content.

BILL MOYERS: So George Orwell anticipated a state as big brother, hovering over us, watching us, keeping us under surveillance, taking care of our needs as long as we repaid them with utter loyalty. Aldous Huxley anticipated a Brave New World in which we were amusing ourselves to death. Who's proving the most successful prophet? Huxley or Orwell?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, I think Huxley is probably right, as Neil Postman said in—

BILL MOYERS: The sociologist, yes.

MARTY KAPLAN: —in Amusing Ourselves to Death. That there's no business but show business. And we are all equally guilty, because it's such fun to be entertained. So you don't need big brother, because we already have big entertainment.

BILL MOYERS: And the consequences of that?

MARTY KAPLAN: That we are as in Brave New World, always in some kind of stupor. We have continual partial attention to everything and tight critical attention on nothing.

BILL MOYERS: Shall we go to the high desert?

MARTY KAPLAN: I'm ready if you are.

BILL MOYERS: Marty Kaplan, thank you for being with me.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: You’ve heard us talk at times about George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when all of us flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today.

Sometimes though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened to me recently watching the news. You may have seen this:

REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST: I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party […]It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

BILL MOYERS: That’s Congressman Allen West of Florida, a Republican and Tea Party favorite. At a local gathering, he was asked how many of his fellow members of Congress are, quote, “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.” Listen again to his reply:

REPRESENTATIVE ALLEN WEST: I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party […] It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

BILL MOYERS: Little of what Allan West says ever surprises me. He’s called President Obama “a low-level socialist agitator,” said anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car is “a threat to the gene pool,” and told liberals like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to “get the hell out of the United States of America.” Apparently he gets his talking points from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or the discredited right-wing rocker, Ted Nugent.

But this time I shook my head in disbelief. Seventy-eight to 81 Democrats, members of the Communist Party? That’s when the memory hole opened and a ghost slithered into the room.

The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on its stubbled face. And I did a double take. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: There is that small, closely-knit group of administration Democrats who are now the complete prisoners, and under the complete domination of the bureaucratic communistic Frankenstein which they themselves have created […] They shouldn’t be called Democrats, they should be referred to properly as the Commiecrat Party.

BILL MOYERS: It was the early 1950’s. The Cold War had begun and Americans were troubled by the Soviet Union’s rise as an atomic superpower. Looking for a campaign issue, McCarthy seized on fear and ignorance, to announce his discovery of a conspiracy within: Communist subversives who had infiltrated the government.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: I think we’ve got a much more serious situation now than Communist infiltration of the C.I.A. […] the question of Communist infiltration of atomic hydrogen bomb plants.

BILL MOYERS: In speech after speech, McCarthy would hold up a list of names of members of the Communist Party he said had burrowed their way into government agencies and colleges and universities. The number he claimed would vary from day to day and when pressed to make his list public, McCarthy would stall or claim he had accidentally thrown it away.

SENATOR JOHN McCLELLAN: Have we yet received the names, and I assume they’re in the file, of the claimed 133 Communists that are ready for investigation? I’ve asked for them. Have I yet received them?

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: You’d know better than I, Senator.

BILL MOYERS: His failure to produce much proof to back his claims never gave him pause, as he employed lies and innuendo with swaggering bravado.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Now the hard fact is, the hard fact is that those who wear the label – those who wear the label Democrat wear it with the stain of a historic betrayal.

BILL MOYERS: McCarthy, wrote one historian, had “stumbled upon a brilliant, demagogic technique. Others deplored treachery. McCarthy would speak of traitors.”

And so he did, in a fearsome, reckless crusade that terrorized Washington, destroyed lives, and made a shambles of due process.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Now, Mr. Chairman, do I have the floor or do I not?


SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Oh, be quiet. Mr. Chairman?

SENATOR STUART SYMINGTON: I haven’t the slightest intention of being quiet, Senator McCarthy.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Mr. Chairman, do I have the floor?

SENATOR STUART SYMINGTON: The Counsel is running this committee and you’re not running it.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Mr. Chairman, do I have the floor?

BILL MOYERS: Millions of Americans lapped it up, but in the end Joe McCarthy would be done in by the medium he had used so effectively to spread his poison: television. The legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow bravely exposed McCarthy’s tactics on the CBS program, See It Now.

ANNOUNCERM: On the week’s news.

EDWARD R. MURROW: This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities.

BILL MOYERS: Then for 36 days that spring, on live TV, during Senate hearings on McCarthy’s charges questioning the loyalty of the Army, we saw the man raw. Exposed for the cowardly scoundrel he was. The climactic moment came as the Boston lawyer, Joseph Welch, defending the Army, reacted with outrage when McCarthy accused his young associate Fred Fisher of Communism.

JOSEPH WELCH: Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: I know this hurts you, Mr. Welch.

JOSEPH WELCH: I’ll say it hurts.

SENATOR JOSEPH McCARTHY: Mr. Chairman, as a point of personal privilege, I’d like to finish this.

JOSEPH WELCH: Senator, I think it hurts you, too, sir. If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further. I will not ask Mr. Cohn any more witnesses. You, Mr. Chairman, may if you will, call the next witness.

BILL MOYERS: McCarthy never recovered. His tactics had been opposed from the outset by a handful of courageous Republican Senators, and now they pressed their case with renewed vigor.

I was working that summer on Capitol Hill during my college break, and finagled myself into the Senate chamber the very day one of them, Senator Ralph Flanders of Vermont, introduced a motion to censure Joseph McCarthy. When it eventually passed 67 to 22, McCarthy was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages, and three years later, he was dead.

It all came back the other night, as Congressman West summoned those foul spirits from the vasty deep. The ghost stepped out of the past.

Like McCarthy, the more Allen West is challenged about his comments, the more he doubles down on them. Now he’s blaming the “corrupt liberal media” for stirring the pot against him – a trick for which McCarthy taught the master class. And the Congressman’s latest fusillades continue to distort the beliefs and policies of those he smears – no surprise there, either.

And to help him continue his fight for the “heart and soul” of America he’s asking his supporters for a contribution of ten dollars or more. There could even be a super PAC in this – with McCarthy’s ghost as its honorary chairman.

Plenty of kindred spirits are out there to sign on. Like the author of the book The Grand Jihad who wrote that whether the president is Christian or not, “the faith to which Obama actually clings is neocommunism.”

Or the blogger who claims Obama is running the country into the ground “by way of the same type of race-baiting and class warfare Communism cannot exist without.” She goes on to say his policies are “unbecoming to an American president.”

From there it’s only a short hop to the column that popped up on the rightwing website Newsmax, hinting of a possible coup “as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’” Military intervention, the author wrote, is what Obama's "agenda for 'fundamental change' toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America." The column was quickly withdrawn but not before the website exposed it.

So beware, Congressman West, beware: in the inflammable pool of toxic paranoia that passes these days as patriotism in America, a single careless match can light an inferno.

With all due respect, you would serve your country well to withdraw your remarks and apologize for them. But if not, perhaps there are members of your own party, as possessed of conscience and courage as that handful of Republicans who took on Joseph McCarthy, who will now abandon fear and throw cold water on your incendiary remarks.

Coming up on Moyers & Company: a life along the border. The two worlds of celebrated storyteller Luis Alberto Urrea.

Time was when all you could do with a TV program was watch it. But these days you can share your favorite show, link to it, download, comment, and even have the thing delivered straight to your phone.

So I invite you to visit us, not just every week through your television set or radio, but anytime at, on our thriving Facebook site, or wherever we turn up next. There’s a lot of media, but it’s still one mission. And I’m glad we’re on it together.

See you next time.

Watch By Segment

  • Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media

    How big money and big media have coupled to create a ‘Disney World’ of democracy. Plus, a Bill Moyers Essay on Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and McCarthyism.

    Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media
  • Bill Moyers Essay: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy

    How big money and big media have coupled to create a ‘Disney World’ of democracy. Plus, a Bill Moyers Essay on Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and McCarthyism.

    Senator Joseph McCarthy resumes his testimony before the Senate Investigations subcommittee as the group’s probe of the Senator’s dispute with the Army heads into the home stretch. June 1954. (AP Photo)
    Bill Moyers Essay: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy

Encore: Big Money, Big Media, Big Trouble

June 8, 2012

Big money and big media have coupled to create a ‘Disney World’ of democracy in which TV shows, televised debates, even news coverage is being dumbed down, resulting in a public less informed than it should be, says Marty Kaplan, director of USC’s Norman Lear Center and an entertainment industry veteran. In this encore broadcast, Bill Moyers talks with Kaplan about how taking news out of the journalism box and placing it in the entertainment box is hurting democracy and allowing special interest groups to manipulate the system.

Later on the show, Bill talks about Florida Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and shocking modern-day McCarthyism. Wasn’t this lesson already learned?

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  • Joyce

    The “dumbing down” of the American public has and is here.  I credit the media with encouraging the proliferation of the reality shows.  Our children haven’t got a chance.  Where are the Tim Russerts, the Dan Rathers, even any modicum of sensibilities and honesty?  Too much money, and that’s what it all comes down to.

  • StevenCee

    We will be seeing thousands of campaign ads, funded by “Super PACs”, for the next five months. Many of them will be spouting many total, boldface, lies. Why must we put up with this, why don’t the networks & local TV stations simply refuse to broadcast any ad with outright lies?

    Don’t they have any kind of duty (legal or just ethical) to not participate in disseminating lies to the public, especially for something as important as a presidential election? Can’t the FCC mandate this, or threaten to pull their licenses?

    How can our nation survive, when even truth no longer has any meaning or relevance?

    “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” . . . – Thomas Jefferson 

  • Info

    This is an important show.  It was good to hear it again.
    I like the transcript of it because Mr Kaplan is saying some very important things that are worth having to read, remember, and use.

  • Anonymous

    The program’s transcript should be required reading in all US journalism, history and political science curricula.
    But of course it won’t be.

  • Rnb

    What is obvious from identity of campaign donors, the government
    is controlled by the 1 percent. Also, the majority of the treasury debt is
    bought and owned by the Federal Reserve Banks and not China. Thus telling the
    Federal Reserve Banks (Bernanke or Goldman Sachs )to stay out of the government
    process is like telling the major stock holder to stay away from company board


    The 1 percent control the laws and the direction of this
    country resulting with the middle class and poor constantly voted against and
    sacrificed for corporation and banking gains. Yes the 1 percent are the global


    We are in deep sh*t and it has nothing to do with either
    political party but the powers controlling both from behind using CAMPAIGN
    FINANCING and private banks buying TREASURY DEBT.



  • DC

    I agree with of what is said here. What was missing though, is that the Democrats are also part of the misinformation. Let us not forget how we as American citizens are not privy to all of the details regarding Obama’s *kill* list. Or how many innocent people are being killed with those remote control drones. 

    This interview was very informative but it needs to include that both political factions are owned and operated by the corporations. Unless those facts are added, we are still only getting half of the truth.

  • Anonymous

    Capitalism is an economic system. It is not a form of government. By and through its undertaking the new federal government (circa 1789) created a system of preference for the so called moneyed class over the remaining classes of society that were not moneyed.

    Now that capitalism has concentrated all the wealth and control of government in the hands of the few, as it will by definition, the time is ripe for ordinary citizens to reclaim the balance of opportunity.

    But how do we sort it all out?  It’s a good thing we have map keys to illuminate our path. Experience Life among the Ordinary and appreciate the value of Map Keys at

  • Rnb

    Start by hitting at the heart of the problem, CAMPAIGN FINANCE.

    Outlaw all contributions by non living entities like businesses, banks, etc.

    Limit campaign contributions to CITIZENS ONLY with a ceiling limit of say 1000 dollars max.

  • Christina Marlowe

    A few Apropos Quotes:

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . .Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

    ~ Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 
    ‘I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered..'”  

    ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802

    “There are plenty of ugly things about wealth and its possessors in the present age, and I suppose there have been in all ages. There are many rich people who so utterly lack patriotism, or show such sordid and selfish traits of character, or lead such mean and vacuous lives, that all right-minded men must look upon them with angry contempt…

    ~Theodore Roosevelt

    The death-knell of the republic had rung as soon as the active power became lodged in the hands of those who sought, not to do justice to all citizens, rich and poor alike, but to stand for one special class and for its interests as opposed to the interests of others.

    – Theodore Roosevelt

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  

     ~ Sinclair Lewis

  • Christina Marlowe

    Today, the vast majority of the voters here in America know absolutely nothing about any subject whatsoever;  the overwhelming majority are totally and jaw-droppingly ignorant.  And I do think that this level of sheer stupidity has become a genetic mutation,  just as have obesity and diabetes.  Reality television shows, for example, have usurped learnedness; knowledge of basic subjects such as history and philosophy has disappeared into a sucking black hole.   Reality television invariably displays shameless and curiously proud ignorance and staggering stupidity.  Monetary gain is the carrot,  as the perverted voyeurs delight in watching  profound mental problems, and severe personality disorders unfold in front of cameras for all the world to see.  That is what is left of America.  Interesting experiment:  Just throw a ton of money at any amoral dirtbag and watch the show…

  • David Fields

     Thank you Bill Moyers for your very informative programs under the title “Moyers & Company”.
    We need more such programs on TV. I wrote to CPTV(PBS) in Hartford to ask that they run your weekly program on their station but never got a reply. I will write again! They used to run your previous programs regularly but not now(?)

    David Fields


    there was a time in which the press, the print press, news on
    television and radio were speaking truth to power, people paid
    attention, and it made a difference.”

    He is correct “The truth to power” has been abandon by the
    media. Had the  press, the  news etc. “speak the truth to power” I believe that the crises would have been avoided.
    Excelent program, love it!

  • Eosheawyatt

    There is Bill Moyers and Amy Goodman.  Please take good care of yourselves

  • Karl Hoff

    Better the second time around. I pass bill boards with pictures of the people that tell us the news. Which tells me who is more important, the news or the people telling it. Didn’t think much of that until your show. Growing up there was a show that reversed the trend of today, it was called the, “The Twilight Zone” where great entertainment had a hidden moral content. Rod Serling was a master at disguising and exposing the bad behavior of people that take advantage of others. One of my favorite episodes was when a group of men that stole gold, went into a cave and went into hibernation for as I remember 100 yrs. so when they came out no one would remember that they sole the gold, then they could like in wealth and luxury for ever, only to find that when they came out that gold had been synthesized and what they had was worthless. Good for you Rod Serling! We need for that way of entertaining to come back. It has had a life long impact on me because I realize that creating to make what people use to make wealth for the few would stop if what they were using became plentiful or obsolete. If the young people of today would spend more of their intellectual capital creating the replacement of the thing we need to survive in comfort, rather than creating better, fast and more fun ways to communicate, I think the world would soon be a better place to live. I also want to state that I appreciate more the second time what Bill Moyers said at the end.  Very bold statements that needed to be said.

  • Sylvia Smith

    I liked the segment “Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media”, especially the part about web-lining. 
    I was feeling a little paranoid when I received a survey from the Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service asking me to complete a survey asking about the “medical care you receive and your health”.  36 of the 64 questions were about my health, 12 questions were about general statistics such as age, income, etc, 10 were about depression and only 6 were about the “care you receive”.  I am certainly hoping that this is not profiling, but I do wonder and am not filling out the questionaire. 
    The questionaire is also not confidential as I received a second one when I did not complete the first.
    After watching your show, I feel validated and not paranoid about this questionaire.  I will still not fill it out.
    Sylvia Smith, Massachusetts.

  • Karl Hoff

    Hi Sylvia.  I get that all the time and if I have heard correctly answering any survey can open the door to being hounded by those that have found a loop hole in the do not call list. I have had to use caller ID to stop them and if I don’t know who is calling and they don’t leave a message I don’t answer.  

  • Bryan Keller

    EXCELLENT yet sobering show today. As a student of journalism and the media arts, it saddens and angers me at the intellectual laziness of both our media providers and the viewing public..We’ve let the Limbaugh, Sustern’s, Becks, and  Hannity’s of this world do our thinking for us. Tell us for TOO long what a “REAL American” is supposed to do, say, and think.  So-called journalists who embody the very essence however of “DO what we say..Do not DO what we do”.

    As a true American Independent, I may find much of what  the Far Left has to say as reprehensible if not outright offensize, BUT I must applaud them for atleast offering up their oppinions with some THOUGHT behind them, not some re-hashed W.A.S.P. philosophies by sycophants of “Too Big to Fail” America. The so-called Conservative Movement, of which I used to (ashamedly) be a member of, sole motivation is to return America to some imagined glory days where White Protestant Males ruled, greed was applauded, pollution of our environment called “progress”, women stayed home and stayed silent, and Blacks knew their “Place” at the very back of the bus..

    Not to the Neo-Cons, Tea Party, and whomever else…1950’s America was WRONG…You are too and true journalists need to make sure, we NEVER go back.

  • CAS

    How to combat this corruption is the key.  They have already won.  To fix it means to tell the corrupted system to jump off a cliff.  The “Hunger Games” are not far off.  All it would take is one cataclysm, real or engineered, to take total control.  We are that close in a history which could become a dark age of the  future.  In contrast,  we could take control and set things right for the future, despite the overwhelming odds it cannot happen.  Those are our destinies.  Only one can prevail.

  • Joe Shoe.

    Mr. Kaplan does open minds and hearts in his systematic revelation of our current American media. It’s like doing your homework in psych 101.

  • DaveH

    I keep seeing a world where  so many people have been disenfranchised by the monetary system that they simply choose to no longer give it any power.

    We would simply choose to ‘wake up’ and realize that money is no more powerful than we say it is.
    Collectively we would become what God intended for us to be…and thats not slaves to a man made idol known as money.

  • CAS

     The good news is not all of the 1%, a minority,  don’t endorse the current status quo.  For example, Warren Buffett.  Fight fire with fire.

  • Anonymous

    Dante once wrote: Considerate la vostra semenza: Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle. (Dante)

    Consider your origins: pure and destined to reach the stars.

    What we have instead is loving, empathic humanity in fairy tales and the horror of the exact opposite as our daily fare.

    What if someone had already figured out why and how a small group of psychopaths can control and manipulate the overwhelming majority, as it has for centuries, if not thru the entire human history?

  • Garry

    I found your discussion with Marty Kaplan most fascinating.  The part about Pharmaceutical ads was particularly poignant. I am fed up with the constant barrage of commercials that have side effects far worse than their cure. To add “insult to injury”, these are followed up by greedy attorneys who are suing the pharmaceutical companies for negligence.
    I realize that the purpose of TV is not to entertain but rather, to sell. Still, enough is enough already.  If this keeps up I will drop TV all together and watch old TV series and movies on the internet!

  • Garry

    So is it “Big Brother” who is watching?

  • Garry

    Rod Serling “rocked”!!! I had the pleasure of seeing him lecture (and chain-smoke) at NIU in the early ’70’s. He was a master story teller, even though he did have a twisted sense of humor. My fav was “TIME ENOUGH AT LAST!”, where a bookworm, played by Master Thespian Burgess Meredith broke his ‘bottle thick glasses” and there was no one left to fix them!  CRUEL!!! 

  • Ben Shuey

    The program with Marty Kaplan was excellent. and I agree with most of what he said. He certainly is a great spokesman for the point of view he espoused

  • Urbanirvana

    The constant advertising, along with the political bickering and dishonesty, and dearth of intellectual curiosity  is what led our family of six  to drop television from our budget and daily routine.  We felt odd and isolated and bored at first, but  it has worked out much better all around. That was three years ago.  At the time a local video store was going out of business and we bought up a lot of VHS tapes and dvds. Then, we put aside the $90  each month that had been going to the cable bill, and saved it for a laptop. Since then we have gotten to know one another better, read a few more books than usual, built a beautiful garden and treehouse, learned to play ping pong and chess, developed better skills in the kitchen and garage, and lived with less fear and aggravation. Have purchased a total of four computers since then,  just from the savings in the “no tv” cookie jar.  I am able to keep up with the news, and the TED talks, and the wonderful Bill Moyers. Not a bad turn around.

  • Karl Hoff

    Thank you for the reply. I also remember that one too. I also love his movies that favored the common man, ” Marty”, “Requiem for a heavyweight” and one early one that a man was being trained to take over an older man’s job and in the end he refused because it not the right thing to do because the older man didn’t know as I remember. What great messages those movies sent over the air waves. Unlike the ME, ME movies of today.

  • Jay

    Sen. Margaret Chase Smith was one of the first one to speak out about McCarthy-like tactics:  Republican FIBS-fear ignorance, bigotry and smear, “The four horsemen of calumny” in 1951

  • caligirl

    great show!  i can’t wait to share it with  my son.  i guess i’m on a semi-permanent media fast as i have gotten rid of cable precisely for the reasons discussed in this program.  

  • Melinda Skaar

    Thanks for sharing and reminding us that the problems of pervasive greed and corruption among special interests have been around for all time.  Now they have new tools of control through massive dollars spent in clever advertising to create false side issues.  I can’t believe how the tobacco companies recently flooded Californians with $47 million in adds against a cigarette tax by claiming the legislation was flawed and successfully swayed public opinion by almost 20 percentage.  Various versions of the Chamber of Commerce were principal supporters in name. 

    Sadly, since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court giving corporations the rights of individuals on freedom of speech, I see this as just the tip of the iceberg as the November elections approach.  Corporations and billionaires should not be dominating public discourse.  

  • Melinda Skaar

    Thanks for alerting us to another McCarthyist kook.   Florida Rep. Allen West clearly needs to be fully exposed and held accountable.  Too few are in a position to know, take the time to expose the problem and educate others.  It’s an important role Moyers & Company plays. 

  • Mleonjanssen

    Yes but do not forget who allowed it all to happen- we the people.

  • Christina Marlowe

    How to Rule:
    1. Keep the overwhelming majority of the population focused on carefully-crafted delusions (Republican versus Democrat, for example);
    2. feed the population, constantly and consistently, outright lies and complete fabrications, all whilst totally convincing population, through any form of trickery, convince population to believe things that are simply NOT TRUE; LIES.
    3. Use so-called buzz words (such as “God,” “Guns”), while simultaneously using fear tactics (“communism,” “fascism”) in order to prop up or legitimize all conspired-confabulations;
    4. No matter what, ADAMANTLY DENY ANY AND ALL FACTS; CONVINCE people that each of their now-strenuously-held “beliefs” (which actually, in reality, are delusions) convince them that their beliefs are TRUE, RIGHT, RATIONAL and WORTH FIGHTING FOR;
    5. Blatantly pit separate groups of people against each other, heavily using all media, in order to keep each group insanely confused and belligerent with increasingly irrational fear, as they become more and more preoccupied with their delusions and self-righteousness;
    6. Feed the fire: instill hugely inflated sense of rightness (self-righteousness) through wholly-manufactured “evidence;” this particularly useful form of trickery, by the way, is often found disguised as religion in which any one will do;
    7. Merely repeat the words “GOD,” “GUNS,” etc. etc. AD NAUSEUMAnd, with that, the Kleptocratic robber barons have their whole voting base: an utterly deluded and totally brainwashed population, busily fighting tooth and nail directly against themselves and against their own self-interests, liberally fed with deliberate and outright lies and wildly inflammatory rhetoric.The good news, however, is that TRANSPARENT OPPRESSION is NEVER FOREVER. NOT ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD…Even here in “FREEDOM-LOVING,” “GOD-FEARING,” [WAR-MONGERING, GUN-TOTING] AMERICA…And so it is that people are so fundamentally stupid and profoundly delusional as to believe pathological LIARS and to have utterly no insight whatsoever, no basic, fundamental knowledge of history or any other topic for that matter (to wit, neo-celebrity Idiot-Thug Sara Palin et al).
    People just keep on voting for the same self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed SOCIOPATHS, year after year. 
    And Make no mistake:  Nearly each and every RAPACIOUS PRIMATE that seeks to enthrone themselves to “power” are virtually interchangeable; Democrat or Republican; They are ALL Nothing but…, Lying, Treacherous, Thieving, Unconscionable bits of trash that routinely, brazenly and shamelessly SELLOUT to their Corporate…Masters. 

  • Anonymous

     PBS network, it seems, could not find a “slot” for Bill’s new program, so a different media company is distributing it. Your local public TV channel will have to buy it from the new distribution company.  I suggest sending a contribution along with your request.  Instead of Friday evenings, it is now being shown at a rather awkward time on my local public channel — Sunday at 6 p.m.  I usually watch it online.  I did send a request to my local channel along with a few bucks to help them pay for it, though. I suspect that one day soon, we will have to support our public channels and PBS and NPR solely with our contributions. There will be another congressional “attack” on public media funding soon.  The “defunders of anything that’s in the public interest” are working on it now.

  • Ginger Blymyer

    Ahh yes that is really waht has happened, the news coverage has become entertainment. And we know all entertainment has to take us to the edge in most scenes and keep us worried and engaged. Sadly it doesn’t all end happily.  I think the media should grow up and really report in an intelligent way.  

  • Phil Dodds for Congress

    Private citizen running for Congress to draw attention to money in politics.   come see

  • Navatar

    Exceptionally well done.  Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • Kv27

    Representative Allen West tries to revives the communist  hysteria of a previous time. But the real threat now is quite the opposite of communism. It is fascism. Fascism is the control of government by wealthy individuals, corporations and financial institutions. It is more of a threat to our democracy and country than communism ever was. Fascism is well entrenched in the anti-government anti-tax movement. West and those like him can rightly be called “fascist”. Our military has not joined to copy the military fascism of Germany, Italy, and Spain of the 1930s but how long can they resist the power of moneys?

  • Sharon Johnson

    Marty Kaplin is 100% correct!  I lived under these lies and recognize them for what they are.  It is not true there is no right answer.  It is not good only to look for opposing views. There are facts to be found and facts are much more important than just finding someone that will refute whatever is said. One never gets to a solution and therefore there is no action. Just what those in power want.
     It is, in fact, the reason no one can make a decision, take responsibility for anything, and never admit wrong doing.  (if there is no right answer there is no wrong doing)   This is not just the media it is individuals thinking they can make choices with no consequences because nothing is bad, destructive or wrong. And, Facts are in the eye of the beholder.  There is no answer to these folks.  No stopping them, no recourse when you have been hurt by their behavior.  The Media is just a symptom of what happens in real life to real people.  
    Bill you can talk about the influence on politics but the influence on child raising, relationships and social structure is far worse.  Our country and its children are in real jeopardy because of this shift in philosophy.  Proposed and promoted by the media.

  • TheUsualSuspects

    Actually, it appears that Huxley’s “Brave New World” has come closer to the our current situation according to Moyer’s guest Marty Kaplan.   Not that it matters much just that Huxley’s nightmare was more prescient.  
    When it comes to literature/fiction I think Margret Atwood’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale” is a bit too close for comfort with the rise  hyper religious, authoritarian cults.   It would be impossible to run for public office as a non believer in today’s climate and I fear it is only getting worse and running parallel to the increase in income and wealth inequality brought on by the non regulated casinos that caused the loss for most Americans a loss of 40% wealth when the housing bubble burst.   It’s astonishing to have learned that an entire generation of wealth was lost, approximately 20 years of it in a mere 3 year period.   Clearly, there was no chance for recovery to happen in a 3 year span but just as clearly the republicans have stood in the way of any kind of relief for the American people in their ruthless ambition for complete power.    Yet, this election will be close and people will continue to vote against their own best interests because the media is corporately controlled and the news is nothing more than a subsidiary of the corporations that have lobbied their way into control of our gov’t.   It shouldn’t surprise us that most of our fellow Americans are confused and overwhelmed since all they have heard for the past 30 years are the same old lies that made gov’t evil.   Before Karl Rove there was Lee Atwater who’s tactics have only been improved upon.   We live in a 24 hour “news” cycle where the lies and the ideology are constant.   To make matters even worse this is not a country that respects intellect rather one that has a hearty disdain for anything smacking of either intelligent thought over hyperbole and tribalism.   
    I see I have gone into tangents but I’m just so frustrated by merely the what is out in the open for all to see.   Again, that they don’t even bother to hide it scares me most of all. 

  • TheUsualSuspects

     Hi Dave.  You reminded me of  piece written perhaps a year and half ago(maybe even 2 years ago) by Maureen Dowd.   I agree with all you have said and share your frustration.   
    What I would add as someone now 60 years old how much our attitudes about education and intellectuals have been poisoned.

  • Tom Foremski

    The economic disruption of media is forcing this move towards news as entertainment because pageviews are the currency and  overturning the arguments for social importance in the newsrooms. This allows special interest groups to escape scrutiny and to subsidize the media they want.

  • mbrecker

    One solution to this problem. The old Mickey Hart quote: if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own. Turn off the current MSM and start your own outlet.

    If you do, you realize that you’ll be up against thousands of others with Pay Pal donate buttons, online shops w/coffee mugs and hoodies, CD’s and more for sale. Then again, quality content wins every time.

  • Econklin

    I don’t agree with you. My problem has been with false advertising and the effect on small businesses. The large corporations that control the data (search engines, online nationwide business directories, business review sites) have free reign to do as they please. I think it may be too late to recover any kind of integrity in the information business. The corruption of the “information distributor” has effected even my small business in Seattle. I did get active in the following ways:

    1.Wrote legislation to enhance consumer protection re: false advertising of regulated businesses. (pending)

    2. Put up a website for consumer awareness of the problem as it affected my business (plumbing)

    3. Created a local business directory that was shill-free, scam-free with listings that are at least checked for legitimacy.

    4. Filed a federal trademark infringement suit (won a default judgement then the judge tried to reverse it as he wasn’t convinced that the USPTO registration gave me the right to protect the mark – pending now)—Seattle-Trademark-Lawyer

    5. Notified nationwide directories of false listings. example: YP.COM responded in the negative when the request was made to remove them

    Overall, I have had little support from anybody other than my State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles here in Seattle. The public isn’t really interested as far as I can tell.

    Evan Conklin
    Evan Conklin Plumbing & Heating Inc.

  • Econklin

    Marty’s take on this subject was like oxygen to me.  The corruption of information fed to the public is systemic and isn’t limited to journalism.
    I have been fighting Google and the Yellow Pages lately.
    I noticed something was really wrong when my business started going downhill after 30+ years and found that the business directories and search engines made no effective attempt to insure that the data was real. In fact there is money to be made by corruption of information. There was a time when you trust what you read.
    I put up quite a fight the last two years trying to get some public attention to the highjacking of our public information systems (primarily on the internet and television now).  See my response to mbrecker in comments below).
    Thanks Mr. Moyers  for this interview with Mr. Kaplan.
    I thought it was just me…

  • Karl Hoff

    I could not agree with you more. I have found nothing good about doing business of any kind online. I am in a long battle because buying online or doing business online is so filled with crooks and with items that are only sold online, allowing them to send you an empty box and you may never get justice even if you send your complaint all the way to their factory in Korea as I did, certified and notarized. Got it back unopenned. I bought and was in business long before the crooks took over the internet and television. I only wish we could go back to the way it was before the crooks that hide behind the invisibility of the new type of media we are stuck with. Good luck and keep up the fight. Karl.

  • mbrecker

    Blame part of this on programming consultants. What’s their philosophy? Right wing content sells. Literally destroy anything remotely “liberal”. People love this stuff.

    No they don’t. How then do you explain regular TV’s ratings continuing to drop?

  • Anonymous

    Re:  Bill Moyers’ essay regarding the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

    To the best of my knowledge, and I’ve read quite a bit about this, the late Sen. McCarthy was a true American patriot.I belive he did his country a great service in exposing a State Department shot through with communist traitors.

    The powers behind the scenes had to get rid of him, so get rid of him they did.

    I believe that many of those influencing the media today could well be of that same group and philosophy that smeared and destroyed Sen. McCarthy and have our country thinking ill of him when in truth it should be just the opposite.

  • Anonymous

    All very true, it’s a shame that we all can only go to Fox news for fair and balanced reporting. The main stream media has been taken over by liberals, progressives and socialist. They did this by taking over the education system. Citizenship and founding documents are no longer taught. We now have a generation that thinks that the taxpayers and corporations should be robbed to provide goods and services for those that choose not to work. We all have a poorer standard of living because we pay 50 to 60 percent of our income to unionized government to redistribute. (steal) No one should pay more than 20% total in taxes. I can then choose how to spend my own money. Government caused all health care cost to rise by mandating illegals, welfare, and others to be cared for for free. Now they are trying to destroy our system by way of Obama care.  

  • Hotharp1

    this interview resonates on so many levels and avenues of communication . the off-hand manner of the guest is a foil/entertainment in itself to the seriousness of the issues .
    bravo . encore !

  • Ggdiva


  • ggdiva

    Try reading!  You might surprise yourself.

  • ggdiva

    I noticed ten years ago that while I was watching the local news they were advertising the broadcasters and news program I was already watching.   Now it’s the exclusives:  “Only news 4.”  Or some terrible situation that I should likely need to know about immediately but I’m told to h0ld on to my anxiety until 10:00 when they’ll tell me all about it then.  “New fire strikes area, tune in at 10:00.  Oh, is it in my neighborhood, should I be worried, should I evacuate????  It’s disgraceful self agrandisement!

  • Pturnley


  • daniel bargan

    this is very important interview

  • Jose pasada

    this is what we all thinking

  • Jose pasada

    are this will be in