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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Time again to talk with MARTY KAPLAN. Loyal members of Moyers and Company know him as one of the keenest and most sensible observers of politics, the press, and culture. He runs the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, an independent promontory from which he lets his mind range wherever his insatiable curiosity takes him. Most recently, Brazil.

For several weeks, the largest country in Latin America has been shaken by a massive citizen uprising protesting political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, lousy mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure, and, get this, billions blown on sports. That’s right, vast numbers of citizens in this soccer crazy nation are outraged that their government is spending billions of dollars to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This, in the land of Pelé.

They're even up in arms over the $74 million deal signed by the young soccer star Neymar da Silva. Crowds have been shouting, "Brazil, wake up. A teacher is worth more than Neymar!" Being no one’s fool, Neymar has sided with the protesters and written on Facebook that their mobilization inspires him on the playing field.

Surveying this tumult, MARTY KAPLAN recently expressed wonder at this people's uprising and challenged us, his fellow Americans, "Let's Be Brazil." That's when I called and ask him to join me on the show. By the way, his work has just won two awards from the Los Angeles Press Club, including best columnist.

MARTY KAPLAN, welcome.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thanks very much.

BILL MOYERS: And congratulations on those awards.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: You recently confessed to “outrage envy.” What's that about?

MARTY KAPLAN: It's my feeling that what happened in Brazil, which is so encouraging about citizens taking their destiny in their own hands, is not happening here. We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system. Why are we not also taking to the streets is the question. And I want us to.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote "If you’re not outraged…you're not paying attention." So are we not paying attention?

MARTY KAPLAN: We are paying attention to the wrong things. We are paying attention to infotainment, which is being spoon-fed to us and sadly, frankly, we are enabling because we love the stuff.

BILL MOYERS: "The infotainment narrative of life in America," you call.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yes. The tragedy of journalism now is that it is demand driven. And when you ask people what they want, we're like one of those rats that have a lever to push and cocaine comes out. And once that happens one time, they'll stay there till they die, until more of the drug appears. We can't help loving lurid stories and suspense and the kind of sex and violence which the news is now made up of.

BILL MOYERS: But you go on beyond the infotainment story. You say, "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system." Powerful sentence. "Our spirits have been sickened by the toxins baked into our political system."

MARTY KAPLAN: The control of our democracy by money is shocking and deserves the same kind of response to corruption that it got in Brazil. And instead, we have become used to it. We don't see a way around it. There are voices, there are people like Larry Lessig that are trying to change the campaign finance system, the way media plays into that. But they are voices in the wilderness.

And we, the public, have wised up and decided either not to pay attention at all, or the media have decided not to force us to pay attention. And if we do pay attention, you can't live with the knowledge that our democracy is now so corrupt that it is unchangeable.

BILL MOYERS: So, if it is true as you say, that, “Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrial world,” that we've witnessed “The most massive transfer of wealth in history,” which is “Destroying our middle class,” that “Tuition is increasingly unaffordable, and retirement increasingly unavailable,” that “The banks that sold trillions of dollars of Americans' worth have not only gone unpunished; they're still at it,” why are we not at the barricades?

MARTY KAPLAN: I suspect among your viewers, there were people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered and can make a difference--

BILL MOYERS: Taught by whom? By those of us who report the news of bad things happening?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, the stuff that is being reported on the news tends not to be the kind of stuff that we need to know about in order to be outraged. Climate change is one of the great tests of journalism.

There was "The New York Times" headline about the first time that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. Which "The Times" said that carbon dioxide had reached a level not seen in “millions of years.”

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

MARTY KAPLAN: My jaw fell. You would think that that would cause a worldwide stir. And instead, it was a one-day story, onto the next thing.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, President Obama recently made a major speech in which he announced a new plan to tackle climate change. All three cable networks turned to the president's speech, but then they cut away from it well before it was intended to end. Fox News cut away saying the remarks could be streamed online, and then they turned to a guest critical of the president.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The planet is warming, and human activity is contributing to it.

MEGYN KELLY on Fox News: But that is not the full story. We’re going to stream the remainder of the President’s remarks live on foxnews.com and in the meantime we’ll be, we’re joined now with some reaction. Chris Horner is the senior fellow and the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the author of the book, "Red Hot Lies."

BILL MOYERS: Fox's host, Megyn Kelly wondered aloud about whether the country even needed to tackle the problem. And CNN's Wolf Blitzer cut in soon after--

WOLF BLITZER on CNN Newsroom: Alright, so the president making a major, major address on climate change. I want to bring in Jim Acosta, and the president has got some important news he’s about to release--

BILL MOYERS: --and then Wolf continued to talk over the president's remarks. What do you make of that?

MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is more interesting to journalism than the message itself. People--

BILL MOYERS: Meta message?

MARTY KAPLAN: The meta message is, here's grist for combat between different factions. How is it going to play out? Rather than the message, which is, here's what's happening to our climate, here's what we have to do to prevent it. That stuff risks being boring. But combat is never boring. What they don't know how to do is to talk about, well, what are our options here, America? How do we mitigate the effects of climate change?

Instead, they're refighting all these old battles. And that kind of combat is what they can do. The Sunday talk shows did something else, which is to completely ignore it. I mean, they probably had John McCain and Lindsey Graham on for the 27th time each, instead of dealing with what was the most important speech about climate change ever given by a sitting president.

BILL MOYERS: And ThinkProgress, the progressive website published an info-graphic, which pointed out that, as you say, Sunday's news shows ignored Obama's climate plan, late-night comedy shows picked up the slack. "The Daily Show" gave three minutes and 29 seconds to the president, "The Late Show" gave one minute, 33 seconds, "The Tonight Show" gave one minute and two seconds. "Meet the Press?" Zero seconds. Fox News? Zero seconds. ABC "This Week"? Zero seconds. "Face the Nation?" Zero seconds. "State of the Union" on CNN, zero seconds.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, but I bet they kept us informed about the phony IRS scandal. They have stuff which they think pushes the buttons that makes people emotional and angry. And they just find climate change as snooze. They find guns a snooze. Look at what happened with Sandy Hook. Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy and climate change. We are capable of turning away because we get bored with one thing and need the next.

BILL MOYERS: At the time of the Sandy Hook shootings, you wrote about the learned helplessness that seemed to permeate that situation. Talk about that a moment.

MARTY KAPLAN: We have had the unfortunate experience of being outraged, being Brazilians, trying to get something done, and watching as the dysfunctional system that we are forced to live under destroys momentum and creates stasis, or adds power to the already powerful, rather than enabling reform. We have, for example, on Capitol Hill, a system which is built on the need to create ads, narratives, phony reality about members who are running for office.

And they need to finance that because our television stations make a killing on that. Especially in the swing states. And so the only way they can finance it is by doing quid pro quo deals with special interests. So when the Newtown tragedy happened, my instinct was, yes, I know Obama's going to make a great speech and the polls are going to be 99 percent, but it's going to be business as usual. Our hearts will be broken, because the system is simply unresponsive and incapable of reform.

You watch that happen enough times, and you decide, why bother? You have to be someone who just fell off the turnip truck to think that popular outrage can make a difference. The truth is that we can make a difference. We can change the way campaigns are financed. We can change the electoral college. You name it, we can do things. But because we have been taught that we will be ineffective and fail, it seems like the gesture of a rube to be hopeful.

BILL MOYERS: But this takes us back to the Brazilians. Because as you know, the Brazilians were protesting, millions of them were protesting against the $31, $33 billion they're going be spending on the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. They were carrying signs about that 21-year-old soccer star who's just signed a deal for $74 million. And they were saying, a good teacher is worth more than this soccer star. Now somehow, their learned helplessness was overwhelmed, or overcome, or penetrated by some other consciousness.

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, but I think the key difference is that their democracy is new. They still believe in holding it accountable. They want to have a system that works. And as long as their promise is out there of making a difference, they want to hold the politicians' feet to the fire. In our case, we have an old democracy, which has ossified.

The narrative should be, the system is broken, let’s fix it. The founders were not Moses or God and what they put in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, was not written in stone. It is meant to deal with things they could never imagine.

They could not imagine swing states and the amount of money you have to spend and what you have to do with special interests in order to get elected. There is a pathology in our system that we, as a country, refuse to acknowledge because it's a way of saying that we're not heaven's blessed child. We are humans.

BILL MOYERS: What intrigued me was that the Brazilians first sparked over an increase in the bus fare in São Paulo, and then it just spread. The bus fare. Yet when recently the Metropolitan Transit Authority here in New York raised the transit fare, it just, that wasn't even a ripple on the surface.

MARTY KAPLAN: Because the class that produces news has the kind of incomes that can absorb those kinds of changes. The news industry is now part of the privileged elite. They are not the scrappy adversaries that one would hope they would be fighting for the little guy. They are the man. And if public transportation costs a little more, the studio's going to send a car for them anyway. The problem is that corporate self-interest plays itself out in the content of news.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, there's a debate going on over journalism in America. The Pew Research Center recently wrote bleakly about the future of journalism.

The other side of it, Marty, is that some people are saying these are the “glory days” of journalism, because there's so much information out there online, if you have access. And you yourself recently wrote, and I’m quoting, “the best journalism in the world, from plenty of sources, is available online, often for no cents a day, and we can access it in video and audio as well, and from anywhere at any time.” So where do you come down?

MARTY KAPLAN: And as long as you are a critical thinker. As long as you could sort the stuff that's reliable from the crud. As long as you understand that people who propagate information have interests. And so you could understand that, you know, this incredibly popular website is also the mouthpiece for this party. To be able to do that requires exposure to enough quality journalism so that you learn to tell the difference between the stuff that's being hawked in the bazaar that is intriguing and probably only partly accurate, between that and stuff which, where the facts are verified. We have had instance after instance in the last several months of stories in which it's the pressure to be first, to say something before anyone else has completely overridden the pressure to check is it accurate and valid.

And this is happening to the prestige outlets. They are not taking the time, because they have this bizarre notion that being first in the world of journalism, when microseconds count, it's like being a micro trader on Wall Street, that you're going to make or lose zillions by having those bragging rights. And in fact, the next day, they buy full-page ads in "The New York Times" saying, we were first to get this. They don't buy an ad when they say, we were first and wrong.

BILL MOYERS: Come back to cable for a moment. Because as you know, the three major cable outlets, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN have been giving a lot of attention to the Trayvon Martin story--

NEWS ANCHOR #1: Yesterday, huge day in the George Zimmerman trial--

NEWS ANCHOR #2: Coming up, a crucial day in the George Zimmerman trial--

NEWS ANCHOR #3: George Zimmerman trial is eating up a lot of time on cable television--

NEWS ANCHOR #4: The trial that has got America entranced--

NEWS ANCHOR #5: We are watching with great interest--

NEWS ANCHOR #6: The jury is not yet seated. As soon as this trial begins in earnest we will take you there--

BILL MOYERS: It's a good story, by the way. Would they be doing this if people weren't watching?

MARTY KAPLAN: No. They are both creating and responding to demand. But what they're not doing is exercising journalism. What they're doing is they're part of the entertainment industry. They're providing content. Journalism, in principle, is set apart because it has a notion of what's important, not just interesting. And in a dream world, journalists would make important stuff interesting. That they would use the same kind of techniques they use in covering the Trayvon Martin case to make stuff like climate change just as compelling.

BILL MOYERS: You've been following the debate between Glenn Greenwald who broke the Edward Snowden story and NBC’s David Gregory, who asked, well, let's listen to what David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald on "Meet the Press."

DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

GLENN GREENWALD on Meet the Press: I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themself a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I've aided and abetted him in any way.

The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the emails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felonies, in felonies for working with sources.

If you want to embrace that theory, it means every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal. And it's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why "The New Yorker's" Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a "standstill," her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.

DAVID GREGORY on Meet the Press: Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you're doing. And of course anybody who's watching this understands I was asking a question, that question has been raised by lawmakers as well. I'm not embracing anything. But, obviously I take your point.

MARTY KAPLAN: The assumption of the question is that there is some dictionary somewhere that says what journalism is. The truth is that journalism, like a number of other things, is socially constructed. We enter into a contract through history and based on class and evidence of what journalism is or is not. Things get ruled in or ruled out all the time.

And the reasons they're ruled in or out is not because some school of journalism, some professor, says, well, here's the yardstick and it is or it isn't. The way in which things get ruled in or not is practice. What actually happens? So if David Gregory can ask a question and justify it by say, some in Congress are asking that question, that rules out nothing.

Some in Congress are morons. And those people will say anything. And as long as you can have the ability to do the "some say" game and call yourself a journalist and be in a mainstream marquee platform, then you are tugging at what the definition of journalism is. And I think it's entirely appropriate for Glenn Greenwald or anyone else to tug right back and say, no. What you have done changes the terms of the debate. Here's where I stand. And let's fight it out. Let's not let the imprimatur of some corporate trademark say that this defines what journalism is.

BILL MOYERS: So when Glenn Greenwald says, "Top officials are lying to our faces about government spying," is that journalism or is it prosecution? Is he a journalist or is he an activist?

MARTY KAPLAN: I think there is a credible case that journalism is activism. That if you, as a journalist covered climate change by saying, well, some say this and some say that, you're not being a journalist. You're being a tool of the people who want to intimidate journalism from covering evidence and the truth. So when Glenn Greenwald says that lying is going on, I don't think you can rule that out because of the activist nature of journalism. It either is true or not true. Let's settle it on those merits, not on the question of, does he have the credential to be able to do that?

BILL MOYERS: It does seem to me that the First Amendment guarantees us the right to draw a conclusion on the evidence, from the evidence that we have gathered.

MARTY KAPLAN: Yeah, and unfortunately, the, especially the right has learned to game the system and to say, no, no, journalism is not that. Journalism is, “We report, you decide." The phony slogan of Fox News. So giving people alleged evidence and letting them draw alleged conclusions is in the interest of people who want to throw sand in your face and work the ref so that they are softened up and afraid to say, here is the conclusion.

BILL MOYERS: So your point about the Trayvon Martin trial, about Paula Deen, whom we haven't even discussed about what you call the race, crime, and porn axis in tabloid news, cable news, your point is that it distracts us from and drives out attention to the problems that will take us down if we don't tackle them?

MARTY KAPLAN: Watch the birdie over here, not the corruption over there. That's what circuses are about, is to distract us and make us happy while we're being distracted. The challenge is not only to give us the information that we should be paying attention to and to do it in a way which keeps our attention, the challenge is also what do we as citizens do with that. And I think there is an aspect of journalism which is afraid of taking that extra step and empowering citizens or covering the citizens who have empowered themselves to try to make a difference.

BILL MOYERS: So when we do that, Marty, we run into what you wrote about recently, “Informed Citizen Disorder,” ICD. Now for the benefit of my viewers who haven't read this, tell me what you mean by “Informed Citizen Disorder.”

MARTY KAPLAN: Ever since I was in junior high school, I was taught that to be a good citizen meant you needed to know what was going on in your country and in your world. You should read the paper, you should pay attention to the news, that's part of your responsibility of being an American.

And the problem, especially in recent years, is the more informed I am, the more despondent I am, because day after day, there is news which drives me crazy and I want to see the public rise up in outrage and say, no, you can't do that, banks. You can't do that, corporations. You can't do that polluters, you have to stop and pay attention to the laws, or we're going to change the laws.

That every time that doesn't happen, and I keep learning each day the same thing, something bad happened and nothing was done about it, that's the news. The more that that's the case, the sadder one is when you consume all that news. So it, the, all the incentives are perverse. The way to be happy, to avoid this despondency is to be oblivious to it all, to live in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

BILL MOYERS: So, given all that we've talked about and all you're writing about, where do you come out? Are you an optimist or a pessimist about what's happening to us?

MARTY KAPLAN: I have children. I have to be an optimist. The globe has children. We have to be optimists. There is no choice. What is the alternative? If you are a pessimist, well, the most you can do, I suppose, is medicate yourself with the latest blockbuster and some sugar, salt, and fat that's being marketed to you. The only responsible thing that you can do is say that individuals can make a difference and I will try, we will try, to make that.

BILL MOYERS: Don't they have to do it collectively. I mean, right now in North Carolina, there's a growing demonstration against the coup by the right wing that's been taken. But don't we have to do that collectively as they did in Brazil?

MARTY KAPLAN: Well, yes, we do. But moral Monday’s in North Carolina is a great example. What happened in Wisconsin was a great example. When people see one another, they join one another. If the TV is covering these demonstrations, it draws other people into it. The internet has been, in principle, a way in which people can gauge the growth of a community of discontent.

It is not as important so far as actually physically getting off your duff and going into the street. And I'm under no illusion that I can ignite some national wave of protest. But as more and more cities become more and more unhappy with what their corrupt government is doing, maybe a critical mass builds.

BILL MOYERS: MARTY KAPLAN, thank you again for joining me.

MARTY KAPLAN: Thank you.

Marty Kaplan on the Weapons of Mass Distraction

July 12, 2013

Across the world — Greece, Spain, Brazil, Egypt — citizens are turning angrily to their governments to demand economic fair play and equality. But here in America, with few exceptions, the streets and airwaves remain relatively silent. In a country as rich and powerful as America, why is there so little outcry about the ever-increasing, deliberate divide between the very wealthy and everyone else?

Media scholar Marty Kaplan points to a number of forces keeping these issues and affected citizens in the dark — especially our well-fed appetite for media distraction.

“We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system — why are we not taking to the streets?” Kaplan asks Bill. “I suspect among your viewers, there are people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered and can make a difference.”

An award-winning columnist and head of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, Kaplan also talks about the appropriate role of journalists as advocates for truth.

Interview Producer: Gina Kim. Editor: Rob Kuhns.
Intro Producer: Robert Booth. Intro Editor: Paul Henry Desjarlais.

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  • Joyce Berger

    “Weapons of Mass Distraction” was disturbing if for no other reason than the personal frustration of being unable to do anything about the massive problems. Seems to me that popular mobilization will only come in the wake of a catastrophic event such as the civil rights turmoil of the 60′s when most of the U.S. began to internalize the magnitude of the injustice against a significant part of our population. I don’t know another person who identifies that our national problems are part of the power structure. The people I know aren’t persuaded that the U.S. economic situation is anything other than a personal failing (never mind that it afflicts millions). I’ve come to believe voting is not the solution nor are any of the other time-honored tactics such as futile attempts to communicate with state and national legislators. Only mass action will begin a solution and I don’t see that on the immediate horizon.

  • cgmcle

    Bill Moyers: “So, if it is true as you say, that, ‘Our tax code is the least progressive in the industrial world,’ that we’ve witnessed ‘The most massive transfer of wealth in history,’ which is ‘Destroying our middle class,’ … why are we not at the barricades?”

    Many Americans were at the barricades two years ago protesting the vast economic injustices that have become rigidly institutionalized in the U.S. What was most notable about their efforts was the way the majority of americans reacted, belittling them, insulting them, calling them unpatriotic, and defending the small minority in this country who neither need nor deserve to be defended. (Indeed, many should be prosecuted.)

    The blind patriotism in the U.S. will either decline or continue to aid, abet, and accelerate the nation’s decline. The unfettered faith that “We’re no 1!” not only betrays ignorance but leads the ignorant to believe that we’ve scaled the summit, that we’ve achieved the ultimate in our quest to “form a more perfect union.”

    The plutocrats of this country have been effectively bribing politicians for decades. Fortunately for the plutocrats, a majority of the citizens come much cheaper, deceived by the simple misdirection tricks of a malevolent magician.

  • Tom Welsh

    Wonderful segment….

    HOWEVER!

    I am stunned that no mention, much less analysis, was made of the Occupy movement…how could this be?

  • kitstealey

    The architects of this great divide, beginning with Reagan and his cronies in 1981, have done a masterful job at setting us against one another in a desperate fight for the few crumbs they were willing to throw us. They’ve convinced us that the “other” is to blame – generally those directly below us on the ladder. As years have gone on, and we’ve witnessed our opportunities diminish and our resources vanish, in our panic we’ve allowed ourselves to be turned against one another. It’s diabolically clever – we never think to look up, where all the wealth has gone, and where it will stay.

    Those hardy souls among us who have tried to direct our attention to the systematic plundering of our Nation have been savaged, not only by the mainstream media, but by their fellow citizens. Those daring to question the concentration of the Nation’s wealth in the hands of one percent of its population are called socialists, lazy moochers, losers, and worse. We’ve bought into this myth that if we aren’t making it, we are lazy or stupid or somehow un-American, when the simple fact is: the fix is in.

    I don’t believe all of us are jaded or feel helpless. I believe many of us have been bullied into silence and obeisance by this fear (especially since 9/11) of being branded as traitors if we speak out against the powerful few. I believe many feel that speaking out, or joining together in protest, will result in retribution. Evidence of this is the way unions have been under attack since 1981. Where I live, “union” is synonomous with “commie.” Even as it becomes increasingly clear that unless we stand as one against this tyranny of wealth, we will never again prosper.

  • Anonymous

    In part, I suspect it is because peaceful protests have become an arresting offence even though our constitution guarantees peaceful assembly. This was started under GW Bush when protesters would be held in pens away from the president when they would wear a t-shirt or hold a sign that was against him. The Occupy movement has experienced the same brutality by officers who were sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of this country. We have become a lawless nation at the highest levels of government, so why are we surprised when no one wants to be arrested as it will also hurt possible job prospects in the future.

  • spw

    I found this very puzzling as well. I kept waiting to hear more about both Occupy and the apparently very different attitude to media in Brazil, but both were lacking.

  • SK

    I’d like to see BM ask Kaplan if he has joined any activist protests…or if he’s another white collar type journo who just reports on the news, but doesn’t do any “carnal” activism

  • Daniel Brenek

    Yes, there is a right to LAWFULLY assemble. That doesn’t mean occupy private property for days, weeks or months.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s what’s up in the new U.S.A…
    WE DON’T CARE.
    Some of us do, but take a closer look… we’re diverse to a fault. Most people I know don’t watch world news, have no interest in politics and understand we have no political representation anyway.
    Others that care are further fragmented into their own deep special interests that concern them but not you.
    Here’s a short list: Conservative; Liberals; Upper Class Wage Earners; Lower Class Wage Earners; Pro Union; Anti Union; Black Power; White Power; Latino Power; Gay Rights; Yes On No or No On Yes Advocates; Beer Drinkers; Martini Drinkers; next consider the various religions that tell some where to get training regarding how to make a proper bomb, tell others what to eat; when to eat or drink; when to pray and at what time; tell who love or who to hate and sometimes who to kill.
    We face more divisions than you can shake a stick at.
    This is the perfect climate for Corporatists and Politicians to take the money and run. Our form of government doesn’t seem to work anymore, although it apparently works ok for them because, after all, they’ve spent years now grooming it to what it has become (that’s no accident).
    Corporations are pulling down record profits and most politicians are retiring as millionaires. They complain that too much of their time is lost chasing campaign funds, yet no crusaders for reform emerge. Legislators say they don’t have time to actually read most of the bills they pass into law, and so it goes.
    We’re too divided. And you’ve heard the one about “united we stand (remember WWII) and divided we fall. Well guess what: WE DON’T CARE.
    Government keeps just enough of us comfortable they know we aren’t willing to take it to the streets to wind up in jail, when we could be at home drinking beer and watching the baseball players spit on the ground (America’s favorite pastime).
    I have a large flat screen Color TV, a cell phone and temperature controlled leather seats. WHY SHOULD I CARE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS? We can always learn to speak Russian or Chinese, or whatever… I’m brainwashed.

  • Anonymous

    The powers that be, i.e. wealthy heads of large corporations, find a way to keep America’s citizens ignorant and entertained. That sums up what happens to the majority. The rest of us are just trying to skate by and stay afloat.

  • zaltor

    Thank you Bill Moyers and Co for your tireless pursuit and reporting of the truth.

  • Mike Davis

    Brilliant and dead-on view of our perverse media system. While I’m no activist, Kaplan helps me understand the challenges in becoming one in America. Great piece!

  • Ms_Phillips

    Major factor: attack on FREE, public education that began w Reagan & the Republican push to spend tax-payer money on vouchers.

  • Ms_Phillips

    I don’t think the majority of Americans reacted as reported to the Occupy Movement. The “reporting” was bogus.

  • Ms_Phillips

    12 comments? Are there only a dozen people out there making an attempt to be informed? Jeez.

  • marvin steiner

    We have a lot of information,some knowledge,but very little understanding.

  • marvin steiner

    Police clearing and arresting protesters at the recent session of the Texas legislature.

  • marvin steiner

    tThe constraints of time.choice of content,and context.If that segment had not been so well managed it could have become a lecture.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t been able to watch the video yet, but wanted to say that I think a big part of why Americans are un-efficacious is because we lack a leadership that inspires us, a political program that stands for democracy and peace, and doesn’t sugar coat the difficulty of the struggle we have before us. We need to build that leadership in the various movements for social and economic justice and be able to connect them all to challenge the institutions we oppose.

  • JW

    This is amazingly relevant. As a 35 year old I suffer from this affliction. I am angry, informed, and have let apathy sink in. It is often looked down upon to be negative about the state of affairs in this country, and is seen as uncool. Though it must be granted that we, and myself, since coming out of college have been subject to a tech bubble bursting, the 9/11 downturn, and the continuing great recession. With this pressure more young people are forced to keep their mouths closed to protect their reputations and jobs. We are outnumbered by Boomers with great power and influence. What REAL steps are we to take to be active citizens while not being arrested, “ruining” our reputations, or losing our jobs?

  • Anonymous

    it’s not the Boomers, it’s the corporate 1%. Most Boomers are behind the same eight- ball that is aimed toward the younger generation.

    Nothing will happen until the majority of the people are backed into a corner with no other way out. Then like the animals we really are we will finally fight.

  • Freespeaking

    We need a middle class TV station that does not represent the right or the left, but the normal every-day person working two jobs, feeding their kids and living from pay-check to pay-check. This station would cover simply issues that economically effect the middle class, not stories that right or left use to emotionally sway our views.

  • Anonymous

    So what are We supposed to do when not enough citizens are informed of the issues, the politicians have sold US out and the Oligarchy is plundering our treasury?!? Intrinsically I do think people know deep down that our system is broken, but there is also a division over FAUX distrctive non-sense to distract from the real issues! how do we get the truth to the low information people so that they understand what’s really going on?

  • http://disqus.com/ShouGuo/ ShouGuo

    These are some encouraging words from Dr. Ben Carson: (p. 38, America the Beautiful)

    As long as we have a courageous populace, and a courageous and unbiased media, we are likely to be able to correct significant societal problems as they arise, which is a part of the greatness of America. Unfortunately, political correctness threatens the integrity of the media, and we must all be vigilant in our attempt to continue the great experiment that is America.

  • GZM

    We had a chance with the “Occupy” movement, but it was essentially leaderless and has fallen off the radar. If we had a leader with the charisma, intelligence, public speaking power and total dedication of a Martin Luther King, we could pack the central districts of all of our major cities with enough outraged citizens to put fear and disbelief of the greedy, supercilious, puppets that supposedly lead our failing democracy.

  • Arthur Brooks

    It would help if people would have an ecclesiatical epiphany, “All is vanity”.

  • Anonymous

    One of the distractions according to Mr Kaplan is .. his words: “the phony IRS scandal”. Rather the the adjective phony I would use “Corrupt” The list of things that frustrate us are banks; corporations and/or polluters..No the greatest frustration comes from government & all is agencies; lying & corrupt politicians. Govt takes our earned income & taxes the heck out it & then spends it wastefully to by votes. Congress has an approval of under 10% I believe & Obama’s is around 42%. If Kaplan has any suggestions how govt could improve & win the hearts & minds of the folks it would be helpful..His views on capitalism was voiced on previous interviews which follows why he lists corporations & banks as big frustrations to him. If govt provides proper oversight over them his frustrations could be elleviated.but politicians accept graft ot they extort money so.. there in lies the problem

  • anonymous

    Kaplan was too kind because the news manipulation is sinister to say the least. We have corporate America controlling what we see and hear from its media and it is very effective in controlling the masses. The Zimmerman trial to other misdirected media spot lights is what we get to hear.

    Even PBS is controlled by right winged corporate media now.

    When everyone is starving for lack of a job from bogus ‘free trade agreements’, to lost retirement funds from fraudulent Wall Street practices, to Federal Reserve misleading the public, to politically slanted Supreme Court decisions, and to Global Climate change, JUST maybe people will then take to the streets.

    God help us all.

  • anonymous

    Answer this fundamental question:

    Why do Americans allow their election system to controlled by money with the result being corruption by special interests?

    This is corporate America’s and the Federal Reserves biggest trick.

    I just don’t get it.

  • Robert McGovern

    Marty is more like a lost and found department. If you realize that you’ve lost something,then go see Marty. If we can face up to the fact that we consume to satisfy our addictions, then help is on the way.

    There is still time to turn off addictive media and turn on to nourishing media. After all, ratings
    and the ability to generate ad revenue respond quickly to lack of interest. If we commit to looking at
    real problems and real solutions, then the phony news will suffer. If we find places that help us to improve the quality of our life, then the interests that oppose it will falter.

    At the moment, I’m most influenced by Marty’s journalistic advice, which I translate as “Say what you mean” and “Tell it straight”. I’m already doing less of “people say” or “you might think”, etc. There are limits to how well I can pass on the wisdom of others. I’m looking for fewer limits on the expression of my own.

    I’m committing to think first and click maybe, based
    on whether or not I want to improve the rating for wherever that click will take me. Ditto for cable and books. I’ll make some exceptions. I accept the idea that people see reality the same way as their media inputs present it. If a lot of people are getting their input from a particular source, then that source is subject to inspection.

  • Bill

    Bill and Marty. I completely agree with everything you both are saying. I want to voice my disagreement. As near as I can tell, the only “place” I can go is the internet and join like-minded people in our “collective disorder.” But, where on the internet do I go? When you say: “go out on the street,” what street? Mine? 5th avenue? I have called and emailed my Congressional representatives, but, as far as I can tell, it all ends up in a black hole. We need someone or some powerful entity to lead the charge. And, the only vehicle for getting our collective message across is the internet.

  • Citizen X

    I take difference to the Kaplan premise that common folks are to blame for the media feed to us. Like we yearn for the reality shows and gory news casts that Fox and CNN show us.
    We did not cut off the Presidents speech on Global Warming, the powers at be did. We are force fed propaganda the corporate controlling powers want us to believe. This has been this way before the Civil War. when money controlled politics and It is only worst now.
    Campaign Finance Reform can fix our corruption, we as Americans must protect and clean up our Democracy. The paid off men in Washington never have and wont do it themselves. Common Americans have no representation at all.

  • http://disqus.com/ShouGuo/ ShouGuo

    One more excerpt from the same book (pp. 191-192):

    During the civil rights movement, the media played a tremendous role in changing public perceptions and attitudes with regard to race. If they choose to do so, they could once again play an important role in rectifying the mean-spiritedness that threatens to destroy the harmony and progress of world’s most powerful nation. However, many people make a great deal of money by polarizing people and cultivating a following. It takes very strong character to resist the urge to denigrate others and create a wise and ‘all knowing’ persona for themselves. I suspect that many in the media are pretty entrenched in their way of doing things and are not going to suddenly play fair. I should also point out that some in the media are real patriots and use humor, sarcasm, hyperbole, and satire in an attempt to awaken people to realities of the times in which we live. Ultimately, the people still have the power, and just as they can rid themselves of undesirable politicians, they can vote with their money and remote controls, which will always have a powerful impact on the direction our media takes.

  • Eds

    Kaplan is extremely astute and I totally agree, especially with his ideas on what journalism is and the fact that it does have an activist, advocacy role. Journalism reveals the truth, but it also, in doing so, should activate people. Also I agree with a comment here that mentioned–how exactly do we get involved with “like minded” people out there on the internet, or on the streets–what streets? This nation is huge–the occupy movement got people out, but, alas, nothing changed. Despair, “distraught,” the movement fizzled. Perhaps intellectuals like Kaplan and others need to lead the revolution. They need to draft a blueprint and when you put leading thinkers all on the same page–signing on to a modern day “Common Sense and the Crisis”–the masses will follow. Where is Thomas Paine today anyway?

  • Anonymous

    America is being led around by her nose. Those who want to re-awaken her have to repeat the facts over and over…facts like income distribution…lack of proper investment in the public commons so they don’t filter down to the state and regional levels, thereby explaining why local taxes have risen disastrously in order to fix sewer and water systems, roads, and our deteriorating k-12 education, not to mention tuitions skyrocketing at our colleges and universities. Also that economic development is going on all over the world except in the u.s. and that a big part of the american federal deficit is our never ending assault on those who threaten foreign oil supplies which we’ll never need because we need green energy – not death energy which will kill our atmosphere and eventually ourselves. Fossil fuels kill just like cigarettes cause cancer. It’s the same syndrome. Just like lies have to be repeated until they’re believed, the truth has to be repeated before it’s believable as well. Citizens must engage each other. Like protecting their neighborhoods from burglars, citizens must now hold nation watch meetings to stop the looting of our future.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely agree. That and the complete dumbing down of the educational system as a whole. The idea that simple biology and chemistry is taught, history books are revised and paint America and it’s allies in different lights. Education is no longer about learning to think critically; hasn’t been in a long time. I think this really all started with NIxon though. Reagan just help bring it along.

  • Anonymous

    Kaplan should have stuck to his main topic, that the media don’t focus on what objectively matters, and not strayed off into progressive framings and solutions, alienating half his potential audience, unless of course promoting progressive solutions was really his goal. Does he think that mobs of people taking to the barricades a la Brazil are going to accomplish more than civil discourse? Of course, he wouldn’t get media attention and invited on the talk shows if he spoke in more nuanced terms, a bit ironic, no? We need the media to give attention to some non-partisan, non-tribal analysts who could objectively perform some root-cause analysis on the nation’s problems, but Kaplan isn’t the guy to do it.

  • Anonymous

    Watch Free Speech TV and Link TV, or if you can’t get those watch Amy Goodman on PBS.

  • Pat

    Not true of everybody. I have a nice, upper class life. We have flat screens, computers, cell phones, two cars, etc. WE CARE A LOT about what is happening. We have been blessed, but have worked hard for everything we have, and our hearts break for what is happening to Americans, including us, because our dreams of a comfortable, confident future as senior citizens is hanging in the balance. Plus, our children’s futures are hanging in the balance even more. We hope and pray that they can achieve the American dream, and we wonder if the air they breathe, and the water they drink won’t be filled with pollutants, worse than they are now, because of the big business billionaires, whose profits mean more than our children’s lives. WE CARE MUCH MORE THAN YOU KNOW! The real problem is, we don’t know, (other than prayer), what we can truly do about it. We need people to lead us in the right direction, but everyone is afraid. Afraid to start something, afraid to speak up about what we can do. And, the “powers that be”, (the super rich who want to control everything), they want us to be afraid. I think President Obama wants to help, but he is so limited by Congress, and their selfishness at wanting things to remain the same for them, because “the same” for them is very, very good. Much better than the rest of us, that’s for sure.

    Who do we turn to, to help us out of this mess we are in? We desperately need, and want answers. Don’t think that we don’t care, because nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Pat

    Very well-said, Kitstealey!

  • Pat

    Very well-said, cgmcle!

  • Pat

    Good point, Ms Phillips!

  • Anonymous

    Don’t discount or disrespect the Brazilians in the street. Protest is the best way to get people to the bargaining table to have that civil discourse you mention.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly! History demands leaders. No important movement I’ve ever studied was leaderless. Civil Rights had people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Womens’ Suffrage had its Elizabeth Cady Stantons. Skilled leaders get attention. No matter what some people say, Occupy Wall Street is dead. Its lack of publicity-savvy, charismatic leaders gave media (with the exception of the internet) a great reason to ignore it. Once a movement is out of the public eye, start putting nails in the coffin.

  • MikeD

    Mr. Kaplan talks of the media circus but I fear there is something deeper going on. A circus is meant to entertain but MSNBC’s ratings have been in precipitous decline and yet, as Mr. Kaplan correctly points out, they’ve have John McCain and Lindsey Graham on for the 27th time each. Who could possibly be interested in what these men have to say? If the purpose of these programs is not to inform and not to entertain, then what is it?

  • drache

    Everyone simply thinks (as it’s proven time and again) that if you stand against the government/courts/cops, you always lose.

  • Plainme

    A few years ago, I picked up a book (at a used book store) titled “Talking Heads,” by Alan Hirsch. Marty Kaplan’s interview about his “Weapons of Mass Distraction” reminds me of some of the themes of Hirsch’s book. The rise of celebrity journalism, the profit motive and as stated in the “Talking Heads” book, “simply put, programming that serves the station best may not serve self-government well.” By the way, Mr. Moyers is praised throughout in the book (as is William F. Buckley Jr).
    Mr. Kaplan, who (in my opinion) is a great guest, takes on the complacency which shallow and uncritical journalism can produce. Ironically, people are taking to the streets right now, protesting the killing of an unarmed black teenager as he walked home from a convenience store (he got a snack). How long will the demonstrations last, and what can be done about racism in our society? In this case, perhaps economic boycotts against those that perpetuate it (like Cesar Chavez’s grape boycotts).
    Mr. Kaplan discusses climate change as one of the most important yet under-reported issues of our time. I’m as guilty as the next person (except for the human induced climate change deniers) of failing to do what I can to keep this topic in the public awareness. Writing to one’s representatives seems like the least a person can do.

  • Plainme

    edit to my comment: human induced climate change deniers are far, far worse in keeping climate change out of the media.

  • Richard

    I am always surprised by journalists who talk about the good old days. Journalism has always been demaind driven. Just look at Pulitzer. He was the king of yellow journalism. Yet, we now hold his name in esteem.

  • Plainme

    Another addition to my above comment: I agree with Mr. Kaplan that if one consumes media as a “critical thinker,” then it is quite possible to get valuable news coverage (whether it be through TV, print and especially with the addition of the internet). After all, Mr. Moyers is a prime example (among others) of a quality, celebrity journalist.

  • richie

    The Brazilians cry about the billions spent on the world cup, but forget to moan about the billions being spent on nuclear submarines… seems legit.

  • Anonymous

    yes, distractions by the Media/owned by 5 Corporations/need us to be distracted as they destroy our schools, pollute our land, waters and skies, attack women’s right to privacy, and so on.

    Progaganda from TV/ads is a wonderful drug, and is now used to spy on us, as the NSA. buy this, use that, don’t do this, do that.

    just like the Roman coliseum, distract the people while they steal the money. aka Wall St. and Business owned Congressmen.

    welcome to Corporate America, you pay for it with your taxes. Thank Ronald Reagan for his slogan “Government is the Problem.” which let the Republicans and Democrats fix it for the Rich to work for them. not us.

  • TK

    This is all true but old stuff. Bill Hicks’ standup routine in the 1980s detailed all this.

  • Anonymous

    watch George Carlin’s videos about the “Club”, the 99% are not part of. lol

    yes, very old news the Media don’t talk about

  • fitz67

    Yeah Bill, Ya forgot to mention that Brazil is run by socialists like you and you want to tell me what the cure is??? That the people need to rise up???
    You’re an idiot

  • Marisa

    How can you seek a rebuttal to a speech before it is finished, when it is the President of the United States. I’d expect it from Fox, but CNN. This points out to me what I have been feeling, CNN has gone into the toilet. They were excellent, now garbage. This whole thing is so sad.

  • Anonymous

    Pat-
    Above you list the things you say you care about, your heart is breaking and you’re worried, yet you remain in your comfort zone leaving it for someone else to come up with whatever Yankee inginuity
    is required to tackle the problem
    (while you pray about it).
    If your house were burning down would you call 911 and pray about it or grab a garden hose and get busy in case the fire dept is delayed or doesn’t come?
    With your lack of initiative we would still have the King’s picture on our dollar bill and pay our taxes to Japan.
    The idea behind providing each citizen an education was to arm our people with reasoning power to help keep us safe from tyranny.
    After generations of peacetime living we have come to expect
    printed written instructions and an
    extended warranty such that we are
    never in jepordy.
    Everything must be provided for us,
    and that’s how we got into this mess.
    That’s why those at the top busy with taking everthing we have rationalize that if we’re left with nothing, we’re just getting what we deserve.
    If we cared enough we wouldn’t have allowed these things to happen in the first place and furthermore we would find a way to stop government from spinning out of control.
    I’m not noticing how your concerns are the least bit helpful.
    You say you care (right, everybody cares) but you don’t care enough to leave your comfort zone about it.
    Your government is banking on it that you won’t give them any real opposition before they’ve finished with picking the bones clean. That’s what happened in Greece.
    Search out and join up with those in your community of a like mind for a start. Make an effort.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah bummer.
    You sound a bit lazy.
    I don’t think simply blogging is going to have all that much affect. And who ever heard of multi tasking?
    What say find those in your community of a like mind.
    What if that doesn’t work out?
    (maybe try it again)
    I wouldn’t bet against your becomming an accomplished leader for those of the greater good.

  • Anonymous

    Dude plenty of Boomers are suffering in
    this as well.
    All the brains behind designing the
    dirivatives – the financial engineered instruments behind the bubble meltdown crash of 2008 – were comissioned from the
    cream of the Ivy League crop, fresh out of University.
    Some, probably most of those behind this were no doubt Boomers, but obviously
    most Boomers had nothnig to do with this and most were victoms losing much of what they had.
    Eventually, the younger people are going to have to step up for what’s right.
    Plenty of young Ivy Leager’ are working
    for Wall Street and the Corporatist machine.
    This battle is not about age brackets.
    This is a war of the classes (those at the top don’t like hearing it put that way).
    It’s all about greed. Taking all you can such that others (you’ve never met) are left with less. It’s called Fundamental Capitalism.
    These days record profit taking corporations send lobbyists to help draft bills (lobbyists actually help write the legislation you are paying Congress to draft) and subsequently instruct Senators and Congress Persons what needs to be done. Much of these bills your Congress persons have never had time – or taken time – to read. Lobbyists inform the Congress person how much this action may be worth, and negociate the amount the
    check (to be written and deposited as campaign contribution) will be for.
    Apparently we are waiting for them to reform themselves. This has to be a joke and the joke is on us.
    Greece waited too long for reform (whcih is basically what’s happening here) and the bones were picked clean. Nothing was left behind but a mountain of debt, mass
    polution and destruction to the earth.

  • Anonymous

    The longer this continues the harder it will be to repair. Eventually it will be as in Greece, too late. Then things will get ugly, with no way back. Those managing the country in Greece picked the bones clean leaving nothing
    behind but a mountain of debt, pollution and geo damage.

  • http://disqus.com/ShouGuo/ ShouGuo

    Yet another excerpt from Dr. Carson’s America the Beautiful (pp. 36-37):

    The founders realized that a gigantic government would require increasingly large amounts of resources from the people in the form of taxes, and that the people would consequently expect more from such a government since they were giving it so much of their money. Eventually government could become so big that its ravenous appetite for tax money coupled with a populace that expects so much from it creates a bloated, unsustainable system, no longer able to provide for itself. Many of the countries from which the founding fathers fled could be characterized in just this way, which is why they were so rightly concerned the United States would fall prey to the same problems.
    Certainly the plight of such countries as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain have received a lot of attention recently due to significant public outcries, demonstrations, and even riots because their governments have not been able to fulfill their promised social obligations to the people due to lack of funds, despite high tax rates. We could not ask for more timely examples of what happens when we abandon our founding principles of limited government and protecting individual rights.

  • moderator

    You and Pat have made your points quite clearly and succinctly. Please move on.

    thanks

    Sean @ Moyers

  • moderator

    You and Robort1138 have made you points quite clearly and succinctly. Time to move on.

    Thanks
    Sean @ Moyers

  • Simom Peter

    Deep with in our conscious we know that we can and will be detained and locked up indefinitely. So yes we are on the surface of conscious as this commentary says … Weapons of Mass Distraction. American has lots of experience of what happens when we address critical Issues. So we play simple and act like we don’t know much. And Mum’s the word, and I wasn’t aware. Simon says & Mother may I, etc. etc.

  • Anonymous

    as Michelle said I can’t believe that any body able to profit $7871 in four weeks on the internet. did you see this website w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

  • DeDeeMac

    Deep in Earth’s past, carbon dioxide increased for natural reasons, and the planet warmed. Today, dirty energy is sending carbon dioxide into the air, and natural causes have little or nothing to do with it. http://clmtr.lt/cb/uyq0bAx

  • Anonymous

    I’m a Wyoming Republican.
    America is fascist: The media is corporate, the economy is based on a permanent state of war.
    87% of Congress voted for NDAA 2012 death camps and military arrest of people like me.
    The new media is self-actualized. Here’s my effort:
    http://www.heartvote.com
    and
    http://www.cheney-nothanks.com

  • Nina

    Dear Marty and Bill, this is simply brilliant. As saddening as it is, you’ve made so many important points here. I, too, want to be part of the critical mass and as you so rightly put it, you’ve gotta start with yourself and keep trying to make a difference in your own deeds and behavior. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m starting with the “(wo)man in the mirror”. Thank you and keep up the good work.
    Nina from Germany