Preview: Distracted from Democracy

In a country as rich as America, why is there so little outcry about the ever-increasing economic divide between the very wealthy and everyone else? On the next Moyers & Company, media scholar Marty Kaplan points to America’s well-fed appetite for media distraction, and explains why such distraction is so effective. 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.

Later on the show, acclaimed historian Gary May puts the recent Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act into historical perspective. A specialist in American political, diplomatic and social history, May’s latest book is Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy.

Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company. Watch the full show »

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  • Brianna Davis

    i believe people are stunned and over burdened just trying to stay afloat. Network news is all about the Zimmerman trial while Fox news is all about the demonizing Obama. “Other” news is nothing but a long list of betrayals and disasters around the world. I don’t think people are disinterested. I think they are completely overwhelmed and massively depressed and don’t want to hear any of it anymore unless there are positive answers as to how to survive all this mess. This is how my friends are feeling. This is how I am feeling. I believe it’s clear that there has been a deliberate, surgically engineered effort to scuttle the ship America. And that that effort has been brought about by the 1%, Wall Street, and those in Wall Street’s pocket. Why isn’t there no gun control? Why is there this disgusting war on women?
    Why are states being permitted to gerrymander districts to the detriment of minorities? I don’t know how people are getting out of bed in the morning. Distracted? I’d say devastated.

  • susafri

    Bread and circus! it goes back a long, long time

  • Sandra Eddy

    Both excellent and TRUE statements.

  • Suzanne

    I think you are pretty right on, Brianna. You’ve put words to it. But, I think we’ve got to band together and find our strength to stand up for ourselves. Wendy Davis is our newest hero in the media. We need more of her kind. The voices are getting louder! Do you feel it?

  • Pat

    I agree that we are overwhelmed, and feel helpless, and hopeless much of the time. I have said this before, that we need people to help us figure out what to do. We need some answers as to how do we stop this?

  • Maloney Brown

    Denial-Ignorance-Resignation! I believe many are either in denial about what has happened or they are ignorant of the facts. Their wages either have not raised or in many cases, have been greatly reduced but they still do not make the connection between the getting rid of or the weakening of labor unions and their personal circumstances. Most of my friends have completely bought the Republican trickle down theories and only listen to Fox News – actually believing that it is the only place to get accurate news. Most of the rest are simply resigned and do not think there is anything that can be done. I am almost in this group. With so many in the Fox News group and ignorant of or denying the truth, I am not certain that enough of them to make a difference can be convinced otherwise. There is one final group who is very much aware of what is happening and they may actually try to overthrow the federal government at some point. They do not trust either party. I am uncertain how they feel about state governments. I know that my Republican controlled state houses have tried to pass a law that says the federal government cannot impose any law over us that contradicts either our state laws or state constitution. I am uncertain if that has passed yet or not but they have a super majority with override veto power. They have passed a law that says that any lawman who tries to enforce a federal gun law contrary to Missouri law will be arrested. And they have passed laws against Obamacare and have so far, refused to extend Medicaid. Many Republican controlled state legislatures are passing laws of this nature regarding a number of issues. This country is in a very precarious state and close to boiling over. I hope that its citizens will wake up and take action before it is too late. I guess hope springs eternal.

  • MizTee

    Personally I have voted in every election since 1984 when I turned 18. I make contributions, I write my representatives. People are turned off – anyone who gets elected is “the other” – someone with more $$ than most of the people they represent (me). Elected officials have little clue what my/our lives are like, because they live in a different world. Last Fall I didn’t get one of my regular contracts. Thankfully a relative helped me financially. I’m so busy making ends meet and trying to find work there is no time for much else. Protesting doesn’t seem effective, look at OWS. Nobody has any solutions that are effective. Can’t say what I really feel or the law will be on my a$$. Too much power is out of the hands of the people. We no longer have a representative government. I’m turned off by the news, the media is in the hands of the moneyed interests. Maybe I’ll go live in a cave, it seems I’m headed there anyway.

  • Gray Sun Light

    People are terrified of losing their security by collectively making a stand. They instinctively know that the hand that feeds can also hit, as exemplified by the brutal police crackdown (coordinated by the FBI taking orders from the banks) of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. People are also terrified of terrorism/ being identified by the establishment as supporters of terrorism and/or terrorists themselves. It’s not rocket-science, it’s authoritarianism. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, America is now a police-state.

  • Pat

    I think the majority of us agree that we are in a horrible mess, and want to do something about it! To be perfectly honest, I am sick of myself, and everyone around me, and on the internet, complaining over and over, and I WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT. It seems that no one offers solutions to these problems, they just keep talking about it! It’s maddening! WE NEED SOME HELP COMING UP WITH A SOLUTION!

  • lucrinha

    I don´t know if it is a solution, but social network is helping my country, Brazil, to get involved in the political process. I don´t expect things are going to change overnight, but they, as a nation, have vowed to continue the protests until change is obvious.

  • Mike Wahl

    I am reading a book by Dr. Martin Luther King called ‘Where Do We Go from Here?’. We’re still asking the same question. I am wondering if the broad coalition that supported him could become even bigger?

  • Cypipes

    It’s not just distractions. It’s partly because if you talk about it, you get accused of having a sour grapes mindset. My boyfriend and I are comfortable and I’m talking about those who are in financial trouble and I STILL get accused of sour grapes. People have been brainwashed…

  • Pat

    Lucrinha: What are they doing? Are they protesting online? How are they using social networking to help?

  • Eclectica

    Bread and circuses.

  • Suzanne

    Distraction? This is EXACTLY what they are counting on. That we are so engulfed in the everyday struggle, we have no energy to do anything else. And that we will continue to feel powerless. And that we will be grateful for a crumb of “good news” such as declining unemployment rates, increased housing markets, blah, blah, blah. Watching this evolve over my 62 years, with no small amount of disgust for the apathetic younger folks, I’d like to see you kick ’em in the appropriate part right about now. They say we changed the world back in the 60’s with our rants and bad behavior. Time for y’all to pick up the gauntlet, if you’ve had enough pain. I may be shufflin’ a bit slower these day, but I’ll be there, right along with you. And, thank you, Bill Moyers, for always bringing the right stuff to the table, and encouraging me to use my grownup words.

  • Kim

    I know exactly where you’re coming from. I’m one of the most political people I know and constantly people call me “argumentative” or “confrontational” when my views upset them because they disagree

  • rain,adustbowlstory

    The more we shine a light on this problem, the better. As a writer, I’ve also just discovered Aaron Sorkin’s show “The Newsroom.” Its central tension–you can’t take your eyes off the screen– is exactly what Mr. Moyers discusses here–the pressure to amuse, eating away at the formerly honorable profession of journalism.

    Still honorable on this website!

  • Ron

    Thanks Pat for reading my mind. I live near Toronto Ontario, in Canada and i write to the Toronto Star OpEd page and get published on occasion and the same thing is prevalent here. People complain but never proffer solutions to the problems and I get sick of reading it too.

    For example, I think that in the U.S. there needs to be an honest evaluation of Wall Street executives as to their behaviour … is it criminal or not and if it is one or two should be arrested, tried and jailed for their actions.

    It has been aired recently that if one honest FBI agent (with Head Office backing) were to arrest one Wall Street bank President for criminal activity (you name it) the world banking and debt crises would be over in about half an hour, then as Abraham Lincoln said “if you find firm ground to stand on, don’t move.”

    There is so much corruption in the world it seems that honest people are being engulfed by it so it is time “for all good men and women to stand up and be counted.”

  • Pat

    I hear you, Ron! I totally agree that there is so much corruption. Why? Why haven’t people chosen to do “the right thing”? Why do so many go astray? Is it greed? I think so. I know that “greed” is one of the “seven deadly sins”, at least in my religion, and those 7 sins really scare me. They scare me enough into choosing to do the right thing, (even though I am far from perfect). I don’t understand why so many people, many of them our leaders, don’t stand up for what is right. I think many of them probably try, but are shot down by those who want them to basically “shut up”. So disheartening, so frustrating, and so disappointing. I totally agree with you that it is time “for all GOOD MEN AND WOMEN to stand up and be counted.” How do we start?