Friday, 17 December, marked the last broadcast of Now with Bill Moyers, who has retired after 33 years in broadcasting at CBS News and PBS. I intended, today, to write about an interesting and important reason he gave for leaving, at age 70, full-time work – and I will get to it below – but in tracking down a link for the story, I was startled at the remarkable amount of vitriol I ran across aimed at Mr. Moyers.
A major point of contention seems to be a quote Mr. Moyers gave AP writer, Frazier Moore, about his final broadcast. In a story widely posted around the web, he told the writer:
"I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee," says Moyers. "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."
An opinion, to be sure, though no more than what any citizen is guaranteed by the Constitution. What caught my attention is how widespread is the malice in response to it – and to Moyers personally – from professional pundits, bloggers and commenters:
“…a charlatan as a journalist and a preacher…”
“Goodbye and good riddance…whatever it takes to get these old pinkos out of media.”
“…good-for-nothing, slimebag leftist.”
“…another multi-culturalist socialist.”
“I’ve always hated that f’ing guy.”
“…he hates America.”
“…worthless, self-important, lying bastard.”
"I have heard nothing out of his mouth that helped or changed my life."
These crude characterizations are about the man who brought us such extraordinarily thoughtful television series as The Power of Myths with Joseph Campbell; A World of Ideas; Genesis: A Living Conversation; Healing and the Mind, to name only a few. No one is required to agree with Bill Moyers, but no thinking person can deny his intelligence, curiosity and humanity.
What Crabby Old Lady would ask, if she were here, is: Are people such as these allowed to vote?
Now to the original point of this post:
In a print interview with David Bianculli leading up to the occasion of his retirement, Bill Moyers said he is leaving as a result of older people he had been interviewing, including the actor Hal Holbrook who is 79:
“Holbrook talked about sailing solo across the Pacific when he was younger and learning that to survive, ‘You have to give to nature just enough to stay upright.’ The lesson Moyers took from those conversations: bend a bit, slow down, and see where the winds of life blow you next.”
- - New York Daily News, 16 December 2004
I once knew a man who had been a professional French chef, was widely and intelligently read, also knowledgeable and astute as to world politics and an expert on classical music. I asked him, one time, what there was he still wanted to learn. So much, he said, but he was saving for his old age the two most complex subjects he knew of: pastry cooking and understanding Wagner.
Life and learning does not end in old age. Bill Moyers point, though more eloquently put, is similar to mine from a few days ago: that as the body inevitably wears out a bit and slows down, it is as wise a decision to “give nature just enough” as it is to give the winds of life the time to blow you in new directions.