In Denial: Bill Moyers Claims 'We've Heard No Reporter -- Not a One' Advocate Liberal Ideas on NPR

Katrina Vanden Heuvel isn’t alone when she claimed on MSNBC that her magazine The Nation wasn’t leftish, it was “transpartisan” and “independent.” Bill Moyers (alongside Michael Winship) has penned a third loopy attack on conservative critics of NPR.  It’s gotten so loopy that Moyers claims he’s never heard anyone advocate liberal ideas on NPR:

For one, when we described the right-wing media machine as NPR’s "long-time nemesis," it was not to suggest that somehow public radio is its left-wing opposite. When it comes to covering and analyzing the news, the reverse of right isn't left; it's independent reporting that toes neither party nor ideological line. We’ve heard no NPR reporter -- not a one -- advocating on the air for more government spending (or less), for the right of abortion (or against it), for or against gay marriage, or for or against either political party, especially compared to what we hear from Fox News and talk radio on all of these issues and more.

Moyers brazenly claims that it’s conservative NPR critics who can’t stand debates or differing points of view, and that they loathe NPR because it’s “fact-driven” and has a high regard for evidence:

So what do conservatives really mean when they accuse NPR of being "liberal?" They mean it's not accountable to their worldview as conservatives and partisans. They mean it reflects too great a regard for evidence and is too open to reporting different points of views of the same event or idea or issue. Reporting that by its very fact-driven nature often fails to confirm their ideological underpinnings, their way of seeing things (which is why some liberals and Democrats also become irate with NPR).

Moyers reaches a rhetorical climax by claiming that conservatives are the forces of culturally-induced ignorance (and the lefties, by contrast, have cornered the nation’s market on wisdom):

That's why our favorite new word is "agnotology." According to the website WordSpy, it means "the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt," a concept developed in recent years by two historians of science at Stanford University, Robert Proctor and his wife, Londa Schiebinger.

Believing that global climate change is a myth is one example of the kind of ignorance agnotologists investigate. Or the insistence by the tobacco industry that the harm caused by smoking is still in dispute. Or the conviction that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and a radical one at that, who may not even be from America.

Those first two illusions have been induced by big business in a cynical attempt to keep pumping profits from deadly pollutants, whether fossil fuels or nicotine. The third, dreamed up by fantasists of the right-wing fringe, is in its own way just as toxic and has been tacitly, sometimes audibly, encouraged by certain opponents of President Obama who would perpetuate any prevarication to further blockade his agenda and deny him and fellow Democrats reelection.

In an attempt at sleight of hand, Moyers claims that NPR isn’t liberal because it’s not the polar opposite of conservative – it’s “non-ideological journalism” that “threatens the conservative belief system,” so it must be quashed:

To the accusers of NPR, the created reality of however they define "liberal" is not the same as what they mean when they call themselves "conservative." If it were, the two would be exact reverse images of each other. Where media are concerned, all you have to do to know this is not the case is to hold them up, side-by-side. If "liberal" were the counterpoint to "conservative," NPR would be the mirror of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and James O'Keefe, including the use of their techniques as well as content. Clearly it isn't. To charge otherwise is a phony gambit aimed at nothing less than quashing the public's access to non-ideological journalism, narrowing viewpoints to all but one. We know from first-hand experience that any journalist whose reporting threatens the conservative belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists at Fox and on talk radio.

Moyers completely dissolved his argument by arguing that radical Pacifica Radio is his "fact-based" model for asking "hard questions" about how corporations unfairly dominate our free society:

Americans need more and sustained reporting on what the journalist William Greider calls "the hard questions of governance" -- those questions of how and why some interests are allowed to dominate the government's decision making while others are excluded. Who gets the money and who has to pay? Who must be heard on this question and who can be safely ignored? None execute this kind of reporting better than Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on "Democracy Now," which, while carried by many public radio and television stations, is not distributed nationally by either NPR or PBS. Public media -- radio and television -- too rarely challenge the dictum: "News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity." 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis