Viewers who missed Wednesday’s broadcast of Bill Moyers’ “Buying the War” can still tune in on the PBS Web site. Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics called it “a must-watch for Christians who care about peace and justice inseparable from truth.”
“Bill Moyers does a splendid job reminding us that the Bush administration took the world to war on the wings of a lie under the wind of America’s mainstream media,” Parham said. “Had the mainstream media practiced discernment, then the selling of the war would have been far more difficult.”
According to Parham, major newspapers, TV networks and cable TV news programs instead “accepted the propaganda of the pro-war advocates–the Neo-Cons, the political generals, the Christian Right preachers.”
“Simply put America’s mainstream media failed the public and pushed the world into an intractable war,” Parham said. “Regrettably the mainstream media ignore many of us who argued against the war before the war. And yet, the cable TV programs still interview those discredited pro-war advocates. ”
“Four years ago this spring the Bush administration took leave of reality and plunged our country into a war so poorly planned it soon turned into a disaster,” Moyers said in the opening for the season premier of his new program, “Bill Moyers Journal.”
“The story of how high officials misled the country has been told,” Moyers continued. “But they couldn’t have done it on their own; they needed a compliant press, to pass on their propaganda as news and cheer them on.”
“Since then thousands of people have died, and many are dying to this day,” Moyers said. “Yet the story of how the media bought what the White House was selling has not been told in depth on television. As the war rages into its fifth year, we look back at those months leading up to the invasion, when our press largely surrendered its independence and skepticism to join with our government in marching to war.”
In the 90-minute program, Moyers criticized many of his journalistic colleagues for failing to be skeptical about claims linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction in the patriotic fervor after 9/11.
While the Washington Post carried 140 front-page stories in seven months making the administration’s case for war, Moyers reported, the few stories questioning the use of intelligence were relegated to inside pages.
“I believe honestly, people don’t have a fear of irritating the White House–certainly not at the Washington Post,” veteran reporter Walter Pincus told Moyers. “But, they do worry about sort of getting out ahead of something.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be scoop journalism?” Moyers asked.
“Well,” Pincus replied, “but you could be wrong.”
Moyers also pressed NBC’s Tim Russert about his interview with Vice President Dick Cheney on “Meet the Press” the very day the New York Times quoted anonymous sources alleging that Saddam Hussein was seeking materials to build nuclear weapons.
Moyers called it “the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable.”
“Someone in the administration plants a dramatic story in the New York Times, and then the vice president comes on your show and points to the New York Times,” Moyers said. “It’s a circular, self-confirming leak.”
“I don’t know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were,” Russert replied. “It was a front-page story of the New York Times. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that. What my concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.”
The New York Times, heavily criticized by Moyers, largely ignored the program, burying a 39-word blurb about it in a “What’s On Tonight” TV listing in Wednesday’s paper.
Conservative media, meanwhile, labeled the program as a liberal hit piece.
Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center accused PBS of hypocrisy for airing Moyers after rejecting a documentary about Muslim extremists, which was intended to be part of last week’s 11-part America at a Crossroads series.
Moyers said on the Democracy Now Web site his series doesn’t take any public money. Bill O’Reilly admitted he was mistaken in saying PBS was paying Moyers to make biased documentaries, but “Hannity & Colmes” offered no correction for saying Moyers used “taxpayer dollars” for his program.
On online question-and-answer session with two Knight Ridder reporters cited in the program as the rare exception of journalists who did their job well fell through, when overwhelming response prevented journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel from logging in.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.