The Dog that Didn’t Bark: The Story I’d Like Bill Moyers to Cover by Andrew Bard Schmookler

Dandelion Salad

by Andrew Bard Schmookler
Atlantic Free Press
Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Bill Moyers as American Hero

Bill Moyers is one of those Americans who remind us about what has been good about America. His voice has been one of the important remnants of decency and integrity for our times.

Believing that, I have had hopes over the past three years that Mr. Moyers would take on still more than he has of the mantle of prophetic truth-telling. Few Americans can compare with his stature, prominence and moral standing, so I believed Bill Moyers might really be able to help awaken America and change the political dynamic of our endangered nation. And I still do.

Mr. Moyers has indicated, however, that he considers himself to be a journalist, not an activist. And as a journalist he has indeed made an important contribution.

But the state of the nation remains extremely perilous, and –as I expressed in my “Lament of a True Patriot” (at– the American body politic has not responded to this threat in the way that our Founders intended for us to. And in view of the continuing need for more boldness in defense of our American democracy to confront and counter the utter brazenness of the Bushite assault on our democratic heritage, I have not relinquished my hopes for Mr. Moyers to come forward still more boldly to confront the present assault on our democratic heritage. And to do so as a journalist.


The public needs a full report on how the American free press failed to sound the alarm as the lawlessness and the dishonesty of this regime became evident.

The lawlessness of this presidency is, I would assert, one of the most significant and consequential stories in American history. And one that, as a journalist, Mr. Moyers has helped to cover. But that’s not the story I’m asking him to cover now.

Instead, I am suggesting that Mr. Moyers investigate the story of how the free press in America has failed to fulfill the vital function our Founders intended. It was precisely for this kind of situation, after all –the emergence of a presidency claiming to be above the law, usurping virtually dictatorial powers– that these great men enshrined “freedom of the press” in our Constitution. In the face of a lawless presidency, the press was to represent the interests of the people, sounding the alarm even though that required standing up to the regime.

But our corporate media have, by and large, done the very opposite.

I’ll not spend time here documenting that assertion. It’s been done elaborately in many places by many people.


Suffice it to say that Mr. Moyers could do the nation a great service if he put his considerable journalistic skills, and his priceless reputation for integrity and basic human decency, to work in investigating our malfunctioning alarm system and ask such questions as these:

· Why is it that the corporate media spent vastly more investigative energy reporting to the American people about a sexual indiscretion by an American president than in investigating abundant signs that a sitting president has been conducting a coordinated and comprehensive assault on the rule of law?

· What accounts for the fact that the press treated Nixon’s crimes which, in comparison with today’s, were relatively limited and minor, as a matter of great national importance, but has refused to give to today’s altogether unprecedented presidential assault on the Constitution any such front-and-center attention?

· Did the mainstream American system of journalism fail to grasp the importance of the story or did they choose to ignore or minimize it? And how, and why?

· President Bush just set a record in the history of American polling: fully 50 percent of the American people now “strongly disapprove” of this president, even more than was the case with Nixon during Watergate. In earlier times, the mainstream media would make much more of such a historic development, and would flesh out the story by going out, for example and actually asking people just what it is generates their strong disapproval. But of course there’s been no such coverage. Why is that?

· Just this past week, the number of Americans who think the nation to be on the right track got down to just one in five. One would think that such a plunge in a vital sign of our democracy would be an important piece of news. Shouldn’t the mainstream media be asking the American people just what track they think the nation is on and what there is about it they regard as wrong? Where are they?

“The Dog That Didn’t Bark” is a famous phrase from a Sherlock Holmes tale, where the silence of a guard dog proved the essential clue, for it showed that the dog was on friendly terms with the culprit. Someone with great credibility is needed to find out if the American media have been quiet for the same reason.

So I conclude by saying that by uncovering and presenting this story Bill Moyers would be performing a profound service to the nation!

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2 thoughts on “The Dog that Didn’t Bark: The Story I’d Like Bill Moyers to Cover by Andrew Bard Schmookler

  1. Mr. Moyers has answered these questions extremely well in speeches at the National Conference for Media Reform and in a few interviews of which he was the subject, all easily searched out online.

    In his role on PBS (which bounced him once already, let’s remember), he’s far more circumspect — frequently adopting a devil’s advocate stance that annoys the hell out of me, too. If he doesn’t play at being “objective” there (apart from a brief editorial segment), he could easily lose the opportunity to feature guests whom we need to hear.

    Personally I wish he’d write a book or two, expanding on the truths in his speeches of the past few years — but even this might cost him his TV platform, given that neocons hold such control over broadcasting now.

    As I’m sure he knows as well or better than anyone, there are people who can be reached only through TV, in the sense that they won’t believe anything is “news” if not seen there. So preserving his broadcast presence is crucial.

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