I really wish the piece hadn’t focused so hard on the crazy man who shot up the Unitarian church: that’s a red herring, and it makes the real moral force of this piece harder to get at and easier to dismiss. (What’s more likely is that the biggest fans of this sort of gladiatorial game will strike the pose that has become so familiar, the wounded outsider who’s been equated with a mass murderer and condemned by the “non-judgmental liberals.” I suppose that’s why I tend never to claim never to judge–I know there’s evil in the world, and I know it’s just as much next door and in my own heart as it is in the president’s latest war-crush.) But the last two minutes, in which Moyers calls on moral grounds for his fellow human beings to “feed” their better rather than their baser parts, is one of the best appeals for Plato-style morality in the digital age that I can remember. He carefully avoids a call for censorship in his exhortation to wisdom, and I can’t help but admire the thoughtfulness of his approach. I don’t think the biggest fans of the nastiest personalities are going to listen to him–after all, they can just call anyone who calls for such morality wimps or sissies or some other name (can’t think of where they might have heard that modeled), but for the rest of us, Moyers reminds us that sanity is only as far away as the off switch.
I don’t know to what extent my little brother reads this blog still, but it brings to my mind the conversations we’ve had about grass-roots opposition to certain kinds of artifacts and whether or not it constitutes a species of censorship (and, if it does, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing). I don’t think Moyers is calling for a boycott, though I don’t imagine, even if I had the money for buying things advertised on the radio, I’d feed that beast.
The problem, of course, is that lots of people have, and they aid and abet this kind of nonsense by feeding the advertisers that in turn feed the beasts. I’m not sure what to say about that other than to remember that this world is still a fallen place, that in the face of massive monetary support of hatred, the best one can do without trading one’s soul for the world is to remain faithful to a kindgom that is not of this current darkness but which shines as a lamp not covered by a basket. (I can’t remember if that’s from Matthew or from the children’s song, but it works either way.) That’s not all that sexy, but I suppose that’s why people prefer Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.