Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A modicum of clear thought vs. Glenn Beck

It is widely known among thoughtful folk that Fox News [sic] Channel personality Glenn Beck is a right-wing clown who makes his living by exploiting the fear and ignorance of a certain bracket of the American population. He invokes Tom Paine as his ideological forefather, thereby casting himself in the role of American patriot, voice of common sense, and champion of the little guy. Besides the fact that there is much in Tom Paine that is nigh incompatible with Beck's delightfully eclectic political views, Beck's much-touted "common sense", when applied to topical issues, proves to be nothing but a a pitiful hash of hyperboles and conspiracy theories.

If we peel back the verbiage, we see that Beck has essentially one play in his book: government policy or social movement or cultural trend x has some vague, tenuous, often analogical, metaphorical, or etymological relation to Nazism. Which, it should be stated when dealing with Beck, is the same thing as socialism, democratic or otherwise (Nazism = National Socialism. Socialism!!! See?? See??). The merest whiff of government intervention in any sphere has Beck shrilly invoking the gas chambers (it should of course be mentioned that he pooh-poohs the suggestion that recent racist legislation in Arizona has anything remotely in common with Nazi legislation! We see where his interests lie - precisely NOT with the little guy.) A sample of Beck's "common sense" in action: ACORN are Brown Shirts, social justice as preached by churches is disguised Nazi/Commie ideology, Obama is a racist. Here is Lewis Black destroying Beck for his "Nazi Tourette's", saying it better than I ever could.

On May 3, Beck took another play from the Beck playbook, and drew anarchist publishing collective AK Press into the ring. Their recent book We are an Image of the Future: The Greek Revolts of 2008 IS A BOOK ABOUT ANARCHISTS BY ANARCHISTS. Beck dismissed this: "They are not anarchists, but they will use anarchy to their favour". Beck has cracked the conspiracy: the self-proclaimed anarchists are really communists, which means they're in league with Nazis and moderate social democrats (all of whom are Nazis!). The AK Press collective delivered their scathing response to Beck here.

Of particular interest is their claim that Beck, in his distaste for big government and his many vaguely Paine-derived libertarian premises, is actually not that far off from anarchism in his basic outlook. This is fascinating, since it suggests that if Beck was consistent, and a clear thinker, he would be a revolutionary militant in solidarity with the little guy - not a corporate media personality clumsily defending Arizona racial laws and passing it off as freedom.

Alas, I think AK Press's exercise can only have a rhetorical effect. This is because I can't help but wonder if Beck is even serious. Much like Canadian "common sense" media personality Lowell Green, I think at the bottom of Beck's provocative political persona lurks nothing but a cynical entrepreneur. Beck is either truly as sloppy a political thinker as he portrays - or else he's pulling one over on his fanbase, which is despicable.


Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

I knew there was some thing fishy about anarchists ---

I've gone back and forth with people about whether Beck is really serious. I kind of think he is --- the other Fox News guys fit certain stereo-typed sophists, pundits and demagogues: O'Reilly is a bully, Hannity a smarmy blowhard, Rush Limbaugh a windbag.

But Beck is just plain weird. Could anyone have invented that absurd personality?

Devin Zane Shaw said...

I know that Beck's weird, but I also think that he's a cynical entrepreneur. I've met people where I grew up that kind of freely associate like that.

santi said...

I tend to agree with Devin on this one. This is one of many reasons why:

Such sad crocodile tears. Or as his makeup artist calls it "instant sadness".