Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Misunderstanding Beck

Truthfully, I don't think the Left or much of the Right, who are still trying to get the Left to "like" them ... really has much interest in understanding Glenn Beck.

The Left uses him to paint conservatives with a broad brush of "out there" craziness, largely drawing on soundbytes that probably do sound whacky to your average working Joe when presented, as I discuss below, almost necessarily out of context.

The people who want desperately to be known on the left as the "reasonable right", then, uses Beck as someone on their side to distance themselves from the painting the Left has garishly painted with their 12" paintbrush.

If the "reasonable" right actually paid attention to Mr. Beck over a period of time, they'd realize he's pointing out some things they ought to be looking at seriously.  But they don't, because it would take too much time and they'd be afraid of the Big Brush™ Off.

As an example, Fareed Zakeria, a good guy who writes some good articles wrote the other day about Egypt's "real" (his word) paralell to Iran's revolution sort of defends Glenn to some extent but still can't help doing it using the back of his hand.

"Fears of an Islamic takeover are not limited to Glenn Beck, with his predictions that the fall of Hosni Mubarak will lead to the rise of an Islamic caliphate bent on global domination. (Beck's policy recommendation to Americans was even more out there: "store food.") Serious conservative politicians such as Mitt Romney and John McCain...
After you've picked yourself up off the floor laughing about Romney and McCain being "serious" conservatives, recognize that he's not so much calling them "serious" as he is dismissing Glenn Beck as not being serious. Glenn is dead serious.  But you have to have an attention span longer than a 6 paragraph editorial to gather the whole picture as to where Beck is coming from.

Of course, the above is a gross overstatement of what Beck is saying. But Fareed probably doesn't know that, nor is he interested in finding out. Glenn's too convenient to use as an anti-yardstick for "serious" conservatives.

What Glenn has said is that that is the intent of groups like The Muslim Brotherhood, and increasing their power in Egypt is a step in that direction. (update: apparently Don Rumsfeld, Diane Feinstein, & General Abizaid agree with Glenn.  And of course, we already knew Al Zawahiri agreed.  HT: StuBlog)  There are lots of other groups in the middle east (and elsewhere) that share this goal, and we should pay attention to them.

Beck's "store food" meme goes more toward the possible (and "prediction" probably isn't an overstatement for his position on this one) that trying to print our way to prosperity might lead to a Weimarian bout of hyperinflation. It has nothing to do with Egypt or a possible Caliphate.

But it's not just crazy paranoia here, either. I don't hear people calling out Warren Buffett for suggesting every American should read "When Money Dies". He's not exactly considered a kook in most parts.

You can't just pop in on Beck now and then and get an idea of what he's talking about, because it's part of a much longer, broad conversation he's having with his audience that can't be reduced to soundbytes that are bound to be presented out of context.


Severian said...

Two loosely-related thoughts:

One, I'm not so sure that all those folks who claim Glenn Beck is a Krazy Konservative Kook and that they never listen to him actually believe this. In fact, I imagine that if you posed the general public the question "do you listen to Glenn Beck?" you'd get an inverse Woodstock answer -- just as Woodstock would've had 30,000,000 in attendance if everyone who claimed he was there actually was there, the avowed Beck listeners would probably measure in the low thousands (you know, right around Keith Olbermann territory before he got canceled) (sorry, couldn't resist). Maybe not, but declaring yourself an out-and-proud Beck fan takes either a very sympathetic environment or some decent-sized stones.

Which leads to 2) one of my pet ideas, that leftism (in the guise of "liberalism") advances because leftists are generally such shrill, shrewish, nasty people. They can say anything they damn well please around conservatives, but any conservative who speaks his mind around a leftist will quickly find himself hauled up in front of Human Resources. Claiming "I don't like Glenn Beck" and/or "I never listen to Glenn Beck" is one way for cube-farm conservatives to throw their office's Kommissars off the scent.

So, yeah, they're angling to be counted as "good conservatives" or "not one of that kind of conservatives." It could be cowardice or closet liberalism or both (e.g. John McCain); it could also be a pragmatic move by people who just want to do their jobs and not have to argue about g*ddamn politics all the f*cking time at the workplace --with all the career risk that entails.

(not that this has ever happened to me, of course).

philmon said...

Good points, all.

As usual.

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jeffmon said...

Ah, Ben Gleck. I can't stop calling him by that name since he used it in Arguing with Idiots.

I dig him. He does a good job of finding out the connections that exist in collectivist circles, and warning of likely outcomes.

Sometimes the tone of the show (and strongly reinforced by advertisers selling gold and such) suggests that these likely outcomes are inevitable, especially if you just drop in from time to time. You know, the 'Sound Bites' that are so popular these days.

I don't think Ben believes in their inevitability, and in fact wants to raise an alarm so we will take the appropriate action to prevent these outcomes.

My goal is to make the gold buyers lose their fortunes when the dollar comes roaring back. I'll be able to trade a sack of empty beer cans for a nice gold chain for the little woman.

philmon said...

I hope you're right, because I ain't got no gold. Well, a little in my 403B "portfolio", such that it is -- but probably not enough to get excited about.

I read "Arguing With Idiots". Surprisingly, the Progressive Son thought it was funny and said he mostly agreed with it.

This is when you pop your eyes wide open at him and throw your arms and open palms out in that "ok, then, how should this alter your worldview?" sort of way.

I don't remember the "Ben Gleck" bit. Was that something he told us to call him to throw off the Progressives and wimpy "conservatives" who faint in horror (or just explode) at his name?

jeffmon said...

He's the author of the Adventures in Capitalism comics, beginning on page 12.