Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trying really hard to understand Glenn Beck

I'm trying really hard to get Glenn Beck.  I'm trying really hard to understand where he is coming from and how he can say the things he says.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the types of things Mr.Beck says, here is a recent example from his on-line show called

Here a quote from the show: 

If you [the capitalists] think you can play footsies with these people [the Occupy Wall Street people], you're wrong. They will come for you, drag you into the streets, and kill you.
And also this little gem:

In the end, [the Occupy Wall Street People] will kill you.  [...] They will kill everybody.

That's right, Glenn Beck thinks that the Occupy Wall Street crowd is going to kill the capitalists of the world before going on to kill everybody.  Yep.  Everybody.

What can you say to a statement like that?  It's untrue and divisive at best.

What's his motive? What does he want to accomplish?  What does he want to happen?

Well, he is clear about how to deal with the protesters.

[It would be great if we could just get the government] to send in marines and tanks to stop it.
So, the best way to prevent the peaceful protesters from killing us all?  Send in the marines and tanks!

People like Mr.Beck often accuse the Occupy Wall Street movement of having no message.  Naomi Wolf actually took the time to solicit protesters on-line and asked them what they wanted.  This is what they said (in order of popularity):
  • Get the money out of politics
  • Reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation,
  • Draft laws against the loophole that allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
There is no call to violence, no screed against capitalism, just good sensible things that most sane people would readily agree to.  It's hard to imagine where Mr. Beck gets this "kill 'em all" from.

Mr. Beck's send-in-the-marines-and tanks approach is what we are seeing at the moment in Egypt.

Valiant pro-democracy advocates are throwing themselves up against the army's barricades. The army are aiming high with rubber bullets and people are losing eyes. Conventional bullets are breaking bones and killing.  And people are dying from inhaling an especially toxic brew of tear gas*.

As Khalid Abdalla said recently, "You cannot enforce stability. If you try and enforce stability, the cracks will be volcanic and they will melt you away."

Glenn Beck's solution would not make things better, but a lot lot worse.  When I see old ladies being pepper sprayed, or seated and peaceful students being pepper sprayed, or violent crackdowns on protesters, it doesn't make me want to be quiet because I fear those things might happen to me.  It has the opposite effect. It makes me angrier and want to be involved even more.

So what is Mr. Beck up to?  My best guess is that he has gained popularity by saying some outrageous things in the mould of Ann Coulter**, and is now riding the wave of a conspiracy-hungry, jingo-fuelled subculture of people who are frightened about what is happening to their country.

When Glenn Beck is an old man on his deathbed and is looking back at his life, is he going to look back at these statements with pride?  If he going to be happy that he called for tanks as a solution to quash peaceful protesters? Is he going to say "Yeah, me and Chinese Premier Li Ping had it right.  He thought tanks were a good way to deal with Tienanmen Square, just as I did with Liberty Plaza"

And just to be clear, burning effigies of people, putting a picture of some guy's head on a pike, and refusing John Lewis the right to speak is not cool and helps no one.

* Supplied by a company called Combined Systems based out of Jamestown, Pennsylvania
** Here's a classic Ann Coulter quote: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"

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