Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Milbank's Bunk on Beck

It's easy to argue with someone who's consistently wrong. It's a bit tougher when someone is randomly wrong – i.e. wrong part of the time and right part of the time, in a chaotic way. An example is a column in Sunday's paper by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post (that should light up the caution light right there). He starts with what is supposed to be a startling pronouncement: “It's official: Americans admire Glenn Beck more than they admire the pope.” And this is a surprise? -- given that outfits like the Washington Post do a hatchet job on the pope, the Vatican, and the Catholic Church every chance they get... and that this country is still dominated by the Protestant mind set, and has had a wide stream of anti-Catholicism running through it from the beginning. Frankly, I would be amazed if Glenn Beck _weren't_ more popular than the pope – since he at least appeals to many of the qualities and motivations that made this country... um... great. Or whatever. There is no doubt that Beck is – as Mr. Milbank says -- a demagogue, and that he capitalizes on the paranoia of the powerless – i.e. of “Mr. And Mrs. America” -- i.e. of the beleaguered middle class, the folks who live in “flyover country” and who are forever being made fun of by the cultural elites and ignored by politicians. However – and this is one of the many points Milbank misses – this paranoia is, as I have so often pointed out, perfectly justified. There really is a war being waged, by the cultural elites, on the American middle class, and its values, lifestyle, and most of all its prosperity. Anyone who denies this must be living on the Moon – or working for the Washington Post, which amounts to the same thing. As the old bumper-sticker saying goes, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.” And this could readily apply to Beck's listening and viewing audience. Yes, he's making money from their fears... but their fears are real, and he's not making them up out of whole cloth. Is it ethical to take people's justifiable fears and magnify them, and reflect them back onto the fearful? Might as well ask if politics in general is ethical – or journalism. Or “muck raking”. Sometimes in the interest of social change the extent and severity of a problem has to be exaggerated a bit – or at least presented in pure form (the way pictures of the Depression are always presented in black and white – so as to reduce the chances of anyone saying, or thinking, “Yes, but...”). Do I always present the alternative, more benign and optimistic, point of view in this blog? Heck no – we have the entire MSM to do that job.

So what I'm saying is that Milbank is not totally right about Beck, and not totally wrong either. But another point he is missing is that Beck's so-called scare tactics, or extremism, may in fact be a clever way to prevent, or sidetrack, the threats he is pointing out. What I mean is this. Let's say you have reason to believe that the administration – any administration – is planning some action or program that will severely erode the rights and liberties of the citizenry (more than they are already eroded, that is). The evidence might be a bit on the thin side, but there are indications... warning signs. So you break the story in a “what if”, “this might be happening”, “could be” manner. The MSM get up in arms, administration personnel wax indignant, and you're called a paranoid freak, a rabble-rouser, a demagogue, etc. But! Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, or the CIA, or the FBI, someone is saying, "Oh man, they're onto us, this isn't going to be as easy as we thought, it's too late to sneak this through under cover of night, maybe we'd better put it aside for a while." Thus – incursion on freedom prevented (for the time being). But try ever proving it! It's impossible. Just as it is impossible to prove a negative, it's difficult if not impossible to prove that something didn't happen because of something someone said, or did. (Heck, we have a hard enough time establishing cause and effect for the things that did happen, right in front of our noses.) So... maybe Glenn Beck can never prove that he had any impact on current events, but who can say? And isn't it better to have him around in any case, just in case he's right once in a while, but also to put the powers that be on the defensive?

Milbank also criticizes Beck for overuse of the Hitler card – an ironic criticism from a liberal, since their stock in trade has, for decades, been calling anyone they don't care for “a Hitler” and calling any group they don't care for “Nazis” or “fascists”. But, as usual, the rules change when things turn around the other way. (He also considers it a criticism that Beck has been compared to Father Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy – two of my heroes. Oh well... ) And, he pushes the myth that “He (Beck) single-handedly brought down Obama advisor Van Jones over the official's far-left past.” As I have (I hope) proven in a previous post, it was the Regime – including Obama – that threw Jones under the bus for having shown an interest in the “9-11 truth” movement; if it had had anything to do with left-leaning tendencies, most of the Obama administration would have had to leave... including Obama himself.

And Beck came out against the scores of “policy czars” that Obama has put on the payroll? That's considered radical? I guess if he criticized the spoils system that would be considered radical as well.

Anyway – Beck is what I like to call “strong medicine”, and strong medicine is just what people are seeking these days. They have, day after day, to watch the world they were born into -- and feel they have a right to remain in -- collapse before their eyes... while they are made to feed on the bland platitudes coming out of the White House and Congress... and anyone with a grain of sense knows that those platitudes bear no relation to reality. They know that nothing is as it seems, and that there are not only conspiracies afoot, but there is a war on, and the enemy is them. So they run to Beck, who offers medicine that would be much too strong for normal times... but these are not normal times. In the meantime, people like Milbank insist that these _are_ normal times, and what are all these right-wing nut cases complaining about? What is the problem, since liberals finally have the world they have always wanted -- or are soon about to get? Anyone who is skeptical, or who withholds approval, must be a reactionary... and anyone who reinforces reactionary attitudes must be a counter-revolutionary... and we all know what happens to counter-revolutionaries in "people's republics".

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