31 August 2010

My problem with Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck's entire shtick is weepy demagoguery -- telling his viewers that Barack Obama "has a deep-seated hatred of white people," rhetorically asking why there are so many "Maoists" hanging around the White House, and comparing myriad Obama policies to Nazi Germany and/or the Soviet Union.

While I think Obama has been a terrible president, I can hardly call him a Stalinist -- at least not until he locks up and kills 30 million people -- which if you listen to Beck, might happen tomorrow.

It just doesn't take any skill or insight to impugn the motives and defame the character of a public figure. Beck has no substantive policies that he supports on his show -- in fact, you can say this about virtually every TV talking head. The difference between Beck and the rest of the bunch is that Beck isn't content to merely proselytize for an hour a day. He is trying to lead a revolution.

Beck and Sarah Palin have taken a page from each other's book -- they throw out tinny, cliched lines that while they may not expressly state what they're implying, play on their devotees' worst fears -- that Obama is a Muslim, that he wasn't born in America, that he wants the government to take over the entire economy, that he sympathizes with far-left revolutionaries, that he wants to turn us into a Soviet dictatorship. They strike chords that resonate with certain folks, invoking God, country and liberty, which makes them comfortable, admirable, familiar figures. Beck and Palin wrap themselves in the flag and talk about divine providence because they think that's what their viewers want to hear. (Of course, the liberties they cite don't ever include the Fourth, Fifth or Sixth Amendments, nor do they include the patently unconstitutional war powers the Bush administration claimed after 9/11. The reason? Because they know taking true civil libertarian positions would be unpopular with their fans.)

On the other hand, Beck is particularly absurd because Beck claimed that "This is the beginning of the end of darkness. We have been in darkness a long time." I have no idea what in the hell this means, or when this darkness started. To the contrary, I think America has walked out of darkness if nothing else -- in the last 50 years, we've outlawed both public and private segregation, increased upward mobility for women, drastically reduced tax rates under Reagan, and risen to the top of the global heap as the world's only superpower. How can anyone look at the last 40 years of American history and conclude that God has it in for America, as Beck implies?

And where has America's honor gone, Mr. Beck? When did it leave? Did America not fight the Cold War with honor and resolve? Did we not stand with honor against Saddam Hussein's advances in the Persian Gulf in 1991? Was a Democratic administration not honorable in declaring "the era of big government is over" and balancing the federal budget? And what precisely was dishonorable about George W. Bush? He may have been a bad president, but he was a fundamentally good man.

You see, Glenn Beck can't answer these questions -- because there are no good answers. He simply preys on the fears and insecurities of his viewers to shout about liberal fascism (never mind that's actually an oxymoron) and warn that armageddon is nigh.

Perhaps, Beck's inability to answer these questions is because, prior to becoming an icon, he was a complete mess -- an erratic junkie, deep into drugs, who knew nothing about politics and made a fool of himself on any number of radio stations. It wasn't until the mid-1990s that Beck got clean and began his foray into reading about politics. He tried college and couldn't hack it. He was a top-40 radio DJ until at least 1999. And by 2003, he fancied himself leading the next great revolution in American politics? Please. He's the classic emperor with no clothes.

In August 1998, as he began to moonlight as a political commentator on Clear Channel (while still maintaining his day job as a top-40 DJ), Beck had this to say about the man who would carry out the greatest atrocity in American history a little more than three years later:

A paper in Pakistan received a letter from the spokesperson from, uh ... Asma ... Asma Bin-Lay-deen? Is that his name? Bin Lay-deen? Bin Jelly Bean Green Bean? Mr. Clean? I love him. He's hot. He says he's ready for war with the U.S. Oh, yes. Thank you, Mr. Baked Bean. Loosen the turban! Mr. Clean, Dig-my-scene. Oh, yes! Look at the latrine ...

Insightful, no?

The other thing that drives me insane is that Beck is the ultimate conservative culture warrior. His first marriage ended in a drug-filled haze, and it wasn't until he was married a second time in 1999 that he found Mormonism. So, this talking head who allowed his first marriage to die in divorce, wants to drag "secular" liberals through the mud and scream about God, faith, country and honor?

It's the same thing with many other conservative icons -- Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich have seven marriages between them -- but they aren't trying to lead a cultural revolution.

Beck also cites his faith to his legions of followers as reason to anoint him the leader of their movement, but even that is tenuous. The hallmark of Christianity is Christ as true God and man, the lone savior of the human race and the sole path to heaven. Most Mormons don't believe that at all.

So Beck is using his membership in a cult that has perverted the very nature of Christianity to call himself "Christian" and attempt to identify himself as the average Joe. Mormons believe in a host of extra-biblical teachings, the preeminent ones being found in the Book of Mormon, which was written in the 1850s by church founder Joseph Smith. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture and equal in authority to the Bible. Mormons also believe that the character and life of Jesus Christ is attainable by anyone who performs at a righteous level. This is as fundamentally un-Christian as it gets. The entire message of the gospel is human sinfulness, which shows us our need for a Savior and demonstrates God's gift of salvation through Christ alone. So for Beck to espouse his own Christianity as a member of the Mormon church is absurd. If he wants to do this, he needs to disassociate himself from the Mormon church. I'm not attempting to judge what Beck personally believes -- I'm simply citing the basic teachings of the modern Mormon church, of which Beck claims to be a member.

These are examples among many others -- too many to count -- that show Beck's utter hypocrisy and make the idea of Beck as a culture warrior and American revolutionary so preposterous. He is a snake-oil salesman laughing all the way to the bank.

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