Monday, September 6, 2010

Pillering Beck

I often end up running Beck's TV show in the background while I work, not least because of the deplorable alternatives of TV programming in general.  As a strong proponent of free markets,  I believe I understand his general proposition.  More often then not I'm enthralled at the ability of a person to provide 4 hours of public programming a day, and I can only imagine the number and structure of the staff required to research and provide content while remaining current.

Once a week he reviews one of the Constitution founders.  He has a penchant for reviewing famous historical Americans and placing them in context with current landscapes.  I marvel at his ability to give history lessons and hold such a large audience.

It is equally fascinating to see pundits from both the right and left generally give him a failing grade.  The left is especially motivated in this regard since the self-described libertarian views progressivism as an insidious philosophy that ultimately leads to societal ruin.  That I whole heartedly agree gives me a sympathetic ear.

Albert Hunt at Bloomburg offers a typical bashing of Beck.  It is by any account a purposefully negative caricature, pretending to be rational journalism.  Hunt, like Georgetown (that bastion of free market thought) professor Michael Kazin,  favors comparing Beck to the Jew hating Charles E. Coughlin, the Catholic priest who led a populist-right crusade against President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s:
Beck, 46, dismisses these comparisons, citing their differences. Yet substitute Coughlin’s animus for Jews, communists and Franklin Roosevelt for Beck’s toward Muslims, socialists and Barack Obama and the similarities seem greater.
Never mind that Coughlin was a priest, eventually silenced by the Catholic church.  Beck is bound by neither.  But Hunt is just getting started.  It seems Beck is a conspiracy theorist:
With Beck, conspiracies abound. The Democratic Party is “slowly but surely,” he charges, moving the U.S. “into a system of fascism.”
It is of course true that fascism is only one small step the political spectrum from socialism / communism, as Stalin and Hitler and Mao teach us.  And it is troubling that Progressives fail to appreciate that fact even as they nurture elitist bureaucratic control and world governments.  And it is true that any bureaucracy's power is directly inverse to citizen freedom, and that many Americans and historians view elitist control of the economy as remarkably similar to fascism.  Further, there is an ever growing alarm as every succeeding President, including Bush and now Obama, trample over the Constitution in ever more imperious fashion.  Surely no conspiracy theories need to be ascribed to grant these observations.  But never mind.

Hunt then goes on to describe Beck as a Muslim hating, anti-immigrant extremist obsessed with race who as a Mormon should not dare to question Obama's version of Christianity as personified by Jeremiah Wright.  Let us parse these accusations. 

In a world of sound bites, it is probably moot to mention that anyone who talks publically for 4 hours a day for almost a decade can be mis-represented by pulling random quotes.  In fact Beck rather tirelessly voices the right of anyone, including Muslims, to practice whatever religion or philosophy they wish.  He encourages people not to depend on his interpretations, but develop their own ideas regarding the principles upon which we govern our society.  He does have a particular aversion to violence, as most people do, and he does favor repeating the fact that it is the Left, not the Right, that in recent history has resorted to violence, and in many cases 'preaches' it.

And it is true that he has spent a great deal of time reviewing Obama's version of Christianity, devoting more than one program to liberation theology by inviting pastors, rabbis and priests to debate its origin, history and reconciliation with their particular religious thoughts.  And it can not be surprising that they find liberation theology has more in common with communism (in fact finds its origins there) than the precepts of traditional Judeo-Hellenic thought.  After all, that is the overwhelming opinion of secular historians as well.

Regarding the border with Mexico, Beck's reasoning is simple and arguably mirrors most border proponents; the country is made up of immigrants and forms the backbone of the country.  We desperately need immigration reform.  But there are millions of people illegally entering the country.  This is unfair to the folks who are entering the country legally to pursue the American dream.  We should therefore secure the border and then review our immigration policy.  The two steps must be accomplished in that order since any other combination incents more illegality, and have all failed.

It is a pretty simple argument that can only be viewed as racist or anti-immigrant through a very jaundiced eye.  One may disagree with pro-border proponents.  But surely they make a reasonable argument given the violence, kidnapping, drugs and weapons confiscated in the border states, and the potential for national security issues.  Equating secure borders with anti-immigration seems a logical fallacy which renders an irreconcilable divide in the language between Left and Right.  But painting the Right as racist or anti-immigration hardly makes it true no matter how often it is stated.

Beck's general position on race is that we ultimately do no good by continuing to view politics and society through the lens of majority and minority; it only extends animosities.  His 'obsession' with race is much derived by what he considers the Left's insistence on viewing and profiting from dividing the population into such sub-groups in order to hold and wield power.  His argument again is simple; we should govern by our principles and be judged by our character, not the color of our skin.  It is also his opinion that that was Martin Luther King's central message.  But Beck very audibly feels unworthy to presume so, and has invited MLK's followers, including his niece, on his program to give their opinion.  If that is an obsession with race, then it could be argued that it is a healthy one.

Lastly, it is popular for the Left to dismiss Beck by saying he is in favor of turning the country into a theocracy.  This assertion also illuminates the cultural gulf between the Left and many conservatives.  For Beck's central tenet is that the country, any country, must adhere to Judeo-Hellenic principles or face ultimate collapse.  He makes no apology for utilizing religious language to say it.  He reserves the right to intone his God on the principles of freedom of speech, and makes the point that society has been urged to keep their faith behind closed doors when there is no reason for it.

Only by equating our current society with 16th century Europe can Beck's oratory be equated with proposing theocracy.  It is purposeful misrepresentation of what he is saying.  Those in disagreement with Beck must debate the centrality of Judeo-Hellenic thought in the success of western societies, not whether we nominate a new version of the Pope.  One is a very legitimate discussion.  One is a straw man.

Hunt begins his smarmy article by saying:

Beck and King, the erudite civil-rights legend, share little in common. Beck and Coughlin share a great deal: as mesmerizing broadcasters able to articulate the anger and frustration of a flock frightened by economic hard times. 

I end my own Beck article by objecting to another favorite caricature by the Left voiced by Obama on several occasions;  the populace as a frightened, angry flock.  First, these words are straight out of Marx and Engels.  They are also elitist and arrogant.

Further, to many of us King was far more than a civil-rights legend.  His message of hope and love and respect based on spirituality was a clarion call not only to reconciliation and redemption, but in politics to a return to the basic precepts of honor and dignity of the human race.  King's civil rights message is a product of these views.  He was a preacher first, and a civil rights leader second.  He was an icon and to many of us, black or white, remains the most inspiring American of the twentieth century.  Beck very obviously sees the message behind King's marches and intuitively sees one cannot have one without the other.  It cannot be coincidence that the Left leaves King's niece, Dr. Alveda King, out of narratives of the "Restoring Honor" rally just as it prefers to leave King's religiosity out of his civil rights message.

In summary, Hunt and others like him are saying nothing smart.  They are also saying nothing that adds to any discussion.  If Beck intones religious language that makes some people uncomfortable, Hunt could at least acknowledge that the left intones much language that 'frightens' free market proponents.  Unfortunately, they've had to put up with that language from the MSM for decades now.

A more sympathetic ear must acknowledge that Beck approaches his topics and audience with sincerity, humbleness and heart-felt emotion.  Would that we could  expect the same from self-righteous elites like Hunt.

UPDATE: As illustration of the general point, What if he were a Tea-Partier?   If James Lee were a tea-partier, he would be page 1 news from now until November.  As it is, he's an Al Gore / Margaret Sanger violent eco-nut, so nothing to see there.  Move along. 

One does not need to be on either end of the political spectrum to see that the MSM is highly inconsistent.  It is not the most unimportant reason they are in financial trouble.

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