A Little Theory

People who have made a fair amount of money by selling ideas to others, and who are in positions of power and/or trust, are probably not fools. Even if they’re not actually good at doing what they’ve convinced people they’re good at doing, they’re certainly good at convincing people to trust them, pay them, or associate with them.

It’s very easy and very tempting to completely dismiss someone whose beliefs or practices you find odious, unethical, or preposterous. But most of the time, you don’t get to be rich and famous if you’re actually a fool. You get to be rich and famous by figuring out how to prey on people who desperately want to believe what you’re selling without seeming to them to be preying on them.

# Palin # Limbaugh # Beck # media # politics

Five people about whom you'd be happy to never hear again? Is that grammatically correct? Maybe -- Five people you'd be happy to never hear about again. Either way.
elledeau

This is six, rather than five. I hope six is ok.

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There are, of course, plenty of others … and these are easy targets. But I thought this would be a helpful starting place, as these six quite literally add nothing of value to public discourse.

# politics # questions # Bachmann # Palin # Limbaugh # Beck # media

Pretty much everything about this two-minute history lesson is wrong. And not just a little wrong, but bafflingly wrong. Germans and Italians are descendants of the Assyrians? The first American colonists were somehow connected to the Jewish diaspora? The Statue of Liberty is holding the Ten Commandments and is meant to evoke Moses receiving the Law?

I can only assume this stuff will soon be popping up in my Facebook feed and shortly thereafter be required under the next curriculum update in many states where Glenn Beck remains popuar.

# history # Beck # media # religion # sadness # education # teaching # politics # Judaism

Yesterday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, every young libertarian’s favorite politician and all-around-best-ever freedom-loving Wunderkind, Senator Rand Paul, appeared on Glenn Beck’s “news” program and found himself not only agreeing with Beck about the flood of polygamy we’re likely to soon experience, but going a step farther than Beck:

"I think this is the conundrum and gets back to what you were saying in the opening — whether or not churches should decide this. But it is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further. Does it have to be humans?
"You know, I mean, so there really are, the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation? Historically we did at the state legislative level, we did allow for some social mores to be part of it. Some of them were said to be for health reasons and otherwise, but I’m kind of with you, I see the thousands-of-year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit. I also see that economically, if you just look without any kind of moral periscope and you say, what is it that is the leading cause of poverty in our country? It’s having kids without marriage. The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say oh we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything."

I’d offer a whole bunch of my own thoughts on this statement, but Steve Benen at MSNBC’s Maddow Blog pretty much sums it up as well as anyone’s likely to do:

I realize there’s a “Stand With Rand” crowd that’s convinced the Kentucky Republican is a visionary when it comes to limited government, and I understand that much of the media establishment is eager for us to perceive him as a serious and credible person. But Rand Paul decided to chat with Glenn Beck, and during the interview the senator raised the prospect of marriage-equality proponents asking, “Does it have to be humans?”

It’s hard to imagine why I haven’t gotten super-excited about this guy yet.

Yesterday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, every young libertarian’s favorite politician and all-around-best-ever freedom-loving Wunderkind, Senator Rand Paul, appeared on Glenn Beck’s “news” program and found himself not only agreeing with Beck about the flood of polygamy we’re likely to soon experience, but going a step farther than Beck:

"I think this is the conundrum and gets back to what you were saying in the opening — whether or not churches should decide this. But it is difficult because if we have no laws on this people take it to one extension further. Does it have to be humans?

"You know, I mean, so there really are, the question is what social mores, can some social mores be part of legislation? Historically we did at the state legislative level, we did allow for some social mores to be part of it. Some of them were said to be for health reasons and otherwise, but I’m kind of with you, I see the thousands-of-year tradition of the nucleus of the family unit. I also see that economically, if you just look without any kind of moral periscope and you say, what is it that is the leading cause of poverty in our country? It’s having kids without marriage. The stability of the marriage unit is enormous and we should not just say oh we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything."

I’d offer a whole bunch of my own thoughts on this statement, but Steve Benen at MSNBC’s Maddow Blog pretty much sums it up as well as anyone’s likely to do:

I realize there’s a “Stand With Rand” crowd that’s convinced the Kentucky Republican is a visionary when it comes to limited government, and I understand that much of the media establishment is eager for us to perceive him as a serious and credible person. But Rand Paul decided to chat with Glenn Beck, and during the interview the senator raised the prospect of marriage-equality proponents asking, “Does it have to be humans?”

It’s hard to imagine why I haven’t gotten super-excited about this guy yet.

# Paul # politics # news # Beck # lgbtq # libertarians # animals # DOMA

The problem when someone goes on a killing spree in an elementary school definitely isn’t guns; it’s a culture that would create a protective case that lets a baby hold an iPhone.
But seriously, though, this makes complete sense: My son loves to look at pictures of his family on my iPhone so, when he’s three, we’re going to buy him an AR-15 … you know, to balance things out so he doesn’t turn into a mass murderer.

The problem when someone goes on a killing spree in an elementary school definitely isn’t guns; it’s a culture that would create a protective case that lets a baby hold an iPhone.

But seriously, though, this makes complete sense: My son loves to look at pictures of his family on my iPhone so, when he’s three, we’re going to buy him an AR-15 … you know, to balance things out so he doesn’t turn into a mass murderer.

# guns # Beck # sadness # media # Twitter # internet # politics

Can someone explain to me what this show next week could possibly be about?

An hour of political theatre? A live commercial for gold? Conspiracies, conspiracies, conspiracies?

Can someone explain to me what this show next week could possibly be about?

An hour of political theatre? A live commercial for gold? Conspiracies, conspiracies, conspiracies?

# Beck # Chicago # politics

Is Hope Lost for Principled Conservatism in America?

Like everyone else I know, I laughed about Jon Stewart’s most recent evisceration of Glenn Beck (on The Daily Show last night). It was amusing to see Beck’s failure to recognize that the “free books” from the library by which he claimed to educate himself are part of the progressive socialist conspiracy he despises.

But the most interesting part of the clip that Stewart showed from Beck’s CPAC performance came before the “free books” gaffe. As Stewart briefly pointed out, Beck seems not to have any idea what he’s talking about with regard to the difference between revolution and evolution on the question of progressivism. He suggests, in fact, that the two things are essentially the same, except that evolution happens slower and without guns.

And this is where things get really interesting for me, as the difference Beck is failing to highlight is an incredibly important one — for him. That is, what Beck should be trying to argue is that progressives in this country are proponents of revolution while conservatives in this country are proponents of evolution. The reason that he should be taking this position is that it’s Edmund Burke’s position in Reflections on the Revolution in France. As Burke stands at the head of modern conservatism and as Beck fancies himself the mouthpiece of American conservatism, it’s a position that Beck should almost certainly know about and find compelling.

Burke sets himself against proponents of the French Revolution, arguing not that progress is a bad thing but that everything depends on how progress is made. He’s not an opponent of extending freedom or liberty, for example, so long as we do so slowly, cautiously, and always with a view to our particular history. In particular, he cautions against the idea of the revolutionaries who were desirous of shattering the entire political edifice to entirely remake the world according to abstract philosophical principles. Conservatism, for Burke, isn’t about stagnation; it’s about making progress with one eye on our ancestry and our historical inheritance. Doing so, he argues, “leaves acquisition free; but it secures what it acquires.” In short, this is an evolutionary view of progress.

Of course, to tell a roomful of conservatives that they are evolutionists would likely have fallen flat. Or else he doesn’t know anything about Edmund Burke, the father of conservative political thought. So he decided that progressives are both revolutionists and evolutionists. What this means is that conservatives favor no change, under any circumstance. Not incremental change and not sweeping change. No change. Ever. Maybe this is what Glenn Beck believes and maybe a lot of his viewers actually agree with him. But I’d be surprised.

To my mind, all of this leads to one conclusion: Glenn Beck’s brand of conservatism — the one that is being sold by Fox News and consumed by a great many Americans today — is simply thoughtless conservatism, very different from the thoughtful, principled conservatism whose roots are in Burke’s writing. Beck and his ilk stand for an “I Want What I Want” version of conservatism whose proponents oppose progressive ideas that might benefit others while favoring the very same ideas when they stand to benefit themselves. This isn’t a political theory; it’s just selfishness. It’s not based on any broader ideas and its proponents see little difficulty in holding contradictory positions, like Beck’s abhorrence of communism and his happiness at benefiting from goods made available to him by the community.

It’s not at all clear how to engage in productive debate with those who hold to this way of looking at the world. The best hope is that those with honest conservative sentiments will avail themselves of the “free books” made available by communist institutions like the public library and learn how far off the tracks the conservative movement in this country is being steered by thoughtless conservatives like Glenn Beck.

# political science # philosophy # Beck # comedy # sadness # Burke

The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.

Here’s all I’m going to say on the matter:

These people were not even remotely concerned about tyranny when our government started shipping every available service-man and -woman to Iraq or Afghanistan, conducted wiretaps on citizens, and waterboarded suspected enemy combatants. But when an African-American is elected president and the retirement account starts declining or a family member loses his or her job, then “Some have gone so far as to stock up on ammunition, gold and survival food in anticipation of the worst.”

These “activists” thrive on rumor, innuendo, and a steady diet of Glenn Beck, who they first discovered when the dire economic situation permeated their consciousness:

With his guidance, they explored the Federalist Papers, exposés on the Federal Reserve, the work of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Some went to constitutional seminars. Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like ResistNet.com (“Home of the Patriotic Resistance”) and Infowars.com (“Because there is a war on for your mind.”).

[…]

It is a sprawling rebellion, but running through it is a narrative of impending tyranny. This narrative permeates Tea Party Web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube videos. It is a prominent theme of their favored media outlets and commentators, and it connects the disparate issues that preoccupy many Tea Party supporters — from the concern that the community organization Acorn is stealing elections to the belief that Mr. Obama is trying to control the Internet and restrict gun ownership.

WorldNetDaily.com trumpets “exclusives” reporting that the Army is seeking “Internment/Resettlement” specialists. On ResistNet.com, bloggers warn that Mr. Obama is trying to convert Interpol, the international police organization, into his personal police force. They call on “fellow Patriots” to “grab their guns.”

Mr. Beck frequently echoes Patriot rhetoric, discussing the possible arrival of a “New World Order” and arguing that Mr. Obama is using a strategy of manufactured crisis to destroy the economy and pave the way for dictatorship.

This is why so many of the Founders, a group these Tea Party extremists now love so well, were wary of factions and favored republican government rather than direct democracy. But, then, I’m guessing the majority of folks in the various factions that make up the Tea Part movement haven’t read Federalist 10. So here are some highlights:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

[…]

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

[…]

If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed. Let me add that it is the great desideratum by which this form of government can be rescued from the opprobrium under which it has so long labored, and be recommended to the esteem and adoption of mankind.

By what means is this object attainable? Evidently by one of two only. Either the existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time must be prevented, or the majority, having such coexistent passion or interest, must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control. They are not found to be such on the injustice and violence of individuals, and lose their efficacy in proportion to the number combined together, that is, in proportion as their efficacy becomes needful.

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

Apparently, Glenn Beck hasn’t gotten to his lesson on Madison yet or just decided to skip right to luminary thinkers like Ayn Rand.

Full article here. Federalist 10 here.

# democracy # political science # sadness # Beck # populism

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