Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Attacks on Glenn Beck Don't Make Sense

I am frankly still making up my mind about what to think about Glenn Beck. I don't watch TV except a few excerpts from shows that appear on blogs so I have barely heard him speak more than a few times. But I do admire anybody who uses a chalkboard on TV and I especially admire anybody who riles up liberal elititists so effortlessly. I think he is in Jim Wallis' head and I think he alternates with Sarah Palin in Barack Obama's nightmares. But the flimsiness and totally off base attacks on him from the liberal media make me suspect that he is more than a mere entertainer. Whatever he is or is not, they don't seem to understand him.

A case in point is this hit piece by Al Hunt at Bloomberg News. Hunt tries to tie him to Father Coughlin and Fascism and in the process demonstrates his gob-smacking ignorance of history, Father Coughlin and Fascism all at once. If this is the best they have to use on Beck, they haven't got anything. Hunt writes:

Glenn Beck, at his successful “Restoring America” rally in Washington, wrapped himself in the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. He fits much better with another religious-political figure, the late Charles E. Coughlin, the Catholic priest who led a populist-right crusade against President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s.

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. . . .

Beck has brilliantly parlayed his pitch to fame and fortune. More than the other right-wing talk show provocateurs, Beck’s devotees see him as a teacher. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah, calls him a “great educator.” He’s likely to energize some of his following to help Republicans in the November congressional elections.

Yet the Coughlin parallel remains instructive. The priest was brought down when it became apparent his gospel was based less on faith and hope than on fear and prejudice. This also is why the Glenn Beck gospel won’t appeal to most Americans or endure politically.

Notice the Marxist analysis: Beck's whole appeal can be explained away by reference to economic factors. One wonders if Hunt even knows that he is utilizing a Marxist theory based on materialism and economic determinism. Robert Wargas at NewsReal Blog has little difficulty showing the complete failure of the Beck-Coughlin comparison.

Even a superficial knowledge of Charles Coughlin is enough to dispel Hunt’s theory straight away. Coughlin was essentially an American spokesman for European fascism, an anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist firebreather who believed, as did Hitler, that Jewish bankers were behind everything from the Russian Revolution to the crust you find in the corner of your eyes when you wake up.

False comparisons between fascists and conservatives usually arise from a tendency to regard both as “right wing.” Since the term “right wing” has, historically, been the victim of far more imprecise usage than “left wing,” it remains an amorphous grab-bag into which leftists dump whatever views they don’t like so they can bask in their inability to make distinctions.

Coughlin represented a peculiar political breed that is largely dead nowadays but that was burgeoning noticeably in the interwar period. His views combined extreme racist nationalism with anti-capitalist economics. Such a combination of views is indicative of, to a greater or lesser degree, fascism. There is much more to fascism than this, but one can tell a lot by these two views alone.

Beck is a classical 19th century liberal (i.e. a believer in economic freedom or capitalism) and a big supporter of Israel and opponent of anti-semitism. Sounds just like Coughlin and Hitler, right? Wrong. Classical Liberalism is what both Fascism and Communism must destroy in order to take over. Wargas elaborates on Coughlin:

Though he initially supported Franklin Delando Roosevelt, Coughlin grew tired of what he believed was FDR’s subordination to business interests. An acid-tongued populist, Coughlin pushed for welfare benefits for the poor that far exceeded Roosevelt’s New Deal. He even started a newspaper that focused on this fight for national restructuring.

He called his paper “Social Justice.”

Oh, there is a delicious little irony - can anyone imagine Beck entitling his newspaper "Social Justice?" Well, maybe Al Hunt can; he seems to have a fertile imagination that he uses to bash conservatives instead of historical facts and a basic understanding of political theory. But when you are out to play to the liberal gallery, this sort of rot apparently will do just fine. Wargas again:

Today, we have been fooled into thinking that racism equals right-wing and therefore capitalism, and that tolerance equals leftism and therefore socialism. This distinction has never been true. Racists throughout history have been both socialist and capitalist and everything in between. Socialism’s sordid history regarding racial matters can even be seen in the writings of its secular high priest, Karl Marx.

Moreover, what is consistently left out of any discussion of fascism is that it was originally culled from the body of socialist thought. Mussolini was, in his younger years, a leftist who imbibed the work of Georges Sorel and Vilfredo Pareto. Hitler spends the entire first section of Mein Kampf railing against the plight of the Viennese worker and constructing a worldview based on fighting “Jewish” economic hegemony.

In reality, Fascism is a dead ideology today. To the extent that anything resembling it exists today, one would need to look at contemporary liberalism, or as Jonah Goldberg terms it, liberal fascism. And if there is anything Beck is against, it would be that.


D. Chambers said...

Hi Dr. Carter,

I enjoy Beck from time to time. But when you get to the bottom of his 'gospel' he is more of a deist as
well. He is really devoted to the Founding Father's America's notion of everything including religion. Basically he beliefs in the one creator with inviolable natural laws that all men can follow regardless of their religions. Thus for him religion is ultimately irrelevant since both the atheist Thomas Paine and Penne Juliette can be followers of this system as Christians. They are all children of God who will be accountable to the Creator (who goes by different names to different faiths)

Craig Carter said...

I don't think Beck has much of a contribution to make as a theologian. I am only considering him as a political figure despite his "God and country" theme at his rally.
Dr. C.