The Dish event between Glenn Beck and Eliot Spitzer did not go well for the former Governor. Despite weeks of painstaking preparation, Spitzer managed to lose badly to Glenn who wore a t-shirt and drew charts on his hand in sharpie. Clearly still steaming after the loss, he tried to save face on a liberal site, but failed once again.
“I wasn’t going to say anything until he wrote in Slate how, you know, he tried to engage me backstage and tried to talk to me about facts and I didn’t have any facts. No, Elliot. I don’t care. I don’t care about my little conversation with you. I was clawing my eyes out to get away from you,” Glenn said.
Stu tried to step in and defend Spitzer to an extent, saying, “Okay, you know. Look. He’s a guy who’s on Current. He’s trying to get attention for his show. You know, good for him. Good for him.”
The passion they summon for their anti-government rhetoric is based on a strong emotional need to channel a visceral anger against the state of the world—and the government has become the perfect target for their ire. What transforms their anti-government views into a form of bizarre patriotism is the way they turn the founders of the nation into paragons of virtue. They say that if only we had remained true to the virtues of the founders, things today would be all right.
I tried to counter their views in three ways. First, by disagreeing with their underlying and pervasive pessimism about the state of the world with what I think is a well-founded view that things, when viewed in the grand arc of history, are actually pretty good. At an ideological level, we are winning the larger global battles, and even if things are tough economically now, it is primarily because a greater and greater percentage of the world is participating in a market-based capitalist system that will create economic growth and relative peace in the long run. Second, by using facts, I tried to show that their attacks on President Obama’s policies are simply wrong—their rather bizarre libertarian views about the role of government and the economy simply don’t hold up under the slightest scrutiny. And third, I tried to show how our current politics and even the individual mandate for health insurance do in fact fit neatly into the vision of the nation as embodied by the Founding Fathers and our Constitution.
The result, quite frankly, was to convince not a single member of their camp. Perhaps that is not surprising, given the rather fractured and polarized nature of our politics, but it was troubling to me. Facts simply bounced off those who are in need of the psychological support offered by the Beckian world view.
“The reason why I bring this up is twofold. One, this is exactly what’s happening in the White House today. It was a clear route. I came in a T shirt and jeans and a pen that I wrote a chart on my hand. You came with all your charts and everything else and you got your ass kicked. That’s what happened. And you just can’t figure it out. And so it can’t be something that you are unplugged with. It has to be something wrong with the audience. He says in this deal, ‘I couldn’t convince a single Beckian. They all need psychological help.’ Uh huh. You know what’s really funny, Elliot, is the number of people that came there that were your fans. Believe it or not there were some there,” Glenn said.
“The people who were booing me at the beginning were – and Stu watched it. A ton of my people said that they saw it. The people who were booing me at the beginning were clapping below their – you know, in between their knees. They didn’t want to be seen on camera. They were clapping for me, Elliot, not for you. And why? I talked to them. I told the truth and they said – they came up to me and said, I hate to say this, I can’t believe I’m saying this to you, but I really enjoyed that. And I kind of agree with you on some of these things.”
“I talked to a guy who was atheist and he’s like, ‘Look, man, I don’t agree with you on the God thing,’ blah, blah blah. And we had a great conversation. Elliot, you didn’t convince anybody. You know why? Because you’re wrong. You’re wrong. And you say there’s no facts? “Glenn just pulls out these historical quotations that are completely irrelevant and disjointed.” Really? For a question on why do we even have the parties? How good are the parties doing us any good? The random quotation that was just in a machine, just kind of spit out, it makes no sense to quote George Washington’s farewell address, where he specifically says get away from the parties, that’s random and incoherent? Are you kidding me?”