A few months back on my blog at Glennbeck.com, I promised a more detailed deconstruction of the horrible piece about Glenn in The Weekly Standard, a theoretically conservative publication that used its pages to take unfair shots at Glenn for no discernable reason. Let’s start with their evidence of Glenn as a dangerous conspiracy theorist, and you decide if their reporting was fair.
For Beck, conspiracy theories are not aberrations. They are central to his worldview. They are the natural consequence of assuming that the world hangs by a thread, and that everyone is out to get you. On his television program, Beck promised to "find out what’s true and what’s not with the FEMA concentration camps"— referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency…
Only someone intentionally trying tomislead the audience would tell this story this way. In fact, dozens of Liberals have done so. The Weekly Standard either prowled liberal blogs or did the misleading homework themselves, but neither way excuses it.
Glenn likely did say at some point that he would "find out what’s true and what’s not with the FEMA concentration camps." He also said basically the same thing on the radio when a caller first brought them up:
Have somebody research the FEMA camps. I don’t believe the FEMA camps thing. Be very careful of the FEMA camps. I’ll look into it. I’ll see what we can, but I will tell you that I don’t buy into FEMA camps.
Glenn is on record, the first time this ridiculous conspiracy theory was mentioned to him on the air, saying he doesn’t believe it. No one reports that, of course. Regardless, some will say "he shouldn’t even have mentioned it.
Bringing up a conspiracy theory like this just gives it credibility." But as Glenn has said on the air, we no longer live in a world where CBS News gets to pick the information that everyone sees. The FEMA camp video was posted on YouTube and had, not a few hundred, or a couple thousand, but close to two million views. You can certainly argue that Glenn shouldn’t have mentioned this conspiracy, but when millions of people watch and believe something on the internet, there’s a good argument to be made to address it. Furthermore, there’s a lot of debate on the best way to handle conspiracies.
The Obama administration’s regulatory czar Cass Sunstein argues in his academic writings that the best way to dismantle conspiracy theories, like those related to 9-11, is to address more of them, rather than less. Does this make him a 9-11 truther? Of course not (Obama would never hire more than one truther-czar per four year term).
Others have said if you’re going to address a conspiracy theory, you have to immediately dismiss it, while citing one of Glenn’s promotional appearances on the topic. That strategy would beat odds with James Meigs from Popular Mechanics /i>magazine—author of the definitive book debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories:
We’re waiting to do a definitive deep dig on this, we don’t like to come out and say ‘oh well, we’ve debunked it’ after looking at it for two days, but… from our early reporting it looks like a classic conspiracy theory. Little grains of truth, but all adding up to something that isn’t true.
When did Meigs say that? On a little program called "Glenn Beck" on the Fox News Channel, as he promoted his segment on the FEMA conspiracy.
What you might have missed if you only read The Weekly Standard was that we worked with Popular Mechanics to find out the truth and report it, which amounted to quite a thorough debunking over two days. We spent valuable time and resources hammering holes in widely circulated conspiracy theories, which until that point had no real debunking on record. Now, when someone goes to YouTube the truth is available…with evidence.
We sent a camera crew out to the location. We showed that the facility in the video really was an Amtrak repair center, where trains—not people—were imprisoned. The camera crew was thanked by the Amtrak employees who were sick of people coming by to "uncover" something at their workplace. We showed the scary looking gates at the entrance were nothing more than subway turnstiles and an outdated time card system that no longer exist. We showed that the apparatus used for the supposed gassing of prisoners was actually just a heating system upgrade. We showed that the boarded up windows were actually just part of old buildings that were knocked down 15 years ago.
And we even showed a supposed prison camp in the U.S.—then proved that they actually were prison camps… in North Korea.
How does The Weekly Standard summarize all of that?
Beck later acknowledged that his staff could not find any evidence for such camps.
That’s it. No mention of the 20 minutes of national television spent over two days to close the case once and for all that this video was a bunch of useless inaccurate junk. Just "his staff could not find any evidence"—leaving the impression that Glenn’s theory was shot down against his will —when it was his will to shoot down the lies in the first place. But, The Weekly Standard doesn’t mention the extensive debunking –even in passing.
Of course, The Weekly Standard also could have mentioned that many give Glenn credit (or blame as the case may be) for ending the campaign of a Republican candidate running for Governor in Texas who wouldn’t disassociate herself with 9/11 conspiracytheories in an interview. They also could have mentioned that Glenn is on record calling the birther conspiracy theory "the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard." But they didn’t bother with that, because it didn’t fit their lazy reporters’ preconfigured opinion.
I guess the only explanation is that Illuminati were working with the neo-Whig-party to plant the author at The Weekly Standard.
But, there was much more in the article. While criticizing Glenn for being a conspiracy theorist, The Weekly Standard pushes a lazy conspiracy of its own: that Glenn’s worldview is being controlled by a dead guy who wrote a book he likes.
Glenn Beck is a Skousenite. During the "We Surround Them" program, he urged his audience to read Skousen’s 5000 Year Leap (1981), for which he has written a foreword, and The Real George Washington (1991)… More controversially, Beck has recommended Skousen’s Naked Communist (1958) and Naked Capitalist (1970), which lay out the writer’s paranoid scenarios in detail. The latter book, for example, draws on Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope (1966), which argues that the history of the 20th century is the product of secret societies in conflict.
This critique was lifted from a boringly self-important Liberal author who put this theory into a book and sold— I kid you not—664 total copies in its entire first month of release. A complete and utter failure. I find it difficult to bother addressing this argument considering the lack of a comma in total sales, but the idea that Glenn’s worldview is the result of being a "Skousenite" is nothing but lazy. If anything, he’s a "5,000-Year-Leap-ite."
Approximately 99 percent of the time Glenn has spent talking about Skousen have been spent talking about the 5,000 Year Leap. That’s (almost exclusively) the Skousen book he refers to, loves, and recommends. I’ve heard Glenn mention The Naked Capitalist a few times, mainly speaking of it as a period piece that criticized Quigley, a professor of Bill Clinton’s that Clinton called a big influence on him. Yet, the book Glenn barely mentions gets more ink than the book he’s constantly recommended. Why?
The answer is obvious. The Weekly Standard couldn’t find anything wrong with The 5,000 Year Leap, so they essentially skipped it. The fact that Glenn loves The 5,000 Year Leap doesn’t mean his worldview is formed by Skousen; it means his worldview is formed by the Founding Fathers.
But surely, a conservative bastion like The Weekly Standard wouldn’t criticize Glenn for his critiques of progressivism…right?
The policies that progressivism generates may be counterproductive. Its view of the Constitution may betray the Founders.’ Nevertheless, progressivism is a distinctly American tradition that partly came into being as a way to prevent ideologies like communism and fascism from taking root in the United States.
This paragraph is a mess. First of all, it’s not a "distinctly American tradition." Woodrow Wilson described this form of government in 1886 as "not of our making; it is a foreign science. . . It has been developed by French and German professors."
But the more important point is - who cares if progressivism is a distinctly American tradition? What does citing the country of origin of a damaging philosophy do to sanitize it? Spam (the meat, not the mail) is distinctly American too. Saying Spam is American is not a good argument when people complain that you made it the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner.
And finally, how does forming an ideology that pushes vast government control of your life "prevent" vast government control of your life? It’s like saying George W. Bush’s prescription drug entitlement was formed to prevent expanding government entitlements. Or better yet—it’s like telling your wife "Yes, I hooked up with my secretary, but I only did so to prevent a future stripper-orgy from taking root in my hotel room."
By attacking progressivism, Beck is taking on a big idea. He is forcing people to question their assumptions. He is introducing new thinkers to the reading public. But he is also engaging in a line of inquiry that—interesting though it may sometimes be—is tangential to the political realities of our day.
Unlike much of the piece, this is legitimate philosophical critique. In other words, talking about the historical basis of the philosophy of the opposition doesn’t help us win the 4th district of Georgia, so why bother? If you’re solely focused on winning elections for Republicans, this sort of criticism of Glenn makes some sense—although there are approximately 632 trillion people already doing that kind of radio and television, so I’m not sure why there isn’t room for Glenn too.
Here, then, are the two faces of the Tea Party. They look in different directions. They appeal to different audiences. They have different goals, different methodologies, different prescriptions…One imagines the Rick Santelli face could be easily integrated into a conservative Republican party, with an affirmative agenda of spending cuts, low taxes, entitlement reform, and free trade.
Oh, so the Santelli face is defined by "spending cuts, low taxes, entitlement reform, and free trade", but the Glenn Beck face is one of "conspiracy," "disturbing conclusions" and "nonsense." But why? Glenn is only defined that way because that’s how you’ve chosen to define him. To do so, you have to ignore the fact that Glenn has preached the benefits of spending cuts, low taxes, entitlement reform, and free trade endlessly. And, certainly no criticism of CNBC’s Rick Santelli intended, but Glenn has spoken to far more people, far more often, with far more impact. Read Glenn’s chapter about health care, or guns, or capitalism from (#1 NY Times bestseller) Arguing with Idiots for example. Would you say they’re loaded with conspiracy, disturbing conclusions, or nonsense? (Liberals, don’t answer the last two.)
All of this (combined with my initial complaint of presenting an obvious joke of Glenn’s as serious commentary, by selectively editing out the comedic elements) proves an intent to smear. My critique on The Weekly Standard piece isn’t really a commentary on epistemic closure; it was mainly a critique of journalistic failure. It’s not just that the author made bad points, it’s that he made bad points badly.
I expect that from MSNBC. Not from The Weekly Standard.
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