I like Bob Cesca. I read his blog, tune in to the Bob and Elvis Podcast now and again, and not infrequently leave comments praising his thoughtful and dedicated efforts to wedge a little bit of truth into the whirlwind of shit that has become political news in America.
Well…mostly vain attempts at humourous snark, but some praise.
His most recent article for HuffPo, however, leaves me wondering if he might be missing the forest for the tree.
Cesca has set himself what appears to me both a pointlessly simple AND Quixotic task – to “expose Glenn Beck”.
…I intend to expose Glenn Beck as a fraud. A dangerous faker who deliberately manipulates his audience by appealing to their basest instincts. As a man who only embraces conservatism and the tea party movement as a means to furthering his significant personal wealth and career as a successful TV goon.
Cesca compares Beck, at one point, to a pro wrestling show – a scripted performance geared to appeal to the target audience while being the furthest thing, despite the athleticism, from real sport (or in Beck’s case, real anything…news, politics, truth, fact, feeling, analysis, thought…)
There’s nothing difficult about establishing this comparison as accurate.
Beck has demonstrated his ability to cry on command. There are witnesses to his tears in rehearsal. He slogged around the Morning Zoo radio game for years, which is not where one looks first for sincerity.
The factual claims Beck makes are not only easily debunked, but are commonly debunked on a daily basis. Media Matters, Politifact, Snopes.com… Demonstrating that the things Glenn Beck says are frequently untrue at best, and ugly fantastic lies at worst is like falling out of boat – it’s pretty easy to get wet.
Bob is concerned that Beck’s audience is being misled, and that they are consequently making bad decisions based on bad information, and that’s bad for democracy. I hope it doesn’t sound mocking of me to say, “Well, DUH!”
Okay…fuck it. That did sound mocking. That’s because a poorly informed electorate is always bad for democracy and Beck is leading a parade of ignorance right down the middle of Main Street, so this observation is rather tautological, n’est pas, Cesca?
I’ll come back to this point in a roundabout way, but let’s leave it aside for a moment.
There are many reasons for a poorly informed electorate, and let’s be clear – the average American voter has their head jammed pretty damn far up their ass. It’s not mere ignorance, but some sort of stubborn willful blindness that’s both frustrating and awesome to behold.
But Glenn Beck isn’t responsible for that. He’s an emergent property – an exploiter of a niche – to be expected in such circumstances.
You can lay at least some of the blame at the feet of the entire corporate media world that continues to employ such blithering lipflaps as Wolf Blitzer and Jim Clancy, Joe Scarborough, John Stossel and a long, long list of yammering incompetents who don’t check facts, don’t do any fundamental research, spend all their time simply refereeing a vicious “he said – she said” back and forth between talking points, and representing that as balanced reportage.
Some of them think they’re doing real journalism – they aren’t. Some of them have an agenda, whether left or right, but they aren’t doing real journalism either for the most part. Glenn Beck is simply the far end of the bell curve, combining lies, fear-mongering and dramatic horseshit with strange voices and cartoonish delivery. His audience is also, for the most part, defined by a narrow segment at the far end of the curve. Sure, it includes some people who might be closer to a dangerous tipping point than the average bear, and his insane rhetoric may well push a few of them to act out. That’s a serious concern, but not the big part of the problem with the promotion of such thinking…or non-thinking, as the case may be.
A better question is this: Who benefits from a poorly informed electorate, and by what means do they ensure that they stay that way?
Back to Bob’s theory for a moment:
My theory is as follows. Glenn Beck is engaged in a carefully orchestrated performance that, if taken to its logical end, can only end up in tragedy — a tragedy, not in the name of some great political or social or religious cause, as too many of his viewers might believe, but rather in the name of pure careerism and greed. A tragedy in the name of Glenn Beck’s personal drive for fame and fortune, not to mention the similar motivations of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch. (emphasis mine)
This is where I think Bob is missing the forest.
Glenn Beck is certainly getting rich – richer, in fact, than any insane, diseased clown has a right to be for inflicting harm on society like some crazed drug dealer.
I doubt that Glenn Beck really BELIEVES he speaks for the little man, the silent majority, the forgotten America, the good old days…or whatever utterly deluded, fucked up facade he might present in his infantile notion of his place in American political discourse. Whether or not he considers himself a modern day Howard Beale, and the degree to which that’s a bastardization of the character from Network…none of that matters. Distinguishing Beck from the work of Paddy Chayefsky is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
In an utterly insignificant way, Cesca is perfectly right – Beck is simply exploiting the market to fill his pockets. But that’s the least of our problems.
There has been, in America, over the past 50 years, a largely successful attempt to implement the economic policies of Milton Friedman. The deregulation of capital, the elimination of the middle class, extreme concentration of wealth among the “elite” members of society, globalization…and all accomplished by wrapping terms like “economic growth”, “progress”, and a bunch of other greedy, jingoistic bullshit in the American flag. Somehow, the very policies that helped the rich get obscenely richer while the poor suffered the weight; the very policies that permitted, if not made inevitable, the recent (and perhaps soon to be repeated) economic collapse, were sold to the American public under a variety of names and in a plethora of shiny packaging.
Reaganomics, supply side, trickle down, what’s good for GM is good for America (how’s that Generally Motory thing workin’ out for ya?)
Who took (and kept) all that money? Who bore the burden? These questions have very plain answers, and I don’t think they are at all unrelated to Glenn Beck…which may seem a stretch, but bear with me a moment or three.
We’ve seen Chicago School Economic policies at work before. They were implemented by Augusto Pinochet in Chile, immediately after that DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED SOCIALIST Salvadore Allende was out of the way. (I trust those words have a familiar ring.)
Sadly, at least from the perspective of Friedman’s disciples, the means employed by Pinochet in Chile are rather beyond the pale for America. You can’t just start disappearing people in the United States…dragging them off to Madison Square Garden and torturing them, then dumping corpses into the Hudson as a lesson to others. But that doesn’t mean they have NO tools at their disposal.
There are certainly valid comparisons: The demonization of “The Left” – socialists, communists, “spreading the wealth”…sound familiar?
The attacks on ACORN – a small group of poorly funded community activists trying to get the poor registered to vote. It makes perfect sense, in a larger scheme, why taking that paltry little organization out of play would be important.
The things that are now commonly asserted about the poor, minorities and immigrants being responsible for the lack of jobs and increased taxes, when far more of the blame properly belongs to capital which finds greater profits by moving manufacturing to Vietnam, Indonesia and Mexico. Americans didn’t lose a single car plant to immigration, and those avocados in California were never going to be harvested by tea partiers in any event.
The propaganda spouted daily by Glenn Beck follows an eerily similar tone, vocabulary, structure and vibe – based largely on fear and ignorance – as what was written and said throughout South America in places like Chile, Argentina and Uruguay during those heady days when Kissinger was busy transforming the Western Hemisphere at the behest of vast agricultural and mineral capitalists – modern day robber barons.
Chomsky said, “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
Cesca has spent the past year valiantly pounding his head against his keyboard in support of health care reform. He, like all thinking people, has some trouble understanding how in the fuck anyone can come out and scream in protest to defend the vast profits of insurance companies over the ability of a sick child to see a doctor without putting their families in the street.
“It’s goddamn socialism! Keep the government off my Medicare!”
The disconnect is profound, ain’t it? In a country with socialized roads, water, sewer, army, navy, air force, coast guard, schools…providing a doctor to the sick amounts to some sort of communist plot to take over everything. And that’s the result of propaganda – lies…BIG lies…told repeatedly, until people believe them.
Tip o’ the hat, Herr Goebbels.
Health care was finally, narrowly, passed.
Is it single payer? No.
Does it include a public option? No.
Is it remotely…even REMOTELY anything like socialism? No.
And yet anyone who voted for it now receives death threats for being a secret Maoist out to Stalinize America, steal from the rich and destroy the very fabric of this once great nation.
With the election of Barack Obama, the incessant drive to a pure, unrestrained, free market, Friedman-style capitalism in America was…well, if not halted, at least slowed. The philosophy that no regulations were the best regulations suddenly had a few road blocks. Not many, mind you…and none of them all that severe in fact. But look at the politics surrounding economic policy.
The Republicans, having spent thirty years trashing the economy by deregulation of capital, cutting taxes for the rich, allowing big business and the financial industry to do as they wished and take immense risks with other people’s money, continue to argue that the ONLY way out of this mess is…further deregulation and lower taxes, slashing social spending, cutting the social safety net. We saw what that did to Chile and Argentina…we’ve seen what that did to America, but the wind-up toy repetitive drone continues to chant the same tired bullshit.
The problem faced by the Republicans is that they failed so badly they got turfed – and dramatically – by the very people they were trying to fleece.
BUT that loss in November 2008 was not solely based on the paucity and failure of their economic policies. It had at least as much to do with the failure of their neocon foreign policy – failure to get Osama Bin Laden, engaging America in two wars, lying about WMD, fucking up Katrina, and a host of other abject cock-ups that were simply too big, too ugly and too flagrant to possibly be ignored.
In point of fact, and the evidence is not at all hidden if one cares to go look for it, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were far less about terrorism and 9/11 than they were about extending the principles of Friedman / Chicago School economic policies to those regions, and to the benefit of American capital. 9/11 certainly provided the excuse to act, but the plans had been drawn up thirty years before the towers came down.
Furthermore, the Democrats certainly have not taken the sort of steps one might have HOPED they would take to reign in the unmitigated drive to profit at any cost. They haven’t dramatically raised taxes, clamped down on the truly awful financial practices that created the mess we’re in, dramatically increased social spending, or any of the things a truly left wing government might properly consider, like REALLY nationalizing health care and implementing a progressive system of taxation. Of course, as between the Obama administration and another Bush administration, it’s clear which one big business would prefer.
In any event, I am beginning to wander far afield here…and I want to come back to my distant acquaintance, Bob, and his arch nemesis Glenn Beck.
The right wing in America – supporters of lower taxes for the rich, unrestrained free markets, private profit (though socialized risk) – do not have at their disposal the tactics of hauling their opposition from their homes in the middle of the night and killing them. One suspects they would like to, and the yammering nonsense of Glenn Beck and his ilk (Malkin, Hannity, Limbaugh, Ingraham, Liz Cheney, Michelle Bachmann, Jim DeMint….) certainly strikes a chord with those too ill-informed to understand the plot. And there is, of course, a great deal of overlap.
I don’t for one minute think that Michelle Bachmann gets the plot of Dr. Seuss books – she’s simply a believer. Ignorant, incurious, but marching with the flag and Jesus for the right of the people to be screwed over by the rich, fully convinced that that is what “America” is truly about.
Liz Cheney MIGHT get the plot, but she’s also a believer, and comes from a family with very tight connections to those who profit most from maintaining the status quo. She certainly isn’t going to advocate for real change any time soon. One doesn’t necessarily need to know the score to play the game with all one’s heart. Even conspiracies need foot soldiers.
One tactic that is certainly available to these passionate cretins, however, is to demonize, slander and to whatever extent possible, portray anyone opposed to their “core principles” as not only wrong but evil. Which brings us back to Glenn Beck.
That Beck acts out of self-interest is beyond question. That he speaks out of ignorance is also beyond question.
Glenn Beck is not an educated man. He’s a former drug addict, alcoholic, high school drop out fuck-up who bounced around talk radio perfecting a delivery worthy of any tent revival preacher seeking to con the rubes out of a few dollars for a laying on of the hands and a faith healing.
That Glenn Beck lies is also beyond question.
Exposing that is simple. But who’s going to listen?
It amounts, no matter how well done, to preaching to the choir.
Telling a tea partier that Glenn Beck is lying is like telling someone who believes in trans-channeling dead spirits that Grandma ISN’T really speaking from the grave. They BELIEVE IT, man…and all the evidence in the world is not going to convert the fans of Deepak Chopra, the creationists, the anti-vaccine freaks…or the dedicated Beck lovers.
Exposing Beck is simple…and accomplishes nothing.
Beck is a tool used by those who seek nothing more than the continuation of a mad rush to riches that far outstrip the offensive sums tucked away by Glenn Beck. The sermons preached by Beck and those like him are certainly harmful in that they misinform and mislead a rather dull segment of the American population…but that segment is never going to listen to reason anyway. They’re angry…for good reason…and Beck gives them simple answers and someone to blame. Those people have been fucked over – really and truly taken to the cleaners. They are pissed off and, sadly, the truth is complex. The truth is that they were NOT fucked over by socialists, Barack Obama, Liberals, immigrants, fascists, minorities, communists or any of the other targets commonly blamed by Beck in his teary, gasping rants. They were fucked over by the very people they ignorantly support and defend – the capitalists. The FREE MARKET capitalists. They were fucked over by the people they were raised to worship. People like Rupert Murdoch.
Rupert Murdoch has built a vast media empire – a modern day high-tech version of the sort of conglomeration that was so effectively exploited by bastards like William Randolph Hearst for vain political ends, and would not be tolerated in any state that had a rational self-interest as a core operating principle.
One may be certain that, in the back of their minds, is always the very real fact that they are using the PUBLIC airwaves to generate their revenues. The last thing any of these modern media moguls want to see is the same last thing corporatist swindlers want to see – the elevation of anything resembling real public interest above the pursuit of power and profit.
And how does one prevent such a thing from coming about? Well, one good way is make sure that a sufficient number of people never demand it…and ensuring that a significant number of people are willing to fight against it certainly helps. And this is accomplished through propaganda – by convincing that dull, deluded, partly racist, poorly educated, angry, frustrated group of pissed off Americans that the reason they’re suffering is not because a bunch of people who succeeded at “the American dream” (through hard work and good ideas just like they hope to do one day) in reality have been bending them over and fucking them up the ass while stealing their wallet.
You tell them, instead, that their dream was almost realized…but stolen by those who want to take their money and give it to the poor, the sick, the elderly. You tell them that their dream can be real again…if only they will permit business to thrive, and the only way to do that is more of the same thing that permits those successful people to drive nice cars, own big houses, and vacation in Italian villas; that anyone who wants to restrict the ability of business to generate that wealth, those opportunities FOR THEM, is a goddamn commie, fascist LIBERAL thief who hates America and wants to destroy it.
They don’t need to sell this line of shit to everyone. Everyone isn’t that stupid or gullible. They only need to sell enough of them so that real reform, real progress can never be achieved, and the pendulum will always have the chance to swing back again.
In this regard, frankly, David Frum is as bad as Glenn Beck. Granted, Frum is unlikely to push any borderline crazy people over the edge with his views on economic policy, nor is George Will or any of the other “intellectual” elements of the right wing. But they are out there, just the same, fomenting opposition to anything resembling real change. George Will has a rather tenuous grip on truth and reality, too…he just doesn’t fake tears and call everyone to the left him an evil, America-hating communist.
You go expose Beck. It’ll be equal parts easy, frustrating, funny, painful and pointless.
But if you really want to make a difference, we’re gonna have to find a way to reach out to those pissed off, rather dull Americans who respond to the dog whistle of Glenn Beck. We’re gonna have to find a way to SHOW them who has really been fucking them, and America, over a barrel and why they’ve lost their jobs, their retirement savings, their homes and their future. And we’re gonna have to show them how they can have that all back again. And that it isn’t by listening to imbecilic bawling clowns.
It raises an interesting sort of philosophical question, I suppose: How does one go about exposing a man who stands naked and bawling in the middle of the street? Perhaps it can be done.
I just think it’s more important to convince people that there are more effective ways to seek improvements – to obtain real improvement in their day to day lives, than following that naked man around. It’s definitely more difficult, but it seems to me the only way forward.
Filed under: Barack Obama, Blogroll, Fox News, GOPSOP, Lies, Media, Neocon, Philosophy, Politics, Propaganda, Racism, Social Commentary, Stupid, Truth, Uncategorized | Tagged: America, Bob Cesca, Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck, Milton Freidman, Neocon, Rush Limbaugh, tea party, tears of a clown |