Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Glenn Beck: our confused savior?

Glenn Beck is promoting what he calls "The Plan" at the 912 Project. What is this plan, you ask? No one knows. Beck assures us that he "will be explaining the entire Plan over the coming weeks and months." But it has something to do with saving the country and changing its course. (I voted for Barack Obama for precisely that reason. Perhaps Beck wants Gingrich to save the country by getting us into a holy war with Islam, I don't know.)

To this end, Beck has proposed nine principles and 12 values. And he suggests that these principles and values motivated the founders, and that without them, the United States will collapse:
We must invite Republicans and Democrats who like freedom and small government. We must invite them into a plan that makes sense! That encourages sustainability. We must get them intoyou know the saying, into the tent. But see, the tent doesn’t mean anything anymore. What is the purpose of a tent? A tent is to keep the elements away, to keep you safe in case of a rainstorm. But see, we don’t have a tent anymore with these two parties. . . . Because a tent requires stakes. A tent requires some sort of stake to hold it down to the ground. Well, what are those stakes? They’re principles and they’re values. We don’t have any principles anymore. . . . So there can’t be any tent because there’s nothing to stake that tent down! And both the Republicans and the Democrats know it. They know it. But they don’t fear anything. . . . Well, they need to. And if they don’t wake up, if they don’t go back and look for the stakes of that tent and the principles of those tents, if they don’t look back for the principles and the values of our Constitution, they should be destroyed! We’re not destroying them; they’re destroying themselves. We’re trying to save ya.
Here are the values and principles:

The Nine Principles
  1. America Is Good.
  2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
  4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
  6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
  7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
  8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
  9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.
The 12 Values
  • Honesty
  • Reverence
  • Hope
  • Thrift
  • Humility
  • Charity
  • Sincerity
  • Moderation
  • Hard Work
  • Courage
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Gratitude
That doesn't sound too bad, right? Let's take a closer look.

Beck must be assuming that Democrats (and even Republicans, if we are to believe that he is being sincere) think that America is not good. Naturally, Beck believes that he is the defender of the United States, and everyone who disagrees with him are traitors. But what about your commitment to the value of humility, Glenn? Or (8) above? We should not forget that Beck compared progressivism to a cancer that eats the Constitution and must be eradicated. So much for (8). I guess Beck neglected to clear this list with Ari Fleisher.

Beck must also believe that there is no room in our democracy for we atheists. That's what (2) suggests. But what about (4)? Is the family the ultimate authority, or is God? (I assume that those who claim that God is the center of their life would also claim that He is the ultimate authority.) And if God is the ultimate authority, then what about (5)? What if this or that law offends one's religious sensibilities? And are we to infer that all those who don't worship Beck's God are un-American? But where would that leave the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion? Is the Bill of Rights un-American?

Let's think about (7). If charity is good, then what difference does it make whether one writes a check to a private charity or pays taxes for humanitarian aid? Many Christians try to argue that there is some important moral difference between these two kinds of charity, but they are splitting hairs in an effort to make their religion cohere with the secular, sociopathic politics of the Republican Party. And they're not consistent about it. They think that they should be able to veto the spending of their tax dollars on projects to which they are opposed, but when someone like me objects to spending billions of dollars on an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq, I have to pay my taxes and shut the fuck up, or I'm a traitor.

It is difficult to believe that Beck sincerely believes in these principles. He claims that God is the center of his life, and yet rejects the religious notion of social justice. His goal of becoming a more honest person is merely aspirational, as Politifact demonstrates. And he appears to believe that it is appropriate that the government force people like me to be charitable by increasing my tax burden to pay for tax cuts to the very wealthy.

One thing Beck does appear to believe in is himself:
All the elements of Beck's paranoid ethos converged recently as he announced his intention to move beyond the realm of political commentary and take an activist role in the political process. During a rally at a Florida retirement community, Beck told his gathered audience that "what we're experiencing now is really a ticking time bomb that they designed about a hundred years ago at the beginning of the progressive movement," the purpose of which was to use both the Republican and Democratic parties to create a "socialist utopia." Beck's prescribed antidote was a plan to "bring us back to an America that our founders would understand" by developing "a 100-year plan" in the mold of the Chinesethe rationale being: "Two can play at that game." Of course, at the center of the "100-year plan" is Beckor as he referred to himself, America's "Constitution czar." All the facets of the paranoid style are therean improbably wicked conspiracy to undermine the country perpetrated by the nation's powerful elite, a gauzy plan of action to take back America that emulates the tactics of the enemy and is crudely wrapped in the trappings of patriotism, and Beck offering himself as the nation's savior. 

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson