Friday, September 11, 2009

My Thoughts on Glenn Beck

Someone asked me to respond to this video featuring Glenn Beck's attack on ACORN and by extension why the ACORN story was not reported by the mainstream media with the exception of FOX.

Here's the video:

I really am in no position to defend or even criticize ACORN. I simply know nothing about them. But this post is not about ACORN its about Glenn Beck and his style.

Pure and simple, Glenn Beck is a curmudgeon. Its a style I don't like and a big part of me is repulsed by it. Its ugly and I don't trust it. For the record, I really don't like this style from either side of the aisle.

I love political discussion, but Glenn Beck leaves no room for it. He attacks corruption, fine. So, he finds examples of it within his very narrow ideological blinders and instead of carefully crafting a story to prove his point, he just yells a lot. It riles up his followers, but it just leaves me doubting everything he says. By the way, I get the same nauseating feeling listening to folks like Michael Moore on the left.

For the record, I'm against corruption in all of its forms. I believe criminal activity should be prosecuted when found no matter what the ideology. And the advantage of the two party system is it allows each to check the power of the other.

But you have to be careful with this style of reporting.

Here's a conservative attack on Glenn Beck that resonates with me. Best quote:

"Glenn Beck is not the first to make a pleasant living for himself by reckless defamation. We have seen his kind before in American journalism and American politics, and the good news is that their careers never last long. But the bad news is that while their careers do last, such people do terrible damage."

The article details an absolutely reckless attack Beck made on Cass Sunstein.

"It’s striking that Beck never actually quotes Sunstein. Beck instead relies instead on an argument from pure assertion: Sunstein opposes animal cruelty, the Princeton philosopher Peter Singer also opposes animal cruelty, therefore Sunstein must agree with everything Peter Singer has ever said or written.

This is beyond sloppy, beyond ignorant, proceeding straight toward the deceptive."

I want to dismiss Glenn Beck out of hand. I don't want to hear from that guy, watch him, I want him out of my life for good, but people keep sending me clips...

But here's why Glenn Beck and his ilk are so dangerous:

This is from a quote from C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity":

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred."

Got that from my favorite libertarian blogger Megan McArdle.

I get that this happens on both sides. There are the "birthers" on the right convinced that Obama is evil just like there were the truthers on the left convinced that Bush had a role in 9/11. This tendency to assume your enemies are evil is something that deserves a lot of introspection.

I know I'm far from perfect here. Its fun to have philosophical discussions on ideology. That stuff is fun.

But when the debate descends to the level of personal attack, e.g. Bush is evil, Obama is evil, the fun ends, the debate ends. I know I'm in no position to prove someone's ethics, morals or motivation. Often I don't have access to all of the facts.

If you think Bush is evil (which I don't), then where do we go from there? No where. Same is true for Obama.

Now, the interesting thing is we want to hold our government accountable. And there is plenty of corruption, pervasive, sick corruption throughout our government. And we need journalists to do the serious investigative reporting to shine a light on the dark deeds of our politicians.

But this kind of investigative reporting is hard and expensive and from my point of view it is dying. Because if you want to report on corruption, you have to make sure you get your facts right. You need to make sure the investigation is thorough and intelligent. You want to make sure its not defamatory or wrong or ideological. It needs to be vetted carefully. Because its an enormous disservice to call good people evil. To falsely accuse someone else. Its hateful in the worst possible way.

And Glenn Beck has an enormous microphone, and as a result a powerful platform. I'm not sure he realizes how much damage he can (and has) inflicted through his recklessness.

I hope that he will eventually be marginalized once people realize he's a hack journalist. I hope that time is not far from now.

1 comment:

H said...

Thankfully, I have yet to meet someone that has said to me, "you know, I heard Glenn Beck say..." and recount it as truth. That would be a very scary day for me. I promise, Scott, to never, ever, send you something from Beck!