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After reading Will Bunch’s Backlash , I decided to watch Glenn Beck’s five o’clock show on Fox News.  Needless to say, everything Bunch reports is true, in fact there are now half a dozen companies selling gold on the show rather than one.  (The implications for Beck’s bank account are not immediately clear, but he is estimated to have earned $23 million in 2009, partly from his books.  And the other sponsors, as signaled by Bunch, also respond to the fear generated by Beck’s rants, notably a solar generator for when the electric grid tanks.)

Aside from that, Beck appears to be trying to create a new breed of politically aware voter: a God-fearing libertarian.

Beck’s extensive - if tardy - reading probably hasn’t included any Muslim writers, so he would be unaware that what he is advocating harks back to an old Muslim tradition, Mutazilah, which originated in Basra and Bagdad in the eighth century in opposition to Sunni Islam. The Mutazilah school believes that human reason is as important as revelation, or belief in God.  This obvi-ously has been a minority view in Islam, but it is echoed today by the Hezbollah leader, Nasrallah, who calls for ‘independent brains, decentrali-zation and flat networks’. As reported by Alastair Crooke in Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, it was because Hezbollah fighters were organized into horizontal networks, where they could take individual initiatives, that they defeated the technically far superior Israeli army in 2008.

Beck and his gold merchants, however, are not interested in the religious commonalities between American Christian fundamentalists and some of those America is fighting. Bespeckled professor Beck’s lessons focus on the idea that the left invented propaganda before the Nazis did, seeing the common man as part of a herd of cattle that has to be kept in a pen ‘for his own good’, because he is not smart enough to think for himself.
This accusation rests on the fact that the nineteen-twenties American inventor of public relations, Louis Bernays (twice related to Sigmund Freud), pioneered the manipulation of public opinion based on knowledge of the subconscious. In an interview with the BBC, cited over and over by Beck, his daughter, Anna, referred to his ideas as ‘enlightened despotism’. Instead of focusing on Madison Avenue’s systematic use of group psychology to persuade Americans to consume ever more unneces-sary products, Beck underlines the fact that Hitler’s propagandist in chief, Hermann Goebbels, was familiar with Bernays’ work.

Tagging Bernays as a leftist, Beck then jumps to his favorite con-temporary nemesis, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who advocates ‘nudging’ people into do what is good for them. Sunstein’s ideas were made to look quite scary by Glenn Greenwald in a Salon.com article last January www.salon.comnews/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/15/sunstein, but at least they are intended to promote socially desirable behavior, as opposed to mindless consumption.

Personally, I am a strong advocate of individual reason.  The pro-blem is that our system of education, while promoting creativity, does not enhance reason.  If it did, Beck wouldn’t be making millions.

P.S. Just as I finished this blog, the latest issue of In These Times arrived, with an excellent article on Beck, "Glenn Beck’s American Ark".  Among other things, the author, Theo Anderson, notes Beck’s links to the John Birch Society, saying: “Think of witches slavery, Catholics, Jews and blacks. Think of the John Birch Society and godless Communists.”

Originally posted to Deena Stryker on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:48 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what's with the hiccupy hy-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney

    -phenates?

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

    by SFOrange on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:57:21 AM PST

  •  But isn't he doing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDsg, zenox, jan4insight

    what he warns the progressives are.

    I see it all the time.  Blame the liberals for violence, propaganda etc, yet they (FOX, Rush et all) are the ones putting out the crap that they say the left does.

    Beck sounds more and more like a "Hitler wanna be" than anyone else.  He has his masses.  He is feeding on their fear.

    This man is very dangerous.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:00:31 AM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'd (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pris from LA, Loge

    Excellent diary; very timely. Without the proper use of "individual reason" there is not such thing as enlightenment whether it is about belief in God or anything else. Our reason is not a cosmetic phenomenon, exisiting for decoration. No matter what it is we are trying to figure out, it is necessary to use it.

    It is not infallible of course (to er is human), and for that we use our instincts, gut feelings and our ability to learn lessons.

    Glenn Beck and others like him are severely corrupt, warped people who do not learn lessons and they don't intend to learn lessons. Their corruption hangs over their heads like a cloud of damnation from which they cannot free themselves. Watching them alone helped me wisen to human nature...

    "Corruptio Optima Pessimi" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:43:27 AM PST

  •  I was a student of Cass Sunstein, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ms badger, Pris from LA

    and his ideas re "nudge" are basically libertarian.  He calls it "libertarian paternalism."  Basically, it's structured as an alternative to command and control regulation.  The theory is that a good percentage of what can be done thru laws with a punitive character can be done by changing "default settings."  The example of 401(k) contributions:  instead of mandating them, you can get high levels of participation by having people automatically enrolled with the ability to opt-out.  Individual freedom is preserved, but the policy goals are largely met.  I think the biggest difference between Sunstein and Beck, other than the fact that Beck is an idiot, is that Sunstein thinks of laissez-faire as, itself, a form of regulation.  After all, it takes government to protect private property rights.  So, the question is what type of regulation do we have.  At best, Sunstein takes issues of individual freedom and market ideas seriously, but he also knows their limits.  Much of his research is about market failures and the inability of people to act rationally, sometimes in predictable ways.

    If the insurance mandate is struck down, this type of "nudge" approach could be a way to do things.  It might be a better way, after all.

    Greenwald's comments were directed largely at Sunstein's views of separation of powers and due process.  I think he took a lot of what Sunstein believed out of context.  For instance, I remember him writing an op-ed brutally attacking John Yoo for misapplying the law of Presidential power.  But, his objections were for different reasons from Beck's.  Looking over at Beck's list of "people who want to control you," something like 9 out of 10 were Jewish, including Sunstein.  (Andy Stern, Soros, Bernays, Ed Rendell for some reason, Frances Fox Piven . . .)  

    "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by Loge on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 08:55:01 AM PST

  •  Hezbollah defeated Israel in 2008???? (0+ / 0-)

    The war was in 2006. And Nasrallah himself didn't think the war had such a great outcome:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/...

    I also would not use Nasrallah as a poster boy for rationalist thought. He is a terrorist and open anti-Semite, not to mention a theocrat!

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