by Karen Kwiatkowski
Glenn Beck — a self-described "sick twisted freak" — was brought into the CNN family last year in an attempt to reach out to a newer, hipper, and possibly more vapid audience. Less headline news and more headliner noise may have helped change the Headline News viewership. It certainly cured me of my Headline News addiction.
Contrarians and intellectual critics of the status quo can indeed stir things up — yet we may also recall the publishing travails of anti-imperialists in a previous age of American empire. Honest critics and courageous contrarians like Samuel Clemens, William Graham Sumner, and H.L. Mencken often skewered the establishment of the day and when they did, they were shut down in subtle and not so subtle ways.
A century later, we drive to and from our jobs, the gym, and soccer games — listening to talk radio. There, we are subjected to pseudo-contrarians — self-proclaimed spokesmen for the common man and his common sense. These so-called voices of the conservative heartland speak out against a vast left-wing conspiracy of East Coast newspapers, Hollywood and a pork-filled Congress. They speak for us, don't they?
It turns out that the pseudo-conservatives (and neo-conservatives) of the 1990's airwaves were never contrarian at all. Rather than offering a critique of the status quo, they promoted more of the same. They clamored for growth of the military industrial machine even after the truth about the Soviet monster had been revealed. They demanded continued financial orientation towards massive government spending. They screamed in rage and cried for preemptive or punitive wars against enemies, foreign and domestic. Naturally, they never failed to celebrate Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan all those years. To put it kindly, they misinterpreted events and made intellectual mistakes. To state the case accurately, they shilled for a national-socialist state. 9/11 only fueled their shilling, even as it expanded that national-socialist state.
Justin Logan writes in the American Conservative that the national discussion we should have begun in 1991 is just now beginning. With a nod to the Chinese curse, it is indeed an exciting time to be a freedom-loving American, to have fingertip access to history and facts, to a broad array of ideas and debate, and to have the ability to really talk with others about the reality-based world in which we find ourselves.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." Will this be the new-old conservatism, ushered in by Ron Paul?
Many hope so, and thus it is a scary time for the Glenn Becks of the world. By way of introduction, Glenn Beck is a remora on the bloodthirsty talk radio shark. He broadcasts nationalistic populism in hopes of producing dittoheads like Rush Limbaugh, or Hannitizing his listeners, like Sean Hannity. No-spin is the trademark — yet as with that other remora, O'Reilly, the spin never lets up.
The spin ended on the 18th of December, when Dr. Ron Paul got an hour with Glenn, as part of a series of one-hour interviews Glenn seems to be doing with various candidates. Naturally, Dr. Paul was calm, gracious, on point, well-read and articulate, and uncompromising in his understanding that we were born free and ought to live free.
Glenn Beck didn't know what to do. Glenn has been talking about bad, overgrown, incompetent government for years. Dr. Paul wants to abolish the IRS — and go back to 1997 federal spending levels. Glenn Beck was complaining in 1997 about government excess, waste and rapacious desire to take our money. But he just couldn't wrap his head around the concept of no IRS, and tried to push Paul into the Boortz arena of alternative means of theft, like FAIR Tax, sales tax, flat tax, or just lower tax rates.
Thus confused, and obviously excited about drastically lowered taxes and more economic freedom, Glenn blurted out that he wanted to French kiss the candidate.
I was taken aback at first — but maybe it makes sense. Think about it: Glenn feels threatened by Ron Paul supporters, as he discussed on his November 12, 2007 broadcast. Then, Beck and David Horowitz discussed how taken aback they were that the Fifth of November fundraiser for Ron Paul had broken the Republican one-day fundraising record, in a time when Republicans are having a heck of a time raising money at all.
Oh, wait. That's not actually what they talked about. They talked about how Ron Paul supporters are so anti-Iraq war/occupation that they are anti-Washington, D.C., and constitute a danger to status quo politics and punditry in Washington.
OK, that's not exactly what they said. In fact, Beck and Horowitz conducted a smearing, ludicrous attack on liberty lovers in this country, this website, and the large number of servicemen and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who support Dr. Paul.
But the misfire last month was the reason Beck had to invite Ron Paul on the show this week. It was the reason he treated Dr. Paul as fairly as a scared little chickenhawk can without soiling himself. It was the reason for Beck's one-day spike in viewership on the night he interviewed Dr. Paul. It's all for the good, and goodness wins the long race.
When a man threatens to French kiss a counterpart, just like threatening to Hannitize them, it is more than juvenile wordplay with homoerotic undertones. It is the desperate language of the state — calling for force, intrusion, and even alteration of an individual. It is the aggressive language of menace, of bullying, of intimidation.
Glenn Beck speaks this language quite comfortably, and has for a long time. But I can't help but wonder if, having been exposed to Dr. Paul, he is in real danger of dreaming about a Ron Paul America, and perhaps, someday, even joining the rEVOLution.
December 31, 2007
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.
Copyright © 2007 Karen Kwiatkowski