Thursday, April 9, 2009

Glenn Beck and the "Extreme Radical Right"

Everyone on the Left is laughing at Glenn Beck. They are posing him as the figurehead of how the American Right is going completely off the rails. Nearly everyone on the Right is burying their heads in their hands in embarrassment over Glenn Beck, even as, more than likely, they are peering between two fingers with one eye to watch his every move.

Allow me to set the record straight right off the bat. Glenn Beck is, at times, absolutely nuts. The segment with the eyes, the segment about the FEMA camps with the Nazi video backdrops, the crying. Those were completely crazy. But damnit if they weren't entertaining. Glenn Beck in general is just flat-out entertaining. And given that his ratings are challenging entrenched Fox News stars like O'Reilly and Hannity, I'm not the only one who thinks so. I don't actually even watch his show that much, but it's popular enough that I'm familiar with his segments via online postings of Youtube clips almost every day, and I catch it every now and then. I've even posted a couple times around his clips myself, including what I consider to be a fantastic video about the inflationary tactics of the Federal Reserve, and another great discussion that Beck had with Ron Paul about where the G20 was going to go from a monetary standpoint. The latter was over a month in advance of multiple major countries pitching a worldwide fiat currency, just as they had discussed.

Unfortunately, Beck's aforementioned crazier segments are what are garnering all the attention. The Left is setting him up as the poster child for the insane, militant Right, by focusing on his comparison of the FEMA camps to what happened in Nazi Germany, not to mention his discussion with Chuck Norris about joining him in Texas should Texas choose to secede from the country. These are easy pickings for the likes of, well, just about anyone. What I find disturbing, however, is not so much the Left's attacking and ridiculing of Beck. Beck, essentially, is the Right's answer to Keith Olbermann, after all. The Right has had years now to ridicule Olbermann and his inane buffoonery, all the while scratching its collective head as to how in the hell anyone on the Left could possible find him even remotely watchable. Now the Right has Beck, and the Left has the opportunity to revel in the same kind of finger pointing and ridicule. What I find disturbing, then, is that so many key members of the Right, reporters and bloggers alike, seem to be horrified by the turn that is taking place with Beck seemingly at the helm.

Both Rick Moran, and Charles at Little Green Footballs cite an article by Michael Cohen at Politico entitled "Extremist Rhetoric Wont' Rebuild GOP" in their respective lamentings over the populist surge of support for Glenn Beck that is currently taking place. Moran, in his usually fantastic style, wonders where he stands in the conservative movement as he recognizes the reality of the fact that the Left's populist outrage over the past eight years has infected the Right as well:
By listening or watching Beck, people know that like minded patriots are experiencing the same fears and frustrations that they are, making those who tune in part of a community. We saw this exact same phenomena during the Bush years with the left and the widespread belief in a draft; in “another 9/11″ in order to cancel the election of both 2006 and 2008; in the almost weekly “We’re going to invade Iran” rumors; and, of course, the usual black helicopter and FEMA camp nonsense. Hofstadter was right. The “First Party System” - where the party out of power believes the other party will destroy the country - is alive and well in America.
Interestingly, Moran also finds himself out of sorts with the populism surrounding other high level spokepeople for the Right, with whom he lumps Beck:

I am losing contact with those conservatives who find Beck anything more than a clown - and an irrational one at that. Same goes for those who worship at the altar of Rush, Hannity, Coulter, and the whole cotton candy conservative crowd. I can’t take those people seriously. The fact that they are popular mystifies me. Our heroes 20 years ago were Reagan, Buckley, Fitzpatrick, Kirk, Goldwater, Anderson, and others who didn’t see conservatism as a meal ticket but as something to think about, to write about and contemplate man’s place in the world and his relationship to government and God.
Stuff like this is why Rick Moran is one of the best. But I find it strange that he would find himself unable to take Beck, Rush, Hannity or Coulter seriously. Beck has been a little crazy at times, to be sure, and Coulter is as antagonistic as it gets. But they are both people that are cogent in their arguments, and intelligent in debating the issues at hand, even if they are showpeople about it. I'll admit I don't much enjoy Hannity as there's too much stringent religion in him for my liking. I wonder if perhaps Moran has listened to Rush lately, though, as I think he's been fantastic in attempting to re-clarify what Conservatism is supposed to be, while dodging the notion that he should be considered the "leader of the Republican Party." I think Rush, in particular, has been trying to guide people back to recognizing Conservatism as exactly what Moran envisioned it to be when looking up to the likes of Reagan and Goldwater.

But the topic here isn't Rush, it's Beck, or, more importantly, the perception that there is a swelling of crazy people on the Right that are following him. Charles at LGF summed up his feelings about Beck fairly succinctly:
This turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP—unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution.
The problem with this viewpoint, however is that it is a man burying his head in his hands in embarrassment over the mocking, pointed finger of ridicule of the Left. This viewpoint assumes that Beck is the leader of a populist swell of people searching for a voice promoting Liberty, Freedom, Small Government and the values of our Founding Fathers. Glenn Beck, however, is no more the leader of a populist movement on the Right, than Keith Olbermann was the leader of a populist movement on the Left over the past eight years.

Glenn Beck is a television star. He may throw some things out there that many people consider crazy or stupid from time to time, but that's his job. He needs to get ratings, and he gets them. To assume that people are latching on to some of his more outlandish segments as gospel is to insult the intelligence of the general populace of the Right overall. Conservatives and Libertarians love Freedom. Conservatives and Libertarians love Liberty. Conservatives and Libertarians want Small Government. Glenn Beck is delivering a message of all three in an easily accessbile format, and therefore he is popular.

Michael Cohen's article, which both Charles and Rick Moran leaned on, provides the important message:
Republicans need to make a decision: Are they going to cater to the paranoid fears of self-styled “truth tellers” like Beck, or are they going to present a substantive policy alternative to Democratic rule? For the good of the party, and the country, let’s hope it’s the latter.
Because Beck is popular, does not mean that he is popular as a crank, or as a paranoid "truth teller." Those of us that are of a Right leaning need to recognize this, and need to explain this to the mockers on the Left. We understand he's way out there from time to time, but it's the core message that's important. And that core message, for the good of the country, and for the good of the Republican Party, is very simple:

Freedom is Popular.

Liberty is Popular.

These ideas are neither Extreme, or Radical.


  1. It is all here folks...

    Alinsky's Rules for Radicals
    By Craig Miyamoto, APR, Fellow PRSA

    (This is an expanded version of the 2000 Third Quarter issue of Public Relations Strategies, a quarterly publication of Miyamoto Strategic Counsel)
    To paraphrase some sage advice, "keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer." If your business or organization ever becomes a target of radical activists, it will be extremely helpful to know what strategies of attack will used against you. Short of having spies infiltrate their organization - a practice that is sure to be found out and exposed to your discredit - it would help to study their methods.
    Known as the "father of modern American radicalism," Saul D. Alinsky (1909-1972) developed strategies and tactics that take the enormous, unfocused emotional energy of grassroots groups and transform it into effective anti-government and anti-corporate activism. Activist organizations teach his ideas widely taught today as a set of model behaviors, and they use these principles to create an emotional commitment to victory - no matter what.
    Grassroots pressure on large organizations is reality, and there is every indication that it will grow. Because the conflicts manifest in high-profile public debate and often-panicked decision-making, studying Alinsky's rules will help organizations develop counteractive strategies that can level the playing field.
    Governments and corporations have inherent weaknesses. And, time and again, they repeat mistakes that other large organizations have made, even repeating their OWN mistakes. Alinsky's out-of-print book - "Rules for Radicals" - illustrates why opposition groups take on large organizations with utter glee, and why these governments and corporations fail to win.
    Large organizations have learned to stonewall and not empower activists. In other words, they try to ignore radical activists and are never as committed to victory as their opposition is committed to defeating them. Result? They are unprepared for the hailstorm of brutal tactics that severely damage their reputation and send them running with their tails between their legs.
    Some of these rules are ruthless, but they work. Here are the rules to be aware of:
    RULE 1: "Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have." Power is derived from 2 main sources - money and people. "Have-Nots" must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)
    RULE 2: "Never go outside the expertise of your people." It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don't address the "real" issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)
    RULE 3: "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy." Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
    RULE 4: "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules." If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity's very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)
    RULE 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
    RULE 6: "A good tactic is one your people enjoy." They'll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They're doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid "un-fun" activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)
    RULE 7: "A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag." Don't become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)
    RULE 8: "Keep the pressure on. Never let up." Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)
    RULE 9: "The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself." Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists' minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)
    RULE 10: "If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive." Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management's wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)
    RULE 11: "The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative." Never let the enemy score points because you're caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)
    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

  2. Rules that apply here (Beck & Co)

    RULE 5: "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon." There is no defense. It's irrational. It's infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)
    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)

  3. In fact, Glenn Beck ran down the dope on "FEMA camps," concluded that there was nothing to it, and apologized for scaring people unnecessarily. I know--I watched him do it. Much of what else he said, however, I will personally vouch for. No, Glenn Beck is not crazy. What he likely is, is the G-5 of the future Free Citizens' Militia.

  4. I miss the days when my fellow conservatives were thought of as serious and thoughtful. The republican party no longer represents the adults who believe in limited government and man creating his own destiny.

    Instead, they rely on the stupid and fearful while they loot the treasury.

    People like Beck need to go far away and be treated with the contempt they have more than earned.

  5. Could you imagine if Beck, Hannity, Rush, et al, were all serious and thoughtful? Their ratings would tank and conservatism would be nowhere to be found in pop culture or popular media. They serve an important purpose.

    It's not their fault the credible, solid conservative politicians can be counted on two hands.

    Yes, conservatism needs vigorous debate, but minus the ad hominem.

  6. And there are FEMA camps. And coffins. For verification of documents, check

  7. Paul,
    You're a good writer, and I think this is one of your best posts yet. Thoughtful and well said. Deconstruction is an art that I have not yet learned, but I recognize it well. I have to agree about Glenn. He is certainly too histrionic at times, but he's also unafraid to call it like it is. I miss getting his radio show, because I enjoyed it. And I've got to defend Rush here. He's constantly lumped in with a reactionary media where he doesn't belong. Rush is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful people in radio today - he just doesn't want you to know that. His 6 weeks rule is just about right. You've got to REALLY listen to him before you realize that A: there's a 99% chance that he's smarter than you and B: He's right. The right's biggest mistake in the last decade is allowing "extreme" to be tagged to normal human longing for freedom.

    Keep at it, bud.

  8. It's people like Beck that will help to bring this party back to where it needs to be with a focus on the Constitution and its founding principles, sane conservative economic policies and a focus on Libery. If you listen to him on a regular basis you would realize this. He is a good showman and reading transcripts is useless, unless you are vary familiar with his humor. If I have a complaint with him, it is that he spends far TOO MUCH time trying to tell listeners not to be partisan and to concentrate on the principles. He is far better read on many topics than most, and always tells the listeners to NOT JUST BELIEVE HIM, but to study, read and figure out the truth for themselves. He's more of a living cliff note at times.

    I read Moran's article and it was a good read until he attacked Beck out of the blue and incorrectly puts him down as being a conservative for a meal ticket. Totaly wrong. He was torn apart in the comments.