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One day, I hope to stop being surprised.

[ 74 ] November 19, 2010 |

I try not to pay attention to Glenn Beck, but even when I have, I never really paid attention to him. But when an old friend, someone I genuinely respect, forwarded me a link to Beck’s archive and dared me to refute his logic, I decided it might be time to try.

Bad decision.

As someone who’s studied linguistics and taught journalism, I know that spoken language differs significantly from written and resist judging speakers for not speaking in complete sentences or organizing their thoughts into coherent paragraphs. That said, it should still possess some underlying logic, which is why this transcript from his November 19th program requires an airing out. It begins by preying on lunatic fears of a One World Government:

I have a little bug inside of me, too, and it wants to stop control-hungry progressives from running our lives and pushing us into a giant global system of government. You know, the kind of global government that [Jay Rockefeller's] dad liked so much. [David Rockefeller] was a globalist and had a wonderful vision of the future of our world.

Then, just in case his audience was insufficiently terrified:

I feel a little uncomfortable. We’ll talk about preparing for—let’s just leave it at that, being prepared.

Note how, in a classic bit of demagoguery, he stops himself just short the moment of revelation. People fear what they don’t know, especially when they’re being told, in ominous tones, that the unknown requires preparation and is connected, somehow, to the “shadowy” or “spooky” forces of the One World Government. Those adjectives don’t appear in that particular quotation, but they appear later, and frequently, especially with regards to:

George Soros, [whose] daddy was a globalist as well. He believed in something called Esperanto. Esperanto is a made up language. It was designed for a one world government. It started in the 1890s, 1880s. And he was fluent in it. I mean, he wrote a book in Esperanto for one world government. Later, George Soros started his Open Society Institute. The main goal of the Open Society Institute was really that of his father’s: to create a world free of nationalities—one world government.

I knew, in the vague way that everyone who follows politics knows, that Beck believes that lines on a chalkboard have the force of logic. I did not, however, appreciate that he was trafficking in full-throated conspiracy theories about the imminent invasion of the forces of the One World Government. Put differently, I expected to find moments, like the following, in which Beck discovered in the world connections that only exist in his head:

Soros explains the anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics he uses to fundamentally transform countries. They are the dreams of his father—which is weird because that’s almost the title of Barack Obama’s book, The Dreams From My Father. His daddy, by all accounts was a communist, at least an anti-colonialist, as was his grandfather. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I’m sure his audience didn’t realize that the connective tissue of his argument is that Soros and Obama both had fathers with dreams. You know who else had a dream? An episode of Dexter, which is about a serial killer, which means that Obama is in grave danger:

George Soros thinks he’s on the verge of [establishing the One World Government]. He has collapsed economies and entire currencies. They see it as possibly—possibly—falling apart. I told you that I believed this show may have accelerated their timetable because we’ve exposed them. But what if—what if they really do believe that Barack Obama is not the guy to get it done?

These guys, this is a violent, revolutionary. This guy is a labor union with millions of dollars and, also, a globalist. This guy—spooky dude.

This is why I told you one of my longest-standing worries about President Obama was not about the country, not about corruption. It was about his safety and not because of the Tea Party people, but because the minute these radicals, if they actually decide that Barack Obama is not who he says he is, political danger is not his only concern.

I ask you again to pray for our Secret Service. Make sure our Secret Service are watching inside and out. Pray for our president. As I see it, there are a million things that could happen. That’s just one of them. There’s a million things that can make the entire world fly apart.

What, and then the Chinese will invade?

China’s leaders know this.

Seriously? Let me recount Beck’s argument for you:

1. Jay Rockefeller’s father supported a One World Government, which makes

2. Glenn Beck afraid, and as you should be, because

3. George Soros’s father wanted everyone to speak Esperanto,

4. And had a dream, which is something Obama’s father also had, meaning

5. If Soros is unable to fulfill his father’s dream

6. Obama will be assassinated and

7. China will invade.

Minus a bit about some lady finding a coat Beck’s father owned in a Seattle pawn shop, this is the argument Beck proffered on November 19, 2010 and it is premium-grade insane. I’m not talking “your stated reasons for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy are disingenuous” insane. I’m talking “you couldn’t tell a premise from a conclusion if one were labeled ‘premise’ and the other ‘conclusion’” insane. His disconnect from the world is either so cynical as to be sociopathic or so fundamental as to be dissociative.

Needless to say, after reading all that and writing all this, I have one less friend on Facebook.

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Comments (74)

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  1. Malaclypse says:

    Needless to say, after reading all that and writing all this, I have one less friend on Facebook.

    Donalde de-friended you?

  2. Jay B. says:

    His daddy, by all accounts was a communist, at least an anti-colonialist, as was his grandfather.

    Those bastard anti-colonialists, with their dreams of sovereign rule and hatred of exploitation and repression. I know it’s been pointed out that we have a bit of anti-colonialism in our august history, but I’m still waiting for the argument Beck has to be in favor of colonialism. Other than: He’s a negro, see.

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    In that case Beck’s dad must have been an inbred Bircher who raped his sister-mother-wife and raised a sweater-eating feral child in a box and named it “Glen”.

  3. redrob says:

    Welcome to my world: I gave a short election analysis at the invitation of a group that calls itself “The Mainstream Republicans of … County”. Over the course of a 45 minute Q&A session, it became clear that these people, nice and polite as they were, are bark-at-the-moon, shit-throwing insane. After one particularly odd question about the malevolent control of George Soros over the voting machines in Minnesota, my better half asked, in an aside to me, “Do they really call themselves moderate?” After I corrected her on the name of the group, she nodded slowly and said “My god, they are the Republican mainstream, aren’t they?”

    • SEK says:

      And I’m more and more convinced that ignoring it because it’s so insane is a bad idea. Refutation, as tedious as it can be, may be the best solution. (Gah.)

      • Warren Terra says:

        Except of course for those studies demonstrating that news reports exposing dishonesty and mendacity just had the effect of airing the untrue claims, such that more people subsequently believed the falsehoods than had done so before being exposed to the debunkings.

        It may have something to do with how gently the lies were treated in those reports, however.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Refutation, as tedious as it can be, may be the best solution.

        It is kind of charming that you think that reasonable refutation will convince anyone who already believes Beck. Watch how easy that is to negate:

        SEK believes in [sneer] Enlightenment values like reasonable discourse and rationality. Do you know who else believed in Enlightenment values? Do you? It pains me to say this, but Woodrow Wilson, and all the Progressives we have talked about, trace their thinking back to the Enlightenment [cut away to chalkboard linking Voltaire to Wilson to Hitler, Soros, and SEK]. Once Enlightenment thinkers declared that “Man is the measure of all things.” we lost our link to God. Listening to SEK will lead to atheism. If people listen to SEK, the only thing that will save you is gold. Only gold investing will provide security from SEK’s [sneer] Enlightenment.

        For bonus points, he’ll discuss de Maistre.

      • Bighank53 says:

        Refute away. The problem with paranoid conspiracy is that any argument mustered against it becomes a data point supporting it: “They wouldn’t be trying so hard to change my mind about flouridation if I wasn’t onto something! Glen Beck was right!”

        The bill the Reagan left behind has finally come due, and these right-wing clowns will believe and do anything to keep the gravy train rolling until they die. Which may be sooner than they think, if they blow up the dollar.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        The answer is not refutation, but rather propounding compelling counter narratives that happen to be true.

        Their truth won’t make them any more compelling or politically effective, but it needn’t prevent them from being so.

        In short: there’s just no substitute for politics. Having the truth on your side isn’t by itself enough.

        • Jon H says:

          “The answer is not refutation, but rather propounding compelling counter narratives that happen to be true.”

          The hard part is coming up with something compelling for the kind of people who have been mainlining Beck/Bircher/Birther paranoid delusions for years.

          • gmack says:

            Personally, I think IB has it exactly right. One doesn’t need to convince the Beck fans (and “convince” is the wrong word anyway). It’s essential to keep in mind that Beck’s importance does not come from the number of his fans (which really isn’t that high) and still less how compelling his positions are, but from his organization (the mass media, perhaps the organizational and funding arms the Republican party, and so on). Reducing Beck’s influence is a matter of mobilizing forms of counter-power and, if I may put it this way, counter-worlds that help make sense of the issues and phenomena confronting us today.

          • tekel says:

            The hard part is coming up with something compelling for the kind of people who have been mainlining Beck/Bircher/Birther paranoid delusions for years.

            Howzabout instead of trying to persuade them, let’s put them in the padded rooms they so richly deserve?

            The single greatest genius of Ronald Reagan was de-funding all the mental hospitals in California. He must have known all those batshit crazy people were natural GOP voters.

        • Jeffrey Kramer says:

          I’ve been thinking about this for a while too, and the best I’ve come up with as a counter-narrative is something like:

          The Republican Party today is not a political party in any true sense; it is pure and simply a racket, a racket for making the rich richer and giving them complete immunity for any crimes or frauds they commit against their own workers and customers or against the general public. These crimes and frauds are the primary cause for the desperate condition of our economy, and they must be stopped. And when they tell you that a more progressive income tax, a higher minimum wage, a guarantee of affordable health care for all, etc., will put us on the road to tyranny or depression or involuntary euthanasia, they are no more to be taken seriously than they and their predecessors were who said exactly the same thing about social security, medicare, and civil rights.

          • +1,000,000

            I forgave Obama his bipartisan schtick in 2008 because I thought it was necessary for the time. Apropos of previous conversations on this topic – lets agree that at a minimum Democratic candidates for office should agree with the proposition that the Republican party as it is currently constituted is a destructive organisation that must as a matter of principle be kept away from the levers of power for the sake of the country.

        • hv says:

          The trouble with the counter-narrative approach is that the progressive side of things is filled with many and diverse narratives. I don’t even think this is bad, I love lots of the great narratives.

          But the monotonic, full-throated rage is very hard to compete with… it’s like half of carnegie hall is a symphony orchestra and half is hooligans with vuvuzela. Bach loses a little nuance under some conditions.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Certainly one of the advantages that the Old Left had was that they agreed on their story….in other words:

            Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism Stalinism, at least it’s an ethos a counter narrative.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Leon Trotsky refudiates you. Splitter.

            • SeanH says:

              Wait – sometimes I can’t tell where the sarcasm is on this blog – was the international Left really helped by pro-Stalin advocacy? Is this more of that “Overton window” stuff?

              • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                That was mainly Snark for Snark’s Sake® (bonus question: is that High Modernism or PoMo?)

                But the serious point was that the fetishistic metaphysics of the revolutionary proletariat + the need for a vanguard party really did keep folks on the same page, whatever their other (quite serious) practical and theoretical limitations (and, yes, that would apply to other versions of Marxism-Leninism, too….though there were always a lot more Stalinists in the ’30s than Trostkyists).

              • burritoboy says:

                Well, it depends on what you think about a lot of different things. I would say the balance is “No, the International Left was not helped by Stalinism” – the most important positive thing Stalin ever did was destroy a lot of German divisions in WWII. But that’s ignoring that a large part of the reason that the NSDAP did take over Germany and the Falange took over Spain was Stalin. And you can’t separate Stalinism from Leninism.

                But orthodox Marxist-Leninism probably was a good thing for most Western European and American countries (since it didn’t take over anything in the end) overall. But you can’t ignore the horror it was as actually existing political regimes just to have a shared counternarrative among lefty types who comfortably remain in other kinds of regimes.

      • tekel says:

        refutation subjugation

        there, ftfy.

  4. Murc says:

    I believe Jon Stewart said it best; the man is a Holocaust survivor who has a better anti-Communist record than the Reagan Administration. How does the right now love this guy?

    Also, you are far, far too generous here, SEK. You could write pages, literally pages, debunking every bit of crazy in that Beckian screed, and also facing what few seeds of coherent argument in there head-on. I mean, the Esperanto thing along…

    That you stopped after simply pointing out the batshit insane logical chain is a credit to your restraint.

    • Malaclypse says:

      How does the right now love this guy?

      Because he has publicly advocated restraints on certain types of pernicious capital transactions. That makes him Lenin.

  5. Erik Loomis says:

    I’ll tell you what–I spend my days and nights fearing having to speak Esperanto. Also, the language English traders and various Indian tribes came up with in the 19th century to facilitate trade but which I can’t remember, probably because I’ve had too much gin tonight.

    • DocAmazing says:

      L.L. Zamenhof, destroyer of worlds.

    • redrob says:

      Chinook jargon in the Pacific Northwest is one of these. Clearly part of the One World Government conspiracy — all those left coast liberals there now. You’re right to fear it.

      • witless chum says:

        I remember Mabilian (sp?) as the name of a language which survived as a trading language in the southeast long after most of the people speaking were gone. De Soto’s army captured and destroyed their principal town (on the site of present day Mobile, AL) during his extended sojourn of explor-conquest and pillaging-ation through that part of the world in the 1540s.

        De Soto and George Soros both have two o’s in their last name, so you can see the Mabilian Illuminati’s influence working here.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Beyond that, have you ever noticed that George Soros and Adam Weishaupt have never been seen together? It seems obvious that the only explanation for this is that Soros and Weishaupt are one and the same man!

  6. Bill Murray says:

    You know who else loved esperanto?

    That’s right William Shatner. Shatner then went on to star in Star Trek, which portrayed a one world government as a good, appropriate type of government. Shatner the went on to pull a hoax on an entire Midwestern town. Clearly he is Soros’ Captain waiting to invade from the Great White North when the Chinese invade. Pray that $#*! my dad says doesn’t finish the destruction of real American values that Incubus started.

  7. Murc says:

    Because I couldn’t resist;

    “So finally, we’re all in agreement about what’s going on with the adults. Milhouse?”

    “Ahem. OK, here’s what we’ve got: the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner. We’re through the looking glass, here, people…”

    The B-plot of that particular episode honestly tells you everything you need to know about how a soupcon of fear and the proper explanation for it can turn ordinary people into crazed Beck followers.

  8. DocAmazing says:

    Can’t get off the Esperanto thing. Fiku min! But anyway, this may be entirely too obvious but I couldn’t resist. From Wikipedia:
    In Germany, there was additional motivation to persecute Esperanto because Zamenhof was Jewish. In his work, Mein Kampf, Hitler mentioned Esperanto as an example of a language that would be used by an International Jewish Conspiracy once they achieved world domination.[3] Esperantists were killed during the Holocaust, with Zamenhof’s family in particular singled out for murder.

    In other words, you know who else…

  9. hv says:

    Refutation is more than hopeless, it is actively resisted! Like all good cons, this one relies on harnessing the desires and dreams of the victims… YOU could be fighting for the fate of America, YOU are special by receiving this privileged information. And of course the rhetoric of fear. Etc.

    Republicans have decided to corner the market on some of the people who can be fooled ALL of the time.

  10. mj says:

    Tivadar Soros wrote only 2 books and they were autobiographical, nothing about world governments or anationalism.

  11. Rob says:

    Beck is doing a schtick. Its obvious, he just does it better than the TV evangelists that usually are the one selling the snake oil. Beck is a nihilist, he knows what he’s selling is false and he doesn’t care. He’s like the local sports radio host who plays the heel to drive calls, he only says what he does to grab viewers and sales to his ancilliary products.

    • dave says:

      I think the point is that that may be true, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s pouring rat-poison into the drinking-water of US politics.

      • Anderson says:

        You should look at the Lilla article I linked below. Lilla doesn’t think Beck is a nihilist, at least not consciously. He doubts whether Beck has much “real” personality at all.

        Given the examples cited in this post & thread of sincere conservatives who make no damn sense at all, we are kidding ourselves if we think their leaders have a clue either.

  12. Anderson says:

    Mark Lilla has been regarding the Tea Party types for a while now, and he has an interesting article up on Glenn Beck in particular. Takes the crazy as a given and then goes on from there.

  13. George Soros had a father, Obama had a father, you know who else had a father…Hitler!
    Scary isn’t it.

    • redrob says:

      Stalin too!

      This is why Obama is both a Communist and a Nazi. It has something to do with all that thesis/antithesis stuff. It’s all very European and therefore suspect anyway, so don’t worry about the details.

  14. Paulk says:

    I had a dispiriting conversation with a conservative friend the other day, made more so because his habitual reply to my explication of his (lack of) logic was to say, “That argument was even longer than the last one!”

    Add to this the fact that even when I explicitly said I agreed with something, he continually insisted that my argument implied all kinds of things that had nothing to do with the claims I actually was making (“Your anti-business, pro-tax, pro-regulation defense…”)

    It was so comically ridiculous, I might have thought he was putting me on if I didn’t know him better. Did I mention that he has a law degree from Chicago and is a career military officer from West Point? This is their best and brightest.

    There’s nothing you can do to convince them. They don’t want to be convinced.

    • DocAmazing says:

      They have become comfortably dumb.

      • Warren Terra says:

        There is that famous quote to the effect that it’s remarkably difficult to convince someone of something, however demonstrably true it may be, if their ability to feed their family depends on their remaining ignorant. The brilliance of Beck and of the modern Republican party lies in their having realized that the second half of the quote isn’t necessary – indeed, that it’s remarkably hard to convince someone of a truth even when their acceptance of that truth might help them to feed their family.

      • SEK says:

        They have become comfortably dumb.

        Win.

  15. John says:

    David Rockefeller is a) still alive; and b) not Jay Rockefeller’s father.

  16. MobiusKlein says:

    Go to the Conservapedia to find how logic can not be used to refute insanity.

    Relativity is liberal pseudo-science, and is refuted by the Bible.

  17. gocart mozart says:

    You can’t reason someone of out of something that they haven’t reasoned themselves into.

    Twain I beleive.

  18. gocart mozart says:

    Poor Lyndon LaRouche, he was a man before his time. Lyndon however had the misfortune of also being a long winded bore. LaRouche + showmanship = Glen Beck

  19. Lee says:

    Needless to say, after reading all that and writing all this, I have one less friend on Facebook.

    I’d say that’s a net win for you.

    I like Asimov’s formulation of Twain’s concept: “You can’t reason with someone whose first line of argument is that reason doesn’t count.”

    Beck is also a good illustration of the concept of “fractal wrongness” — being so completely wrong that no matter how closely you zoom in on his arguments, he’s still just as wrong at every level as he was in the original examination. The wrongness isn’t even based on a grain of reality.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      You’re very clever, young man, very clever, but it’s wrongness all the way down.

    • The operative word here is “gullibility”. Gullibility lives at the center of the lives of people who have limited critical thinking and evaluation skills, but also a dissatisfaction that leads them to want to attach themselves to Simple Ideas That Will Make Everything Magically Better.
      Glenn Beck is a perfect marketeer for those people. He fits their requirements and primeval needs perfectly.

  20. [Not] Jeff Goldstein says:

    Didn’t respond on his site, but someone did, and in refuting crazy brought some more:

    He posits that a lot of powerful radicals, financed by Soros cash, are counting on Obama to fulfill their political wish list, but that if he proves to be unable or unwilling to do so, they’ll take him out. And then they’ll use the political chaos that comes from a presidential assassination to expand their power, not letting THAT crisis go to waste, as is their wont.

    Which is why Glenn was alarmed when Soros said this last Tuesday: “I used to ? I’m used to fighting losing battles but I don’t like to lose without fighting.” He added, “We have just lost this election. We need to draw a line. If this president can’t do what we need, it is time to start looking somewhere else.”

    Whether this means they’ll try to actually kill him or just work around him, I don’t know. But Glenn figures that the Chinese are aware of that same possibility (assassination) and are preparing for that eventuality among many others. So that THEY can take advantage of such a crisis.

    The above, apparently, isn’t “standard conspiracy theories that have been pinging around society for decades [or] John Birch Society stuff,” but a perfectly rational explanation, grounded in fact, not fear, and isn’t the least bit speculative … or those loons who follow Goldstein are loons. You decide.

  21. SEK says:

    So Beck’s not a Bircher, meaning “if … then; if … then; if … then: THE CHINESE!” is not a lunatic argument, even though those first few ifs concern Soros and the final then concerns the Chinese taking advantage of a destabilized America in the wake of Obama’s assassination?

    How’s that not Bircher-quality analysis, exactly?*

    *I’m in office hours all day and have 62 papers still to mark, so I might not get around to responding that to that in full for a while. (If it even deserves a response instead of a symptomatology.)

  22. Roger Ailes says:

    Sure, it sounds crazy, but that’s only because you ignore the most important part:

    Esparanto is a made up language.

    Refudiate that, Smarty McAssy!

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