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How delusional is Glenn Beck?


I realize this is only scraping midway down the barrel of Glenn Beck’s yawning madness, but for reasons I can’t adequately defend I was actually listening yesterday when he explained why he found the idea of an Islamic Anti-Christ to be gentler on the stomach than Walter Lippmann:

I’ve read some pretty excruciating stuff. I have read some stuff — I’ve read about the twelfth Imam. This is the guy who I think could be construed as the Antichrist. The twelfth Imam, the one that today Ahmadinejad is going to say again you mark my words. He will say it again in front of the United Nations, “Oh, Allah, give me the strength to hasten the return of the promised one.” The promised one is the twelfth Imam. I believe that is the Antichrist. It is it has all of the earmarks. I’ve read some pretty dark stuff. I have never closed a book, ever, and said I can’t read this anymore; it’s just wicked stuff. Walter Lippmann. Walter Lippmann, who was one of the guys who was instrumental at CBS. I think he was the head of CBS for a while, he’s one of the guys who started the Council on Foreign Relations. He was one of the guys who did the Versailles treaty, he’s one of the architects of Woodrow Wilson. He is just evil stuff. I couldn’t read it anymore. It’s so dark, it is such a depressing look at humanity where they are saying you’ll never be able to get stupid people to vote; that’s why we have to breed eugenics — breed smarter people to weed out the riffraff. I couldn’t read it anymore.

Which is to say, Beck never read Lippmann in the first place. If he had, he’d know that Lippmann was the precise opposite of a eugenicist — so much so that he wrote a series of articles for The New Republic in 1922 that condemned (a) the belief that “hereditary IQ” could be measured; and (b) the cruel mischief that had already been, and would continue to be, inspired by the World War I-era Army Intelligence Tests. (Given Beck’s views on immigration and his unimpechabley non-racist interpretation of what the Constitution has to say about citizenship, it’s safe to say that Beck shares more in common with Lippmann-era eugenicists than Lippmann himself did.) In those essays — the fourth one being the most scathing — Lippmann warned that testing advocates

have committed themselves to a dogma which must lead to such abuse. They claim not only that they are really measuring intelligence, but that intelligence is innate, hereditary, and predetermined. They believe that they are measuring the capacity of a human being for all time and that his capacity is fatally fixed by the child’s heredity. Intelligence testing in the hands of men who hold this dogma could not but lead to an intellectual caste system in which the task of education had given way to the doctrine of predestination and infant damnation. If the intelligence test really measured the unchangeable hereditary capacity of human beings, as so many assert, it would inevitably evolve from an administrative convenience into a basis for hereditary caste.

Beck’s real aim, of course, is to insist (inaccurately) that Lippmann was a “founding father” of progressivism and to claim that progressives anticipated Hitler, would have wanted to kill Baby Trig, and so forth, so things like “facts” are probably unhelpful to the cause.

I suppose if Beck had actually read any of Lippmann’s work — and someone has obviously summarized/caricatured Public Opinion and The Phantom Public for him — he’d likely be outraged by Lippmann’s (amply rewarded) skepticism that “the people” constitute the repository of all virtue in a democracy. By the early 1920s, Lippmann was of course dismissive of the belief that “the people” exist as an “organism with an organic unity” in the first place — which meant that Lippmann was, among many other things, skeptical of the nostalgic “phantom” community that animated Mussolini’s fascism or the Anglo-Saxon tribalism of the KKK. You’d think that Beck would at least appreciate the fact that Lippmann’s skepticism eventually led him to oppose significant parts of New Deal (including Social Security and the Revenue Act of 1935, which raised top marginal tax rates to 75 percent) and to vote for Alf Landon in 1936. But who am I kidding? Even Jonah Goldberg — our era’s most careful and detailed chronicler of the liberal fascist menace — doesn’t mention that in his book, so how is Beck supposed to know? Besides, he’s busy thinking about other stuff at the moment.

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