Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maybe this is a stretch

Lefties (obviously) and Righties (maybe less so, but check here or even listen to Mark Levin if you can stand it) have, for months, tried to understand the rise of the cult of Glenn Beck.

Yesterday, Nate Silver put it this way:

Beck is a PoMoCon -- a post-modern conservative. And his philosophy is not all that difficult to articulate. It borrows a couple of things from traditional American conservatism:

-- It shares an extreme distrust for government, particularly the Federal Government.
-- It shares the notion that American society is in some sort of state of existential decline.

On the other hand, it also features some important differences:

-- It is much more distrustful of non-governmental institutions, such as labor unions, corporations, political parties, community groups, the media, and scientific institutions.
-- It is largely indifferent toward 'social issues'.
-- It is much less explicitly aligned with the Republican Party.
-- It has much less use for elites, which it also distrusts.

The PoMoCons are not so much less self-consistent as they are less concerned with consistency, as compared with traditional conservatives. Theirs is a bric-a-brac, skeptical (sometimes to the point of paranoid), play-it-by-ear, relatively spontaneous reaction to the here-and-now -- not something cooked up by a K Street thinktank. There is no future, no past -- there is only today. And today is a pretty good day to be Glenn Beck.

This is mostly right but not entirely.

Beck constantly clings to a revisionist past, it's one of his most important rhetorical tools. He uses his own interpretation of what "the Founders" envisioned to justify any number of political positions.

Glenn Beck rails against community organizers but defends oil company profits. He might use the language of elite vs. working man, he might occasionally rail against "corporations" but on substance, he's a big defender of carnivorous capitalism except maybe when applied to the banking system.

David Frum has a post putting Beck closer to the Ron Paul side of things.

Beck does seem to share some beliefs with Paul. There is a definitive anti-establishment spirit, I agree with Silver on that.

Often in a similar breath, people have compared Beck's base to that captured by Ross Perot.

They're trying to define it as a conservative populism, which might be the best way to put it.

But when I think of Glenn Beck's rise to popularity over the last couple of years, I wonder if the historical derivative is not David Duke. I'm not suggesting that Beck shares any of Duke's neo-nazi viewpoints but I am saying that Beck's unexpected share of the airwaves is analogous to when Duke elbowed his way into the mainstream political discussion behind a cloak of anti-establishment rhetoric.

His regular referrals to perceived African American benefit at the expense of whites, his fear-mongering around the fictional power of organized labor, his inexplicable predictions that Obama is Castro in a tailored suit - it's to me, much more Duke than Paul or Perot. It's obviously way softer because Beck doesn't have a litany of ties to Nazi and KKK groups or statements to that effect. Beyond that, he is able to manufacture an aura of nice-guy authenticity using his tears and his selective memory of American strength cooperation after 9/11.

At other times, I wonder if the whole cult is overblown. Apparently 42% of Americans have never even heard of the guy. Nonetheless, his show is now the highest rated on Fox News or close to it. That's quite frightening, maybe more so for traditional conservatives than for liberals.


Dambala said...

Beck is taking his cues from cult phenomenon Alex Jones on Jones has created one of the largest and most successful online media empires to date, and when Beck was on CNN he made the mistake of lampooning Jones and his audience. Jone's followers are kind of like Howard Stern's followers, they immediately went on the attack against Beck....Beck took note. Upon moving over to FOX, Beck changed his tune to conspiracy and went directly after Jones' audience.

Beck is a dancing monkey and Fox is the organ grinder....he found a meme which had already herded a massive number of cats and he jumped on it. It appears to have worked. He's skirting illuminati conspiracy, he hasn't yet touched 9/11, which is Jones' real pull....but I wouldn't be surprised if that is his next move. He may even go UFO on us...he's definitely found an audience.

E said...

Yep, Beck is definitely tapping into that conspiracy theorist's delight but their 'ideologies' aren't totally in-sync. Jones seems more like Paul in that they seem to have similar visions. Beck is more of a straight-faced reactionary than anti-government isolationist revolutionary.

jeffrey said...

I think seeing Duke in Beck is actually very perceptive. During Duke's rise in the early 90s he really did give off that Beckish "PoMoCon" (I love that term) vibe. Everything from Duke's blow-dried surgically altered look to his aggressively-plastic-trying-a-little-too-hard-not-to-break-this-grin-and-burn-the-whole-fucking-room-down persona was creepy in almost exactly the same way Beck is creepy. Duke used to like to carry his young daughters on television with him to demonstrate what a humble responsible properly white family he was raising and the whole thing just reeked of ick.

But the subtext with Duke was always resentment. Resentment against "Big Government Welfare" that threatened whatever idealized image of Stepfordness the Duke persona was posing as.

Looking back at it, there really wasn't anything in Duke's political career that didn't fit in with the mainstream popular American Conservatism of its (and our) time. It was only the fact that he had actually worn a sheet that eventually held him back. Really just a technicality when you think about it.

Dambala said...

Yeah the Duke analogy is right on. They have both manipulated an easily manipulated audience...and i don't think either one of them completely buys into the bullshit they're pushing. They both keep the trailer park abuzz with rhetoric and that's a huge market.

And yes, that is the difference between Beck and AJones....Beck is doing a song and dance, Jones is a passionate ideologue. Unfortunately for Jones, most of his audience doesn't have access to high speed internet connections, but they all have access to FOX and Beck.

Dambala said...

Trailer Park snark was pretty snobby/shitty of me. But I am a hillbilly so I think I can criticize my own peoples.

One other observation about Duke. He didn't stop with the anti-welfare movement...he went full tilt nazi for a while. He was incredibly anti-semitic(Holocaust denial) and that separates him from both Beck and Jones. It's obvious Beck would never go that route, but Jones has carefully....very carefully....skirted that issue. I've been following Jones for about 2 years (not his ideology) because I was interested in his meteoric rise via IP media strategy. A lot of his followers are pushing anti-Semitic rhetoric....or what they call Anti-Zionist (whatever that means). Jones has been very, very careful to diffuse that and avoid it all together.

Jones actually has a British counterpart, David Icke, who you may have heard of. Icke is an Illuminati/New World Order conspiracy guru, who at one time claimed a race of reptillian aliens were running the world. He was lampooned, but has since made a huge comeback on the intertubes, having dropped his reptillian ET theory. He now concentrates on grand conspiracy theory, but he also is aggressively anti-zionist (once again...I can't get semantics behind the difference between anti-semitic and anti-zionist, but these guys claim there is a difference).

Anyway, it's all anti-government sentiment these guys are tapping into. Jones is the unadulterated raw message...Beck is the Disney World version that makes it digestable for FOX's audience.

jeffrey said...

BTW this Salon bio series on Beck is definitely worth your time to read.

Anonymous said...

You guys sound alot like haters. Dambala had turned me onto Jones and I looked him up. I couldn't really take the lunacy very long.

I watch Beck often for one reason - no Ashe, it's not because I am easily manipulated - then again I am married so that might invalidate my point - anyway, he reports on things no one else touches. Period.

Beck was all over the Acorn videos, where else was that going to get decent coverage? Now I am going to lay out a timeline and this was entertaining to me -

Beck does a show on Van Jones and continued doing other czar stories
Van Jones group starts a call to boycott Beck
Fox tells Beck to take a week off
Beck comes back and really puts Van Jones under a spotlight
Obama is getting his ass handed to him over the health care bill and tells Jones to take a long walk off a short pier

Now do I think the media should be bullies, no, I do not. However, do I think the media (all networks) should get over their love affair with Obama and do their job, yes I do. Let's go people, there are plenty of stories out there to be done, but no one is doing them.

Does Beck have an agenda, you bet.
Does Beck have a motive to make more money and increase his popularity and this martyr crap is overblown - you bet.

Beck is far more libertarian (Ron Paul) in my assessment. Here's a little secret guys, you know why libertarians are easy to get along with because alot of people on both sides of the aisle can agree with a bunch of their viewpoints.

My personal opinion, the govt needs to go on a diet fast. Ashe, that was a cheap shot, you're better than that. Don't get caught up in the name calling.

Dambala said...

I guess I'm not better than that...cause I think Beck is a dancing monkey, period. I watched him switch his message according to ratings. He's a song and dance man in my opinion.

Editilla the Pun said...

As sick as I'yam of this peehole defaming the good name of a favored artist, as disgusted as I'yam of this little satan's gimp'hold on the so called liberal media, as embarrassed as I'yam to see intelligent bloggers seem to loose their minds in fatuous speculation as to the motives of a squealing Freak'O'Lay Javelina Rodeo... please allow me to offer my own fetish tag to this outhouse boo'rah:

Editilla the Pun said...