Journal: Chuck Spinny Flags Glenn Beck, Populist Rage is Rampant and Rightly So…

Civil Society, Collective Intelligence, Ethics, Reform
Full NYT Story Online
Full NYT Story Online

Chuck Spinney says: Even though OODA loops shaping nutty mass behaviour are becoming ever more disconnected from reality, Frank Rich shows this fact does not imply that the phenomenon of populist rage is not based on some real frustrations, grievances, anxieties, and fears.  CS

The New York Times

OP-ED COLUMNIST

Even Glenn Beck Is Right Twice a Day

FRANK RICH

Cartoonist:Barry Blit

Time put Beck on its cover this week. Man of the Year may not be far behind. Beck is not, as many liberals assume, merely the latest incarnation of Rush Limbaugh. He is something different. That’s why he is gaining on his antecedents — and gaining traction in the country’s angrier precincts.

Though Beck’s daily Fox News show is in the sleepy slot of 5 p.m., his ratings are increasingly neck and neck with the prime-time tag team of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and he has beaten them in the prized 25-to-54 demographic. It’s not just because he is younger (45). This self-described “rodeo clown,” who wells up with tears for dramatic effect, doesn’t come across as cranky or pompous, like Limbaugh and O’Reilly. A fervent Mormon convert and proselytizer, he is untainted by association with the old Dobson-Robertson-Reed religious right. Unlike Limbaugh, he bonds with his fallible listeners by openly and repeatedly owning up to his own mistakes, including his history of drug and alcohol abuse. Unlike Hannity, he is not a Republican apparatchik.

Beck has notoriously defamed Obama as a “racist,” but the race card is just one in his deck. His ideology, if it can be called that, mixes idolatrous Ayn Rand libertarianism with bumper-sticker slogans about “freedom,” self-help homilies and lunatic conspiracy theories. (He fanned Internet rumors that FEMA was establishing concentration camps before tardily beating a retreat.) It’s the same crazy-quilt cosmology that could be found in last weekend’s Washington protest, where the marchers variously called Obama a fascist, a communist and a socialist, likening him to Hitler, Stalin, Castro and Pol Pot. They may not know that some of these libels are mutually exclusive. But what they do know is that they need a scapegoat for what ails them, and there is no one handier than a liberal, all-powerful president (who just happens to be black).

Beck captures this crowd’s common emotional denominator — with appropriately overheated capital letters — in his best-selling book portraying himself as a latter-day Tom Paine, “Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.” Americans “know that SOMETHING JUST DOESN’T FEEL RIGHT,” he writes, “but they don’t know how to describe it or, more importantly, how to stop it.” This is right-wing populism in the classic American style, as inchoate and paranoid as that hawked by Father Coughlin during the Great Depression and George Wallace in the late 1960s. Wallace is most remembered for his racism, but he, like Beck, also played on the class and cultural resentment of those sharing his view that there wasn’t “a dime’s worth of difference” between the two parties.

Phi Beta Iota: “Populism” is one of America’s healthiest safety valves.  It works because once the public is freed from the illusions that prop up the lies, there is no force on the planet that can permanently hold the public back.  Here are two references, with many, many more available on this web site (see especially Democracy).

The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (Galaxy Books) The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life VOICE OF THE PEOPLE: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life