Saturday, March 27, 2010

Media Matters' Eric Burns on MSNBC: "Glenn Beck is the single most dangerous person in this country".

I have spoken before about how insane the American right wing appear to someone across the pond. Here, Eric Burns of Media Matters calls Glenn Beck "the single most dangerous person in this country".

Beck has been calling for revolution for many months now. He has even predicted "civil unrest". And recently we have seen the results of the anger which Beck and his tea party cohorts have unleashed. He has called Obama a racist, a communist, a socialist, and regularly compares him to some of the most despicable dictators in history. And he has done all this without anyone at Fox News making any attempt to curb his dangerous excesses.

Now, there is a part of me that thinks that Beck is simply going where he knows the ratings are, that he is - after all - simply a shock jock. He courts outrage because, when working on the radio, he discovered that this is where the money is.

However, there are unquestionably Americans who take what he says as fact.

I came across this interview on Fox and honestly thought that it must be a piss take. The longer it went on, the more I realised that this insane woman was actually being perfectly serious.

JACKSON: I am the tea party people. We're beginners at this political activism and it's all new to us and it's kind of cute 'cause we're shy, we hold up our signs like this, you know, despite what they say about us, I have never done anything like this, but we have to because the president is a Communist.


DOOCY: Now, he is not a Communist. But you just pointed out that you hold up signs and stuff like that and people make fun of you. What do you think about how some on the other political side have tried to diminish or, you know, or marginalize the Tea Party people?

JACKSON: Well, I guess they're afraid of the power of our passion and our numbers and, you know, you might not say Communist, but I watch Glenn Beck and he's taught me well. Progressive is the new word for Communist, but it's the same goal as government control of everything and it's very obvious that Obama is trying to do that. And I don't want to brag, but I sort of called it before he was elected and when I was on O'Reilly and I said he was a Communist and I got a lot of hate mail, but I got some that said I was a prescient which means "a prophet."
Okay, the people who Beck is speaking to are not the brightest of the bright. But that only makes the language that he uses to enrage them all the more despicable.

He constantly implies that the US is almost at war, as he did after the recent healthcare vote:
"The battle was lost, the war is not over. The war is just beginning."
And he casts what is at stake in apocalyptic terms, implying that, in his battle with the Obama administration, his own life might be at stake:
"For those of you in the administration, who are coming after me ... remember, you've broken three [of the 10 Commandments], let's not make it four; thou shalt not kill."
When politics is cast in such terms one can hardy be surprised that a certain section of the populace is enraged. And Beck, despite a pathetic recent attempt to portray the threats of violence - which he has spent months stoking - as, somehow, what the Democrats want, is up to his neck in this.

He, more than any other commentator, has fuelled the anger which many of these people feel.

I wouldn't go as far as Eric Burns in saying that Beck is "the single most dangerous person in the country", but I do think this is what happens when you give an uninformed, basically quite stupid man, a very loud microphone.

When he worked on the radio, he learned how to outrage people and how this turned into mega-dollars. That was okay when when he was simply being an entertainer, or "a rodeo clown" as he once described himself. But he has since strayed into politics, setting himself up as an Everyman, fighting for the little guy in the street. And, he has also worked out that, the more people speak out against what he is doing, the more committed his audience will become
Extreme talk, especially as practiced by a genuine talent like Beck, squeezes maximum profit from a relatively small, deeply invested audience, selling essentially the same product in multiple forms. The more the host is criticized, the more committed the original audience becomes.
As David Frum recently pointed out, it is in Beck's interest to keep people angry, as that is where his profits lie, but it's disastrous for political discourse. Speaking of the Republican loss in the healthcare debate, Frum notes that this defeat was also a win for talk radio:
The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.
So, I don't know if I would agree that he is "the most dangerous person in the country", but there can be no denying that he is profiting from the very real anger that he is stoking amongst a certain section of the US populace.

It's in his interests to keep people angry. He makes lots of money out of that.

Now, I take a lot of what he says with a huge grain of salt, because I understand that doing what he is doing is making him incredibly wealthy. But the really dangerous thing is that a lot of people don't. They actually believe what this uninformed lunatic is saying. And that is scary.

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