Over this past weekend, I had an interesting political discussion on Facebook about Jon Stewart’s upcoming “Rally to Restore Sanity” and Glenn Beck, and I wanted to preserve it for posterity’s sake. I have changed some of the names to protect the innocent (and the guilty) and to edit a few superfluous comments out. I just thought that the argument presented by the opposition represents exactly why politics right now is so divided that a call to take it down a notch is sorely needed. So, in order to have a change of pace from my usual “check out my new music” and “wah wah I’m still single waaaah!” blog posts, I present some political discussion for you!
My First Status Update (referring to this video): I think the moment I lost all respect for Glenn Beck was the moment when he basically stated that everyone who liked Jon Stewart and his upcoming rally were victims of some sort of Manchurian Candidate plot.
The first few responses were short comments like most people get on their status updates, things like “ha ha ha” and “Come on, everyone likes Angela Lansbury!” Then the first comment appeared from who I will call the Glenn Beck fanatic:
- Glenn Beck Fanatic: I’m pretty sure he never said that. Good luck finding the clip. [referring to the unedited Glenn Beck clip]
- Me: While the Manchurian Candidate thing may have been an exaggeration on Colbert’s part, the fact of the matter is that Glenn does believe that the rally’s some sort of secretive plot to “activate the youth” who watch the show into voting in all the left-wing liberals who will push the evil socialist agenda, instead of what it really is: a plea to both sides of the extremely polarized political landscape to listen to each other.
That may have been a little more charged than I probably should have put it, but the response I got maaaay have been an overreaction:
- GBF: I don’t think he has any strong feelings on the rally itself. I agree that he believes that the show is used to “activate the youth” but I don’t think it’s all that secretive. It seems to be working on you. Mock Christians, mock Conservatives. It’s the liberals who are cool. We’ll see what the rally turns out to be, but I have a hard time believing that it’s a plea to both sides to listen to each other when he’s made it very clear that he has nothing but contempt for the right.Honestly, I couldn’t care less what John Stewart does. I don’t understand why you care so much what Glenn Beck does. If you actually watched or listen to his shows, I think you’ll find very little to disagree with him on. Restore Honor, restore the Constitution, return to God and faith. Such hate! Perhaps you should get first hand information instead of just believing everything John Stewart tells you.
It took me a little while to figure out how to respond to this inanity. My first instinct was to respond saying, “Oh, yeah? Sounds like Glenn Beck has been brainwashing you to hate all liberals!” Of course, despite being basically the same argument, with the same amount of factual evidence, in reverse, it probably wouldn’t have helped matters and would’ve been an oversimplification. So instead, after much thought, I responded with this long post:
- Me: Thanks for the Ad Hominem attack, it really helps the discussion.
All right, prepare for a long one. I understand that both Stewart and Colbert have a liberal bias. It’s one reason I had to stop watching both shows shortly before the ’08 election: they were so obviously pro-Obama that it was driving me crazy. And there are some issues that I disagree with them on, such as abortion and gay marriage. And the fact of the matter is that it isn’t personally Glenn Beck so much that I have issues with. Sometimes I like Glenn, especially when he was on CNN. I’ve just lost respect for him, in the same way I lost respect for John McCain (who I voted for). McCain had to compromise a lot of his values and “maverick” tendencies to win the Republican nomination in 2008, and it alienated his moderate base and destroyed his credibility. Since joining Fox News Glenn has had the same issue: in order to keep his job, he’s had to toe the line of the station: push the conservative agenda. Sometimes you can see that he isn’t entirely happy with it, especially when he gets people with *really* right-wing opinions on his show and he doesn’t quite know how to respond (*cough* Stu *cough*). I appreciate what he’s trying to do; I just think he’s constrained by his network and has to keep his message in line with theirs. And in many cases, he uses straw man arguments and sweeping generalizations to boil a complex issue down to a rallying cry. Ergo, he has lost my respect. (And this isn’t just a Glenn Beck thing; Gretchen Carlson, according to her credentials, is an extremely savvy intelligent person who was valedictorian in her class, yet says some boneheaded and/or simplistic things on the air at times because there’s an agenda she’s got to push.)
Now you may say that Jon Stewart and especially Colbert do the same thing, and to an extent, that’s true. First of all, they’re comedians. Their main goal is to make a living making people laugh, and at first glance it may seems that they accomplish this by skewering the right all the time, especially Colbert’s pundit character. However, Jon especially has grown a bit disenchanted with the Obama administration, as have many of his former supporters. Nowadays I think The Daily Show consists more of taking Congress and the White House to task for being do-nothings due to partisanship than they do taking jabs at Republicans alone or Fox News. He even recently had Jimmy Carter on the show and drew some interesting parallels between him and Obama: both are charismatic, intellectual, well-meaning, good-natured people who were elected mostly because people wanted change from a previous corrupt administration (or one that was perceived to be corrupt anyway; I’m not going to argue that topic here) and who turned out to be ineffectual in carrying out their promises. He’s not a socialist who wants to send your grandparents to death panels, but rather a charismatic man who hasn’t lived up to his ideals. I think that is a reasonable assessment of the situation that doesn’t resort to name-calling, slogan chanting, or extremism. Jon may not embrace the right, but he certainly doesn’t think that liberals are all cool. That’s something even Bill O’Reilly has talked about.
Which brings us to the purpose behind the rally. Ignoring Colbert for the moment, Jon’s rally is a call to restore reason, a call which, if you’ll pardon the wordplay, is a reasonable one. For example, Congress recently defeated a bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a bill which even 64% of Republicans said they support. It should have been a shoo-in, so why didn’t it pass? Because there were ridiculous back-and-forth bickering about amendments to the bill supporting military spending that reached a point to where neither party could agree to pass it as it stood. It is that kind of thing that Jon is trying to fix: not the evil left-wing or sinister right-wing agendas, but the fact that the political landscape is so divided right now that a bill that more than two-thirds of the Congress supports cannot get passed!
Colbert’s schtick is that he distorts the truth, but it’s a reactionary distortion. Most of the time when he really “nails” people, it’s not because he disagrees with their policies, but because he likes to point out logical fallacies in their arguments. Hence his “March to Keep Fear Alive” is not so much a personal attack on Beck’s rally as it is a general statement on the “Us Vs. Them” mindset. There are some parallels to Beck’s rally that Colbert plays up for humorous effect, but the main purpose is to point out the fallacy that the political world is made of black and white issues.
Also, it really gets my goat when people say that they trust Glenn mostly because he’s a member of the Church, like somehow Church membership makes one impervious to error (and the associated implications that those who aren’t members of the Church somehow don’t know what they’re talking about, and that members who disagree with Beck must therefore have weaker testimonies). That has nothing to do with Jon Stewart; it’s just a pet peeve of mine. If you like Glenn for other reasons, that’s fine, but don’t bring this point up.
I don’t feel that I need to elaborate on that. I still stand by everything I said. The response was this:
- GBF:I don’t believe there were any ad hominem attacks in my comment.I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Jeff. I’m sure we still disagree on a lot but I admit I was assuming some of your biases based on the arguments I’ve had with others….I apologize for that. I hope you’ll return the favor since I never mentioned or even alluded to Glenn Beck being a Mormon.
To which I responded:
- Me: I think that implying that I’m filled with hate and follow Jon blindly would be a personal attack, but that’s neither here nor there. I brought up the Mormon thing mostly because most people I talk to cite that as their first reason they listen to Glenn, and I just wanted to forestall it here. Like I said, if you like Glenn for other reasons, more power to you. And I apologize for implying that you were part of that group.
It was clear that she had no idea how to respond to any of my points and so tried to back out gracefully. I give her points for that; however, leaving with two parting jabs about the Mormon thing (which I responded to) and the ad hominem denial (which is demonstrably false) showed that she wasn’t quite as conciliatory as perhaps she wanted to appear. Oh well, people are people. As a side note, another person who had no connection to the first had this to say, complete with my responses:
- Person #2: That Glenn Beck clip he showed was so heavily edited that there’s no telling what the actual context was or what he really said. That seems to be typical of Colbert who does this stuff just for comedy and to mock the right. It seems to me that his whole rally to keep fear alive is the same way, just a mocking jab at Glenn’s rally. I didn’t sense any plea for people to listen to each other. It’s just a way to be absurd while trying to project the fear-monger label onto people he doesn’t like.
- Me: Well, Colbert is someone you’ve got to watch with a somewhat cynical eye, for he doesn’t mean a lot of what he says as his pundit character and I think his particular rally is more for laughs than for any effective political strategy (and also to be a counterpoint to Jon’s rally to stir up attention). My status update? Meant in the same way. But it’s not the parody rally I’m concerned with; it’s Jon’s rally that I defend. I don’t truly believe that Glenn Beck said Jon Stewart is brainwashing people, but merely that he is trying to stir up people to action that have had no real voice in politics (which he *is*) and that that is somehow a bad thing (which it isn’t). This is also why I’ve tried to find the original Glenn Beck clip online but haven’t been successful; if someone can find it, please let me know!
I still haven’t found it.
EDIT: Yes, I have! Thanks, Rachel!
- Person #2:I don’t have cable TV, or satellite, or anything of that sort, so I don’t see Glenn’s show on Fox. The few clips I see from time to time don’t really impress me. He has the show on Fox because it allows him to reach a wider audience, but I’m not sure a visual medium is really his thing. (I mean, who wants to see a dough boy like him in HD anyway, right?) 😉 Radio is what he’s really good at, and I have listened to his radio show for about 7 years now, and greatly enjoy it.
I do like that he’s Mormon, but that’s not the reason I listen to him. If that were the sole criteria for liking someone then I should love Harry Reid too, and yeah… that’s not gonna happen. 😉 My dad also won’t listen to Glenn because he still swears a bit too much, and he calls Glenn “that foul-mouthed Mormon.” (My whole family is also Mormon, btw.) I do like that Glenn’s membership in the Church helps give him a perspective similar to my own, though.
The reasons I listen to Glenn are that he’s honest, and genuine, and is really trying to help bring people together while informing them about the history of this country, and the dangers that it faces today. I actually even like Glenn better than Rush, because Glenn’s not so political. Rush talks politics all day, but Glenn tends to focus more on values and digs deep into things that aren’t even on Rush’s radar. Is Glenn perfect? No. But I really believe he’s trying to be, and I respect him for that.
- Me: I will admit up front that I haven’t listened to much of Glenn’s radio show. Usually my radio dial is set to KSL (the main Utah news station), and so I occasionally get bits and pieces of Sean Hannity’s show (who, for me, falls under the same category of Rush at times, i.e. he may have some good points but they’re lost amidst rhetoric and he wins arguments by talking loudly over anyone who disagrees), but I have seen Glenn’s show, both on CNN and on Fox News. And when he was on CNN I found him a more sympathetic character. Which just says to me that since he moved to Fox News he’s had to change his message and methods to fit with the network’s agenda. That, to me, does not suggest integrity nor honesty, even if his aims are noble. At least with Colbert you *know* it’s an act; with Beck, you can never be sure. Plus there are tons of logical fallacies in his arguments, especially his demonizing of “progressives” which doesn’t even make sense, considering that being a progressive during the 1930’s where he pulls a lot of his examples meant a completely different thing than it does now. Also, if it weren’t for progressives, a lot of public works projects (like highways, libraries, and public education) would have evolved differently (presenting: the Doritos public library! $2 to get in!). The history he teaches is history with a conservative bias, just as he accuses the history books of having a liberal bias.
I could bring up some other examples, but I digress. Most of that is just policy disagreements, not actual problems. I do appreciate that he believes in standing up for what he believes is right; what I don’t agree with is the simplification and polarization of the political landscape that he contributes to. And when he, a figure on a news channel and not a comedy channel, attacks a man for putting together a rally to “restore rationality” to politics, I lose respect for him.
I bring this exchange up mainly because person #2 here, while still being on the side of GBF, was more willing to discuss his viewpoint in a reasonable manner without resorting to hate speech. If you want to have a rational discussion, this is the way to go about it.
There were a few more comments after that, from Ben and Annelise:
- Ben: Don’t you understand, Jeff?!? If only you’d LISTEN to Glen Beck, stop believing everything Jon Stewart tells you, and start believing everything Glen Beck tells you… wait, now I’m confused… who is brainwashing who? And who sounds brainwashed?
- Annelise: There is an article in Forbes Magazine a couple of months ago about Glenn Beck as a business man. I liked it alot…it actually made me like him a bit more because the whole point of the article was to point out that Glenn Beck is also an entertainer and in it for the money. So…read it. He admits that some of the stuff he says is for the shock and entertainment value. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0426/entertainment-fox-news-simon-schuster-glenn-beck-inc.html
- Me: I’ve actually read articles similar to that one (and now I’ve read that one too), but I’m afraid that it doesn’t gain him any respect from me. If Glenn had a show on Comedy Central (or whatever the “right-wing version” would be) then I’d be more apt to treat him as an entertainer. But he’s on Fox News, whose tagline is “Fair and Balanced”. And, as has been evidenced on this very page, many people take him at his word, even believing him to be an honest and sincere man when he’s really in it for the money. In many ways, it makes him the anti-Jon Stewart: while appearing as a force for political change and a right-wing leader, he really, according to his own words, “..could give a flying crap about the political process.” While Jon, appearing as a comedian and never claiming to be more than such, obviously deeply cares about the political process and what it’s doing to the country.
- Annelise: Yeah… I was going to say that my only beef with him on THAT point is that he hasn’t come out and said…HEY!!! I’m an entertainer…at least not to the masses…how many people actually read Forbes (well…quite a few I would guess…but you know what I mean.)
She then went on to quote the article stating how much money Glenn makes and how little he actually cares about politics and how much he cares about creating controversy and making money. So basically, proving my point.
Anyway, after this I posted another status update: Note to self: Don’t criticize Glenn Beck unless you have too much time on your hands.
This prompted some responses, in most of which I’ll preserve the (shortened) name of the commenter, except in certain cases (while editing comments superfluous to the discussion):
- GBF: That was your choice to keep going.
- Me: It sure was.
- Katie H. S.: I actually really appreciate your brilliance from earlier today. You are one smart guy, Jeff. And while I disagree with you here and there on it all (I’m about as far-left as you can get), I thought your arguments were beautifully articulated and would like to send you as my congressman. But as for “[GBF]” — DISLIKE.
Glenn Beck makes me ashamed to be Mormon.
- GBF: …There were so many problems with Jeff’s argument that I gave up. We’re not going to agree. But that’s okay, part of the Gospel is loving everyone in spite of our differences. Even if that person is Glenn Beck.
This is probably the last thing I’ll hear from our Glenn Beck Fanatic. She had so many problems with my argument that she had to give up? I would think that a lot of problems in an argument would make it easier to argue against. You know, your shot is less likely to miss and all that. Sure, maybe you can’t address everything, but at least you could address something.
Anyway, the discussion continued:
- Katie H. S.: Thanks for preaching. Do you feel better now?
- Me: Thanks, Katie! I consider that extremely high praise, coming from you. I’m probably about as moderate as you can get (in fact, the pundit that I think I agree with more often than not is KSL’s Doug Wright) but these days “moderate” is almost a swear word. I don’t have answers, but I know enough to recognize that nobody has all the answers.
- James S.: Jeff I love what you’re saying. I think that a very large majority of people feel the same way but don’t say anything for fear of the, as evidenced here, righteous indignation of those on the far ends of both sides. So thank you for your adept assessment of the current situation. I was inspired. Keep up the good work.
- Katie H. S.: ”Righteous Indignation?” That’s awfully kind of you — most Mormon men just call me a bitch 🙂
- James S.: Give me some credit, I’m sure I haven’t heard close to what you could be indignated (not sure if that’s a word) about. I was more referring to the other person’s comments. Personally my beliefs are probably a lot closer to your side of the road.
- Steph B. F.: I just read the WHOLE commentary et al on your last post, and I agree with Katie, Jeff you are one smart guy. You were, in every way, what you said you were: a moderate. There needs to be more moderates in the world. Isn’t that a golden rule as well? “Moderation in all things”?
I loved the way you researched all angles and represented all sides. I don’t know much about Glenn Beck except that his “fans” seem to be super right-wing and very vocal (even mean?) about it. And you are correct, Jon Stewart is a comedian, though not an uneducated one. 🙂 I am in the same boat as you, Jeff, I am an independant and committed to what is fair to all and ethical. I can’t go with one party or the other for fear I will be crushed by their agendas.
Katie– keep on keepin’ on. I get frustrated with the “vote/be Republican or go to hell” political atmosphere in Utah, too. It makes me almost desperate to get out of the state. Good luck with your endeavors. You’re not a bitch (unless I am, too…..probably I am :D), you’re a strong, intelligent woman.
[GBF]– I don’t know you, but you seem to have conviction. That’s good. I’m impressed that you seem to be so well-versed on Glenn Beck. I’m not sure I could stomach him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Patriot and I love my country and the Constitution, but maybe some of us see all of that in a different light than you do. Thanks for giving us a chance! 🙂
- Steph B. F.: Sorry to take up so much space Jeff! Thanks for the excellent food for thought!
- Ben: Wait, are we supposed to love everyone, or just the Mormons? Now I’m confused. Because I love Jon Stewart. But he isn’t Mormon… and it seems some people come across as a little hypocritical when they rant about how awful Jon Stewart is and then tell me to love everyone… Can someone please bring logical and order back?Restore rationality, if you will?If only someone would hold a rally.
- Me: Thanks to everyone for your responses! And to Steph: don’t worry about being long; after my diatribe previously I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. Also, I’m glad that I have so many bitches on my side! Or strong, intelligent women, you know, whatever.
- Annelise: Go bitches!
That’s the end of the discussion as of right now; though more people may add to it in the future, I think this is good enough to preserve the general tenor of what happened.
The point of preserving this, besides as a good summation of some of my political stances, was to show that we truly do need a voice for moderates, but since moderates don’t normally scream loudly the media ignores them. I truly have high hopes for this rally and I hope it becomes more than a footnote in history, but even if it doesn’t I still have high hopes for this country. At least it may motivate people to get more informed and from more than one source, as fear only holds sway over the ignorant. Also, I’m sorry, but Glenn Beck makes me angry, especially in light of things like the article Annelise posted.
Also, but damn, a lot of people said “bitch.” I mean, what the hell?