Glenn Beck wants you to be stupid

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Glenn Beck is a man promising education but peddling ignorance. It's a characteristic of most accomplished propagandists, whose offerings of "truth" are ugly distortions and lies barely covered by a thin veneer of fact. Beck, however, has grown aggressively mendacious in defense of his anti-intellectual and counterfactual retellings of history.

On his show last night, Beck attacked the Politico for quoting a slew of actual historians dismissing Beck's documentary, "Revolutionary Holocaust," and its attempts to link the progressive movement to the worst communist atrocities of the 20th century as inaccurate, ahistorical, and "a complete lie." Beck defended himself by attacking the "eggheads" and attempting to explain why he was right to tie progressives to genocide:

BECK: Now, obviously, a point can be made that totalitarianism starts with the government inserting itself into more and more aspects of our lives, right? But the underlying point here I made in the documentary -- and please, try to keep up, Alan, in our alternative universe -- the right is continually associated with Nazis. That seems perfectly fine with all the egg-heads in this country. Unfortunately, that is the lie that we are exposing. And it's, by the way, again, not the Democrats. It's the progressives on the lefts -- on the left. They have been excusing and defending brutal dictators from the beginning. The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century.

And then also, they also had a problem. They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, IRISH PLAYWRIGHT: Now Signor Mussolini cannot take it off. He is condemned although he is a most amiable man. He is condemned to go through life with that terrible and imposing expression which really does a great deal of injustice to his kindly nature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BECK: To his kindly -- he is talking about Mussolini. Shaw gave us a great insight into what the progressives do. He talked about Mussolini's scary look. Right before that part, he said, you know, Mussolini looks like this, a little scary. And can look like that, too, but I can look happy, too. But Mussolini is condemned to always look like that.

He wanted America to know that he could look scary, but he really wasn't. After it became abundantly apparent to the world, the sheer evil that these people were supporting, progressives realized -- as George Bernard Shaw demonstrated on camera -- that they had to change the scary face. Not the policies, the scary face.

There are a couple of things to address here:

"The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century." This is comically false. Rather than going "underground," the progressive movement was ascendant at the turn of the 20th century. The first three presidents elected in the 20th century -- Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson -- were all, to varying degrees, reformers who enacted progressive policies at the national level (Taft being the least ambitious of the three, Roosevelt the most). The progressive movement reached its zenith in 1912 when Roosevelt reemerged on the political scene as the firebrand head of the Progressive Party and finished second in that year's election with 88 electoral votes and 27 percent of the popular vote, the best showing ever by a third party in an American presidential election.

"They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators." George Bernard Shaw was an author, playwright, polemicist, and eugenics-supporting lunatic. He was also an avowed socialist, which, despite Beck's insistence to the contrary, is not the same as a progressive. The American progressive movement actually presented itself as an alternative to socialism. As University of Kansas professor of politics Sidney Milkis wrote:

The Progressive Party's millennial celebration of direct rule of the people was not reactionary, as [socialist leader Eugene] Debs and other social democrats alleged. Yet it beheld a program of reform that sought to preserve the dignity of the democratic individual. Emphasizing the candidate instead of the party, the Progressives deflected attention from class conflict. Seeking to build a welfare state that was sustained by public opinion rather than through a social democratic party, it emphasized individual political action. [Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy, University of Kansas Press, 2009. Page 24]

Needless to say, Shaw's views were not representative of the progressive movement.

Then Beck really went off the rails:

BECK: Last week on radio, we were talking about the Beatles song, "Revolution." I really listened to the words of this and I got to tell you something, the Beatles spells it -- they spell it all out. And it's all about understanding how progressives have been operating.

[...]

BECK: The Beatles knew. They knew, opening and defending Mao, or attacking the Constitution would be suicidal. You can't change it. You can't have a revolution. But you can make the Constitution evolve. You can make it a -- what is it progressives said around the turn of the century -- a living document! Evolution. Evolution, not revolution -- slowly, step-by-step.

Beck was serious. He was, in all earnestness, using a rock song as evidence of the perfidy of the American progressive movement. This isn't just wrong, it's a deliberate and malicious thumb to the eye of serious scholars of history. He's telling his audience not just that the people who actually know what they're talking about are wrong, he's telling them they'll be better informed if they listen to the freaking White Album.

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Glenn Beck
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