Glenn Beck's The Blaze has released a video, headlined "OPEN SOCIETY: SOROS EXPLAINS THE ANTI-CAPITALIST, PRO-MARXIST TACTICS HE USES TO FUNDAMENTALLY TRANSFORM COUNTRIES." The site is using the video, which consists of a series of short clips of philanthropist George Soros speaking, as the latest salvo in Beck's crusade against Soros. Beck has promoted the video on his radio and television shows, and it has since been picked up by Breitbart.tv and Fox Nation. In reality, none of the clips featured in the video comes close to proving the conclusion in the post's headline.
The burden of proof for calling someone like George Soros an "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist" is stringently high. Soros is a billionaire who amassed his fortune in hedge fund management, i.e. through capitalist means, and has backed nonviolent groups opposed to communist regimes such as Czechoslovakia. The Blaze doesn't even come close to meeting that standard.
In the first clip, taken from a lecture Soros gave in October 2009, Soros says, "I want to explore the conflict between capitalism and open society." The Blaze tries to hammer this point home with the third clip in the video, taken from the same speech, in which Soros says, "There is a deep seated conflict between capitalism and open society." But Soros is not calling for the overthrow of capitalism in favor of communism, he's explaining that the influence of money in American political system is too great and that capitalist financial systems are "bubble-prone." Soros also states that capitalism is "not directly opposed to open society the way Soviet communism was." From the speech:
Capitalism is not directly opposed to open society the way Soviet communism was. Nevertheless, it poses some serious threats. I have already discussed one of them; financial markets are not equilibrium-bound but bubble-prone. The dismantling of the regulatory mechanism has given rise to a super- bubble whose bursting will negatively influence the American economy for several years to come. This discussion has revealed another threat to open society: the agency problem and the influence of money in politics, which contaminate the political process.
In an open society, the political process is supposed to serve the common interest; in contemporary America, the political process has been captured by special interests. Our elected representatives are beholden to those who finance their election, not to the electorate at large. What is happening to President Obama's healthcare and energy bills provides a vivid illustration. The electorate has been brainwashed to such an extent that a responsible discussion of the public good has become well-nigh impossible. A national health service and a carbon tax are nonstarters. Our choices are confined to solutions that can be gamed by special interests.
Lobbying is at the core of the agency problem. How can it be brought under control?
This is an ethical issue and not a matter of modifying economic incentives. Lobbying is lucrative and it is liable to remain so even if the rules are tightened. In the absence of moral values, regulations can always be circumvented; what is worse, the regulations themselves will be designed to serve special interests, not the common interest. That is the danger facing the United States today when a wounded financial sector is seeking to regain its former pre-eminence.
In The Blaze's second clip, from a 2004 interview, Soros says, "I came to the realization that open society is endangered by our current leadership in this country. And that is when I refocused my attention on the United States." While The Blaze would like us to think this statement insidious, Soros' "attention" to the United States has largely consisted of philanthropic and political giving of the sort common among wealthy benefactors across the political spectrum.
In the fourth clip in the video, also from his October 2009 speech, Soros says, "Karl Marx proposition from everybody according to their ability, and to everybody according to their needs, was a very attractive idea. But the communist rulers put their own interests ahead of the interests of the people." This has nothing to do with "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" Soros supposedly uses to "fundamentally transform countries"; Soros is giving an example of what he calls "the agency problem," in which "Agents are supposed to represent the interests of their principals, but in fact, they tend to put their own interests ahead of the interests of those whom they are supposed to represent." From the speech:
Once I became aware of the agency problem, I discovered it everywhere.
Communism failed because of the agency problem. Karl Marx's proposition -- from everybody according to their ability and to everybody according to their needs -- was a very attractive idea, but the communist rulers put their own interests ahead of the interests of the people.
The agency problem is also the bane of representative democracy: the elected representatives use their powers for their own interests to the detriment of the common interest.
In the fifth clip, from a question and answer session following the 2009 speech, an interviewer asks Soros, "If what your vision you set out was enacted, would we have as one final result a more equal distribution of wealth?" The Blaze video then abruptly cuts to Soros saying the following:
The success of market fundamentalism in America, which has really kind of skewed a public opinion against their own interests, as I quoted the estate tax, a very good example. Certainly if you eliminated that, then I think the public interest would be better served. And presumably, it would lead to a more equal distribution of wealth.
The Blaze is referencing Soros' comments during the speech about a "well financed propaganda machine which distorts the public's understanding of its own self-interests," to which he attributes the Bush administration's cutting of the estate tax:
By far the most powerful force working in favor of market fundamentalism is that it serves the self-interests of the owners and managers of capital. The distribution of wealth is taken as given and the pursuit of self-interest is found to serve the common interest. What more could those who are in control of capital ask for? They constitute a wealthy and powerful group, well-positioned to promote market fundamentalism not only by cognitive arguments but also by the active manipulation of public opinion. Market fundamentalism endows the market mechanism, which is amoral by nature, with a moral character and turns the pursuit of self-interest into a civic virtue similar to the pursuit of truth. It has prevailed by the force of manipulation, not by the force of reason. It is supported by a powerful and well financed propaganda machine which distorts the public's understanding of its own self-interests. For example, how else could the campaign to repeal the estate tax, which applies only to an elite 1 percent of the population, have been so successful?
There are, of course, competing forces in that arena using similar methods of manipulation but they tend to be less well financed because they cannot draw on the self interest of the wealthiest and most powerful segment of the population. That is how market fundamentalism has emerged triumphant in the last 25 years and even the financial crisis was not sufficient to impair its influence. This was demonstrated by President Obama's decision to avoid recapitalizing the banks in a way that would have given the government majority control.
Again, nothing here about "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" that Soros "uses to fundamentally transform countries."
The Blaze's next clip makes much of Soros' discussion about his anticipating Britain's withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism:
Take the British crisis, when Britain left the exchange rate mechanism. I guessed correctly that it would. And by doing it, I actually precipitated that move. It probably happened a little faster because when Britain, the British Treasury Chancellor of the Exchequer raised the interest rate by two percent, I said this is a counsel of despair, they are on their last legs, therefore one can sell the currency, it cannot be protected. And in fact, at that time, by selling additional - or trying to sell additional amounts, I precipitated the event which occurred I think the next day or within two days. So, in a way, it works as the Marxist way. Marxist theory is that you can accelerate the course of history by anticipating it correctly. And in that particular instance, he is right, it really works that way.
Soros is explaining to a student at Hong Kong University at a January 2010 event that an investor cannot force a market outcome, they can only accelerate an outcome if they predict it correctly, and pointing out that "in that particular instance," events unfolded as Marxist theory would predict. As we noted yesterday, Soros is hardly the first person to ever cite a communist to make a point -- for instance, Beck ally Ralph Reed has cited Mao Tse-Tung.
In the Blaze's last clip, also from the October 2009 speech, Soros says, "The general equilibrium theory takes the initial allocation of resources as given. This rules out any consideration of social justice. Most importantly, the theory assumes that people know what their self interest is and how best to pursue it. In reality, there is a significant gap in what people think and what the facts are." If Beck's larger narrative is any indication, this is meant to vilify Soros for using the phrase "social justice." In full context, Soros was criticizing "market fundamentalism," which he defines as "the undue extension of market values to other spheres of social life, notably politics":
I define market fundamentalism as the undue extension of market values to other spheres of social life, notably politics. Economic theory claims that in conditions of general equilibrium, the invisible hand assures the optimum allocation of resources. This means that people pursuing their self-interest are indirectly also serving the public interest. It gives self-interest and the profit motive a moral imprimatur which allows them to replace virtues like honesty, integrity, and concern for others.
The argument is invalid on several counts. First, financial markets do not tend toward equilibrium. General equilibrium theory reached its conclusions by taking the conditions of supply and demand as independently given. The invisible hand of the market then brings supply and demand into equilibrium. This approach ignores the reflexive feedback loops between market prices and the underlying conditions of supply and demand. It also ignores the visible hand of the political process which lies hidden behind the market mechanism.
Second, general equilibrium theory takes the initial allocation of resources as given. This rules out any consideration of social justice. Most importantly, the theory assumes that people know what their self-interest is and how best to pursue it. In reality, there is a significant gap between what people think and what the facts are. Nevertheless, market fundamentalism has emerged triumphant. How could that happen?
Again, this has nothing to do with "anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist tactics" that "fundamentally transform countries." Soros is explaining that, because people do not always actually know what is in their self-interest, he disagrees with the economic theory that "the invisible hand assures the optimum allocation of resources," and thus that "people pursuing their self-interest are indirectly also serving the public interest." Beck inadvertently confirms this every time he shills for gold -- he's explaining to his audience, who presumably were previously unaware, that their self-interest would be best served by buying precious metals.
The Blaze also omits a following statement in which Soros advocates for minimal government intervention in markets. From the lecture, emphasis added: "I want to make myself quite clear: I condemn market fundamentalism as a false and dangerous doctrine but I am in favor of keeping government intervention and regulations to a minimum for other better reasons."
Glenn Beck feverishly promoted a conspiracy theory throughout his Fox News show tonight that involved George Soros owning stock in a company that makes full-body scanners. Beck said that Soros had sold off the stock "two days ago" because "someone in the media" -- presumably Glenn Beck -- was on to his plan to quietly profit off the scanners.
You're probably used to Beck's theories falling apart in short order, and in comical fashion. This time, though, it comes with a special twist.
Last week, Jewish organizations quickly condemned Glenn Beck's horrendous smear of George Soros as a Holocaust collaborator. Anti-Defamation League national director Abe Foxman called Beck's smears "horrific," "totally off limits," "over the top" and made "either out of total ignorance or total insensitivity," and he was not alone. Even Commentary magazine, which describes itself as "the flagship of neoconservatism" and has deep Jewish roots, criticized Beck's attacks as "dead wrong."
Now, six days after Beck was roundly condemned, his website has finally found a Jewish organization willing to back the Fox host. In an article headlined "Major Jewish Group Slams Attacks on Beck over Soros Programs," TheBlaze.com reported that "The national Jewish group Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has come out strongly against Jewish leaders critical of Glenn Beck's recent George Soros expose, which detailed his actions during the Holocaust, calling such criticism of Beck 'painful, troubling and disquieting.'"
Weekly Standard founding editor William Kristol and former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer are scheduled to be keynote speakers and honorees at ZOA's upcoming annual dinner. Previous honorees include Cal Thomas, Daniel Pipes, and Republican congressman Eric Cantor. Vice President Joe Biden was also honored by the group, but they attacked him earlier this year for his "public criticism" of Israel.
In their press release, the ZOA claims that "a 1998 interview with Soros conducted by Steve Kroft on '60 Minutes' shows that Beck did not misstate the facts." But taking a page out of Beck's book, the ZOA deceptively crops the Kroft interview, suggesting that Soros had admitted to helping confiscate Jewish property as a 14-year-old boy in Nazi-occupied Hungary by removing his statement that he "had no role in taking away that property.
Today Glenn Beck's The Blaze turned to "Zubi Diamond, author of The Wizards of Wall Street" in order to push the claim that George Soros may be "betting on U.S. financial collapse." According to Diamond, Soros' agenda is "to destroy capitalism."
That the Blaze would turn to Diamond to further Beck's smear campaign against Soros is telling: Diamond's self-published book is littered smears of George Soros that are rooted in anti-Semitic stereotypes, including calling Soros the "mastermind" behind of a "cabal of slithery rich" who "visited financial violence on the American people to get Barack Obama elected."
Did someone say "puppet master?"
Excerpts after the jump.
Following the release of former President George W. Bush's book Decision Points, right-wing media are promoting Bush's claim that waterboarding "saved lives." But this claim is disputed by intelligence experts, including former British officials who have "cast doubt" on Bush's waterboarding claims.
Right-wing media figures have seized on a Wired article about the classified Iraq war documents recently released by WikiLeaks.com to desperately claim "Bush was right" that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). In fact, the Wired article reported the documents did not "reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime," but rather remnants of the stockpiles largely destroyed during the Gulf War.
Right-wing media have mocked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for saying that "But for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression." In fact, economists have credited legislation that passed the Senate under Reid's leadership for averting a far deeper economic collapse.
Over the weekend, our buddy Jim Hoft had a meltdown that the "state-run media" was "so corrupt that they will not report that a book was hurled at Obama and barely missed hitting his head." Apparently at the end of a rally in Philadelphia yesterday, someone hurled a book in Obama's direction. It is unclear who did this and why. But, in three separate posts, Hoft whined that the media simply refused to cover that this happened. It's almost as if Hoft is happy that the incident occurred.
And, Hoft got his wish. Fox & Friends has covered the story at least twice this morning, and the Drudge report is prominently highlighting the incident:
Right-wing media figures have highlighted the presidential seal falling off the front of President Obama's podium during a recent speech, declaring it a "sign." The right-wing media has a long history of using trivial stories to launch absurd attacks on Obama.
Today, the White House debuted "White House White Board," a video series in which "one of our key players on the White House team will cut through the political back-and-forth you hear every day and break down an issue affecting American families into simple, understandable terms." In the web video, economic adviser Austan Goolsbee explains how President Obama's proposed tax plan differs from that of the Republican Party:
Seems pretty basic, right? The White House is trying out visual aids in order to better get their message out.
But if you work for Glenn Beck's vanity site, it's a case of President Obama "watching Fox News at 5pm and taking notes," then engaging in "chalkboard theft" with Goolsbee "trying to do his best Glenn Beck impersonation." Oh, and of course, the site deems Obama's unwillingness to continue massive tax cuts for the wealthiest "Marxist." Though I suppose it just wouldn't be a Glenn Beck chalkboard without Marxism being involved somehow.
Heaven help the president should he start needing to wear glasses.
Right-wing media have criticized comments by NAACP President Ben Jealous in which he discussed "all the hatred" in the media and said that "this is too much like the period before Kristallnacht." But right-wing media figures have a long history of attacking progressives by comparing them and their policies to Adolf Hitler, Nazis, or Nazi-era Germany.
Right wing blogs were forced to issue humiliating updates after their most recent fake story -- that the Israeli delegation had rejected President Obama by "skip[ping]" his speech to the United Nations -- completely dissolved. In fact, the Israeli delegation was absent because they were observing the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
There aren't many reasons to take Glenn Beck's new website, The Blaze, very seriously. Indeed, that discussion could begin and end with the fact that it's a website started by Glenn Beck.
But Beck's staff of writers are doing their small part to make sure the website remains firmly disreputable, and Jonathon Seidl's article this afternoon helps to show both why The Blaze is ridiculous and how the conservative media are steadfastly unserious when it comes to matters of fiscal discipline.
Seidl's headline is: "As deficits soar, U.S. commits $50 million for 'clean-burning stoves.' " The implication, of course, is that it's irresponsible for us to spend such an extravagant amount on stupid stoves while the deficit spirals out of control, and in his lead paragraph, Seidl points out that the current deficit is about $1.3 trillion*.
Do the math, and you'll see that $50 million is (rounded up) 0.004 percent of the deficit.
This is what The Blaze chooses to complain about.
And let's take a look at that opening paragraph, because it only compounds the stupidity:
After Politico reported that Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate running against Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, had written an opinion piece for his college newspaper titled "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist," right-wing media figures jumped on the story to attack Coons. What they failed to mention was that the title was a play off what Coons called a joke that his friends* made; the right wing gleefully and ludicrously declared that Coons had called himself a Marxist.
The article behind the controversy is an opinion piece that Coons wrote over 20 years ago, which Politico first covered in May this year. In the May 23, 1985, article for his college newspaper, The Amherst Student, Coons wrote (PDF):
I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway. My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.
The point that others ignore is that I was ready to change. Experiences at Amherst my first two years made me skeptical and uncomfortable with Republicanism, enough so that I wanted to see the Third World for myself to get some perspective on my beliefs.
When I returned last summer, I traveled all over the East Coast and saw in many ways a different America. Upon arriving at Amherst this fall, I felt like a freshman at an unfamiliar school all over again. Many of the questions raised by my experiences of the last year remain unanswered. I have spent my senior year reexamining my ideas and have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults and failures and still believes in its promise. The greatest value of Amherst for me, then, has been the role it played in allowing me to question, and to think. I had to see the slums of Nairobi before the slums of New York meant anything at all, but without the experiences of Amherst, I never would have seen either.
Coons never called himself a Marxist, and Politico never claimed that he did; the title is a play off of what Coons said was a joke by his friends.*
From the September 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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