Glenn Beck and the great straw-man massacre of 2009

So I'm about 70 pages into Glenn Beck's newest book, Arguing with Idiots, and I have to admit, Beck does paint a pretty convincing picture of an idiot. The premise of the book is that Beck is engaged in an ongoing argument with “the idiot,” who comes armed with some truly idiotic statements, such as, “They may not be perfect, but France is doing socialism right -- we should be more like them,” and, “Private schools aren't beholden to unions, but they should be closed because they're only for the rich.”

It should be noted, however, that in these 70 pages, Beck provides just one example -- just one -- of a real person or group actually making the argument he attributes to “the idiot.” The rest of “the idiot's” absurdly simplified arguments add up to a crude caricature of the progressive, socialist, communist, fascist, peacenik, pot-smoking, transgender hippies that, in Beck's mind, are destroying the country.

Page 70 offers an excellent example of what I'm talking about. After three pages devoted largely to attacking teachers who refuse to grade papers in red ink, “the idiot” argues: “If we only put as much money into this country's schools as we do its defense, everything would be fine.” Beck offers this riposte:

We are all familiar with the bumper stickers pining for the day that the defense budget goes to the schools and the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale, but comparing educational spending with national defense isn't particularly fair, clever, or logical.

First of all, we have to spend on money on defense because if we don't defend our country -- well, the schools won't matter much. Take the Republic of Georgia for instance. Do you really think citizens there are worried about standardized test scores or drunk Russian soldiers driving tanks down their streets?

So we've moved on from Arguing with Idiots to Arguing with Bumper Stickers. I can't tell if that's a step forward, backward, or sideways. Either way, I'm not familiar with those bumper stickers, nor am I familiar with any public education advocates who argue that we stop spending money on national defense. And what does Georgia have to do with any of this? Does anyone begrudge Georgia for spending on its national defense? None of this makes any sense.

To read this book is to watch Glenn Beck argue with himself, and then boast about how he's winning the debate.