In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Bush administration speechwriter David Frum describes the growing reliance of the “Post-Tea-Party Nation” on alternate realities, attributing the trend to what he dubs the “Glenn Beck phenomenon.” In outlining what Frum calls “the danger of closed information systems,” he criticizes those who follow Beck-ian theories of alternative history for basing their views on this “pretend information.” From economics, to the very tenets of U.S. history, Frum outlines the inherent contradictions between Beck's world and reality:
Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge -- an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration's policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord.
As we've noted before, Beck's revisionism seeps into nearly every facet of American history. In Beck's mind, the real truth about our nation has been hidden, and it is up to Glenn Beck himself to educate the American people all over again.
Take, for example, the history of race relations in America. According to Beck, things were going well in America all the way from the 1790s to just before the Civil War. In fact, Beck even claimed that freed slaves founded Liberia because, though they “wanted to go back to Africa,” they appreciated all of the liberties they were afforded in the U.S.
Among the litany of other completely erroneous or bizarre claims made by Beck include: that France gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States as “a slap in the face” to other European countries; that FDR prolonged the Great Depression; and that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because Woodrow Wilson turned the British against them - just to name a few.
Beck also rewrites the history of his political opponents in order to smear them. In the past week, Beck has repeatedly lied about George Soros' actions as a 14-year-old in Nazi-occupied Hungary in order to paint him as a Holocaust collaborator -- a smear that the Anti-Defamation League called “offensive and over the top.”
As Frum warns in his column, Beck's distortions simply create panic, not solutions. Recently, Beck has warned that we're on the verge of a “Weimar moment,” despite considerable evidence to the contrary, and stoked fears of a “food crisis” resulting from massive inflation.
Beck has said that his show would “alter the course of history.” As Frum points out, most of his efforts seem geared to doing that by distorting his audience's understanding of the past.