Monday, April 18, 2011

Glenn Beck is a genius of reactionary, yellow propaganda

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The following clip comes from the rewrite segment of Lawrence O'Donnell's The Last Word on April 4th.  O'Donnell has strong reactions to the April 1st exchange between Fox's  Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, but he misses the most  important concern that Beck expresses in their exchange. This post will address that concern, consider the many elements of propaganda that Beck employs in his presentations and then challenge the reader to consider that just as "idiot savants" can be brilliant people, so too Glenn Beck is an ignorant genius of propaganda. This is also an exercise for those who wish to enjoin this effort that challenges readers to listen, read, listen again and then to make comments below denoting any element of propaganda Beck employs in either of two episodes of his show that he considers important enough to have his viewers record.

First, listen to this:

The first point that needs to be stressed here again is that Glenn Beck is not crazy. Although hardly a paragon of mental health, the notion that Beck is "crazy" is a false meme that Beck himself helps replicate. Beck is not crazy, but his "crazy," i.e., controversial and absurd, ideas over the years have served to help make him rich and famous. "Crazy" has been the key to Beck's success; just as O'Reilly says of Trump, it works "to get attention."

Some of Beck's lies are lies of omission. Beck is critical about Donald Trump in another, more harsh manner.  Beck may be critical about Trump wanting to go "pound China," but Beck has been extremely critical of the whole birther idea (that Obama was not born in the U.S.), and he thinks that it is a dumb idea. Why didn't Beck elaborate on that concern in this conversation? It was, perhaps, a lie of omission. Beck knows that his Tea Party followers like Trump because he is spouting an idea that Beck considers dumb, so Beck doesn't take issue with what has gotten Trump the most attention lately in this exchange with O'Reilly.

Beck wants candidates to "not say provocative things," because that's his job? Because he knows that people who say provocative things are deemed "crazy?" Watch, as the Republican primaries approach, which candidate Beck embraces. If he endorses Michelle Bachmann, then he does not mean what he said here about what he wants in a candidate.

Beck twice claims to want candidates who "just state the truth about what's going on." Glenn Beck is all about the truth, right? Sure he is! Glenn Beck, who called Obama a racist, is about "the truth." Beck, who lied about Obama's "apology tour," is passionate about "the truth." Beck, who took the President's statement about trade with China and deceitfully turned that into the idea that Obama wants to equalize world incomes, is all about "the truth." Glenn Beck, who has convinced his followers that George Soros collaborated with the Nazis, is deeply concerned about "the truth." Sure he is! This short list of Beck's deliberate lies is a fraction of what has been documented here over the last 11 months. (See Contents and other lies exposed below.)

They are provocateurs at Fox, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are mere actors on a stage. It does suggest that some of what they do at Fox is televised for reasons unrelated to a discussion of or commentary on issues or individuals. A provocateur is "a person who deliberately behaves controversially in order to provoke argument or other strong reactions." Bien sur, but that's not the most revealing disclosure conveyed is this exchange between Beck and O'Reilly.

This exchange does not show Glenn Beck being "the wisest entertainer on Fox News" regarding Donald Trump, and he doesn't have "flashes of sanity." Beck always knows what he is doing, and he knows that he is routinely making up "facts." What O'Donnell says about O'Reilly playing a character for gullible viewers is far more the case for Glenn Beck. With his routine assertion of dishonest claims and a stunning, long record of hypocrisies, Glenn Beck does use entertainment to keep his audiences engaged, but the more comprehensive analysis of this uneducated showman is that he's faking it. Glenn Beck is not a highly informed pundit. Like an actor reading lines in a play that he wrote, Beck is a highly talented actor putting on a show because he doesn't have the post-secondary education, the comprehensive reading list or the attention span (Beck has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) to qualify as a legitimate political commentator. Glenn Beck is a charlatan, a very gifted performer and provocateur who effectively employs a wide assortment of tools to engage in his serious propaganda. Wisdom is not an adjective that comes to mind, even if occasionally his fear-mongering is spot on. This paradox, that Beck is a charlatan engaged in serious propaganda is explained from Beck's profound ignorance and hypocrisies. Beck fakes having principles even as he pushes an extremist ideology (libertarianism) by employing many elements of propaganda.

Beck has railed against propagandists Edward Bernays and Joseph Goebbels while wrapping that criticism around his own propaganda! This is one example of Glenn Beck's many hypocrisies, but it is more than  hypocrisy. When Beck rails against the propagandists of the past, it conveys that he is against propaganda thereby hiding the reality of his own propaganda. This is very clever of Mr. Beck; denouncing propagandists of the past is a hypocrisy with a purpose unlike Beck's usual hypocrisies that suggest he does not actually have principles. Either that or he does not understand the ones he claims to have!

tells the truthiness

What kind of person feels compelled to repeat over and over that he tells the truth? Beck is a provocateur, to be sure; but that is just one tool in his container of "instruments" that Beck effectively wields to ply his trade. Beck knows that if he repeats something over and over, that it will be understood by people hearing it (Beck's viewers) as true, whether it is or not. That is a basic concept of advertising/propaganda. As Goebbels said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

Yes, they are provocateurs at Fox, but they are also liars. Beck, the winner of the 2009 Misinformer of the year, is first and foremost among them. To provide yet another example, on Monday the 4th, the very day O'Donnell did this rewrite, Beck made a claim on his show that was obviously false to anyone with a basic understanding of the current events occurring in Libya.

Now we are working like this [fingers of his hands enmeshed] simpatico, with Al Quada. Can't we help them help themselves? Some of them were even former detainees at Gitmo...So we went over there and now we are knee deep in this conflict, and we're helping the people that we have uh...ok, uh, arrested before because they were fighting us.
The facts are that we have CIA agents on the ground assessing the rebel force, and the no fly zone was put in place to prevent a slaughter of the Libyan people. If this slaughter had been allowed, Beck would have bitched like hell about that! In fact, Beck actually complained before the implementation of the no fly zone that the President would NOT provide air cover for the freedom fighters! It doesn't matter what President Obama does, Glenn Beck is going to figure out some way to bitch about it even if it means flip-flopping himself, once on this subject in as little as 20 minutes

Furthermore, simple Google search uncovered this from The LONG WAR Journal:

A former Guantanamo detainee who spent nearly six years in detention at Cuba is training Libyan rebels in the city of Derna, according to The Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson.

Sufyan Ben Qumu (whose name has also been transliterated as Sofiane Ibrahim Gammu) was transferred from US custody to Libya in 2007. Levinson reports that Qumu, who was imprisoned in Libya after his transfer from Guantanamo, was released by Qaddafi's regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008. However, press reports from August 2010 indicate that he was released last year. [See LWJ report, Libya frees ex-Gitmo detainee.]
Declassified files produced at Guantanamo point to Qumu's multiple ties to al Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a known al Qaeda affiliate. Qumu, according to The Wall Street Journal, is now "training many of [Derna's] rebel recruits."
We are hardly enmeshed with the rebels, and only one is known to be a former Gitmo detainee. Add that distortion of the facts (lies) that Beck used to promote his agenda, which in this case is to make it seem like the President is making a horrible mistake there by helping people, who are associated with Al Qaeda, and is therefore not worthy of his office. Beck's short term agenda, just as it is for the vast majority of those working at Fox in the coming year and a half, is to make sure that Obama is undermined at every turn and not re-elected. Fox is a political operation first, and they use the fig leafs of the real journalists, Bret Baier and Shepard Smith, among others, to mask the organization as "news."

Beck's brain, used with permission of Steve Brodner

Another lie Beck told last month is when he called the President's trip to Latin America "a vacation." Even Fox reported the president's trip as an effort to "reinforce Latin American economic ties" and to address "crime concerns." What seems strange is that simple Google searches reveal the facts behind Beck's many lies, but Glenn Beck's followers still insist that he tells the truth. Bien sur! That is what he tells them over and over! Bien sur! If one Googles long enough, one can find any stupid claim supported by some deceitful person with a website. Beck's followers apparently seek to confirm Beck's false claims! Otherwise, he would have lost more than the million viewers that he lost over this last year.

Beck lies about telling the truth; it's one, perhaps his greatest hypocrisy of all. The slogan from Beck's "news" and opinion site, TheBlaze, is "The Truth has no agenda." However, this little tidbit from the conservative Daily Caller exposes yet another conscious and purposeful lie from Beck.

In February of this year, Beck announced on the radio that he had created a new motto for his website, The Blaze. “This is the slogan that I wrote for The Blaze,” Beck said. “We’ve put it up everywhere here and we’ve written it out for The Blaze. And it is: ‘The truth has no agenda.’”
But in fact, this was not the truth. Beck did not write any such slogan for The Blaze. According to website domain name registration records, a man named Michael Opelka bought the domain “” in July 2009. Beck has since hired Opelka to work for The Blaze. Shortly thereafter, Beck began selling “The Truth Has No Agenda” merchandise.
This example of a lie on Beck's part is just one on a long list of many that he has been caught telling. Lying is part of the Glenn Beck brand. Conscious deception is woven into the fabric of his soul!

What, exactly, is propaganda?
  1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
  2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
  3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.
In "How to Analyze Propaganda," the author defines "propaganda as a deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist." Beck is clearly engaged in propaganda to support a reactionary (tea party) agenda, and his style makes Glenn Beck a yellow propagandist; that much has been claimed before here. Beck admits that he is not a journalist, but he employs many of the techniques used in yellow journalism such as:
  • scare headlines or lead-ins to stories, often of minor news
  • lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
  • use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts such as David Barton
  • dramatic sympathy with the "underdog" (his viewers) against the system (the government)
Beck is an extremely persuasive, reactionary, yellow propagandist, who convinces his viewers that his lies and distortions are "the truth," thus, in effect, dumbing his followers down with misinformation.  Whether Beck is describing history, the President, progressives in Congress or progressivism in general, he is distorting the truth in order to harm Obama specifically and progressives in general

In his book on Glenn Beck, biographer Dana Milbank calls Beck an "entertainment genius."(1) However much he is a genuine "genius" or not, Beck's props and entertainment qualities are, again, just more tools in his vast box he uses to "harm a person, group, movement." Entertainment is just one element of Beck's propaganda, and yes he is exceptionally entertaining. If the reader is uncomfortable understanding that someone as profoundly ignorant is a genius, then substitute the word "master" for "genius." Just as there are "idiot savants" (savant syndrome), so too there are ignorant geniuses. There is a reason that Beck has millions of supporters who swear by his truthfulness, and that reason has as much to do with Beck's genius as a propagandist as it does with their ignorance of the facts and unwillingness to do the research to uncover the facts that Beck distorts.

Beck uses many weapons of mass deception. The following is a list of many of the elements of propaganda that Beck employs. If you are not familiar with any of these, most have links to other webpages that explain the instument. For the dedicated reader, who wants to really understand how to analyze Beck's propaganda below, How to Analyze Propaganda is a much-read. It's less than 18 pages from a book, and you'll learn how to fully appreciate the genius of Glenn Beck's reactionary, yellow propaganda if you first familiarize yourself with the 10-step plan of propaganda analysis. In order to make his reactionary case against political progress and the President, Glenn Beck:

To fully appreciate Glenn Beck's method of communication requires actually watch him perform on his stage. The day the Beck was notified that he was being "transitioned" from his 5:00 spot on Fox, he began a two episode argument to reveal what he calls the "coming insurrection." Beck likes to convey how much he knows the future even though a review of his previous fears show that they don't actually come about. In fact, Glenn Beck cannot predict the future, but that doesn't stop the gifted propagandist from making that claim anyway over and over and over. Bien sur!

this book terrifies Beck

The following are two complete, uninterrupted programs starting with the show on which he announced that he was transitioning off his show including his rationalization for it. If you have the time, watch all or some of these two, perhaps final episodes on Fox and find the examples of Beck using any of the propaganda techniques listed above and either note them in comments below or sit back and enjoy two episodes of The Greatest Show of Propaganda on Earth, the first from April 6th. Beck's genius for propaganda is an experience to behold with wonder (like wondering what kinds of people fall for these claims).

If you do not have the time to engage in this exercise of "spot the element of propaganda," then skip past the two videos below for the conclusion of Glenn Beck: genius of reactionary, yellow propaganda.

Note that Beck does not engage in his typical plea to have his viewers tell others to watch his show. This masterful propagandist typically tries to spread his message to a wider audience to persuade ever more people to buy his lies and increase his ratings, but this is the day that Beck learned that his days at Fox at five were numbered. No, he wants his gullible followers to "DVR" this show, so that a year from now he will be proven to be prophetic (or just a buffoon who will fade into history as obscure as he was before his stint on the Fox propaganda channel).

This is an exercise. However, if you should not wish to listen for the full 39 minutes, then listen long enough to notice an element of propaganda and note it in a comment below. This is from the day he was notified that he's being transitioned off his 5:00 slot. Note forlorn expression.

If you have not seen the new Wall Street movie that Beck mentions in this episode, doing so will convey a far more accurate understanding of the world than what Beck is attempting to pull together here. When Beck claimed that it wasn't the state that took us from film to I-pod, that overlooked the massive federal funding that went into microcomputer technology during the Cold War; and it wasn't "the individual" that brought the I-pod to market. It was Apple Corporation. What propaganda techniques did you notice?

And then part two of this Nightmare on Beckster Street:

When Beck asked, "does that mean anything?" and answered, "I don't know," it was a rare moment of candor. There is a lot that Beck doesn't know or understand. For example, in this episode Beck claimed, "Spain's rate of unemployment is 19% [true] thanks to the green jobs [false]." According to a story on Yahoo:

Spain's booming construction industry drew millions of unskilled immigrant workers and generated high levels of economic growth in the decade to 2008.
But the collapse of the property bubble, compounded by the global financial crisis, left many people out of work, especially immigrants and youths.
Green jobs had little, if anything, to do with Spain's unemployment rate. Beck made that false claim to support the Koch brothers oil agenda. When Beck tells his viewers to "do you own homework," that activity should, if his followers actually sought the facts of Beck's claims, spell doom for Beck's ratings. However it hasn't worked that way for millions who still follow Beck. It begs the question whether the million or so who stopped watching his show did follow his advice and found his claims wanting.

What propaganda technique(s) did Beck use discussing the NCMR? What element of propaganda, aside from the techniques noted in the comments made below the videos of these two episodes, can you pick out from those two episodes? Certainly, Glenn Beck is not the first or the last propagandist that needs to be exposed on Fox. Learn how to analyze propaganda, and you'll learn how to appreciate Fox for what it is (propaganda) rather than what it pretends to be (news). If this were not the case, Glenn Beck would have been shown the door as soon as his hour started losing money for Rupert Murdoch last year.

In conclusion, whether genius or just extraordinarily gifted, Beck is an exceptional reactionary propagandist with his own 9-12er organization of supporters and a tea party section of the American citizenry that considers him to be their "historian" and spiritual companion. The idea that Beck threatens the conservative agenda by supporting reactionaries is hardly far-fetched. Jon Stewart was correct when he explained that Beck has become a big pain in the ass for people at Fox, but he also put at risk the conservative/Fox agenda of defeating President Obama in 2012. Beck is an independent voice and a loose cannon, and the management at Fox didn't want to get the blame because Glenn Beck successfully supports the Tea Party candidate in the Republican primaries. Michelle Bachmann and Donald Trump may do well with the reactionary Republican base, but either of these two will most likely get creamed by the formidable debater and campaigner Barack Obama. Beck is being transitioned from Fox because he is not a team player and his genius for reactionary, yellow propaganda threatens the conservative/Fox agenda. Beck was undermined at Fox by his own extraordinary talent at rousing the Republican base in opposition to both progressive liberalism and the conservative movement.
For a summary about Glenn Beck, see "Becoming Paul Revere"

Before more people start tuning into Beck's reactionary, yellow propaganda
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1) Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America, Dana Milbank, Doubleday, New York, 2010, p. 166


Margery said...

where is the retraction of your comment about Opelka? Am I really the only one to comment on your attempt to be really helpful and a savior to the world? And just think, you didn't sway me, either, after all that effort!! better luck next time-- you need to get better at disguiseing your definately liberal Bias. most of your claims of untruth were actually just Disagreements on the opinions reached by Beck. He has never claimed to be a "reporter" but then most of the REPORTERS don't admit to being OPINION brokers.

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Who's Opelka?

There is a reason you're not swayed by the facts.

You're too ideological to be open to facts, and facts about your "hero" only makes you dig in your heels.

I reported that Beck announced that he is not a reporter (journalist) long ago.

It's because he's a charlatan.

I don't disguise my bias, but that bias means that I will not deceive my readers.