Saturday, September 3, 2011

Is Glenn Beck a racist?

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On his radio show last week, Glenn Beck went on a rant to discuss terms that African-Americans use to describe themselves. While he made a profoundly ignorant claim about how life for blacks in America does not "suck" now, he drew considerable attention in the media for his remarks (again).

First, Keith Olbermann put Beck on his list of worst persons on Thursday this week. Via Current TV:

Olbermann is correct in pointing out Beck's ignorance about the term Afro-American or African-American. Beck is also ignorant in his assertion that life no longer "sucks" for blacks in America. From the PoliticusUSA website, Jason Easley noted:
Using Beck’s logic, Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and Polish-Americans can’t pay tribute to their heritage either. What is wrong with those Italian Americans? We’re all just Americans. Stop trying to divide us.

African Americans should take comfort in knowing that according to rich white guy Glenn Beck, America no longer sucks for them. I guess since African-Americans aren’t slaves anymore, and they eat in the same restaurants as white people everything is honkey dory. Forget the fact that African American unemployment is at15.9%. Pay no mind to the fact that the median household wealth for white families is 20 times higher than African American families. Who cares that African Americans are twice as likely to be foreclosed on. Ignore the fact that for many African American communities graduation rates are still too low, and incarceration rates are too high.
Black America, you are living in paradise.
While Olbermann asserts that Beck is a racist in these comments, Republican activist and former Dick Cheney adviser, Mary Madalin, is claiming that Glenn Beck is "furthest thing from a racist." Listen to her remarks on CNN via the Crooks and Liars blog:

Rather than retyping the arguments made on that post about Beck's race-baiting or racism, comments from that post on C and L will be copied in here.

"Glenn Beck is not a racist", and in an abstract way she is correct. It would be difficult or impossible to prove that he is a racist.

He is a fu%$#ing bigot however, and that is well documented.

To which this reply was posted:

One could prove Beck is a racist if he'd say something explicitly racist, but he does not.

He is a bigot, but toward Jews, not blacks. (If I'm wrong about that, provide me with the quote.) It is possible that he was trying to make things right with Jews by having his Restoring Courage event in Jerusalem last week.

What Matalin is flat-out wrong about is claiming that Beck is "the furthest thing from a racist." Below is a debate with miss_kitty about whether or not Beck is a racist. If one wants to equate race-baiting with racism, then Beck is a racist. I do not think that they are equal or equivalent.

Race-baiting is a kind of dog whistle for Beck's racist followers. It's an element of propaganda, and Beck certainly employs many elements of propaganda. (It's so laughable to see his cult followers try to deny that Beck is a propagandist.)

Because Beck uses race-baiting as a dog-whistle or as a sleazy tactic to make the President out to be something he's not (socialist, a follower of black liberation theology, etc.) does not make him a racist, but Matalin's claim that he's far from being a racist is just horse shit.

Beck is damn close to being a racist, but his desire, for example, to see Congressman West in the White House tells me that he is not a racist. His anti-racist rhetoric tells me that he is not a racist. I think that is what Matalin is referring to, but she turns blind eyes toward the race-baiting that Media Matters and Neiwert point out. She is, it has been discovered, trying to sell his books. Like many salespersons, she is not adverse to lying about her falling star (product).

Beck is NOT in bed with the KKK, but his race-baiting propaganda puts him in the next bed over.

Continuing to make the case that Beck is not far from being a racist, as Matalin claimed he is, the following was posted on C and L:

but he is a race-baiter, fairly routinely.

Beck is not in bed with the racists, but he's in the next bed over and in the same room.... 

I've been giving this reactionary propagandist close scrutiny for over a year now, and he really is not a racist. I'd be the first one to point it out if I could ascertain that.

Miss kitty took issue with this assertion:

Definition of RACE-BAITING

: the making of verbal attacks against members of a racial group.

Even if you mean something different, the fact that he uses race to whip up his flying monkeys, makes him a racist. And the fact he hangs out with them...well one is judged by the company one keeps.

To which this blogger shot back:

What racists does Beck hang out with?

I'm open to your argument, that race-baiting makes one a racist, but that would mean that Herman Cain, Alan West and Bernice King are blind to your argument. Beck embraces them.

We looked into Beck's deep past, into his high school years, and he does not seem to have any background in racism.

Is race-baiting racism? I think that the reactionary propagandist is at WORST a paradox about racism. He bemoans it and race baits. I just think that calling Beck a racist is a severe and misleading over-simplification.

Miss Kitty then fired back:

but he's in the next bed over and in the same room.
More than a few of Beck's supporters are racists too.
Just because you can't find anywhere he exhibited racism as a kid in high school, doesn't mean he wasn't then, or hasn't changed since. An example, my brother. We were raised in a left leaning household, both parents were active Dems. My brother was a normal troublemaking kid. First job was in a union shop and he supported the union. Now, 40 years on, he's an uptight righty whitey.

BTW, what was the racial makeup of Sehome High when Beck attended? Wa State was never known for it's large Black population and the more rural, the more White the state was back in the day. I went to HS outside of Seattle, and honestly, there were no Black kids in my school of 1800 (Ok we had on Black guy, and he was from Africa). Our minorities were primarily Asian.

And what these people, Herman Cain, Alan West and Bernice King are blind to is nothing to do with Beck's attitudes toward minorities. Just because he pals around with them does not make him 'not a racist.' Beck's Black 'friends' (I am not familiar w/ Ms King's views nor her position in the Black community, so I exempt her here. A bit of reading does point up she appears to be a conservative though, and there has been familial infighting that seems to surround her) are pretty much held in low esteem by what seems to be the majority of people (at least, a very vocal contingent) in the Black community, because their views about Blacks tend to reflect many White attitudes which denigrate Black people and their place in our society. In other words, I don't think his Black friends have Black friends. Same with Ward Connerly. I'm sure Beck loves him some Ward Connerly.

"He can't be racist because he has Black friends" is so 60s, really.

Race baiting is racism. It's very simple and not overly so, IMO.

In conclusion, this reviewer of Beck's words wrote back:

I disagree.

Let's take Congressman West. Beck wants to see him in the White House! I don't care how much you want to (falsely) equate racism with race-baiting, a racist is not going to promote a black man for President. On the other hand, a propagandist will use race-baiting (lies, false claims, spin, quoting out of context, Breitbarting, misinterpretation, etc.) to attack a black President that he disagrees with.

Beck didn't just "pal around" with King; he featured her at his Restoring "Honor" rally last year.

I can find where he rails against racism, but not a word where he expresses prejudice or hatred toward blacks. (Ignorance? Definitely!) Can you? Leave me the link if you can find where he expresses racism toward blacks.

Beck's black friends may not have (many) black friends, but Beck has black supporters. Not many, but a few would help make my case that he's not a racist. He's a paradox toward blacks, but that does not mean that he's crossed the line that you're claiming he has. No one here wants to peg him as a racist more than I, but --damn it-- I won't make false equivalences to reach a false conclusion.

Matelin is lying: Beck is not far from being a racist. We agree there, but you want to cross a threshold that is not supported by the facts. You want to believe what you want to believe, but you have to detach your disdain for Beck's reactionary opinions and think about the definitions of racism and race-baiting. Just because you want to equate them does not make it so.

I'm going to end this for now with a quote from a piece I just read this morning about faith in god and cherry-picking religious texts because it is relevant to what, I think, you want to believe about Beck vs. what is the actual case regarding his alleged racism.
Our minds and our instincts are wired by evolution with a whole passel of cognitive biases. And these biases slant us in the direction of believing whatever religion we already believe -- and they slant us in the direction of believing in religion in the first place. Among other things, we're wired by evolution to see intention where no intention exists... and to see patterns where no patterns exist... and to believe what we already believe or what we most want to believe... and to believe what other people around us believe... and to cling more tightly to beliefs that we've committed time and resources to... and to believe what we were taught as children... and so on, and so on, and so on.
Your cognitive bias toward Mr. Beck is slanting you to believe that he is a racist, but that is not born out by the facts of his words, acts and desire to see a (different) black man in the White House. You confuse one of many elements of propaganda (race-baiting) that Beck uses with racism. They are not the same no matter how much you want to believe them so.

BTW, a former colleague of Beck's, a DJ in Phoenix, also never heard Beck express any prejudice toward blacks. [Beck] is an anti-Semitic bigot, a race-baiting, deceitful, ignorant master of reactionary, yellow propaganda, hate-monger, fear-monger, hypocrite and fraud (as a pundit). Is that not damning enough without having to make up criticism of Mr. Beck that doesn't actually stick?
Between Olbermann and Matalin is the truth about whether Beck is a racist or not. Wanting him to be one does not make it so. Believing that Beck is a racist does not make it so. As Radically Moderate wrote on the Crooks and Liars blog, "It would be difficult or impossible to prove that he is a racist."

Anyone reading this post, who can make the case that Beck is a racist, is encouraged to do so in a comment below. Rather than expressing opinion about Mr. Beck, quote something he said that conveyed racism. Also, please leave a link (URL) documenting that quotation.

Update, 9/05/11: On Facebook, someone brought this piece, "Glenn Beck's Top 10 Racist Quotes" to my attention. Most of them amount to race-baiting which is not quite racism, however close it comes to racism. However, the 7th point, which is not a quote but a song on his website, comes across as that of a racist, even though the song is not sung or written by Mr. Beck.

The content that really takes the cake on Beck’s website is a satirical (but no less offensive) parody song about the “New KKK”. The song contains lyrics discussing the “close-to-painful murdering of the dark people”.
Unfortunately no link was provided, so even this claim must remain suspect. It needs to be stressed that Beck comes very close to being a racist. 

Update, 9/25/2011: In a discussion on Facebook, Karl Rogers, author of Debunking Glenn Beck: How to Save America from Media Pundits and Propagandists, made a strong, circumstantial case to support the view that Glenn Beck is a racist. From Glenn Beck Sucks, Rogers wrote:
Obviously, Beck never says "I am a white supremacist". You have to join the dots together and read between the lines to see the racism underlying his comments about Mexicans, arabs, black Americans, slavery, etc., alongside the vision of 1950s small town white America that Beck sells as his ideal America. However, did notice that Beck had listed a white supremacist group as one of his favorites on his Twitter page.   This was removed after StopBeck had reported it. Beck has also invited many white supremacists onto his show over the years, and, given that Beck favors the 'guilt by association' style of argument, we need to ask whether Beck, by allowing these racist groups to promote themselves on his show, is also promoting their ideology. But, we should just listen to Beck's own words And that is just a sample.

So... when Beck supports a book by a Nazi sympathiser, you say that he probably did not read the book. When Beck cites a racist like Skoussen as his main influence, you say that does not make Beck a racist. When Beck twitters support for a white power group, you say he probably did not know who they were. When I point out that he has invited white supremacists on to his show, you say that I am trying to make him a racist by association. You admit that Beck "flirts with racism. He race baits...He stirs up racial anxieties..." Yet, somehow, it is "inaccurate" to call Beck a racist. What is your evidence for this? Beck claimed (once or twice) to support Alan West run for president. But ... you have repeatedly pointed out that Beck is a pathological liar, but, for some reason, you believe that he really does support West, rather than using this to dissociate himself from the charge of being racist (Beck has also supported Christie, Bachmann, and Palin for president, when it suited his argument at that time to do so.) Why are you acting as an apologist for Beck on this point?

 Beck is not an anti-fascist libertarian, as you claim. This is yet another of Beck's masks that he wears when it suits his argument to do so. The fact that he is inconsistent is important to understand where he is really coming from. As I show in my book, Debunking Glenn Beck: How to Save America from Media Pundits and Propagandists", Beck is not a libertarian at all, but is a corporatist, selling a pro-corporate ideology, and, his vision of America is that of a fascist corporate state. Beck is an anti-libertarian fascist.

We cannot know what anyone truly believes. Inner states are not empirically accessible. We have to make our judgements on how someone behaves and what they say. It does not matter whether Beck really believes that white people are superior to all other people, or whether he is just an opportunist reinforcing his audiences prejudices. If he promotes a racist vision of America and/or uses racist discourse to his own advantage, he is a racist.

For a summary about Glenn Beck, see "Becoming Paul Revere"

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Anonymous said...

I believe he has his prejudices against anyone not cut from the same cloth as him, but does he mean to be a racist? No. I think all the right wing talkers thinly veil racism in their attacks toward Obama, but are they aware they in part don't like him because of his race? Probably not. So in the grand scheme of things, they aren't trying to be racist, which makes them not racists. They like African-Americans who eschew their own values, so not racist, more of a baiter.
Lisa (thanks for the email!)

Anonymous said...

Whoops not eschew, agree