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May 19, 2010

Glenn Beck and the Anarchists

Filed under: Anarchy,Glenn Beck is not a Libertarian — rmangum @ 2:16 pm

Anarchy for the USA: It's coming sometime . . .

It’s been a bit too long since I’ve written about Glenn Beck, dontcha think? Last time he came to my attention, he was saying that when Christian churches preached “social justice,” is was just a code word for Communism and Nazism. Of course, if Beck had just said, “nine out of ten times, in or out of religious contexts, when someone says ‘social justice’ they just mean ‘socialism, of the statist variety, meaning government intervention to regulate the economy and redistribute goods,’ though there’s no logical reason for that ideology to have a monopoly on the words ‘social’ or ‘justice’,” then he’d be absolutely right, and furthermore would have given his viewers something to thing about. But no, he’s got to go right to the reductio ad Hitler, peddling the view that everyone who disagrees with you politically is secretly an evil totalitarian out to get you.

Beck’s problem is that he is incapable of perceiving often rather large, to say nothing of fine, distinctions in political and social thought. Everything must be reduced to a duality of us and them, good and evil, freedom and slavery, god and the devil. And the reason for this is that his thinking is rooted in Mormon eschatology, especially as interpreted by the author, and former FBI agent and Salt Lake City police Chief, Cleon Skousen. I should know, because I come from a family of ardent Skousenites. Without going into all the paranoid details, it’s plain that this paranoid and fundamentally anti-intellectual view causes Beck to collapse and confuse categories, and link things together in often bizarre ways. Even when Beck is right (it happens), he’s right for the wrong reasons, and expresses himself wrongheadedly. As I’ve written about before, for all his supposed sympathy with libertarianism, he has a rather dim view of what it means philosophically, and if you add “anarchism” to the mix, well then Beck’s circuits just short out.

I bring all this up because he recently aired a segment which tried to link together the riots in the wake of Greece’s economic collapse with protests against Arizona’s immigration law. The common thread seemed to be that both featured large numbers of people in the street. (“How did they all get together so fast?” he wonders aloud-I’m not saying it must be a conspiracy, but it must be a conspiracy!) Never mind that the Arizona protesters, as can be seen in the footage he shows, are entirely non-violent. He concludes, or rather insinuates, that it represents an incipient communist uprising, and holds up as proof a book (which he does not quote from, and barely bothers to summarize) called We are an Image from the Future: the Greek Revolt of 2008. He says, “They are not anarchists,” which must seem like a non-sequitir to most of his viewers, unless they get curious and google the book, and discover that, hey, they are anarchists! In fact, the well-known anarchist publishing house AK Press put out the book, and in response they have published “An Open Letter to Glenn Beck.” The letter address an intriguing reason why Beck has such trouble with anarchism:

So we asked ourselves: What could account for this guy waving around a book written and published by anarchists, while never quoting a single word from it, and then going on to associate the book with political groups—like the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party—that no one in the book, or associated with the book, would endorse? How could he miss something so obvious?

Then it dawned on us: you’re afraid of anarchists. You’re not afraid of the fake media portrayal of anarchists as bomb-throwing maniacs: that’s your bread and butter. You’re afraid of real anarchists, the actual ideas they espouse, the real work they do.

We don’t blame you, Glenn. When we sift through your rants, we realize that there’s a lot of overlap between you and anarchists. The difference is that anarchists are more honest, aren’t part of the same elites they criticize, and they make a lot more sense. They see you, and raise you one.

The admission that “there’s a lot of overlap” between Beck and anarchism is a startling one, though perhaps correct. An average establishment progressive or neocon intellectual, for instance, probably cannot see much difference between Beck’s views and genuine libertarianism.

I have not read We are an Image from the Future (which of course deals with the 2008 revolts, which had an explicitly anarchist bent, and not the recent riots which are a reaction to the collapse of social services that has accompanied Greece’s financial fiasco), but I doubt Beck has either. At any rate, the more profitable comparison could be made (in spirit if not ideas) between revolts like the one in Greece our own recent tea party phenomenon.


June 11, 2009

Bureau crack-up

I’ve only been a member of the libertarian activist and social networking site Bureaucrash for a few months, but it has been nice to have discussions about liberty on-line, make some like-minded friends, and promote this blog a little. I haven’t actually been on Bureaucrash for a couple of weeks because I’ve been swamped with writing for my other job. Suddenly, I hear that all the radicals are fleeing from Bureaucrash. It seems that the new “Crasher in Chief” is a conservative named Lee Doren who voted for McCain, favors continued U.S. presence in Iraq, and is hostile to the “utopian” notion of anarchy. This unfortunately echoes the Bob Barr/Wayne Allyn Root takeover of the LP last year, the rise of “libratarian” talking head Glenn Beck on Fox News, and the whole Tea Party/Teabagging fiasco. With the Obama victory conservatives, after eight years of heedlessly pursuing fascism in America and imperialism abroad, are suddenly discovering their inner-libertarians, or else using libertarianism as a cover because the GOP is so obviously in shambles. Folks, I don’t mind making alliances with anti-state conservatives and non-anarchists, but they must be intelligent, serious, and the genuine article (Young Americans for Liberty, for instance), not shills for the Republican party. When I go onto Bureaucrash now I see not a principled anti-statism and positive vision of a just and free society but reactionary anti-liberalism and an unhealthy fixation on Barack Obama. Enough is enough. I don’t agree with everything everybody that I put on my blogroll says, but I put a link to them here because I feel there is more worthwhile there than not. But Bureaucrash is coming down, because all the intelligent and passionate people are getting out, and that is surely a sign of things to come, and because we don’t need any more statist and conservative takeovers of our movement. A lot of folks are gathering at Anarch.Me, and Brad Spangler is putting together something specifically for Market Anarchists called Black Vanguard (ought to be better by some orders of magnitude than BCS’s Furries for Milton Friedman, or whatever).

So that’s it. I’ll part with some words from libertarian historian Ralph Raico:

It’s an unfortunate fact that we Libertarians are still sometimes viewed by the press and the public as a “right-wing” party. The Washington Post, for instance, recently referred to us as an “extreme right-wing” organization. This is a pity, and it can do us nothing but harm. Among perceptive people, conservatives are known for their blind nationalism, their readiness to engage in military adventure throughout the world, their envious Puritanism. This is why I have said that one of our most pressing tasks is to draw the line between us and the conservatives, and to etch that line into the public consciousness. One good way to do this would be to emphasize our principled concern for the people the conservatives habitually treat with neglect or with contempt: women, blacks and other racial minorities, gay people. The conservative movement is intellectually bankrupt and morally moribund. Any identification with it would be the kiss of death.
-“Conservatism on the Run”, Libertarian Review, January 1980

May 15, 2009

Have I mentioned lately that Glenn Beck is not a Libertarian?

Well, he calls himself “libratarian leaning”. Yeah, like a drunk taking a sobriety test is pavement-leaning: not because he wants to, or knows anything about it, he just can’t help it, and the whole thing is painful to watch. Francois posted this discussion between Beck and Penn Jillette about libertarianism and anarchism that I saw earlier on Bureaucrash. Here’s a combination of my comments:

“There’s a lot of people who claim to be libertarian that simply aren’t.” Indeed, Penn, you are speaking to one! Jesus, if I was given the Ludovico treatment and forced to watch Glenn Beck I believe I’d end up a flaming Communist.

That video is a sad spectacle. . . . they get anarchism and libertarianism wrong. “Arche”, like many Greek words, has multiple meanings, from ruler to rule to origin or “first principle”. Anarchism, for the most part, uses it to denote “ruler” instead of “rules”. Penn has that much right, but he thinks this implies a commitment to the U.S. constitution, which . . . is minarchism, not anarchism.

I’ve said it before, but we need some kind of campaign to get Walter Block on Glenn Beck to set the record straight about the non-aggression principle, which demonstrates how one can be a libertarian anarchist and how, um, the Iraq war and the War on Drugs are not particularly “libratarian”.

March 3, 2009

Glenn Beck needs to pull his head out

Filed under: Drugs,Glenn Beck is not a Libertarian,War — rmangum @ 5:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

Or I will beat him with a bar of soap stuffed in a sock until he stops saying he’s a libertarian. In this segment (thanks LRC), interviewing Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy project, he displays his massive ignorance about drugs and the drug war. Kampia speaks nothing but sense, while Beck puffs and guffaws and waxes incomprehensible about legalizing even the most harmless of drugs available, whose use is pervasive yet social impact negligible.

Discussions about drugs tends to produce the same kind of irrational blather from conservatives that discussion about guns produces from liberals. But aside from debates over public health and safety (vastly delusional when it comes to pot anyway), everyone, especially everyone self-applying the “libertarian” handle, needs to know that the War on Drugs is the biggest shuck since Keynesian economics. It is not a war on drugs at all, since the American populace is awash in legal mind and mood-altering substances, from anti-depressants to painkillers to gallon-cans of the latest sugar/caffeine cocktail, and let’s not forget the ubiquitous booze. What it is a war against are property rights, personal liberty, and the growing underclass, waged at the behest of the legal drug lobby, Washington bureaucracy, and a new and fearsome private prison system.

Let’s see if we can’t get Walter Block on this show to school young Glenn on what real Libertarianism is about, huh?

February 13, 2009

Are we all blockheads now?

It’s always nice to see people associated with the Mises Institute on national TV, such as this interview with Thomas Woods on Glenn Beck. Also nice to hear Keynes and the New Deal bashed. Yes, the Keynesians are blockheads- but sadly, they aren’t the only ones.


Beck: "He's a good man, but he's not quite right in the head."

Here’s the problem with Glenn Beck, and indeed many libertarians: thought he advocates the right position for the government on the financial crisis (do nothing), but he complains that “the rich are being demonized”. It’s precisely statements like these that make libertarians seem to most people like shills for the corporate plutocracy. In truth, it is the exact opposite, since “the rich” are the prime beneficiaries of both the bailout and the stimulus plan, while the rest of us would benefit more from a libertarian monetary system. I know that his point is that people simply blame those who have the money instead of those with the monopoly on making the money, but it still sounds wrong. And I suspect “average schmo” Beck has little idea how closely tied together the plutocrats, the bureaucrats, and the politicians really are- just like his liberal counterparts, who prefer a different part of that triumvirate.

Libertarianism, correctly understood, is a populist philosophy, and has much too gain from “demonizing the rich”- but the right “rich”, for the right reasons.

As good as conservative critics of the New Deal like Woods, Folsom, and Jim Powell are, they do not have a monopoly. A critique of the New Deal and FDR from a left-wing perspective exists also. I recommend the essay “The Myth of the New Deal” by Ronald Radosh, from A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, co-edited by Radosh and Murray Rothbard. Written in 1972, this remarkable book brings together historians from the anti-imperialist and laissez-faire Old Right like Rothbard with the New Left revisionists in order to present an alternative history of modern America as a radical antidote to the corporate state center. This is precisely the sort of alliance we need today.

Oh, and that Newsweek cover story Beck mentions: though the title claims “We are all Socialists Now”, its actual content reveals (unwittingly of course) that we fit the model, not of socialism or capitalism properly understood, but a neo-mercantilist corporate fascism.

“. . . mechanically fascism, corporate capitalism, and communism are so closely allied as to be almost indistinguishable. A committee of Communist commissars, a corporate board of directors, a syndicate of Fascists all work in about the same way.”

-Adolf Berle

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