Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beck's selective stupidity

Fresh off of telling his audience that the United States is not a democracy but a republic, Glenn Beck had more to say about America supposedly not being a democracy on Monday.

Boy there are pesky phases that one that we should point out, social justice, shared community, and collective responsibility. Let’s not forget truly democratic society. Well, we’re not a democratic society. I think that was the Soviet Union. I believe it is the democratic socialist republic in China as well. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, everybody, all of the Founders repeatedly said because they knew democracies do not work, they never have, but Progressives, Marxists, really led by the Communists at the turn of the 1900s, they knew democracy was the way to get people to vote for dictators, and you hear it all of the time, how democratically elected Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, the democratically elected leadership in Iran.
1. Beck is saying that "democratic" is communist because a communist country includes the word in its title. He fails to notice that by the same reasoning, we're not a republic, because China is a "republic" and the U.S.S.R. was a union of republics (so much for union, too, I suppose.)

2. China is not titled as a "democratic socialist republic." The title is People's Republic of China. Going back to point 1., it would seem that Beck the bullshit artist just invented a title for China in an attempt to make his incoherent point.

3. In the latter half, Beck conflates holding an election with democracy. By this reasoning, the United States is a democracy.

4. Progressives at the turn of the 20th century knew they could get people to vote for dictators?There's not even anyway to respond to that assertion, as it's too untethered from reality to know where to begin. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them."

The only thing that Beck says here that makes any sense and is sort of accurate is the founders skepticism about democracy, but even here he is not entirely correct. The founders viewed Athenian democracy as flawed and wanted to create a government that would avoid those problems, but that does not mean that the end result was not democratic. The first amendment itself - allowing citizens a voice in their government and a press that can keep them informed and can act as a check on political power - is a democratic institution, for example.

For a nuanced and intelligent discussion of how democratic America is or is not (and how the founders might have been too hard on the Athenians), I highly recommend Paul Woodruff's First Democracy.


Dan Doel said...

So, is he trying to add 'democracy' to the list of conservative dirty words, along with 'progressive' and 'liberal'? I certainly never would have guessed that that, of all words, would make their list.

I thought the line was democracy vs. communism (however much sense that makes) during the cold war. What happened?

Maybe he'd be happy if we went back to having kings. Except, I heard some folks on Fox news were concerned about all of Obama's "czars," because czar means "king". Quite a conundrum.

Hume's Ghost said...

"So, is he trying to add 'democracy' to the list of conservative dirty words, along with 'progressive' and 'liberal'?"

He's doing what he always does: mainstreaming ideas that circulate widely in the extremist right. "We're a republic, not a democracy" is a common refrain of militia/patriot and survivalist movement sorts, as well as pseduolibertarian ideologues like Neal Boortz.

Dan Doel said...

Huh. I think the last time I heard that line was from someone doing some language lawyering in a grade-school civics class. It quite possibly could have been me, even, who knows?

I don't understand why that demographic would prefer "republic" to "democracy." They want to emphasize that we are in some sense ruled by government/aristocratic elites intended to represent the people, rather than directly by the common majority? Why would they prefer that? Do they picture themselves as somehow part of that elite, as opposed to the average person?

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Like many bloggers, you have captured Beck's ignorance and certainty both at once.

I have been on his case for nearly three months now and have learned a lot. His sleaziness knows no limits.