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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Mastery of Glen Beck

There are a lot of ways you can analyze this clip, below.

First, people on the Left and the Right seem to not understand how brilliant this propaganda is.

Rather than the normal, empirical-based reaction that the breakdown of the financial system, or the political system, or 'the economy' brings up serious questions about abject laissez-faire ("greed is good"), regulation/oversight, our constitutional structure, leadership, or demands fundamental reform of the system, they've turned it on its head, so that 'hard-to-understand' events are to be interpreted as having been precipitated by people (Soros) seeking to discredit the system.

Why would Soros do this? *chuckle* Why would you ask 'why'? The reason doesn't matter, if you can talk passionately about "destroying the country and the constitution":

All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country. -Joseph Geobbels

The "antichrist" meme is a radical attack on credibility, a way to cause people to suspend disbelief, to re-interpret what is going on before them. It's an Orwellian misuse of language. Soon enough, the people listening are inclined by emotion and uncertainty to "follow" those who they "feel" are close to their 'ideological protectors', rather than think critically.

That is partly why Beck has no problem telling his audience, "Don't take my word for it." It's because he is not attempting to access the rational part of their brain. All he's trying to do is raise enough radical doubt that people are confused and seeking leadership, which he offers in the form of his own personality and ideological tribalism.

I can use this approach for any grievance:

The problem in Germany today is not your fault, including that you are out of work or cannot feed your family. If you believe that it is, you are part of the people who have sold out our Fatherland and are ruining our Great Nation, for which I weep openly and passionately. The problem today in Germany is the antichrist the Jews. It's true and, when I've told you the truth of it, which has been hidden from you by elites, it will blow your mind, which is further proof that it is true. If we can commit to getting rid of the antichrist's labor unions the Jews, we will have started on the path to restoring our country's honor and greatness.

The fact that you cannot prove me wrong in that, is evidence of the insidious brilliance of it. How is that different than the normal metaphor and hyperbole that we might expect in run-of-the-mill political banter? I'll leave that to you, dear reader. Do you know what the differences are?

Perhaps this will help. Here's another way to look at Beck:

God is perfect and not corrupt. America is great when she is like God. If you see corruption or failure in America, it must be the work of the antichrist or our failure to seek to be pure enough, i.e. "restore honor", "stop the antichrist unions", "vote for God's political candidates", {insert political-religious theme of the day}.

Although others have trod that path, Beck is superb at it in a new way, right?

Second, they fail to appreciate the insidious consequences of it. For one thing, if you start out small and find that you can put over the "Big Lie" on people, then suddenly you get emboldened. The dynamic is such that, over some period of time, so many lies have been told that the people propagating them no longer know or care the difference. In the end, there is no truth, just a "narrative".

Third, it is very hard to fashion a reply to this kind of stuff. If you elevate it by responding somehow, you "feed" it, in a way. So far, John Stewart seems to have the right tenor, with his "Senior Beckologist", but the epistemic closure on the Right pretty much shuts him out, so this problem is like an open sore on the body politic: