Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Schizophrenic Conservatism

One of the more interesting topics that I find myself coming back to is the continuation of various protest movements that have sprung up around the country in opposition to the Obama Administration. I wrote about the paradox in these protests here, discussed how Glenn Beck's crazy hypocritical antics are fueling them here, and highlighted a video that shows the kaleidoscope of issues that are being protested here. Just when you think that all of this can't get any more confusing, it does.

Glenn Beck is going to be interviewed on CBSNews.com this evening by Katie Couric. A short clip has been released to promote this interview. Watch how Glenn Beck says that he doesn't like John McCain because he is some "progressive like Theodore Roosevelt" and how he thinks that McCain would have been a worse President than Obama or Hillary Clinton:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Astounding coming from the same guy who has devoted his show on Fox News to claiming that Obama is a Marxist and a racist. Couple that with the continued exposure of Beck as an outright hypocrite and you can't help but ask where on Earth he stand politically. For example (h/t dday), here is Beck (back when he was on CNN) talking about how Ron Paul supporters are terrorists:

Also note that in that video clip Beck says (of Ron Paul):

"It's really not the way I would go, tying in my movement with a historical terrorist attack, especially in post-9/11 America."

Beck is the same guy who started the 9/12 Project.

Here is another video (made by a Ron Paul supporter) that contains a video clip of Beck stating that he supports the $700 billion bailout that President Bush proposed as well as Beck's endorsement of the Patriot Act:

and in this clip from the other day, (can you guess what is coming?) Beck states that he was critical of Bush and "hated him" for the bailouts:

This is the guy who has been a driving force behind the tea-party and 9/12 Project protest movements that we have seen explode since President Obama took office back in January. He is a personality that literally cries on-air while delivering passionate speeches about how this country is falling apart, yet it is quite clear that what Glenn Beck believes (at least politically) shifts when he needs to attract ratings.

What Beck is promoting a brand of Schizophrenic Conservatism that has resulted in people showing up at large rallies claiming that they are against everything from health care reform to socialism to spending to illegal immigration to a "Muslim" taking over the country, etc.

Glenn Greewald weighs in on this confusion:

Increasingly, there is great difficulty in understanding not only Beck's political orientation but, even more so, the movement that has sprung up around him. Within that confusion lies several important observations about our political culture, particularly the inability to process anything that does not fall comfortably into the conventional "left-right" dichotomy through which everything is understood.


Ultimately, Beck himself is just a histrionic intellectual mess: willing to latch onto any hysterical accusations and conspiracy theories that provide some momentary benefit, no matter how contradictory they might be from one moment to the next. His fears, resentments and religious principles seem fixed, but not his political beliefs. Like the establishment leadership of both political parties, he has no core political principles or fixed, identifiable ideology. His description of himself as a "rodeo clown" might be the most perceptive thing he's ever said. Attempts to classify him on the conventional political spectrum are destined to fail, and attempts to demonize him as some sort of standard Republican bogeyman will inevitably be so over-simplified as to be false. Such efforts assume far more coherence than he possesses.

Far more interesting than Beck himself is the increasingly futile effort to classify the protest movement to which he has connected himself. Here, too, confusion reigns. In part, this is due to the fact that these "tea party" and "9/12" protests are composed of factions with wildly divergent views about most everything. From paleoconservatives to Ron-Paul-libertarians to LaRouchians to Confederacy-loving, race-driven Southerners to Christianist social conservatives to single-issue fanatics (abortion, guns, gays) to standard Limbaugh-following, Bush-loving Republicans, these protests are an incoherent mishmash without any cohesive view other than: "Barack Obama is bad." There are unquestionably some highly noxious elements in these groups, but they are far from homogeneous. Many of these people despised the Bush-led GOP and many of them loved it.

Add to all of that the fact that this anti-Obama sentiment is being exploited by run-of-the-mill GOP operatives who have no objective other than to undermine Democrats and return the Republicans to power -- manifestly not the goal of many of the protesters -- and it's impossible to define what this movement is or what is driving it.

This is exactly what we have seen in several of the videos that I have shot outside the health care protests that have taken place over the Summer. My video interview with Jim was a prime example of a protester who made several points that were loosely connected together under the umbrella of "we are being taken over by socialists."

This is not to say that some of the issues that are being voiced by protesters are not genuine. In fact, many of the issues transcend the mentality of left versus right. Many people, myself included, care about Wall Street's influence on the government, care about rampant government spending, and care about the erosion of our civil liberties. Greenwald is right to point out through these protests, the curtain has being pulled back on the countries inability to collectively analyze issues outside of the Beltway's typical "left vs. right" mentality. This mentality has certainly trickled down to the populous and end up making issues even more complicated in the long-run.

This kind of complication manifests itself when you mix legitimate concerns of citizens with interests that work hard to maintain the status quo. These interests include national media figures like Beck, the influence of party interests who are working toward the political goal of defeating Obama, and those who perpetuate so-called "facts" that end up being completely wrong. What results is more than a complete mess. What results is a movement that does not know whether they are coming or going, let alone where they stand.

This piece is crossposted here.

1 comment:

Grumpy said...

Excellent analysis. With Beck, Limbaugh, Bill Cunningham etc. it all comes down to ratings and advertising dollars.