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Friday, January 21, 2011

Treason, say I

In the previous post, we looked at Brad Friedman's piece (which drew, in turn, from this article), about Glenn Beck's apparent call for the murder of Democratic congressfolk. These guys (at a blog called Patterico) think that they can explain away what Beck had to say:
The full transcript is here. When you read it, you will see that the word “you” refers to the leftist politicians in Washington and their pals in the media, and “they” refers to their radical leftist friends — who, Beck warns, actually believe there must be violent revolution . . . and if they don’t get what they want, they may start one.

Beck is warning the comfortable pols that the people who put them in power aren’t going to be satisfied with seeing just a little of their agenda accomplished. They want it all. Because they are revolutionaries at heart — people who have called for violence and never repudiated it. And if they aren’t satisfied, Beck tells the pols, they will come after you. Violently.
Even if we ignore, for the moment, the question of just which parties Beck wanted shot, the quotation given above offers prima facie evidence that many right-wingers are mentally sick. Just who are these "radical leftist friends" who insist on violent revolution? They are a bogeyman, a phantasm, an imaginary enemy. I've been a liberal all my life and I've never met such people.

Hmm. Okay, maybe I should walk that one back a bit...

During my UCLA days (more years ago than I care to admit), there was this group of gibbering Maoists called the Revolutionary Communist Party which formed a cult of personality around a clown named Bob Avakian. They disrupted the student newspaper where I worked -- and in that sense, you could say I "met" them. Then they carried out a variety of insane, self-defeating "revolutionary activities," none of which were actually violent, although they were usually loud and annoying. Such antics made the Bobbies universally despised by the students.

The thought crossed my mind: Could cult leader Bob be a government stooge? I mean, if you're going to spend so much time and energy helping the cause of Reaganism on campus, why not take payment?

Apparently the Bobbies are still around, and they are still as laughable as ever. But if Beck thinks that they, or anyone even remotely like them, put Nancy Pelosi into office, he's out of his freakin' coconut.

I don't know how many actual dreaming-of-revolution commies still exist in this country, but their numbers must be vanishingly small. Judging from the genuine far-left writings I've seen (produced by the Bob-heads and similar tiny groups), they don't care about electoral politics and would consider Pelosi indistinguishable from Hastert. They certainly do not have the money, the numbers or the desire to put any Democrats into office.

(Tradionally, most radical lefties have wanted conservative candidates to win, on the grounds that the worse things get, the more rebellious the people become. That's why American communists hated FDR.)

Throughout the past 200-odd years, the extreme right has told scary stories about fictitious bogeymen. Back in the '50s and the '60s, the John Birchers used to believe that the CPUSA was an extremely powerful and influential organization, directing hundreds or thousands of secret Red agents in D.C., one of which may or may not have been President Eisenhower. Actually, by that point in history, the CPUSA was moribund; half the people who bothered to show up at meetings were infiltrators. Some wags have suggested that the group's funding depended on donations from J. Edgar's boys, because they were the only ones who had jobs.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists have spun similar scare-stories about other groups -- the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the Elders of Zion, the Committee of 300, the Cosmopolitans, the Palladium, the New World Order, and so on. All of these conspiratorial conclaves were and are imaginary. So are the amorphous violence-prone "radical leftists" that Glenn Beck seems to think are running the Democratic party.

(Okay, three of those organizations -- the Illuminati, the Masons and the CPUSA -- are non-fictional, although the Illuminati died out centuries ago. But the real-life versions bear/bore no resemblance to the groups as they exist in the far-rightist imagination.)

So even if we put the very best light on the matter, what do we have?

Glenn Beck called for liberals to be murdered; in response, one of his viewers enacted a very serious plot to kill people in the ACLU and the Tides Foundation. The guys at Patterico do not, and cannot, dispute this sequence of events.

Wasn't it just a few days ago that the right insisted (vis-a-vis Jared Loughner) that there was no connection between teabagger rhetoric and violence?

Now that that stuff is out of the way, let's re-examine the question of just which people Beck wanted to eat hot lead. Did he target congressfolk or the imaginary "radical leftists" who allegedly put those congressfolk into office?

Let's look at a fuller version of the quote than I gave previously:
"I will stand against you and so will millions of others. We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don't. The radicals that you and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep's clothing — change the pose. You will get the ends.

"You've been using them? They believe in communism. They believe and have called for a revolution. You're going to have to shoot them in the head. But warning, they may shoot you.

"They are dangerous because they believe. Karl Marx is their George Washington. You will never change their mind. And if they feel you have lied to them — they're revolutionaries. Nancy Pelosi, those are the people you should be worried about.
Now, some of this makes no sense. "...change the pose. You will get the ends." WTF? Is Beck talking about politics, or is he directing a porn shoot?

But this bit is more or less clear: "We believe in something. You in the media and most in Washington don't. The radicals that you and Washington [probably should be "you in Washington"] have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep's clothing..."

Obviously, he is talking about radicals brought to Washington by a nihilistic media.

Is Beck saying that Katie Couric scooped up some "Bobbies" and bought them nice townhomes in Georgetown? I don't think so. The "radicals" referenced here are clearly supposed to be Democratic members of Congress, whom "the media" allegedly put into power. No other reading of Beck's words makes sense.

And Beck goes on to say that these members of Congress need to be shot in the head. There's no other way to interpret the statement.

Treason, say I.

(Granted, Beck's image of Nancy Pelosi pulling out a gat and crying "Come and get me!" is pretty damned funny.)
I'm not American and I've never been to the USA, but for what I know the only American radical leftists worth their salt are the folks from the Brecht Forum in NY and guys like Richard Wolff, Brendan Mcooney, David Harvey, etc. - and they don't advocate violent action at all. From the ouside the American mainstream political process looks like this weird fight where phony fascists attack phony leftists and vice-versa and the real issues are never even alluded to.
Yeah, the guy is a buffoon. Has profoundly distorted beliefs and a few screws loose. A label of fascist might be appropriate. And I think the argument that his claims/rhetoric stoke potential stochastic violence has merit.

However, I read through the whole damn transcript for the show. He keeps referring to the "politicians" (="Washington") and is distinguishing them from the "revolutionaries". There are a couple points of potential ambiguity during the show, but the general structure of his claim seems clear. I've also listened to the clip over a dozen times, and keep hearing "and" (as in the transcript) and not "in" (though can't be absolutely certain of this). But it would be congruent with the prior sentence "You in the media and most in Washington don't". So the following sentence echos the structure of the prior sentence. "The radicals that you [i.e. 'you in the media'] and Washington have co-opted and brought in wearing sheep's clothing". So again, he's referring to "the politicans" (and media) versus "the revolutionaries" that they're supposedly trying to use ("brought in" = they've been given some access, power, legitimacy, etc.). So I think your interpretive leap (i.e. that he's referring to Democratic members of Congress as "the radicals", and that someone should go out and shoot them) is just that - an interpretive leap, driven by determined twirling of the cognitive kaleidoscope.

Incidentally, the intended meaning of "...change the pose. You will get the ends" seems pretty clear to me, though I quite like your comment on this.

And I don't know if you noticed, but he appears to list some of the "revolutionaries" at the beginning of the show - among others, the list includes Bill Maher (lol) - because of Maher's comment "This Max Baucus guy — he needs to wake up tomorrow with an intern's head in his bed."

Another unrelated point - from the show transcript.
Beck: "Shoot me in the head before I stop talking about the Founders."
Can't quite make out what he's requesting here. Is he asking for Dr Kevorkian?
Cartoonist Ted Rall has published a polemic called "The Anti-American Manifesto". The copy on his website reads:

"In arguably the most radical book published in decades, cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall has produced the book he was always meant to write: a new manifesto for an America heading toward economic and political collapse. While others mourn the damage to the postmodern American capitalist system created by the recent global economic collapse, Rall sees an opportunity. As millions of people lose their jobs and their homes, they and millions more are opening their minds to the possibility of creating a radically different form of government and economic infrastructure.

But there are dangers. As in Russia in 1991, criminals and right-wing extremists are best prepared to fill the power vacuum from a collapsing United States. The best way to stop them, Rall argues, is not collapse—but revolution. Not by other people, but by us. Not in the future, but now. While it’s still possible."

In interviews he's said that "violence is part of the revolutionist's toolbox", and advocates a "transition to Socialism".

But to believe that Rall has anywhere near the reach and influence of the Beckster is laughable.
Did Ann Coulter call for the poisoning of a SCOTUS justice? Something about rat poison in his creme brulee?
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