Thomas Frank on Glenn Beck, Conservatism and Kansas

Thomas Frank discussing the ideas from his books:

Here is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article by Thomas Frank:

Glenn Beck’s Hotline to Nowhere

Glenn Beck, the popular Fox News host, has a red telephone on his desk that never seems to ring. Every now and then, in a moment of acute frustration, he will pick it up and give the camera his trademark pleading-puppy look.

What Mr. Beck wants to hear from the phone are answers, and he wants to hear them from the highest authority in the land: the phone, he says, is “a dedicated line right to the White House.” And when Mr. Beck gets things wrong, he wants his antagonists on Pennsylvania Avenue to correct him. But “They don’t call. They’re not going to call.”

[…]  Consider a few of the other grand assertions tossed out by the panic-peddling host last week: that the cause of last year’s financial crisis was pressure exerted by Acorn and “the people in Washington” on otherwise-reluctant mortgage lenders; that the cause of the inflation of the 1970s was President Jimmy Carter’s quest for a “socialist utopia.”

These are postulates that it is only possible to believe after you have utterly closed yourself off to conventional ways of knowing, after you have decided that the reporting and analysis and scholarship on these subjects are not worth reading, and that you will choose ideological fairy tales over reality until the day a magical phone call comes from on high.

What Mr. Beck’s silent phone really symbolizes is a new kind of ignorance, a coming high-tech dark age in which people can choose to blow off professional standards of inquiry; in which they can wall themselves off with cable TV and friendly Web sites, dismiss what displeases as liberal bias, and demand that any contrary view be transmitted to them via telephone call from the president himself.

Why not let Mr. Beck and his viewers have their fun? Because ideas have consequences. Maybe, as many believe, Glenn Beck is indeed the future of the conservative movement. From tea parties to town-hall meetings, thousands are signing up and fitting themselves out with their very own hotline to nowhere.

Here is a reposting of a blog post by intactmale from the local newspaper website:

Thomas Frank writes about Glenn Beck in this month’s issue of Playboy

In my case, you can be sure I’m only reading Playboy for the articles.  Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter With Kansas is one of my favorite political books from the last few years. Frank’s analysis of Glenn Beck’s broadcast and writing continues the theme Frank continues summed up best by a quote from Kansas:

Grandstanding leaders never deliver, their fury mounts and mounts, and nevertheless they turn out every two years to return their right-wing heroes to office for a second, a third, a twentieth try. The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meatpacking. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated then ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.

In fact, Glenn Beck really just schills for the status quo, giving average working class people the illusion that they are likely to someday be rich (it worked for Joe the Plumber, right?). Frank even wonders if Beck is profiting from his own politics by also advertising gold purchases on his show. 

Here’s on quote from the Playboy article that I especially liked, about Beck’s purposeful misunderstanding of Thomas Paine:

Should we read The Rights of Man all the way to the end, we find Paine calling on the English government to furnish the public with old-age pensions, subsidies to the poor, payments to mothers on the birth of children (welfare!) and guaranteed employment for everyone in the large cities. Should we carry our interest in Paine so far as to read his 1797 pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, we will find—I hope you are sitting down for this, Beck—that Paine proposed a national pension system based on a property tax! Now, hating Social Security is such a no-­brainer on the right—the host himself has called it a Ponzi scheme—that perhaps Beck’s followers can be excused for assuming that old Tom Paine was right there with them down to the last shake of their Ayn Rand placard. Still, they might have bothered to consult the Social Security website, where they will find Paine’s pamphlet reproduced as one of the “key early documents” in the struggle for old-age security.Read the entire article here…  a warning for the easily offended, it is Playboy.

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And some other videos of Thomas Frank:

5 thoughts on “Thomas Frank on Glenn Beck, Conservatism and Kansas

    • I read a sample of his latest book. It did seem a decent read. There were some tidbits in the sample that were new to me. But I wasn’t sure it would tell me much I didn’t already know. The basic argument and evidence I’m familiar with. If I come across a hard copy of it at the public library, I’ll look at it more carefully.

      I just now checked out the article you linked. It’s long and detailed. I don’t have a lot of time right now and only skimmed it. This jumped out at me:

      “His Democratic opponent hates the press, too. Hillary Clinton may not have a general theory of right-wing media bias to fall back on, but she knows that she has been the subject of lurid journalistic speculation for decades.”

      That seemed significant as he doesn’t even mention briefly any of the numerous leaks. In those leaks, it shows that the DNC and Clinton campaign was working closely with a number of people working in the mainstream media.

      In one case, a journalist was sending their articles to Democratic party officials to be edited. Another one had them planning on getting friendly pieces published in major publications. The most recent example was that of someone at MSNBC writing to the Clinton campaign that he was running a series to push the Clinton agenda in persuading Millennials.

      That demonstrates that Clinton has little fear of the press. And much of the press is in love with her. Immediately before a debate with Sanders, one major newspaper ran something like 20 pro-Clinton articles over a period of time less than 24 hours.

      Clinton gets more media coverage in general, both negative and positive. For a politician, there is rarely such thing as bad coverage, unless it involves a sex scandal. Heck, even with the strong evidence that Clinton committed a crime with the email scandal, a large part of the mainstream media goes on defending her or even outright ignoring the evidence.

      The worst bias against Sanders wasn’t just negative coverage but often a lack of coverage. The mainstream media pretended he didn’t exist and didn’t matter for as long as they were able, until they were finally forced to acknowledge him.

      That is among strongest evidence of media bias that I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not sure why Frank didn’t mention any of that. I’m sure his piece could have been so much more hard-hitting, if he had included it. But from what little I saw, he still makes a strong case with the evidence he does draw upon.

  1. There is that. There was a huge blackout of Sanders on news and he mainly got support due to the Internet.

    There may be hope going forward if the Internet helps wake people up. It will be hard though. Reddit Politics for example is now full of Clinton zealots. So are many of the supposedly left wing sites like ThinkProgress, DailyKos, PoliticsUS, etc. Some have a split of writers like TruthDig.

    Personally I rely heavily on the Intercept for news, Naked Capitalism is a good site as well.

    • I don’t intentionally seek out news these days. Between emails from friends and links left on my blog, I get a wide variety of alternative news sources. I get more news than I want. I’ve been trying to avoid it recently. It just depresses me and no matter how horrible it is I’m never surprised by any of it. I feel like nothing could be reported that isn’t like something I’ve already seen many times before.

      It doesn’t seem to matter. Even when there are leaks of obvious evidence of corruption and crimes by the ruling elite, no justice ever follows. I’ve given up entirely on our system. I’m literally waiting for the revolution. I don’t particularly have any desire to start a revolution or be part of a revolutionary vanguard, but I feel that revolution is inevitably coming, no matter what anyone wants or doesn’t want. I might as well just sit back and relax until it comes, assuming I live long enough to see it.

      I figure revolution is better than total collapse. Our options for dealing with our problems are slim to none. If one thing doesn’t get us, something else will. The conclusion I keep coming back to is that we will change when we are forced to change, when there is no option left but change or die. That might be coming sooner than some expect. The world is a tinder box waiting to be lit. Everything could go up in flames in an instant.

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