Posted by: inforodeo | September 18, 2009

Unable To Discern: Why the Left Can’t Leave The Right Alone

     I’m reading a Time story that blasts Glenn Beck.  It’s one of several, actually, and I’m honestly a little surprised they don’t just have a “That Dumb Glenn Beck” column.  It seems strange in this day and age of very serious things to worry about: big government ignoring the voice of the people, war, poverty, widespread immorality, and (if you believe some scientists) “global warming”. Strange that four online pages of text are dedicated to slamming some guy with a radio show.

     The article makes frequent mention of Beck thriving on “fear”, and of him “being afraid” or “getting emotional”.  It has as much journalistic integrity of a Weekly World News story, but because it is wrapped up in those four capitalized red roman letters – letters which used to be pillars of journalistic excellence – people are going to believe what they read. 

     Actually being a somewhat-frequent Beck listener, whenever I hear these blasts by competing press, I am well aware of their incredible bias.  I can point my finger at the crafty edits that snipped away context (and often, sarcasm), but am powerless to do anything other than roll my eyes, because when they do bother to quote those tiny bits outside of the ‘set up’, he can sound crazy.  When my liberal friends happily email me a link to some comedy show’s mash-up of a Beck monologue, I’ve learned to just not respond.  They’ll believe what they are told to believe, and that’s the end of it.

     Why is that, though?  What is so difficult about turning on your radio and actually listening to his show?  I listen to full Obama speeches – just like I used to listen to the full speeches of Bush (Jr), Clinton, Bush (Sr), and Reagan, when I could. I may not like what a person has to say, but it doesn’t take a three-digit IQ to know that the best way to defeat your enemy is to know your enemy. Without that bit of reconnaissance, it isn’t possible to devise a strategy … in these cases, knowing the right pieces of rhetoric to expose to those who weren’t paying attention. 

     Michael Moore is a great example of my own personal “Glenn Beck”.   I cannot stand Moore! In fact, he is one of the few personalities out there who make me physically ill to hear open their mouth or have their face plastered across my television screen. His putrid lies, snotty cynicism, poorly-edited scams are pieced together like a Faces of Death film (mixing faked footage with bits of ‘the real thing’), and despite his infrequent admissions of fabrication and staging, people still believe his films are “documentaries”!  Yesterday there was an interview with him posted online, and in the comments afterward, I was shocked to see how many people sincerely believe this scam-artist is “one of the few people trying to let us know the truth”.

     Despite my severe dislike for Moore, I have seen all of his films. I even own a couple of them. Is this any indication that I agree with him? Not at all! But, unlike the lemmings chanting “get Beck off the radio!”, I can actually say (and prove!) I’m aware of what Moore is saying. 

     Why all the ignorance, though?  What makes so many people so gullible as to run around spreading sound bytes and rumor without checking the facts? 

     In addiction-recovery class I used to hear that it takes at least two weeks of consistent routine to form a habit … the idea being that if you don’t light up a cigarette for two weeks, you will begin to have a new habit of not smoking.  I’ve found this a good rule of thumb for “understanding someone”.  I used to hear the same sort of stuff people are accusing Beck of being spread about Rush Limbaugh. I decided to listen to him. The first day was grueling.  I really wasn’t interested in politics, and he sounded like a really irritating guy I worked with.  I knew, however, that only listening to one show or one part of a show a single time wasn’t going to give me an accurate assessment of him, so I forced myself through two weeks of shows. Toward the end of the two weeks I had a good feel for Rush’s speaking style, and I knew he worded a lot of things in a way to get his listeners riled up (to provide good radio by way of good and interesting debate!), and he often would play ‘devil’s advocate’, pretending to have a contradictory view because it drew out important points in the responses of his callers. He also employed a lot of sarcasm – and now, 16 years later, it is the sarcasm that provides fodder for sensationalist news stories that scream “Rush said _____!”.

     Just today, for example, I came across a sensationalist headline: “Limbaugh: We Need Segregated Busses”, with the following opening line:

“In a remark extraordinary even by the standards of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio heavyweight declared on his program Wednesday that the United States needed to return to racially segregated buses.”

     I suppose the idea is that they want readers to actually believe Limbaugh is at the head of some movement that is urging the return of segregation.  They didn’t have to try hard: friends of mine started re-posting this tabloid article as soon as the sun came up.  Here are the actual facts:  There was an incident in which a white student was beaten on a bus by black students, and initially it was (and to be fair, probably should have been) considered a racially motivated hate crime.  Unfortunately (and it is anyone’s guess why), local law enforcement decided not to pursue it as a hate crime.  In direct reference to the decision not to consider a group of blacks beating a white kid a “hate crime”, Rush said:

“I think the guy’s wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses — it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.”

     If you are familiar with Limbaugh’s style, it’s pretty obvious he’s suggesting racially segregated busses sarcastically. He’s making the wisecrack to suggest that in “Post Race America” there is a widening divide – a double standard – that says if a white senator yells “you lie!” at a black president, it is “racially motivated”, but if a group of black kids violently beat a white kid it is not.  Rush is bringing up segregation to shock us into realizing how far we’ve come since the Civil Rights Movement, as well as to warn of the folly in going too far past the point of equality.  He’s also saying it to suggest that if there is no other option (being law enforcement help), perhaps the best thing to do, for the sake of safety, is to live separately – a suggestion meant to poke people into realizing that something in the way we define and prosecute hate crimes needs to be fundamentally changed in order to adhere to a principle of true equality. Further, when he says “it was justifiable racism”, he is saying what the mentality behind refusing to prosecute as a hate crime is, and he makes that clear when he says “I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today”.  

     Limbaugh also began his show with this:

We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives. […] I mean, I wonder if Obama’s going to come to the defense of the assailants the way he did his friend Skip Gates up there at Harvard. I mean, the assailants are presumed innocent due to the white racism we all know runs rampant in America. I mean, the drive-by media is ginning up all this criticism of Obama again today — it’s all based in racism, the criticism of Obama’s health care plan or whatever. It’s all based in racism.

     If you live in America, give an unbiased eye to your surroundings, and look historically on our past as well as the present in many other countries, you should easily be able to see that phrases like “due to the white racism that runs rampant in America” are pure and unadulterated sarcasm!

     Why is it so hard for Beck’s or Limbaugh’s opposition to actually listen to their shows for a couple weeks?  Are they really so fearful they might “brainwash” them? Maybe they are worried what their co-workers might think if they turn on a conservative show, because “having an open mind” doesn’t include “listening to Glenn Beck”.

     On the other hand, why is it so easy for them to march in step with anything and everything entertainers like Michael Moore, Comedy Central, Saturday Night Live, South Park, Family Guy, and Janeane Garofalo say?  Or failed, has-been politicians like Al Gore or Jimmy Carter?

     During the first term of the Bush administration, the left was pretty certain that Bush was going to appoint all his Christian friends to office and our government was going to be “ruled by the church”.  After 9/11, they started in on the “no war” and “tyrant/patriot act” bits.  They made posters that made Bush look like Hitler, or The Joker from Batman …

     When Obama was elected, he filled his administration with extreme left-wing liberals, and numerous minorities, presumably for the simple fact that they were minorities. When that wasn’t enough, he appointed more “czars” in the first six months of his presidency than any prior president had in a single four-year term. His administration then extended the reach of the US Patriot Act (yes, that very same document – drafted by congress during the Bush administration – that had everyone freaking out & accusing Bush of being a tyrant), and legislated other laws which further extended the reach of government in general, as well as granted the President new powers. Someone Photoshopped Obama’s head into the Joker and someone else added the word “socialism” beneath it, and there was immediate public outcry.

     Why aren’t liberals screaming “tyranny” at Obama?  He has, after all, taken some key “bad ideas” of the Bush administration and made them worse. Why are they freaking out about an Obama Joker, when a Bush Joker was funny? Why was it ok to accuse and pretend that Republican politicians were “owned” by “Big Oil” and other corporate interests, but it’s ok now for government to really merge with big auto industries and financial institutions, with mortgage companies and now the healthcare industry?

     The answer is simple: The only people paying attention are the people listening to Glenn Beck and others like him. For as much as Beck supposedly “strings together conspiracies” and is a “storyteller”, he has been telling the truth. While a little more than half the country is looking for the new bigoted attack on religion to come from South Park, the next jab at former President Bush on Comedy Central, or another make-Palin-look-dumb skit on SNL, the rest of us are listing, with discerning ears, to Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity, or Rush, or (get this!) actually visiting the Library of Congress website to review current bills being passed by congress and the senate on THOMAS.  We’re listening to Obama and the other politicians as they attempt to mislead the public, and when some guy no one has ever heard of yells “You Lie”, we’re trying to find out why he thinks that way, instead of worrying about whether or not it was against the rules to talk right then, or blogging about how disrespectful to the office of President it was to do so.

     Simply listening to “conservative” talk radio isn’t the complete answer, however.  Conservatives tend to “take it all in” before arriving at a conclusion.  That’s why we get called “slow” or accused of “not doing enough”.  We like to weigh consequences, check facts, and do our best to forecast before making a move.  Some of us also pray for wisdom to discern what we are hearing, and to help us navigate our decisions. We know that accuracy and safety take work and time … that operating only by dramatic change always yields an eventual outcome of loss rather than gain. We don’t use dynamite to kill a housefly and we don’t spend more to get out of debt. Conservative listeners already have a Savior and a God, so we don’t invest as much of our soul in a man or his media. When Beck is a little off, we recognize that and move on, rather than lying and violently pushing our opinion to ignore, cover, or distract from the error.  If Rush or Hannity told us to jump off a bridge and it would lower crime or provide doctors for the poor, we’re not going to jump off that bridge – or at least not until someone can prove it’s going to work. 

     I think a lot of the problem is related to both accountability and discernment.  Those who want the government to feed them, give them healthcare, pay their bills, keep people from offending them and give them free schooling tend to be those same persons who want or even need the media to tell them what to think.  The culture of having someone else do everything for them permeates their daily lives. Another symptom of this culture is the addictive habit of placing blame. “It’s the fault of the Bush administration!”, “Glenn Beck put them up to this!”, “these aren’t individuals voicing their concerns over health care, these are organized protests!”  Where conservatives are more conservative about placing blame, seeking accuracy, liberals are much more liberal at their finger pointing and name calling, seeking action regardless of the evidence (“lynch Glenn Beck because he eats babies!”).  Where liberals employ what they like to call an “open mind”, conservatives use a filter: a conservative decides what information to let in and what to ignore, while a liberal lets their open mind fill up with any trash that comes along. 

     It might sound like I’m name-calling, and I apologize if it does, but these generalizations are fairly accurate, though the complex reasons they are accurate (and respectively effective in shaping the minds of either example) would take a long time to discuss, so I’ve done that elsewhere.  The truth is just as I’ve written: conservative thinkers exercise more discernment than liberal thinkers. It’s in the nature of those labels – “conservative” and “liberal”. 

     So when you have a conservative listening to one two or ten radio talk shows while they’re out plowing the field or driving their organic produce to market, and reading a couple newspapers and magazines, those with the time to do so are going to sift through that data and reach their own, educated, conclusion.  Just because these people have also memorized bible scripture, manage to raise human children, and have some of the same views that people throughout time have determined to be important doesn’t mean they lack the intelligence to comprehend “new” strategies, philosophies and affiliations.  Usually they understand them quite thoroughly, and choose for or against them based on the weight of consequence, the benefit to society, and a priority within the greater picture.  As they sift, anything that doesn’t pan out as truthful or useful is going to fall by the wayside.  The conservative is going to discern from what is presented, and take the good part while ignoring the garbage.

     The liberal, on the other hand, will listen to a handful of television shows, giggle at the comedy routines, smirk at the brilliant mottos, slogans, and icons, and let it all fall into their head, because all knowledge is better than ignorance. They’ve got somewhere to be, so they’ll download the podcast from some pissed-off feminist’s blog and listen to it on their iPod while they bike across town to get a venti chai before they go into work at their mega-charity/social awareness/campaign office. The podcast may be a little long-winded, so they’ll switch to their favorite playlist and jam to some Phish or a dead has-been. Since their iPod doesn’t have radio, once they get into the fair-trade chain coffee house, they’ll pick up the wi-fi on their power book and quickly read the headlines off their favorite feeds: those which are decidedly and unapologetically slanted toward leftist thought and anti-conservative ideas; sites like MoveOn, the Onion, or the Huffington Post.  Maybe a clever video or image is posted on one of the sites they frequent – “oh look, it’s another redneck tea partier holding a misspelled sign! How funny!” – and they tweet about it to all their friends with their iPhone.  After work, they’ll head to the pub down the street and drink, listening to their fellow liberals whine and complain about how the government isn’t giving them enough money/food/housing/healthcare, and then talk about how stupid the last president was for this whole “patriot act” thing, and how it somehow caused a rise in the number of liberals getting busted for pot. When they get home that night, they’ll add up their carbon offset credits while watching their favorite shows on TiVo. They’ll blow pot-smoke into their cat’s face while browsing the PETA website (isn’t it funny to see him stoned!), and tweet some more to alert all their friends about the naked bicycle ride tomorrow night to raise awareness for bicycles or nudity or what was it? who cares! Sometimes, just before bed, spinning in a blue haze, they’ll look back over the day, and think about how evil and stupid Glenn Beck/George Bush/The Christian Right/Oil Companies/Republicans are, and how it would be fun to set them all on fire, and then they’ll think about how some stupid redneck thought it would be a good idea to burn down an abortion clinic or drive down the street with a flag on his truck, heading to the bar to talk smack about the president with his buddies and how stupid this whole “national police force” thing is and how it somehow caused a rise in the number of rednecks getting busted for pot …

     Ok, I got a little off track there … I was reminiscing about the good old days in Seattle/Portland.

     The point I am trying to make is that people who viciously oppose “conservative media” have either killed off so many brain cells that they lack the ability to focus, concentrate, examine and discern the truth, or they are so evil and cunning that they themselves censor the truth to further their corrupt message.  There can’t be a third alternative … based on the things that they say, or the “facts” they like to point out!  And while there are some bad-apple conservatives (abortion clinic bombers, racists, jingoistic militia), there are just as equally some good liberals (religious, pro-life, patriotic) … it’s just that in both cases those are so few as to make very little difference in the shades of these two ideologies. 

     I’m sorry I’m so down on “liberals”.  I still want to save the environment, hate to see hate crimes, don’t discriminate on race (but certainly do on actions!), agree with some forms of alternative medicine, love most science, and am far more involved in cultural activities and fine arts than is important to discuss here … but it hurts to see otherwise brilliant and creative people waste so much of their time making snide comments, participating in violent but unproductive protests, hating those things which are good and are necessary to our eternal well-being while advocating the disease and rot that is destroying society.  I use the word “liberal” because it fits these points I am trying to make, but hopefully you will see as time goes by that the biggest front is in seeking a perfect balance between tyranny and anarchy.

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