Question for Glenn Beck

You mean, MLK *wasn’t* a Communist?

Just to set the record straight: Does this mean that you don’t think Martin Luther King was a Communist?

Perhaps we can look forward to right-wing rallies fifty years from now claiming the mantle of our revered national hero, Barack Hussein Obama.

Update Steve Benen would like to know more about what the 87,000 people who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial today are actually in favor of. Good luck with that.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Question for Glenn Beck”

  1. After thinking about it for a while, it seems to me that part of what I find upsetting about Glenn Beck holding a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King's historic rally and speech there is not dissimilar from what I find upsetting about Imam Rauf's proposal to build a community center / mosque close to Ground Zero. While we must uphold and indeed celebrate Beck's right to speak when and where he wishes, and for people to assemble to hear him, Palin, et al., still it grates, because it borders on effrontery, intentional or not.

  2. I think what really grates on your nerves is that far too many people, (Most people, IOW.) DON'T think it's an effrontery. That a lot of people actually think that the civil rights moment eventually repudiated the sentiment King appealed to in that famous speech, and now demand that people be treated according to the color of their skin.

  3. Without accepting at face value the premise of your last point, I don't want to get into an argument about how best we can address social and psychological problems in our society or whether it's actually possible to be color-blind. It isn't my point. I view it as effrontery, as I view the mosque near Ground Zero. A lot of people share my feelings on both scores, although I think it's an interesting question how many like me really feel the same about both. In any case I think the situations are logically similar in that the question raised by both is the values of people who fail to respect the fact that a significant number of our fellow citizens view these actions as an affront and profess either not to understand that or to maintain that it makes no difference.

    It's impossible to look in people's minds and hearts to see if this is just ignorance and lack of empathy before the fact. After the fact it's something else. And my own personal feeling is that it's nearly impossible that the people involved in both cases didn't understand that these actions would be provocative, and why, and chose to go ahead anyway; and it's not so very far out of the question that that was part of the motivation in the first place. Certainly again the people involved should have understood that it might look that way and that should have given them pause.

    But it didn't; and so I'm entitled to draw the conclusion that the values of these people leave something to be desired.

  4. Brett,

    So MLK was fighting for a cause, at major personal risk, while Beck invokes MLK's name in a rabble-rousing project to line his pockets, and you don't think it's effrontery?

    Beck's political ancestors despised King, and his cause, and you don't think it's an effrontery?

  5. Does anyone honestly think the people on the Mall drove all that way just to express their devotion to race-neutral measures? Their alienation from the civil rights movement goes deeper; and even that's only a part of what's going on. A more comprehensive political-religious worldview was being offered in the main speech.

  6. Brett may think it's effrontery but he doesn't think that that should matter. In his worldview the disrespect involved in co-opting, perhaps even misrepresenting, other peoples' histories isn't a category of behavior that should make a difference in public action.

    Although he certainly does seem to relish the way it gets their goat.

    But my comments were aimed really at Mark and others here. Is it really true that you see no parallel between what Beck did and what Rauf proposes to do?

  7. Larry Birnbaum,

    You point to similarities between the Ground Zero Mosque and The Beckoning. You should also consider the differences.

    One difference is obvious: the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are a well-defined location; the "shadow of the Twin Towers" is not. You think the Cordoba House people should graciously defer to the umbrage of the "2 blocks from 9/11" crowd and move? Suppose they do so. Would 4 blocks be enough? 40 blocks? To avoid offending people "after the fact" one has to have SOME idea what will NOT offend them "before the fact". Since 14,000 blocks is evidently not enough for some people (the good Christian folk of Murfeesboro TN) I suspect there's no clear answer. But I'm not asking for an answer from them. I'm asking you.

    –TP

  8. So to be clear, although above I've perhaps not been as clear as I should, the issue is whether a reasonable person — I'm taking myself as such a person — would have felt it presumptuous as a moderate Muslim Imam to propose building a mosque / community center close to Ground Zero. Whether I would have thought this was a good way to build a place for reconciliation. Or whether I would have thought it better to, say, reach out to other religious leaders and for example build a genuine interfaith center rather than "going it alone."

    To me the question answers itself. I would have understood it as presumptuous or certainly understood that many of my fellow citizens would have viewed it that way and that that wouldn't be a ridiculous reaction based merely on anti-Muslim sentiment. Just as Beck should have understood that his actions were presumptuous or could be reasonably viewed that way by many of his fellow citizens.

    Where to put it: the fact that the area around Ground Zero isn't "well defined" doesn't mean there aren't ways to determine the project's location that would meet the criterion of showing appropriate humility under the circumstances.

    By the way I don't think Imam Rauf intended to show disrespect and a lack of proper humility under the circumstances; whereas I think it highly likely that Beck did so intend. But I think Rauf's plans did reveal a failure to grasp the need for humility under the circumstances. And that seems a little weird to me.

  9. Larry, I don't think Tony even gets at what I feel is the biggest difference: the legitimacy of the affront claimed. I think it is perfectly legitimate for people to feel offended by Beck's "reclaiming" of the civil rights movement, on that day & place, etc. I think it is not at all legitimate for people to be offended by a mosque near Ground Zero. I think those people are operating from pretenses of prejudice and ignorance.

    In terms of serving the goal of reconciliation, it was obviously a mistake. But I think Rauf and the planners greatly underestimated the bigotry it would evoke. But I think the original idea was a beautiful and incredibly civilized, genuinely American concept. I knew a victim of the WTC attack and his family, and saw them suffer. But I never for a moment felt that the attack reflected poorly on Islam. These people were sick, period. I felt the mosque/center would be a perfect way of demonstrating how peace and love will will triumph. Unfortunately too many of my fellow Americans could not rise above the fear and anger and share that vision.

  10. "Brett may think it’s effrontery but he doesn’t think that that should matter. In his worldview the disrespect involved in co-opting, perhaps even misrepresenting, other peoples’ histories isn’t a category of behavior that should make a difference in public action."

    Co-opting, yes. Misrepresenting? I donno. Are you suggesting that MLK didn't really mean that he longed for the day when race wouldn't be taken into account in the judgments people make?

    I think we really can't control what others will be offended by. And should not let others use offense as a weapon to silence their opponents.

    The modern civil rights movement view MLK as their icon, but that iconic speech is one they really don't want people thinking about, because the inspiring sentiment it appeals to is a sentiment they've abandoned. Beck grates because he's pointing out the fundamental hypocrisy of the civil rights movement, that the slayer of dragons DID in the end become just another dragon. And is today the most powerful force in this nation demanding that people be judged by the color of their skin, rather than the content of their characters.

    That sort of thing hurts, but it ought to hurt. It's the sort of pain that ought to be inflicted. Because, while it's never pleasant to be called out for hypocrites, if hypocrites aren't called out, will they ever reform?

  11. No, idiot. It's a sentiment whose day had not yet come at the time it was given, and still has not yet come, because merely declaring, "Hey, everyone's treated equally now! The Constitution says so!" doesn't make it so.

  12. I picture a cartoon with Beck flanked by an army of KKK hoods, smiling bradly saying "We're here to take the Civil Rights Movement back!"

    The Orwelian doublespeak never ends with these people. Lying and disingenuousness is so ingrained and gives them so much joy that the BS just flows out of them like a river. The unstated always seems to be, "Nobody can prove I'm lying and even if they can I'll just keep on saying it as if they didn't."

  13. Brett mistakes his own racial resentments for the message of Saturday's event, but he gets the vindictive spirit right. It was about expropriating the expropriators.

  14. Of course, the reason you're picturing a cartoon, is that you understand it would never be a photograph… Imagining people who disagree with you to be evil does have it's satisfactions, but it's usually just an act of imagination, no different from any other sort of pleasant daydream.

  15. The civil rights was about a heck of a lot more than simple skin color. It was never about just that and it still isn't. It's about lifting all people up. As long as there are still people in this country suffering the legacy of discrimination and poverty, then the civil rights movement will be fighting for them. Beck and his race-baiting Tea Party friends still don't get it. They don't have any solutions for poor ghetto children. They don't have any solutions for poor ghetto children. They don't… well, you know.

    What's interesting is that Beck's base is cut from the same cloth as those who would have been opposing MLK. They now understand that racism is wrong. But they still don't know what it is. They see it as simple as skin color. But it was never just about that. It was about fear of the other, of taking all one's fear and bitterness and laying it on a particular sub-group. And much of this happens below the surface of consciousness, where these deeper reptilian emotions reside. It's no coincidence that Beck's people feed on anger, fear and hatred. It the the right-wing authoritarian way.

    The last thing they want to do is the emotional geometry required to step into the consciousness of an other for a second, to see the world through their eyes. The idea of being a poor single mother. Of being a young kid in the ghetto. Listen to the way they talk about "gang-bangers" and "punks". They can't relate to the idea of finding government services helpful. Of being hopeless and alienated by society. Of truly being out of options, with no one to get them through hard times. Of being a different religion. Of being a different sexuality.

    Theirs is a black and white reality in which the "right" way is there for all to see, and you either grab the ring or you don't. And if you don't then damn you – it's your own fault for seeing an opportunity and not taking it. But they cannot imagine not seeing opportunity. Being a young mom and not knowing how to prepare your child for Kindergarten. Being a young dad and not knowing how to be there for his family. The only thing separating the John Galts from the Welfare Queens is simple choice. "OK, I think I'll stop smoking crack and go to business school!" As if it were all so easy. As if that's how people work. As if that's how society develops. As if there is no such thing as privilege and structural advantage.

  16. "As long as there are still people in this country suffering the legacy of discrimination and poverty, then the civil rights movement will be fighting for them."

    "As long as there are still people suffering the legacy of the Japanese internment, then the civil rights movement will be fighting to keep them out of college, in order to make room for recent immigrants from Jamaica with the right skin color." I think that's probably a better description of the facts on the ground.

  17. Larry speaks of a lack of "proper humility" in others but demonstrates none of his own.

    Where is the humility in the sentiment that Muslims can have their prayer room, just "not there", or that Glenn Beck can have his rally, but "not there"?

    Where is the humility in defining the actions of others which cause no harm nor are intended to, as an "effrontery"?

    Seems to me the most obvious thing missing from those who speak of humility and respect on this subject, are humility and respect.

  18. Are affirmative action programs actually looking at whether somebody is from a ghetto, rather than what their color is?

  19. Brett wrote: Are affirmative action programs actually looking at whether somebody is from a ghetto, rather than what their color is?

    As a matter of fact, yes, many affirmative action programs take SES, "Socio-Economic Status", as one of the characteristics to consider.

  20. The civil rights movement wasn't about skin color – it was about empowering the downtrodden. So affirmative action was merely one solution of many. And we've learned a lot in the last 40 years. We made some mistakes, but we made a lot of progress in other areas. We know a lot more now about the mechanisms of generational poverty, and race can't simply be removed as an original causal mechanism for the plight of current generations of certain minority groups.

  21. "Beck plays the Lincoln Memorial" might be the ideal occasion to trot out Marx's old bon mot from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, his account of Napoleon III's coup:

    Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

    That captures the contrast between MLK and Beck pretty neatly.

  22. Ah yes, leave it to the "libertarian" to whine about downtrodden white people being horribly oppressed. More race baiting and trolling from Brett Bellmore. Notice how he paints broad strokes full of "those people". Who are these people taking racial equality too far? Brett and his ilk are just trying to create a nice cover for the KKK. See how easy that is? Bet you don't like it when people do that back to you, do you?

  23. "Ah yes, leave it to the “libertarian” to whine about downtrodden white people being horribly oppressed."

    I think the evidence actually points to the downtrodden Asian people being oppressed by affirmative action, with the "white" people on average being uneffected. At least if you're talking affirmative action in college admissions.

    "Who are these people taking racial equality too far?"

    Nobody, to my knowledge. My chief complaint is that we're not taking racial equality, (In the sense of equal rights.) nearly far enough.

    "Bet you don’t like it when people do that back to you, do you?"

    I'd laugh hysterically at how badly you're "doing it", if my 2 year old weren't asleep in the next room.

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