Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Glenn Beck Goes (Afrocentric) Again as He Reveals the Secret History of Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement

Cue up the dashiki and kufi.

Glenn Beck is "rediscovering" the lost histories of African Americans once more. At this rate, I do wonder if Beck is going to one day reveal that he is actually Brother Africa X from the Harlem bookstore and his whole career has been a scheme to bring lost Afrocentric histories to the wider world.

We know that Glenn Beck is a performer. His professorial shtick is just that--a con. Thus, when reasonable folk try to make sense of his skewed version of history they turn themselves inside out. But, in watching Beck's most recent lesson on the "secret" history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement in the United States (he covers 400 years of history in 2 hours by the way) I was dumbfounded, truly rendered confused and lost. Who could follow this mess? If one has studied the history of black people in America with any rigor, Beck's claims are specious, dishonest, and anti-historical (notice I did not say "ahistorical").

Because Beck is a master propagandist, he knows the power of the big lie...as well as the little one. To that end, he has mastered a very powerful rhetorical device that is front and center when Beck discusses history and politics. Beck makes a comment and inserts, "but you know this stuff already, so I am going to tell you the things you do not." That is the trick. It empowers those with little information and gives them a sense of confidence in the facts, "facts" which are impervious to intervention.

In regards to the history of black Americans (and the centrality of race to U.S. history more generally) large segments of the public are both woefully and willfully ignorant. Beck's core audience does not know the real history of the Black Freedom Struggle. They most certainly do not know about the long Civil Rights movement and its radical left-progressive roots. When many on the Right actually believe that Dr. King was a Republican in the vein of Reagan, and the GOP is the party of Civil Rights we have a problem. And the biggest elephant in the room, when it is still in dispute that the defense of slavery and white supremacy were at the core of the Civil War and the Confederacy's treason, we do not even have a common basis for the much discussed national conversation on race.

Ultimately, Glenn Beck offers a excised version of history that is structured to fit his ideological priors. It is the equivalent of reading a book and taking a quote out of context again, and again, and again. Why? Because you so desperately want that lie to be real for in the immortal words of George Costanza on Seinfeld, "it is not a lie if you believe it."

As Beck ramps up for his "taking back Dr. King's dream" rally this weekend, his abuse of history does bring some important questions to the forefront as we try to make sense of this long summer of Obama derangement syndrome and white racial resentment. What is history? Who owns it? What of our obligations to truth, be they moral, philosophical, and intellectual? What should we expect from our pundits and journalists?

Most importantly, how did we get in this mess to begin with?


Anonymous said...

I think Beck is getting his history--well, at least some of the facts--from PBS (he directly steals a couple of lines, like his notation that colonists thought of themselves as "Christians, or English"):


He, or his writers, demonstrates poor reading, of course. The website problematizes the issue of indentured servitude, asking some rhetorical questions to do so (see paragraph beginning "Traditionally, Englishmen beleived . . ."). I think the PBS site is vague, and it doesn't connect the historical or cultural dots. But it doesn't say that servants could claim "christianity" and receive a "get out of indentured servitude free" card. This seems like an argument against PBS documentaries, doesn't it?

Cannot watch more of the Beck than this. I think my ears are bleeding.

Unknown said...

Glenn Beck is a very dangerous and more tragic thing is he has millions of followers

fred c said...

When I consider the mischief that this stuff represents, the mischief that is so ubiquitous in America these days, I get like those evil computers at the end of a Star Trek episode, I start stammering and smoke starts to come out of my collar, my ears, and my nose, mouth and eyes.

You, on the other hand, have the ability to receive it, process it, and write lucidly about it. It's a gift to us, and I for one thank you for it.