By Lloyd Agte
Dan emailed me on April 10: "Beck's paranoia has so grabbed his die-hard followers that there is no reasoning with them."
Heyday of the Empire
Yes, true, Dan, and I think it is going to get worse, not better in the near future. As members of the Global Ruling Empire, Americans personally have not had to worry much about foreign policy, the politics of foreign governments, etc. through the last half of the 20th century. Oh, there was the "Communist Threat," in the Cold War, but 90 percent of that was manufactured for political and economic reasons and to control our country through fear. Vietnam did shock the American psyche, but Reagan and Rambo came along and we relaxed with a great sigh hearing their stories that we had actually won the Vietnam War.
As the only standing kid on the block after 1945 with a developed and undamaged industrial infrastructure, we ruled the world in manufacturing and research and development and had the world's most powerful export economy as well, all managed by an educated management and a disciplined labor force. Our economic growth was propelled by a consumption contest among our citizens. Today, we are 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of its energy. Citizens of the developed world, Europe, Australia, U.S., etc. currently consume 32 times more resources than countries in the developing world.
The World Plays Catch-up, U.S. Plays Waste
But, surprise, surprise, the rest of the world has started playing catch-up. Having ingested great quantities of American exceptionalism, we Americans started believing there was something innately superior about America and by extension American citizens, and extrapolating from that, there was something innately inferior about other countries and other peoples. Now, as other countries are growing in dominance, we feel that our empire is getting weaker, that something or someone is sabotaging it.
Of course our empire is getting weaker in proportion to the growing strength of the rest of the world, but it is also getting weaker through our internal growing inequity in wealth, our consumption of energy (tripled in per capita usage since 1950) and particularly weakened by the wealth-draining wars launched by the Bush Administration. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the neocons dreamed would assert our power over the Mid East (and approved by the populace through the re-election of Bush and Cheney) and bring American Democracy to the region as well as a goodly supply of cheap oil to us as an incidental by-product (a guffaw permitted here) have instead weakened us internally and globally.
The heady days of increasing real-estate prices through the early 2000s up to the financial bust in 2008 distracted Americans somewhat from the trillion dollars wasted on the Mideast wars, the escalating national debt and the cost of the deliberate lack of governmental oversight and the increasing deregulation of the domestic financial system. Real estate had become a Ponzi scheme, but while some noticed, most did not care, as long as they could get in on the action.
The Double Whammy
Then came the double whammy for many people: the financial system crashed and then the United States elected its first African-American President. For some people, the latter was simply unacceptable. When the country celebrated it bicentennial in 1976, it was also celebrating 200 years of historical and residual racism--that is, slavery and its aftermath. (This leaves out the racism toward Native Americans, but just imagine the reaction if a Native American from some Indian Reservation in Oklahoma had been elected president!) But Barak Hussein Obama? A Negro as President? And someone with the same middle name as the Satan of Baghdad? To an uncomfortably large minority, this was totally unacceptable.
And so there evolved quite rapidly the personal, emotional and political strategies to delegitimize Obama as a sitting President. His name and a brief period of grade school in Indonesia were harvested to prove he was a Muslim. His socially correct head nodding before a foreign dignitary or head of state, a custom in the Mideast and Asia, was interpreted as kowtowing to his Masters. His place of birth was questioned, such that the "Birthers," as they came to be known, those who argue he is not a U.S. citizen, still constitute 41 percent of the Republican Party. His entire scholastic history has been argued to be fraudulent by some, claiming there is no proof that he attended any of the schools on his record. The plot gets thicker, for Obama is sometimes projected as a mere sock puppet created by Puppet Master financier George Soros, according to Glen Beck and others[i] and is carrying out the secret plan to turn the United States into (take your pick): a Moslem caliphate, a Socialist haven for liberals and the poor at the expense of Christian Capitalists, a Communist stronghold where the citizens are slaves. I just heard today that Trump said the planning for Obama has been so elaborate and long-range that a fake birth announcement was placed in a Hawaiian newspaper to legitimize his later rise to power. I can see it all now, the Hollywood movie produced by Donald Trump: "The Chosen One."
In addition, in the economic collapse of 2008, Bush dumped billions into the economy for stimulus effect. To most Americans, that seemed the prudent thing to do at the time. But when Obama came to office and continued the policy and in addition bailed out the car industry and the banks, it was, "Oh, My, God, he is creating Socialism, Communism!" The health care plan for the poor and uninsured and uninsurable was met with equal cries of "socialism" and "communism" (though most people don't even know the meaning of the words and merely rely on their function as name-calling devices popular in the Cold War).
While Americans are still living in denial, they can feel the empire decline. Job layoffs. High unemployment. Jobs going and gone to China. China on the rise-- economically and militarily. Gas prices up. Deep in debt to China. State budgets cut. College costs increasing. Rising health insurance costs. Central and South American economies rising. Dead-end wars in the Mideast. Rising democracy movements across the Arab world. Increasing personal debt. High national debt. An increasingly diverse ethnic population. Illegal immigrants. Moslems in the heartland! Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer. And on and on.
Simplistic Solutions to Complex Problems
Thus, we arrive at the paranoia that Beck is capitalizing on that Dan mentions. Those who do not read (about 60%), and who do not seek out information on the Internet or elsewhere, are desperately looking for an easy answer, a convenient scapegoat--an easy solution. Many find elaborate conspiracy theories seductively attractive. They blame the President for the seismic shocks felt from the foundations of the Empire slowly cracking and crumbling beneath them. It is a VERY complex world out there, what with global economies interconnected and now all of us personally connected around the world through the new media such that it we look into the issues on the internet for a few hours we are overwhelmed with data overload.
How do we make sense of it? Who can give this seeming chaos meaning? That is what Glen Beck does: he creates meaning. He makes sense of it all. At least that is what he is pretending to do. He tells stories in which many elements are tied into a narrative of cause and effect until we arrive at our contemporary problems. And in the case of Beck, his emotionalism, his fake concern and his theatrical tears apparently connect with the emotional distress that many are apparently feeling now. So let's have a little cry with Glen, then find a bogeyman to blame and put our hate on him. Then show how it all interconnects on a blackboard and explain it all. There, feel better now do we?
But on an optimistic note, Beck has recently gotten his marching orders from Fox, as his audience abandons him, his ratings fall, and his advertisers abandon him. So are Americans getting smarter? Or are they merely getting bored with his formulaic performances and increasingly absurd conspiracy theories? Apparently not the latter, since Donald Trump, who is running for president is a Birther. Since the conservative corporations control the media, we will just have to wait to see what they dream up next. With the 2012 elections coming up, expect some real nightmares and greater cunning and sophistication than what Beck performances have been providing.
[i] Ann Coulter called Soros a Nazi collaborator; her words were apparently lifted from the title of what seems to be the original Soros-bashing article, "George Soros, Nazi Collaborator," at http://standupamericaus.com/who-is-george-soros:35062. (A blog commentary discussion on Soros' comments in the Steve Croft interview is at snopes.com.) A typical posting of the article on the Internet (or one version of it) is posted on the fourwinds10.com site, with the title "ONE EVIL Son of Satan," and the author listed as "from Steve Croft (60 Minutes)." At the end of the fourwinds10.com article is the following statement: "Above information researched by CBS Steve Croft (link below)": but the link was neither to Croft nor to 60 minutes, nor to CBS, but to the above mentioned standupamericaus.comsite, which states at the article's head, "Published on 07/09/10 BY Multiple Sources." So there you are, about a dozen lines of interview get harvested, distorted and twisted to suit the purpose of the propagandists, who pretend they are Steve Croft at CBS putting all this out, and a whole edifice is constructed about Soros being out to take over the world and in the process utilizing his Puppet Obama for his nefarious purposes. And who is responsible for this false diatribe? Multiple Sources. So the sons-a-bitches posting at standupamericaus.com launch a dishonest, fabricated political smear and don't even have the guts to sign their names.