On Glenn Beck, George Soros, and Moderate Dialogue (and Nazis of course)

I had hoped to take a wee vacation from the subject of hate and retreat into a quiet place, and re-emerge a few days hence a better-fitted wee white corpuscle against the hate cancer cells of our body politic. But vileness evidently never takes a vacation.

Before getting into Glenn Beck’s vileness about George Soros’ alleged responsibility for sending Jews to the death camps, I have a personal digression about my way of doing dialogue.

One reason few people own up to being moderates in our society is the double-toll of the charge of inconsistency. Conservatives need only be consistently conservative, and all other conservatives applaud them. Liberals need only be consistently liberal, and all other liberals applaud them. And all are merrily angry. Neither particularly cares what the other camp thinks about them, unless they can have a meta-rage about the latest outrage of being called Nazis. I’m jealous.

Moderates swim in the shark-infested sea of nods to conservatives and nods to liberals. As a right-of-center moderate, my take on President Obama’s State of the Union address was considered too liberal by some conservative friends and too conservative by some liberal friends. That’s fine. That spurs constructive dialogue. But I also set myself up for the charge of inconsistency — as when I slammed Representative Moran (D-Va) yesterday for his vile accusations about American racism to an Arab television network. Well, I didn’t actually slam him. In fact, I said I’d let his own words speak for themselves, and invited liberal friends to do what I have frequently requested of the left: condemn leftist hate speech. Some did, most didn’t.

One liberal friend wrote to me asking, “when will you call out Glenn Beck for a long deep pattern of race-baiting, Jew-baiting and all around hatred? I realize he is not an elected official but his ratings are far higher. Influence is power.” As it develops, his plea was fair, about which more momentarily. But I need to make plain that I will not always be consistent. I do not say that merely as a kind of Emersonian conceit about rising above the hobgoblin of small minds. I mean, I will at times be indefensibly inconsistent. It happens. What I care about, what moves me in a particular moment, will be rational as often as I can manage it — but not always. I am moved most powerfully by what and whom I love, and that can indeed yield the very irrationality, and inconsistency, that is a staple of human narratives about love.

Since I truly love specific people across the political, racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual orientation spectrum — and being a right-of-center moderate — mediating my various reactions in some consistent way will be impossible. I’m not even talking about “ideological” consistency, which I abhor, no, hate. I’m talking about simple logical consistency, and I’m conceding, won’t always be so.

So, but for a liberal friend, I wouldn’t be posting this excoriation of Glenn Beck. I’d have been inconsistent. And it wouldn’t have troubled me overmuch.

Here’s what Glenn Beck said:

[Soros] used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. And George Soros was part of it. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening. Here’s a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps. And I am certainly not saying that George Soros enjoyed that, even had a choice. I mean, he’s 14 years old. He was surviving. So I’m not making a judgment. That’s between him and God. […] George Soros is — many people would call him an anti-Semite. I will not. I don’t know enough about all of his positions on Jews.

Rather than letting Glenn Beck’s words speak for themselves, as I tried to do with Rep. Moran, hoping we’d all agree, I have some thoughts.

  • Glenn Beck needs to stop making references to the Holocaust.
  • Glenn Beck needs to stop making references to Nazis.
  • I wrote last week about the tone scale of American political discourse, urging that it never go above 4, on a scale of 1-10. Glenn Beck managed 10 against a Jewish Holocaust survivor.
  • George Soros, who bankrolls numerous left-wing groups and candidates, who views his adopted country, the United States, as “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order,” just got a big sympathy bump, courtesy of Glenn Beck. Thanks Glenn. Well done. As I wrote last week, “the farther up the scale dialogue reaches, the more likely the opponent gains sympathy because of the nature of the attacks upon him or her. Put another way, the angrier you are, the more likely you are to help the person you hate.”
  • Liberals have no need now of bothering to condemn Rep. Moran slamming Americans as racists for electing Republicans in the 2010 elections, or Rep. Cohen calling Republicans Nazis on the House floor. They have Glenn Beck! Thanks Glenn. Well done.
  • Glenn Beck has many good things to say. Among them is not any reference whatever, ever, to the conduct of Holocaust survivors who happen to be political enemies. His liberal determination to tread into this territory betrays a gross misapprehension of how one approaches the agonies of that period. He speaks of the Holocaust as a high school student might speak of the Flapper Era, with a kind of cheer about how interesting it was and how much we can learn. Stop.
  • As liberals go into their camp, righteous regarding Glenn Beck, and conservatives go into their camp, righteous regarding Rep. Moran and Rep. Cohen, let it be understood that Beck, Moran and Cohen do what they do because too many Americans feed upon it and righteously retreat into their respective camps. That retreat by both camps empowers Beck, Moran and Cohen. We’ll never stop this madness until enough people say “a plague on both your houses,” and really mean it.

For those interested in additional interesting information, here is criticism of Beck from a conservative Jewish publication, clarification of that criticism from the same publication, an ad by rabbis appearing in the Wall Street Journal condemning Beck, and, for my friends who love Lewis Black, his skewering of Beck as a man with Nazi Tourette Syndrome.

Please say now, to Beck, Moran and Cohen, you don’t always speak for us. And you won’t whenever you engage in hateful speech. We cannot shut down hateful speech, such is our robust First Amendment tradition, but we can condemn it (consistently?).

UPDATE (2-2-2011): Jewish Groups Denounce Anti-Glenn Beck Letter.