About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Refuting Extremists and Their Ideas: Worth the Time and Energy?

By Michael De Dora

Usually when I come across the latest ridiculous statements by people like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, my reaction is to begin deconstructing their arguments, and even start writing a public critique in an effort to combat the spread of their dangerous ideas. I have always considered countering nonsense a task of the utmost importance for anyone who thinks of him or herself as rational, intellectual, and in the position to have their voice be heard. There is all the more reason to critique nonsense when it gets out to a large audience.
However, lately I have been contemplating my usual reaction. There is suddenly a voice in my head that sounds like this: “they are extremists; they are crazy; don’t waste your time; you have better things to do.” This is an odd feeling for someone who believes fully in the importance of robust debate, especially on the ideas and beliefs that most influence our society. But that is precisely my problem: how much are extremists' ideas and beliefs influencing society? And if the answer is not very much, why bother handling them?
There are two examples I would like to use to illustrate this issue. The first example is broader and regards weighing the arguments of public figures, like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin (others one might include, but who were excluded for space: Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity). The second is narrower, yet related, and regards the question of whether biologists should debate creationists. These are different cases with some overlap, but in the end, they get back to the issue of handling opinions deemed extreme.
What do Beck and Palin say that might be worth refuting? I don’t imagine I need to really tell you, but a couple of examples might help nonetheless. Beck has called Obama a racist. Palin dubbed the health insurance reform legislation “downright evil” and falsely charged there would be “death panels.” Beck backed her latter statement (while imploring viewers to at least listen to what Palin was saying regarding the “downright evil” legislation). Beck urged people to leave churches that preach “social justice,” and equated the term with Nazism and Communism. Palin said the Founding Fathers wanted a government “based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments.” Again, this is just a taste of their antics. There is a collection of Glenn Beck clips here and Sarah Palin clips here, and plenty more can be found with a quick Google search.
These statements seem so ridiculous one might only want to shake his or her head, as I have begun to do. Yet upon some reflection, it seems to me there are good reasons to answer them.
Firstly, while such people might be extreme in their ideas, they are not extreme in their societal standing. That is, many people watch Glenn Beck and support Sarah Palin. This is also why one should not focus one’s critique on the person, but on their ideas (Beck and Palin are representations of the existence, power, and popularity of such ideas). By refuting their arguments, one is refuting the arguments of those who think Palin and Beck make sense, which is millions of Americans. Remember that Palin was recently a U.S. vice presidential candidate. It would seem that such an extremist holding political office, or at least being close to it, should wake us from our slumber and spur us to seriously challenge their beliefs.
But can we really change the minds of extremists? Perhaps not. Still – and this is the second reason – there is a large portion of the country (and the world) that is in the middle, that is somewhat undecided about the soundness of Beck’s or Palin’s arguments. They can be moved. There is also a large group of people who already agree that Beck and Palin are largely wrong, but who don’t really care about their wrongheadedness. These people can also be moved. Indeed, it would seem most reasonable to attempt to refute extremist ideas precisely because most Americans are in these middle positions. At the least, one might be able to prevent people in this middle from sliding toward extremism. If rationalists refrain from presenting their side, moderate Americans might be swayed to the extreme, thus making the problem much worse. This does not mean that rationalists should bother refuting everything Beck or Palin say. For instance, just the other day Beck called a Michelle Obama’s dress selection “an outrage,” a statement for which even Bill O’Reilly called him nuts. This doesn’t seem the sort of thing we should really care about. But, Beck charging that Obama is a racist is a claim of a different sort.
Now recall the situation with evolutionists and creationists. Some of my arguments about Beck and Palin would seemingly apply here, even though this is a more specific issue. Richard Dawkins has said evolutionists should not debate creationists in a public event setting because this gives creationists a legitimacy and standing they do not deserve. Others have stated that debate is not a good setting for quality discussion. I believe both of these arguments, if taken as blanket statements, have it wrong.
Firstly, creationism is an enormous problem in the U.S., where perhaps half the nation accepts it as truth. Someone needs to counter creationist arguments or they get to run free without critique. Second, as stated before, the arguments rationalists put forth in a given situation might be digested and accepted by the “sway” market. Third, of course, one cannot expect a single debate cause a creationist to reverse position, but it could be a step in that direction. Fourth, given the in-person character of debates (as opposed to impersonal writings) there is an opportunity to begin to break down biases. I refer to something Massimo once told me: after debating a creationist, a number of creationists approached him, not to tell him they had changed their minds, or that he was going to hell. Instead, they relayed shock that an evolutionist – and an atheist – could be a nice, normal person! It would seem that even if an evolutionist knew before heading into a debate that the audience members were nearly all creationists, this would still provide reason to accept the invitation (1).
Let's now consider the issue of debates not being particularly conducive to reasoned discussions. True, debates are more about rhetoric than substance. While I believe there is something positive to say about rhetoric, it is undeniable that debates have more to do with rhetoric than with substance. But none of the common avenues through which people are exposed to differing opinions – TV, radio, the blogosphere – are particularly conducive to reasoned discourse. To be sure, Dawkins has said he would avoid formally debating creationists not just in public events, but in all avenues, including TV. But this still seems like a blanket statement that is difficult to defend. Should one stop refuting Beck and Palin’s arguments merely because the available venues are not always desirable? That would let beliefs off the hook because of a dislike for the process. Instead, maybe the answer is this: there should not be an all-out stance against debate, but rather a recognition that certain avenues should be more or less favored compared to others; similarly, certain evolutionary biologists, and more broadly, intellectuals, should cede to others who are more experienced at debate or rhetorically more skilled. In short, we ought to come to some degree of acceptance about the way things are, and also realize that some people are better equipped for some tasks.
Of course, in both situations – Beck and Palin, and evolutionists vs. creationists – one could ask, why me? Why should I refute those ideas? Won’t someone else, like Media Matters, handle it? Well, there is the issue of how well others might handle the job. We all have different approaches and different areas of expertise, and so each person might register a different yet instructive reaction (or even a better reaction). Further, someone else might do it, but who will that person be able to reach? When someone publishes an essay on The Huffington Post, I might read it, but many of my family and friends will not. But, there is a greater chance they will read a piece I wrote, purely because it is by me. Some of my family members are creationists who I do not expect to sway (they already know I’m not a terrible or mean person), but at least I can present my reasonable arguments to the family and friends who are in that on-the-fence group, and perhaps win some support from non-creationists.
I want Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck – or, rather, their ideas – to go away as much as any other rational person does. But I believe the only way to have them go away is to continue critiquing their beliefs as they put them in the public square. There is reason to lament such a task. But if we are citizens concerned about the quality of our society, and we value that we live in an open democracy that allows all of us access to public debate, perhaps we ought not want it any other way.
1. One could also argue that evolutionists should also spend time teaching people on their side, to make them more apt to rebut creationist claims. This would amount to a counter argument to the idea that "preaching to the converted" is a waste of time. But that is another essay.


  1. I love how you said that Palin and Beck make ridiculous statements but I did not see any argument from you that countered their arguments. While I agree that both are given to hyperbole the truth is there. Let's see your arguments.

  2. @Bobby,

    I wasn't interested in countering their arguments in this piece. Rather, I was discussing whether it is worth doing so in the first place. I worked under the assumption that, at the least, the cited statements were extreme. If you think Obama is a "racist," social justice is code word for "Nazism and Socialism," and Jefferson wanted a government based on "The Bible and the Ten Commandments," well, I suppose we can discuss those views.

  3. Michael,

    I think that little is gained by labeling creationists as "extremists." This merely cuts off conversation and truth seeking -- something that you value -- and polarizes.

    By all means, let the debates role! If you have the truth, then shout it from the rooftops. By refusing to engage, you just leave people with the impression that you have something to hide.

    But let me warn you that debate might demonstrate that believing that this universe is the product of ID is less "extremist" than believing it just happened, that it just sprang out of nothing, by itself.

  4. Oh BTW, monitoring these blog responses is a real conversation-stopper!

  5. Michael,

    Please read this article.The head of the campus atheist association is championing the freedom of speech of a dismissed Catholic Prof. I truly respect his fare-mindedness:

  6. You ask a very interesting question. There are, I suppose, "honest" extremists who hold their positions based on some sort of rational argument. It is possible in principle to debate with these people as (by hypothesis) they are honest and rational. I would expect there are some on the creationist side. Whether it is worth the effort I can't tell - it so much depends on the circumstances.

    But when it comes to the likes of Palin, Beck and others (PBO), what is the point of arguing at all? Those of us in the reality-based community have a big handicap here: we must take facts into account, follow logical rules, and so on. But I suspect that reality for PBO is just something you define as you go and logic simply a bad memory from high school. There is no point in addressing specific arguments as they have no importance at all. It's all about effect.

    Not that they cannot hit upon a sensible idea - they will use it if it helps their goals. Not that they are stupid (well, I don't know about Palin). Beck is certainly a very smart person - this is what makes him so dangerous. I would not dismiss their followers either - PBO are experts at saying exactly what they need to please their audience.

    But arguing on the substance? Won't work. They are entertainers. Logic and facts are largely irrelevant.

  7. @Mann's Word,

    I did leave out of the essay the distinction between a true extremist (one dogmatically dedicated to certain extreme ideas, one who holds a wide range of extreme ideas, one who often acts extremely) and a relatively rational person who has an extreme idea or two, or who acts extreme in a certain circumstance. I'd suppose it is akin to the difference between a crazy person and a person acting crazy in specific instance (or a couple instances).

  8. Michael,

    I agree one hundred percent with your assessment.

    Along Mann's line, my only criticism concerns your use of pejorative labels.

    Massimo is a good example of tact where the creationist is concerned, often calling their ideas or conclusions this or that, but not them. -If I'm remembering correctly-

    On the other hand, maybe atheism needs more people like PZ Meyers who take up the buffoonish character that Beck and O'Reilly seem so fond of.

  9. In a rush, but as someone who focuses much of his blogging about Beck and his ilk, I think it important to respond to his nonsense.

    If for nothing else, this in itself would lead me to do so.

  10. Michael,
    The problem with your post is that you (as most often the left does) take Glenn Becks statements out of context.
    I watch Beck most nights, dont always agree, but do on many points. So I know the shows that these quotes come from.
    The reason Beck calls Obama a racist is because of the recent news of the DOJ dropping the case on the Black Panthers (undoubtly at the request of the administration), and a resignation from the prosecuter who said it was a slam dunk case. Why? becasue he knew if these defendents were white, he would have been told no such thing. So the question is: Is it racism to treat blacks differently than whites? Did Obama treat black men differently than he would have treated white men? Beck points this out and calls it what it is: RACISM! You can call it extreem, but since most of the country is outraged by this, I would say your view that it is ok, is the more extreem. This is an outrage not just becuase it is racist, but becuase it is an infringment on Democracy (since they were charged with voter intimidation).
    Your other point of Beck telling people to leave churches that preech social justice as being extreem is not only taken a little of of context, but hardly extreem. If you actually listened to becks full arguement you would know that he discussed this extensivly with Dr Alveda king, Martin Luther Kings niece, since she was in full agreement, then she must be extreem as well. If you listen to the entire point instead of just taking it out of context perhaps it may make more sense. As a Christian, I am in full agreement with him. Many of these churches preech collective salvation. The idea that for one to be saved, the oppressors must become the oppressed and give all their money and power to the oppressed. Individual salvation is not possible. in order for anyone to be saved all oppressors must be equal to the oppressed and all fates are tied together. thus the term collective salvation. I know that perhaps your not a religious man, but I think it is obvious this is not in the bible. I also think the ties to this theology and communism are obvious. What you call extreem, most people actually have no issue with. In little sound bites you can make it sound extreem. "Beck calls black president racist" or "Beck says social justice churches are Nazis". Social justice is Communism, how can you rationally say that it is extreem to say so?
    As far as Pailin saying the founders wanted a government based on the bible and the ten commandments. I dont find that extreem either. It may be over simplifying a little, but extreem? I think if a citizen walked up to George Washington in the middle of the revolution and said this new government better get its values from the ten commandments, he would say "it wont be any other way". Have your read the Massachusetts Constitution? Have you read the words of the founding fathers? Or are you one of those people that say they were a bunch of deists? These men felt very strongly that the values of government and law had to be deeply rooted in religion to have a free society. They borrowed ideas from the Israelites and Anglo-Saxons. If you want to go in depth on this point, that is fine with me. Yes the founders had variying beliefs on religion, but even Jefferson who was perhaps a deists, understood the importance religion played in the founding of a free society. Pailin may be over simplifying, as many people do in speeches. But she is certainly not extreem.
    I agree with Bobby, your better served just refuting the arguements rather than tellings why its ok to do so. Fox and beck already have more viewers for news than the other networks combined. You have a lot of that middle ground to get back. No time to waste.

  11. Michael,

    I guess I fit into the second category -- "a person acting crazy in specific instance (or a couple instances)." Thanks Michael, I can feel somewhat relieved!

  12. The problem with debates with people like Beck and Palin is that they appeal to certain people by an odd charisma that complements their ideology (not that I find them charming) It is largely not about facts and reason, so why would we think that facts and reason alone would work? They both use limited and select "facts" in their arguments that "imply" their point of view. Their audience connects the dots (dots that may be unrelated) because they share many of the same beliefs about the world.

    The only productive "debates" that I could imagine would have to involve as much charm/charisma on the other side in addition to well though-out arguments. This is why I think it is good that Dawkins avoids such situations, because I think that it would not be productive at all. Massimo, on the other hand seems to be able to pull it off. I think Steve Novella could also do it. It takes a very good understanding of the arguments, a respect for the other person, and a focus on the arguments themselves. All of this has to be done with tact and humility in order to really pull it off. Its not an easy thing to do.

  13. Although I think Beck and Palin's ideas are absurd, Like Mann, I don't like this label "extremist". Lets call them "absurdists". :)

    It assumes "extremist" is something negative in all cases, and assumes that truth and rationality are always in the center, the fallacy of the golden mean(?).

    Perhaps in some circumstances, extereme measures and views are called for? When mainstream society is caught in a house of delusional mirrors who else but the extremist to jar them from their condition?

    Not that Beck, Palin and their ilk are doing anything of the sort.

  14. Now that I think about this more, there is an important distinction (for the purposes of this discussion) between "extemists" and populists promoting extreme views (or if you prefer extremist posing as populists). Extremists are not very likely to influence many people so not actively debating their ideas is usually ok, but as soon as they become popular enough to influence people I think that there is an ethical obligation to correct them and their arguments. Who should do this? The people who can do this effectively and are in positions to do so. The existence and popularity of the Daily Show is evidence that there is an audience for this.

  15. I just ran across a story by a former professor of mine in which he makes a case similar to mine. You all might be interested in reading. Here's a passage:


    Why dignify these people with column inches when you could just laugh and move on? If they truly are brain-dead, then surely the oxygen of publicity only keeps their contributions in their present vegetative state. There is something to that. But while to engage them is clearly futile, to dismiss them would be reckless, for two main reasons.

    First, the birthers are anything but a fringe group. They have found a sizeable audience for their fantasy. A poll last week showed that more than half of Republicans either believe Obama was not born in the US (28%) or are not sure (30%). Mainstream anchors on CNN and Fox routinely give them credibility. So far, 11 Republican congressmen have signed a "birther bill" that would demand a birth certificate from all future presidents. They may have no more credibility than the 9/11 truthers or those who denied the moon landings, but they certainly have more reach.

    Second, however marginal they appear now, they were effectively running the country between 2000 and 2008. It was their birther logic (an oxymoron if ever there was one) that provided the mindset, legwork and frontline troops for the Bush era. Iraq was invaded because it could not prove that it did not have something it truly did not have. "We would say, 'Iraq should present any anthrax'," explained UN weapons inspector Hans Blix shortly after the invasion. "While the US and UK were inclined to say, 'Iraq should present the anthrax.'" Guantánamo Bay is still full of people who were incarcerated because they were not able to prove they were not guilty and whose guilt was to some extent inferred by their incarceration.

    The birthers' claims might be crazy. But so was Whitewater, which ended with Clinton's impeachment, and the Swift Boat saga helped torpedo John Kerry's presidential campaign.

  16. @Jim,

    Beck started calling Obama a racist (and Nazi and Socialist and Communist) way before any recent news about DOJ and the Black Panthers or anything else. Take a look at the video I posted; it's from July 29, 2009.

  17. If you want a current event case of why its necessary to address the lunacy of such figures just look at the woman who was basically fired from the USDA because of the slimeball dishonesty of intellectual thug Andrew Breitbart, who took footage of her out of context to smear her as a racist.

    And this is but the most recent example of a never ending process of intellectual wrecklessness that comes from such figures.

  18. I forgot to mention Michelle Bachmann.

  19. One bi-product I had from arguing with creationists is that it got me to spend a whole lot of time trying to learn as much as I can about evolution. Now I don't think I've ever come across a creationist that cares for the facts (even if they give a sciency argument to begin with, it's really just a front for pushing their religious ideology) but still I spend as much time as I can trying to refute their arguments, and I (think) I do this for two reasons: 1. On the slight chance they may just be ignorant and might be receptive when they see their questions can be answered.
    2. That I can help to solidify in my own head an understanding about what the science is about.

    While I'd love to see a creationist actually argue in good faith and be willing to take on the scientific argument if they actually raise the issue (I have no problems if they want to argue philosophy or theology, it's just frustrating that they use creationist gotchas to do so), but I can at least settle for it giving me an opportunity to explore and hopefully understand the science. It was finding people who would so willingly argue out of ignorance against the science that pushed me into learning as much as I can to counter it.

  20. Hume,
    I like your example, since last night Glenn Beck was defending her and said she should not have been fired. Of course Beck is the reason this stuff happens. Again, this is the problem with all you guys not listening to what he says and just catching the sound bites.

    I am blasting you for taking Beck out of context and again you point me to a 29 second video where it starts off where Beck is calling the president a racists. Of course the whole video is not there where he explains his case. I am sure I can take 29 seconds of anyones speech and turn it upside down. Michael, your a self proclaimed skeptic, yet you feed into this.
    I agree that Obama is racist. If you listen to becks case he is right. Of course 29 seconds is all you need. Obama was a memeber of Jeremiah A. Wright Jr's church for much of his life. Wright preechs Black Liberation theology. Where all the white oppressors must give up all their money and power and give it to the blacks. This is completely racist and Obama supported it for much of his life. Am I wrong? tell me why Obama no longer believes what Rev Wright believes? Do I have the burden of proof or do you? if you say I have the burden of proving Obama's racism then it is safe to assume that obama supported Rev Wright for 20+ years without buying into anything he says. Rev Wright is a self proclaimed racist. Now look at what happened with the Black Panthers. Was beck right in 2009 or was he wrong? Or do you just say a black man cannot be racists and throw your hands up? The Black Panthers believe the exact same Black Liberation Theology, the only difference is they want to force the outcome. Why do you think the president let them off the hook. This is racism. Have you even bothered to listen to the words of Rev Wright? in 29 seconds from him I can give you a boat load of actual racism.
    I noticed Michal this was the only point you refuted (beck calling obama a racist). Again social justice is Communism, Nazi, Socialism, they all lead to the same thing. I dont even know how you refute it? Social Justice is just a new phrase (not really new, but recently popular) for socialism. The fringe left knows people wont buy into socialism or communism, so they rephrase it to sound like justice. Social Justice, yeah that what Jesus is all about. He wants the government to take the place of charity.

  21. Jim et al.,

    First of all, there is no way to quote Beck out of context. The guy is a lunatic whose utterances have no context.

    Second, I find it d isingenuous and irritating that people would ask Michael to lay out detailed criticisms of Beck, Palin and co. in the context of this post. The point of his essay is to explore the question of how to deal with extreme positions, not to address particular examples of those positions. Ignoring the first one and asking for the latter entirely misses the point of what Michael was writing, either because of extremely superficial reading or to score useless rhetorical points.

  22. Aww, c'mon Massimo, I just pointed out how your tact debating creationists was a good example for Michael to follow, then you call Beck 'someone whom the moon makes crazy.'

    Though memory of your debates has a fuzzy glow about them so maybe I'm recalling a Massimo that never existed?

    C'est la vie.

  23. Massimo,
    I know your position on people like Glenn Beck. You think he is just a lunitic. I ask that you consider my position for a moment. I dont consider him a lunitic. I agree with MUCH of what he says. One of his biggest faults is lumping the left together (as people on the left do with the right). He uses far to many generalizations. But when he gets into specific points, I agree with him most of the time. He has absolutly fantastic shows, such as the ones he does restoring history on the black founders.
    So given thats my position, am I just supposed to accept someones arguement (or even the fact they are discussing it) that perhaps his points do not even need to be addressed. Now I realize that is not what Michael is saying. But I dont even feel the post has merit, becuase I agree with most of what Beck says. For the people that watch Beck, they know that at least once on every show, Beck insists that people watching do not take his word. That they do the reseach for themselves and make up their own minds. He says this constantly. You can call him a lunitic, but he brings up news and issues that the press will not report on, and forces the press to talk about stories they otherwise would not even bring up. I can give you countless examples of this (and will if you would like). Where the press completely ignores news.
    I am sorry you find it irritating for me to ask for the detailed criticisms. But part of this post is to purposely show the criticisms and not get into the details. I find that disingenuous. To make the case Michael is making, it would be far more effective point to have a detailed criticism and thus showing this is extreemism, fringe thinking and not mainstream. The fact is that it is main stream (which is a huge part of my point) thinking and not extreemism. What Michael (and you) is referring to as extreemism is the majority. Posts like these are just a tactic to make the majority out to be extreemists. Which is why I am refuting each point, to show his post has no merit. So if you want to debate the merit of Michaels post. You have to debate the details of Michaels points of extreemism easpecially if the majority does not see it as extreemism.
    You acuse me of ignoring the first point of what Michael is writing and asking for the latter as superficial reading or scoring rhetorical points. My point is you have to prove the latter before the post has merit. I think that is logical. If Becks points are just Luncacy, it should just be a simple task to logically dismantle them. Why so much deflection?
    If you spend more time on the rules for debate than you do for debate then all needs to be questioned! Including motivation!

  24. Yep, Beck defended her on the grounds that she fits in perfectly with all the other "Maoists" in the administration.

    Please, give me a break. I regularly watch full episodes of Beck, a painful experience, since Beck clearly is literally insane, being delusional about members of ACORN or the Obama administration planning to assasinate him and such.

    Beck spreads a worldview which is every bit as paranoid and hateful as thT propagated by those who believed in the Protocols of Zion, with the exception of having replaced "Jews" with "progressives" as the source of all evil. So similar is Beck's worldview that it can easily be sumperimposed on such previous hate, as was the case A month or so ago when Beck was telling his audience how notorious racist bigot and pro Nazi Bund speaker Elizabeth Dilling was doing the same thing back in her day (exposing communists) that he's doing now. When he was called out on it he pretended to play victim.

    The white supremacists at Stormfront think that Jewish international financier George Soros is behind a conspiracy to install a leftwing one world government. Glenn Beck thinks that Progressive international financier George Soros is behind a conspiracy to install a leftwing one world government.

  25. Sorry, doesn't really fit in with the post, but Mann commented and linked to this story above,
    and I would like to see RationallySpeaking's opinion on the fired Professor from Illinois.

    I finally found the real story, or at least I would argue the more important part of the story, it took some searching, here:


    The part that Mann links to, and is the main talking place on most sites, is simply focused on the email, an email that is ridiculous, and claims that that email is the sole reason he got fired.

    The other side of the story is that the University of Illinois at U-C had been in a partnership with a Catholic Organization. The Catholic orgzanization picked the professor to teach a course on Catholicism and criticism of Catholicism at the UI at Urbana-Champaign. They also, remarkably, paid the salary of this adjunct professor to teach the course there. Anyways, that the UI have that little deal worked out seems ridiculous, and I would think leads to bad teaching, as it seems to be the case with this professor.

    As far as the email alone goes, I understand the defense and need for academic freedom, but I think I do lean to the side of those who say professors who write emails like that or speak like that to their students, which I find very denigrating in some parts, may be fired for unprofessionalism.

  26. Hume,
    Your appoach is the usual lefty description of Beck. It is the same rhetoric that leads people to think that Tea partiers are racist. Compare Beck to some hating group. The huge difference here is that it is ok to hate an idea or an ideology. Hating progressives is not equal to hating Jews, Blacks or any other group. Because it is the hate of an idea not hating someone based on their ethnicity. Its this crap that gets Beck a label of racist when (if you really do watch his shows) you know he is anything but. Are you one of those people that says Beck distorts black history because he tells of their heroic role played during the founding of America? This is what you guys do repeatedly, compare Beck to white supremacist. There is no comparison. It is ok to hate progressivism. You may not agree with it, but there is no danger of extermenation of a race by hating progressivism. So just stop the comparisons that dont even make sense. Its the same as calling someone who denies global warming a holicost denier. Discredit the person and dont have to deal with him. This is the typical approach to Glenn beck. he is a Lunatic, he is the same as a jew hater, he is the same as a white supremacist. Problem is, that truth comes through. We are experiencing a loss of Liberty (that started long before Obama) and we have reached a tipping point, the people are going to flock to the person that wants to restore Liberty and our Constitution.

    Yep, Beck defended her on the grounds that she fits in perfectly with all the other "Maoists" in the administration.

    Hume, of all the stuff he said about this, this is the phrase you pull out of it? You know he said this partially in tounge in check reffering to her seemingly racists statement. In that segment, he defended her saying that "context matters", and it seemed that she was actually telling of a story of a turning point in her life. he went on to say that if that was the case then it is an honorable action (i am paraphrasing). You know all this and I dont have to tell you. Why is it that you intentionally distort the segment?
    we cant even debate the individual points and issues while the distortion is happening. Your not attacking any of Becks beliefs. you just attack Beck. This is what Massimo does. This is what Michael does. Discredit the person and you dont have to deal with their issues and points.
    On a blog about Rational thinking, you cant get anyone to discuss issues rationally. Its just discussion on who is worthy of debating with you.

    You also know that when beck talks about being assassinated by Obama it is in tounge and check as well, but see fit to distort what you will. As far as being assassinated by some fringe group. that is real for not just Beck, but any high profile politcal figure with strong views and especially with an rapidly growing organic group like the Tea party behind you.

  27. Jim Fisher said "Social justice is Communism, how can you rationally say that it is extreem to say so?"

    Really, Jim??

    I suppose I can accept that as long as we can agree to characterize capitalism as "social injustice". Agreed?

  28. Phil,

    Absolutely. Since Social Justice means we should all have the same standard of living. I have no problem with you calling eveyone having various standards of living "social injustice". Call Capitalism whatever you want, just know that when you eliminate it, you have only command economics left. there is no other mysterious type of economics that creates rich utopia for the masses Phil.

    Your all about command economics, are ya Phil?

  29. Jim: Actually, I wasn’t familiar with the term “command economics”, but I looked it up. I don’t know why you would assume that was my position.

    Frankly, I find your definition of social justice quite bizarre. Very basically, as regards economics, I define social justice as society, to the greatest degree possible, creating equal opportunity for its members - not the guarantee of equal outcomes.

    For some reason, you also implied that I may be a fan of Communism (command economics is code for Communism, right?). I am not (certainly not as it’s ever been practiced). I’m in favor of regulated capitalism. Do I need to underline “regulated”.

    Just as Communism has become associated with totalitarianism, Capitalism is fast becoming associated with Oligarchy, Plutocracy and Corporatocracy. Is this acceptable to you?

    I’ll look for your response, but I've said all I wish to say on this topic.

    Nice chatting with you.

  30. "Social Justice means we should all have the same standard of living."

    Umm no. You just made this up. The "justice" part of social justice does not mean the same. It implies a fairness relative to some standard, which would require mechanisms to ensure this fairness. You can't have valid arguments when you have false assumptions

  31. Phil,
    We may have some common ground, but my guess it would be limited. I am for equal justice. In that the law applies equally to all of us. You define Social Justice as "to the greatest degree possible, creating equal opportunity for its members, not the guarentee of equal outcomes". How is it that you create equal opportunity? The devil really is in the details isnt it? Does someone with a with a 95 IQ have the same opportunity as someone with a 140 IQ? Does someone who has parents that smoke crack have the same opportunity as someone whos parents love children and teaching. Does someone who has no legs have the same opportunity as the person who does?
    "greatest degree possible" what does that mean? Is there some "greatest degree possible" level that can be obtained and then you stop there? or is it progressive? If it is not progressive, I challence you to define it.

    Command economics is a term used by Milton Freedman to describe the differences between free market and regulated market where natural market forces are absent and central government controls supply and demand. Others call it planned economy etc...
    I agree that regulated capitolism is needed, but I would guess our purpose is different as well as the amount of regulation. There is a direct correlation bewtween the amount of regulation and the performance of the economy or per capita wealth as Friedman showed us. My guess is you feel that regulation needs to be in place to insure equal opportunity. I feel that regulation needs to be kept at the absolute minumum since regulation impares the market signals and hurts the economy. Regulation needs to be used for 3rd party interference as well as other issues, but not to insure equal opportunity. Regulation more often than not hurts the very people you are trying to help. The minimum wage law for example (not now, but when it was enacted) hurt the very people it was intended to help. Companies just didnt hire someone unless their value to them was equal to the minimum wage, thus preventing unskilled labor from being able to get their start and learn a trade. Although you will still hear defenders of this (I am sure plenty here), but the facts are it hurt the people it tried to help. this is usually the case with regulation. Not to say we should never regulate. It should be the exception not the rule (which I guess is where your going with it?).

  32. cc,
    Ok, you say the justice part impies "a fairness to some standard"

    So lets put it together: Social fairness to some standard.

    What does that above statement mean? What are the mechanisms to ensure fairness you talk about? can they be incorperated without infringement of equal justice (that is the law applys to everyone equally)

  33. Well, one has judge when it is or is not appropriate to take on the pundits, preachers and politicians that infest our Republic. Such as Palin and Beck won't change their positions as a result of argument--their histrionics are their bread and butter (the same could be said of others, right and left). When particularly stupid things are said, I think its generally useful to remark on it.

  34. Michael: This topic (whether one should refute the ideas of those you consider to be spouting extreme nonsense) has interested me since I lost what I thought was a good friend because of debates about politics.

    My ex-friend (we'll call him "John") was an avid reader of hard right/libertarian publications. He is the sort of person who can agree with you as you break down an issue into its elements, but then emphatically disagree with your conclusion when you reconstitute the same elements of that issue. It is maddening and made me wonder why I bothered. Ultimately, he explicitly ended our friendship because he thought I was selfish and arrogant towards him.

    So, debating spokespersons with a real audience is one thing, but debating politics or religion is, as its ever been, dangerous to do with people who have no experience with separating someone's ideas from the people who say them. If you're capable of inspiring someone to not turn debate into ad hominem attack, then by all means, do it. Otherwise, pick and choose your spots for refutation or debate very carefully.

  35. Good grief. I didn't distort the segment. The whole point of the segment - as is everey segment of Beck's show- was to transform it into an attack on the Obama administration. Beck didn't say anything about the vileness of Andrew Breitbart other than to characterize him as if he's some kind of honest truth seeker, and mr. "context matters" had earlier in the day told his audience that the clip suggested America was reexperiencing 1956 in reverse. Beck didn't bother to mention that to his audience in the afternoon. He just switched his approach when Breitbart's perfidy was exposed during the day; whatever praise he gave Sherrod was just a means to Beck's ultimate end: continued demonization of the Obama administration.

    And today he was back to saying Sherrod has Marxist tendencies or not. Did you watch his show today? You find that kind of behavior to be typical of sane adults?

    Beck hates "progressives" for their ideas he same way racists hate "Jews" for their ideas. It has nothing to do with actual people and ideas - its about a label being a category that becomes a placeholder and scapegoat for all the nations wrongs. Which is why, as I noted, Beck can come across someone motivated by hatred of Jews and so easily fit that work into his hatred of progressives.

  36. Is there an alternative spell-checker circulating among Beck/Coulter/Palin fans?

  37. Hume,
    I think attacking the administration due to their treatment of Sherrod is appropriate. This is an obvious cover to displace their Black Panther fiasco. Gotta show the public that they are willing to .....blah blah blah. Ugg, I am so sick of talking about racism, it makes me want to puke. Of course since I am part of the Plymouth Rock Tea Party, I am a racist too.

    Yeah your right, Beck's hate for the progressive race is no different than Hitler's hate for Jews. Its kinda the same as your hate for the race of concervative talk show hosts. Its all racism. If you can see the difference between racism and debating ideology (or even hating an ideology), then we are just going to have to agree to disagree.
    You'll waste your breath saying how Beck's hate of Progressivism is the same as racism, but you give Obama a pass on his own theology that White Oppressors must give all their power and money to black oppressed (something that is actually racism).

  38. Jim Fisher: Right-wing propaganda Kool-Aid Drinker. Nothing else to say really.

  39. Most of the people mentioned in the post (e.g. Ann Coulter) are clowns, though perhaps dangerous ones. But the trouble with taking on a clown is that they already know they're ridiculous, indeed they thrive on being identified as such! My thought is that in general it's best to ignore them. Only when they make an argument that may have broad public influence should they be challenged, and even then only on that narrow point.

    For the most part, the clowns are just recycling (and dumbing down) material from more sophisticated sources in universities, government, and think tanks. It seems to me that rather than wasting a lot of energy on crude, second-hand arguments from loud-mouth entertainers, it would be better to tackle the primary, "respectable" sources of dangerous ideas.

  40. "So lets put it together: Social fairness to some standard.

    What does that above statement mean? What are the mechanisms to ensure fairness you talk about? can they be incorperated without infringement of equal justice (that is the law applys to everyone equally)"

    Well you stated that social justice meant that everyone had to have the same standard of living and that is not true. There are many different answers to your questions, since social justice is a broad and vague term, but one example of this is a progressive tax structure. Now even in the most progressive of tax structures in use, not everyone has "the same standard of living." The idea is that those who make the most money are most able to afford to pay taxes. (they are less likely to be lacking in basic necessities). There are many many more examples, and nearly all of them are controversial to some degree.

  41. Once again we see that it is epistemically dangerous for anybody who cares about rationality to engage in political discussion at the level of people like Glenn Beck, Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken. Already this comment thread is more about signalling allegiances than ferreting out the truth.

    I find it disturbing that people like Jim Fisher are spending paragraphs defending Beck even though they freely acknowledge that he's deeply biased and unapologetic about it. Jim, that realization was your cue to never take him seriously again.

    And I'm suspicious about the fact that the liberals here, including Michael (tssk!), did not see fit to mention a single extremist who is left-of-centre. Yeah yeah, maybe there are more of them on the right, but seriously - not a SINGLE one?! Is there a shortage of nuttery that I wasn't told about?

    Politics is the mind-killer.

    I suggest the following norm: if you're going to argue about politically charged positions, you should be doubling if not tripling your efforts to be even-handed. That means it should be *hard* for me to guess where your loyalties lie.

  42. "If you're going to argue about politically charged positions, you should be doubling if not tripling your efforts to be even-handed. That means it should be *hard* for me to guess where your loyalties lie"

    Why is this? I understand your perspective here, but there is a problem that arises when we try too hard to appear unbiased- we can create a false balance. The 'truth' may somewhere between 2 extremes of a given topic, but that does not mean it lies right in the middle. My take is that we shouldnt try too hard to 'appear' balanced (then we are setting our compasses to the (often wrong) beliefs of our society), but that we should try hard to be intellectually honest. If at the end of the day we are not exactly centrists, so be it - who says that is the best place to be?

    I suppose that it would have been more balanced to include the intellectually dishonest on both sides (and this came to mind when I read this post), but in reality neither Al Franken nor Michael Moore have the same level of influence that Beck, Limbaugh, and Palin have. Read the papers, the radio, then internet, television... at this point in time its not even close.

  43. "Why is this? I understand your perspective here, but there is a problem that arises when we try too hard to appear unbiased- we can create a false balance. The 'truth' may somewhere between 2 extremes of a given topic, but that does not mean it lies right in the middle."

    Totally agreed. But in this blog post and comment thread, undercompensation for bias is the problem - not overcompensation.

    I describe myself as generally a liberal, BUT... Liberalism and conservatism are terms that refer to an assortment of issues lumped together for mainly historical reasons. There is no obvious necessary connection between, e.g., wanting abortions to be legal and taxes to be progressive. Given the terms' historical accidentality, it should be very surprising if somebody calling themselves a rationalist *just happens* to match up with the liberals or conservatives on nearly every issue.

    Basically I want Michael (and others) to convince me that:

    P(ridicule|bad liberal idea) ~= P(ridicule|bad conservative idea)

    In other words, that they're just as likely to attack idiocy on the left as on the right.

    More concretely, if (say) global warming denialists were mostly liberals, would our opposition to them be as vociferous?

    Michael's not mentioning *one* left-of-centre extremist worries me. He has his pick from truthers, anti-vaxxers (sort of), AIDS/HIV denialists, alternative healthists, nuclear energy fearmongers, anti-globalization activists, hardcore Palestine supporters... the list is fairly long.

  44. There is no obvious necessary connection between, e.g., wanting abortions to be legal and taxes to be progressive.

    Or, for that matter, being pro-life and for the death penalty (which seems in fact contradictory). There is a book by George Lakoff that addresses this issue: Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. I found his ideas on these apparently accidental grouping of beliefs very interesting.

  45. "He has his pick from truthers, anti-vaxxers (sort of), AIDS/HIV denialists, alternative healthists, nuclear energy fearmongers, anti-globalization activists, hardcore Palestine supporters... the list is fairly long."

    Many of these examples are topics that are discussed often by skeptics. If anything the problems introduced by Beck, etc. are less discussed by skeptics in order to avoid politics/ideologies. My point is that we shouldn't shy way from them just because they are political in nature, and that giving token examples from the other side (whatever that other side is) is fine but not necessary if that is not the topic of discussion. There is something unique about the Beck, Limbaugh, Palin appeal that doesn't apply to "the other side."

    You are right to point out that different ideologies of people are lumped together within "conservative" and "liberal," and they are not necessarily related concepts. You can see this when you compare different countries... although some similarities do exist.

  46. Jim Fisher: Right-wing propaganda Kool-Aid Drinker. Nothing else to say really.

    I am not really sure what to say to that? but please let me know if that is the concensus. I am trying to bring on debate rather than debate of debate. 3 of the 5 posts on the front page of this blog are about debate itself and who gets to participate in what.

    Although I am defending Beck, I hope my larger point is getting though that no one is attacking Becks commentary or any thing he says specifically (unless taken out of context), they just attack beck himself.

    If I am going to attack Micheal Moore, I am going to carefully dismantle his logic after watching one of his movies (which doesnt take much effort) becuase I know personally of people that watch him (now there is some propaganda) and take him in. I am not going to make decisions from 20 second clips and material taken out of context and then have a discussion if Micheal Moore should be debated.
    Beck has his issues, dont get me wrong, but my worry on a larger scale is that by saying we dont have to discuss his logic or material (like is the president racist) is far bigger than Beck, and he shouldnt be used as a vehicle to write this point off. He (Obama)spent 20+ years involved in Black Liberation Theology and I dont think the subject gets to be dismissed because of Beck. Why is it that the subject is untouchable? Because he is black he cant be racist? Because Beck discusses it and then only the 29 second clip where he actually says he is racist gets played.
    Listen to the words of his reverend (who he had to distance himself with to win the presidency). The vehicle used to remove these subjects from debate is disingenuous at best. The Black Panther exibition was proof of it. These are the reasons people are flocking to the tea partys. While you guys discuss if the so called "extremists" are worthy of your time. Those extremists are going to be in power soon and change this country in the opposite direction its heading. You had better start debating with them. Or at least listening to them in more than 29 seconds at a time.

  47. @Jim:
    I think a discussion of Obama's views on race is legitimate, though the question does not interest me personally.

    But Beck is a poisoned well. He is known to be an out-and-out liar and extremely, almost proudly biased, even by people like you who broadly share his worldview. That is why people here attack the man instead of his arguments.

    Do I really need to spell out how stunningly unethical it is to knowingly lie (death panels anyone) when you have a viewership of millions?

    I know I'm repeating myself, but this is important. Beck is systematically lying to you about fact questions. That is, like, 100x worse than slashing your tires.

  48. "lies" isn't really appropriate to describe Beck. He lives in his own alternate universe, yet not only is it constructed out of untruths, but is bizarrely incoherent.

    Like, for instance, when Beck told his audience concerns over pollution were nonsense because rivers don't catch on fire anymore. "lie" doesn't do justice to such a claim, which is manages to be disengenuous, utterly stupid, ignorant and hypocritical all at the same time. The river he's alluding to was cleaned up as a result of the environemntal movment which he likes to demonize as being part of the century long progressive plot to enslave mankind. Beck, of, course, left that part out and acted like clean rivers was something that just spontaneously a happened because people don't like pollution. And then there is the sheer, amazing audacity of stupid, to suggest that unless rivers are catching on fire there is no pollution happening.

    My favorite, though, was Beck's nine minute rant on how the art at Rockeffeler Plaza reveals the commie fascist nexis all the way through Mussolini to Obama and Van Jones. It was like a conspiracy cross between the Da Vinci Code and a Beautiful Mind.

  49. We'll need to address our brains first...

  50. Hume,
    I compliment you. At least your willing to debate the substance of Becks show. Although I completely disagree with your points from earlier and I do think you were intentionally distorting and removing context. I dont disagree with your latter comment. I didnt see the show you are referring to.
    As I watch Beck sometimes I try to picture what it must be like for the left to watch him and know that his technique can often be poor. He often says things off the cuff that obviously do not have much thought put into it.
    So why is it he has such a massive audience? Not to mention a growing one? I can often pull out Becks mistakes in his arguements. But the mistakes are not "lies" as you point out. If fact I think he is very honest. A little off the cuff perhaps, but very honest. The reason people are flocking to him is because they agree with his main points. Progressivism is a cancer to America. We have become a democracy and need to return to the Republic that our founders laid out in our constitution.
    This is what the Tea Party is about (no, it isnt lower taxes). People are educating themselves with much of Becks recommended reading like "Free to Choose","Road to Serfdom", and "5000 year Leap", and they now understand that America is moving in the wrong direction. There is a progressive idea that our constitution is not apt for these times. People understand that the concepts of limited federal power and seperation of powers are timeless. There will never be a time period where massive centralized government will not lead its people to Serfdom. The prosperous people of this nation are terrified of Serfdom as am I. The left is stearing us in that direction. The people will forgive Becks rhetoric and sometimes misguided mistakes to have a spokes person that believes in the same principles that they do. He makes mistakes and he often admits as much. But he aligns with what the people want. Limited governemnt that follows its own constitution. We have strayed so far from our constitution that it is meaningless. People are reading the Federalist papers to understand what the founders intentions were. They dont agree these were concepts fit for a long ago time. Although much of Becks show last night did not have substance, his main point, that Obama is not worried about Cap and Trade because he does not need congress to pass it anymore. The executive branch now has the power to accompish what it wants without it. He made a solid prediction that Cap and Trade will happen without any bill being passed by congress. I agree with it. How far we have fallen when the executive branch can accomplish that! They (congress) are passing bills that are impossible to undestand (and intentionally so). The reason for this is that the executive branch will now interpet and apply these bills. Imagine passing bills that you have no idea what the substance is? If anyone reading this can actually tell me they understand what is in the financial bill and how it will apply to law, I feel fairly confident that you are a liar or at least misguided. If you tell me you know congress had a clue what they were voting on then I am also confident of the same. The Czars in the executive branch now have the power greatly offsetting the seperation of powers in our 3 headed eagle.
    If you want to argue Beck should not be debated becuase he is saying rivers dont light up. Thats fine. We will soon be doing the debating on how to restore the Republic for you. I am not sure why I get into this. I am perhaps far better off letting people think they're excluding the Beck audience from the debate. The Beck audience and the Tea Partiers and the 9-12'ers, they are all the same. and they have massive common ground.

  51. I guess I should at least say in relation to Michaels post that I feel the majority of people like M and Michael that say Beck is crazy and need not be taken seriously have no idea what he actually stands for. If you say he doesnt need to be debated your alienating the majority of what americans are feeling now. I also feel that aside from Hume, most people here have no idea what the actual content of Becks shows are (in fact you have basically proven that to me). Posts like this are why the average American may be biased against intellectuals. I point out the constant need for intellectuals to debate the issue of who they need to debate. This in itself sets off the alarms of many people. it is far easier to put the issue of Obama's racism into the catagorie of lunacy than it is to tackle it in debate. It is far easier to attack Beck as a looney and discredit him with out of context clips than it is to debate the over all good of massively increasing the size of our federal government through health care, IRS workers, and supposed financial reform.

  52. Just to be clear, I don't consider Beck's apparent sincerity to be a virtue. When William Clifford's ship builder in "The Ethics of Belief" convinced himself his ship was safe, his sincerity did not excuse his unjustified belief in the safety of his vessel, nor absolve him of wreckless negligence when his ship sank.

    Likewise, Beck is not excused by his sincerity when he tells his audience that FDR was fascist while portraying Henry Ford - a man with more direct connection to the Holocaust than any "progressive" Beck has ever attacked - as an anti-fascist hero. When Beck creates for his audience the impression that fascism is a form of progressivism, and that the New Deal was fascist, he is doing the same thing, failing to mention that actual fascists like the Bund opposed the "Jew" Deal and actual fascists like the Black Legion infamously killed a WPA worker.

    The damage to history is not any less severe because Beck believes what he says.

  53. No worries Hume, I understand you dont mean to side with beck in any way. I am simply complimenting you because you are at least forming your opinion with actual knowledge of the material and not using 29 second clips to argue if his ideas need to be debated or not.
    That being said, I really wish people (including Beck) would lay off on using the word Fascist to describe anything they dont like. Beck used it to describe FDR because of his socialist agenda. Although FDR was out of control and severly robbed the power from the legislative branch to the executive branch and came very close to doing the same with the Judicial branch through the Supreme court. In his power grabbing way I guess you could compare FDR with Fascism, but the same as I didnt like your comparison of Beck with racists, I dont like Beck comparing FDR with Fascist. Everyone is always trying to tie everything they dont like with the extermination of millions of Jews. Its insulting to the Jews loss. And it is always an attempt to make something sound far worse than it is. Fascism is difficult to explain.I read a book called "Liberal Fascism" that I think gave me an appreciation to minimize my use of the word.

    The damage to history is not any less severe because Beck believes what he says.

    I am not sure FDR's history could be any more damaged. The man that single handedly damaged this country more than any other president I can think of is FDR. Yet our history books have him as the "New Deal" hero. The man who invented the plan the kept his country in depression for almost 15 years is known for bringing us through the great depression unharmed. He owned the press. He owned congress. He also proved democracy alone does not work with his win of 99% of the electoral college. The man the scared congress into presidential term limits would still be president today if he somehow could live. His social security plan, the list goes on and on. History on FDR as one of the great presidents is about as damaged as it gets.

  54. So if you didnt conclude from what I said. I believe Beck is more accuratly reflecting FDR's history than it currently is. As far as Ford goes, perhaps you know more than me.

  55. Jim,

    I don't know why you're still faulting me for not dismantling Beck's ideas. The point of my essay was to discuss whether or not doing so is worthwhile.

  56. For all, here's a story about the practical impact of Beck's ideas that I ran across:


  57. "More concretely, if (say) global warming denialists were mostly liberals, would our opposition to them be as vociferous?"

    On the issue of global warming, surely.

    Ian, could you rattle off the names of a couple liberals who have the power, influence, rhetoric, and temperament that Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others currently have?

  58. Fyi, I wrote a post on this topic four years ago for the original Incarnation of Unclaimed Territory. Do to the iPad's general difficulty working with blogspot, I can't seem to paste the url. If you google search "why respond to malkin unclaimed territory" it will come up.

  59. Michael,
    I am not sure how many different ways I can say this. You have yet given me another example of my exact point with your posting of the Huffington Post link.
    My point is this: You are writing a post of whether or not people on the left should engage in debate on the subjects of Right wing icons such as Glenn Becks, without having any idea of what Glenn Beck actually says or believes etc. You obviously have no idea what his show is about or what his beliefs are. You are making a case that it may be reasonable (or not) to just write off Glenn Beck based off of what you read from the Huffington Post, not the origonal source.
    It is funny since Glenn beck is constantly preeching to always use origonal source material whenever possible. Dont take someone else word. This is why I am complimenting Hume. I completely disagree with Hume fundementally, but at least we are debating the same source of material. How can you debate someone about Glenn Beck, when all you have as your source is what the Huffington Post says about him (or other left sources).
    If you actually watched Beck, then you would know that about an average of once a show he talks about how important it is that we do not use violence. Here is the Huffington Post claiming that this looney was incited by Glenn Beck. If this looney actually listened to Beck and how he constantly says "this needs to be a fight fought in the minds of men and not with violence".
    This is why I spend a considerable amount of time reading material from the left (as I think I am proving by being here). I dont take Becks or anyones word for what the left thinks, I go to the source and find out for myself. I engage in debate.
    From reading the responses to Massimo's Veil post, I can see there is some common ground between the left and right. There were some absolutly awesome responses from very left minded intellectuals that defended individual rights over the group. and they were written far better than I can. If you use the Huffington Post as your source for what the right is thinking, the spin is magnificent.
    They throw out quotes like:

    "To the day I die, I am going to be a progressive hunter."

    He was talking about shedding light on who the progressives are, not literally hunting.

    * "[Y]ou will have to shoot me in the forehead before you take away my gun" and "before I acquiesce and be silent."

    He was talking about 2nd amendment rights.

    Every line printed in this post has a completely new meaning if it is taken in context. I cant count the number of times I have heard beck say this fight needs to happen peacefully. Despite that he said it countless times, you have never heard him say it. You want to make a judgement on the qualifications of debate having no idea who it is your talking about. By doing this, you are driving an even bigger wedge between the two sides and giving far less opportunity for common ground. Your starting point is not with the truth. It is with the Huffingtons Post version of Glenn Beck.
    I see the looney posts from this article, Many of them are willing to throw the first amendment away because of this article and not the truth of how Beck feels about violence and what he actually says about violence. Thats just wonderful journalism. Huffington Post is inciting worse results than anything Beck is. They are all in the same boat as you. they dont know the truth about what Beck says, they know what the HP says that Beck says.
    Thank God you have no actualy authority to decide how debate actually is done and who gets to play! I fear like minded men do.

  60. Ian, could you rattle off the names of a couple liberals who have the power, influence, rhetoric, and temperament that Glenn Beck

    Shouldnt you be asking Ian for names of liberals that have ideas and beliefs that are as rediculous as Beck, Palin and Limbaugh?

    When did we stop debating content and start debating power and influence.

    Shouldnt their power and influence be a motivator to debate their content?

  61. Thanks for a good post! It complements well with Julias post about if "non-experts should shut up". I agreed that they should not. I actually like J-S Mills argument that if all ideas, also the crazy and false ones, can be heard it forces the ones with good arguments and rational ideas to sharpen their argument even more and speak out. It creates a live debate in a democratic society where, hopefully, the best and most rational and/or ethical arguments "win".

    Michael had a similar argument:

    "At the least, one might be able to prevent people in this middle from sliding toward extremism. If rationalists refrain from presenting their side, moderate Americans might be swayed to the extreme, thus making the problem much worse."

    That I think is a good argument for why one should take the debate and debunk bad arguments.

    There is though an option to taking on the bad arguments from people explicitly. One can write, debate, etc in public newspapers and popular science magazines, radio shows and so on, debunking bad arguments in creationism etc in general. Instead of argue against a particular statement from an extremist. In that way one can sort of refuting their ideas without referring to them.
    Just an idea.

  62. There is no way to take Beck murdereing Nanci Pelosi in effigy out of context.

    But that's besides the point, when you traffic in violent, apocalyptic, conspiratorial memes which echo the extremist literature they originally came from about radical antiAmerican, possibly to probably Satanic marxists planning to institute the New World Order, at which point patriots (read: evangelical conservative Christian supply-siders) are rounded up and slaughtered or enslaved you're already making an appeal that is going to play to the prejudices of the irrational and extreme among us, giving them both a sense of legitimacy and urgency.

  63. There is no way to take Beck murdering Nanci Pelosi in effigy out of context.

    Really Hume? Thats what he meant? He wasnt joking? The context was that he will actually murder Pelosi? Man what a hypocrite, after all the times I heard him say to protest peacefully. To use no form of violence. What a let down.

  64. Right, he was laughing hysterically at the hilarious notion of poisoning Pelosi, what a funny joke. I bet jim adkisson thought such jokes were funny, too.

    By the way, latest Glenn Beck crazy train stop: promoting a white nationalist form on his twitter account. What a hero.

  65. @Jim Fischer, ever look at the Snopes entry on Obama's birth certificate? Or is that merely a liberal mouthpiece, too?


  66. I respect your effort but where is the depth? I couldn't make it through the whole post because your arguments lack substance. You express your opinions and ideas but you barely scratch the surface of the issues at hand. Maybe this blog is meant for those who know everything about the topics but for those of us who don’t, we need supporting material.

    I don’t always agree with Beck but you gave me nothing to convince me that his opinions and positions were off the wall. Was the dress Michelle was wearing made out of a Nazi flag? Obviously not but my point is, how do I know I don’t agree with Beck? Why even mention his opinion on something like that anyway? Are opinions like that and the others you mentioned reason enough to claim that his ideas are dangerous? Maybe they are but why? Sorry for my ignorance. Maybe this blog is not for people like me but I gained nothing from this article.

  67. "We have strayed so far from our constitution that it is meaningless."

    @Jim -- I'm with Beck 100% on the idea that government has grown too large and intrusive. In fact, what I don't like about Beck and Palin is grounded in the fact that, unlike them, I've actually read the Constitution. Nowhere in there is the U.S. built as a "Christian nation," for example. And, interestingly, for all the Tea Party talk of "going back to not regulating business," the authority of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce IS in the Constitution (10th Amendment). And so on.

    Beck is quick to mention the Constitution when he thinks it supports him, but his overall familiarity with the document often seems more than a bit hazy, which leads me to believe he's far more interested in stirring the pot than he is in making any legitimate contribution to society.


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