The harm

>> Monday, April 12, 2010

This is one of those things that I felt ought to be passed along--it's from Bob Cesca's blog and came to my attention by way of Chez Pazienza's Deus Ex Malcontent. It appears to have come to Cesca's attention by way of Amanda Marcotte. What we have is a five-minute audio clip from Glenn Beck's radio show that really needs to be listened to; no, it isn't one of Beck's classic malapropisms or tearful rants--it's Glenn Beck advising a caller, a woman on oxygen who's been advised by her doctors to start using a treadmill for her health, that she isn't entitled to an $800 stimulus refund from the IRS:

This is money the woman is entitled to by law. A conservative would argue it's money that the government should never have withheld in the first place and a liberal would argue it's an appropriate redistribution of collected funds--in other words, a liberal and conservative would likely agree she's morally entitled to the money, albeit for different reasons. She clearly needs the money and wants to put it to good use; her husband clearly doesn't care where it comes from and thinks she's being silly about getting worked up over the check.

And what does Beck do? First, he tries to feed her paranoia and insecurity by suggesting she's safer sending it back. Then, when he gets a call from a CPA who's familiar with the modification in the tax code that resulted in the government sending money back to someone, he implies that the money is tainted because it's politicized, that the government will spend additional money so that the President can send out some kind of letter at taxpayer expense to brag about the refund. Does it need to even be said that this latter, backpedaling assertion is simply silly.

The clip ends before we hear what the caller resolves to do with her money, this money that is hers, that is to say the money that belongs in her possession because it belongs to her, su dinero, son argent, ihr Geld, ее деньги, τα χρήματά της, i suoi soldi, 她的金钱, haar geld, 彼女のお金, 그녀의 돈, seu dinheiro....

I've been wont to laugh at Beck or to wring my hands over what his crazier and better-armed fans might do if they finally take the barrel over the edge of Niagra. But what never occurred to me before hearing this clip was the subtler and everyday harm this guy does. Where on Earth does he get off doing this to somebody?

Retired professor Robert T. Carroll has a site I follow, The Skeptic's Dictionary, that has a regular feature called "What's The Harm?" The point of the feature is to track the way some seemingly silly or harmless popular delusions can cost people their lives, health, or property--people who have been taken in by faith healers and dowsers and alleged psychics and so on. The point is well worth considering: speech and actions have consequences, sometimes unexpected ones, and someone or something that perhaps seems ludicrous can cause great injuries.

You listen to a clip like the one above, and it's just not that funny anymore, if it still was. And you listen to a clip like that one and it shouldn't just make you angry at Beck, it ought to make you feel sad for that caller, for all sorts of reasons. She may--and I hope she doesn't, but she may--passively hurt herself because her insecurities are fed by a man who compares himself to a rodeo clown in interviews, a man who, when called to task for his on-air behavior, dodges behind the shield of being an "entertainer" performing for his audience, giving them what they want.

I realize, too, that a number of my regulars are fairly disgusted with Beck already, and may be tired of the subject or may wonder why I'm bothering. So let me explain: there are two reasons; first, because this is my version of Dr. Caroll's "What's The Harm?", an answer to the question beyond the usual obvious concern that Beck may be inciting behavior that will lead to violence; second, because Bob Cesca has declared war on Beck, and while I don't think he's likely to get too far with it, I certainly want him to--so if I can link to something like this and repeat it and promote it and link to related sites and occasionally do my little bit to wave the flag and help feed the belt (and that's how you do a shooting metaphor, Sarah), then I'm happy to do my token bit on behalf of the effort, Viva La Resistance! and so on.

Glenn Beck is an awful human being. It can't be said too often or in too many ways.


vince Monday, April 12, 2010 at 12:23:00 PM EDT  

Beck is NOT an entertainer, no matter what he says. He is not marketed as an entertainer. He is NOT on The Comedy Channel. And he damn sure isn't Stephen Colbert, even if some people think Colbert is being serious.

Beck is a despicable human being who plays to the worse elements in humans without regard for the truth of what he spouts or the consequences. He's not alone in this, but right now, he tops my list of mal-evolved scum disguised as a human being.

Nathan Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 8:16:00 AM EDT  

Here's the thing that bothers me about Beck. There are any number of "Entertainers" who spout off about whatever...more often than not, being as outrageous as possible just to get a rise out of people. Their fans hoot and holler appreciatively and the people they offend take to the airwaves to denounce them. Howard Stern leaps to mind. It's a Win-Win situation for the "Entertainer" and anybody who takes them really seriously is actually kind of a douche. Everybody else winks and looks at the denouncers with a look that says, "Get a grip. It may have been a bad joke, but it was a joke.

Beck is like the guy being sued for reckless endangerment who claims he can't be held responsible for the consequences of leaving a fourteen-year-old boy in a car...with a bottle of Jack Daniels...with the keys in the ignition and the motor running. How could he be expected to "reasonably foresee that the boy might get drunk and take the car out for a spin"?

If you want to get really narrowly technical, you might take him at his word that any consequences of his speech are "unintentional", but I'd challenge anyone (his supporters included), to make the case that any results can't be "reasonably foreseen".

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