The Universal Notebook: Glenn Beck, the 'Libertarian Limbaugh'

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Last week, the Portland Press Herald published a full-page paid “Letter to America” in which President Barack Obama was described by Berwick waitress Beth O’Connor as “a progressive Marxist who embraces policy that violates the very foundation of a moral and free society.” She went on to suggest that Obama is “either stupid or evil.”

Now where would a waitress from Berwick get over-the-top ideas such as these? Probably the same place she seems to get all of her ideas – talk radio/television entertainer Glenn Beck. If you’re looking for a stupid or evil toss-up, Beck is your boy.

Glenn Beck is the Libertarian Limbaugh. Like Rush Limbaugh, Beck is uneducated. Like Limbaugh, Beck is a recovering addict. And like Limbaugh, Beck is a wealthy demagogue with an enormous appeal to the weak-minded. Both broadcast blowhards are filled with hot air that they use to inflate the sick notion that our constitutional democracy is everywhere under attack from liberals seeking to turn America into a socialist dictatorship.

What amazes me, and I assume millions of other of rational Americans, is that the stink of the prior administration wasn’t even out of the White House before right-wing wackos began blaming the new Obama administration for the mess this country is in. We are in the sorry shape we’re in because for eight years we were governed by people who don’t believe in government.

The irony here, of course, is that what Beck and Limbaugh advocate – less government, less oversight, less regulation – is exactly what brought the U.S. to the brink of collapse. It should surprise no one that the Obama administration has not been able to fix eight years of damage in eight months.

The Libertarian philosophy at the heart of Glenn Beck’s hysterical 912 Project, the Maine chapter of which paid for Ms O’Connor’s full-page rant, is essentially an every-man-for-himself doctrine of self-interest. Among the nine “principles” of Beck’s self-centered creed are “I have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results” and “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with whom I want.”

In other words, Beck does not believe in equality, justice, or the common good. A convert to Mormonism, he seems to believe he is God’s gift to the common man. How anyone espousing such messianic selfishness can possibly believe he is supporting anything remotely related to “the very foundation of a moral and free society” is beyond me. Sounds positively un-American to me. E pluribus unum, baby.

Whether the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, financial bailouts, and health-care reform will succeed in righting the foundering ship of state that the Bush-Cheney brigade tried so hard to scuttle remains to be seen. But the American people elected Obama in hopes that he could do just that, so let’s give him a few years for his plans to take effect before we start banging the drum to dismantle government and, in Ms. O’Connor’s words, “Set the people free.”

Ms. O’Connor concluded her “Letter to America” by quoting Goethe to the effect that “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” I’m quite certain that neither O’Connor nor any of the 912 Project true-Beck-believers has the slightest idea what Goethe meant by that cryptic statement. As far as I’m concerned, none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who listen to Glenn Beck.

But if it’s Goethe they want, it’s Goethe they shall get.

“When ideas fail,” the great man wrote, “words come in very handy.”

You just keep talking, Glenn. That’s what you’re good at. Leave the thinking to someone else.


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beem-edgar-op.jpgThe Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem’s weekly personal look at the world around him.