Friday, December 16, 2011

Radio reactionary: Glenn Beck

Marxist Update Diary
On a work day I usually wake up at about 9 AM.  I listen to WTAM 1100 in the morning to find out the weather and traffic as I dress.  At 9:05AM the reactionary [not conservative, but reactionary] radio host Glenn Beck begins his daily show.  He and several arrogant, snickering co-hosts mock the assumptions and priorities of particular ruling class figures like Barack Obama or Newt Gingrich, promote the cause of Wall Street's foreign and domestic policies, and generally behave like self-congratulatory fraternity boys for three hours.  I don't listen to the show more than a few minutes every day [in the car I listen to The Diane Rehm Show, on the bus I read], but over the months a certain familiarity develops.

Recently Beck has been talking about his move to Texas.  Currently he lives in New York City, which has been his professional base for several decades, I believe.  On the radio, Beck alternates melancholy and euphoria about New York, a liberal bastion and enemy territory in his view, where social slights and insults from strangers on streets and in elevators is an ever-present danger.  Indeed, Beck same deeply in tune with the fact that his views are so controversial, and that clearly not all the consequences are to his professed liking. 

After leaving the Fox News network, Beck set up his own Internet TV operation, GBTV.  It offers the same kinds of material Beck gave Fox and CNN viewers previously: odd catastrophist lectures about the rise of social movements in the US and the Middle East that threaten the Christian world.  It is a popular version of the "clash of civilizations" rationalizations we were fed by think tankers during the early years of the century.  Beck has also written a series of books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I know of no one who has purchased or read these books, and I have never been tempted to do so myself. [This must seem like a particularly amateurish way of pontification about a bourgeois media figure: don't read him, don't watch him.  But after a quarter century as a Marxist in the United States, I can only say in my defense that truly there is nothing new under the sun.] 

Those who do read and watch are devoted.  Beck says he employs a staff of 50 to keep his operation going.  The books, TV, and radio clearly make huge demands for new material, and Beck clearly craves the novelty to be found or proclaimed in each new turn of the political roulette wheel.  When BHO made his speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, Beck began on the radio an ideological offensive against Progressivism.  To Beck the historical movement of Progressivism was an elite, semi-totalitarian juggernaut of collectivism and eugenics. The fact that monopoly capital put-paid to the Progressive movement a century ago, and that BHO is simply ventilating his rancid electoral campaign with a few fugitive liberal vespers, is beyond imagining.  Indeed, Glenn Beck strikes me as one of the most guileless consumers of right-wing intellectual produce in media today.

With his opposition to the #occupy movement and the Arab Spring, Beck echos the insecurities of vast swathes of the North American petty bourgeoisie.  Because of their intermediary position between the two great historical classes of proletariat and bourgeoisie, these middle classes are traditionally both skeptical and contrarian, deeply suspicious of solutions to social issues that fall outside an individual or family boundary.  All the myriad uncertainties and calamities bred by capitalist crisis generate a concentrated, maddened response.  The long recession of labor and mass movements in the United States has fed this trend copiously in the last thirty years, until today few can imagine more than personal and private solutions to the crisis.  For this reason, slight signs of a resuscitated mass movement [like the aforementioned #ows and Arab Spring] appear as powerful and mortal threats to petty bourgeois peace of mind.

The young Italian inconciliabile Carlo Tronti has been watching Glenn Beck on the internet, and shared his views with me recently. 

Glenn is a careerist, but what makes him unique is devotion to John Birch Society, Ideological Right-Wing politics, not just "all who vote Democrat as traitors",  which is the mainstream Neo-Con line.

His borderline Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel statements got him the ax finally on FOX TV.

Zionism is far too important to the ruling class to let somebody who quotes Elizabeth Dilling close to a microphone.

It took the German Ruling class 10 years to finally trust Hitler enough, and be so threatened by communist revolution, to let him take office.

Fascists, until the last minute, are always a nuisance to the ruling class.

Alex Jones and Glenn Beck are signs of the times, and they are being funded and defunded and flirted with very carefully.

OWS has blunted their recruiting base like nothing else. Youth who want to be revolutionary want to "Occupy." They don't want to be Tea Partiers.

OWS will no doubt get these forces more funding though, despite their loss of marketability.

Indeed, a sign of the times.  But like #ows, so too is the worker militancy on display by locked-out unionists today at American Crystal Sugar and Cooper Tire.  Only a growing working class movement taking the offensive can win the allegiance of the petty bourgeoisie away from ratchet-jawed frighteners like Glenn Beck, and win it to a movement for a socialist future. 

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