the Last REfuge of the Scoundrel Oct 8, 2009
Last weekend I finished the ?From the Heartland? book by Beck , watched the Fox show of his for three days and while I was reading it and watching I kept getting a nagging thought I couldn?t put my finger on. Finely I realized that it was reminiscent of the magicians Penn & Teller. I don?t know if you know them. They are big in Las Vegas I hear and I have seen them on TV. The part that Beck reminded me of them was that Penn has spoken at length about how his goal is to ?tell the people what I am going to do, tell them how I am going to do it and STILL fool them.?
Beck is not a simple person. He offers simplistic analysis of complex issues, and simplistic answers to those issues. He himself however is quite sophisticated in his presentation. Interestingly , again, In his books he is much less strident than on his talk show. It may be that in his books there are editors (who no doubt have lawyers) and perhaps there is some filtering being done in self defense. On the show Beck is much more likely to shoot from the lip. I guess it amuses the base but if he said some of those things about a private person he would no doubt be sued. It is only public defamation of public people(i.e. politicians) you can get away with that.
Throughout the book ( and on his show) he does a number of fairly standard rhetorical tricks that are used by both sides in political campaigns. In fact many of them were used against Bush the last few times around. Perhaps this is a case of learning from your enemy. The right is usually clumsier at it but make up for that with enthusiasm. Still it s ironic that they use the same tactics they deplore from the other side. But then isn?t that politics? Just a few are: the logical fallacy (?taken to its logical conclusion?), the cherry picking of statements going back 25 years or so and then stringing them all together giving the impression of a causal link when there may not be one( collated by a paid staff that ?predigests ? the info for him) , the harkening back to some supposed mythic past (the good old days/happy days/ golden age ploy) which was supposed to be better and to which we are supposed to want to and be able to go. Ignoring the often very dark reality of that past and the implacable social and economic forces that shaped the reality we are now faced with. (Mostly our own greed and short sightedness as a species)
He does it all right in front of your eyes but somehow is slick enough to pull off the ?gee shucks, I?m just a simple guy? delivery (going back to Penn & Teller) . , at least to the people watching the TV. As for both religion and patriotism , well I think it was Franklin who called that the ?last refuge of the scoundrel?.
In the end what Beck is doing is exactly what he accuses the Democrats and especially Obama (though I think he would do it towards any opposition figure) of doing which is to constantly be in campaign mode. This may actually have some truth to it but is what all the parties and personalities now do.