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The Beck Week That Was; The History Edition

Reported by Guest Blogger - December 20, 2009 -

Guest blogged by Aunty Em

George Santayana famously said, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Glenn Beck not only hopes his listeners forgot the past, but never knew it in the first place. This week Beck made mistake after mistake after mistake in the field of history. Coincidentally, or not, later in the week Beck was railing against teaching history, but, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Monday (12/14/09), The Beckereeno gave us several delicious errors. At one point, while railing against any possible Climate Change deals from Copenhagen, he intoned, “We don't know what this ultimate utopia will be, but as we approach Christmas this year, the climate cult, to me, is looking more and more like Scrooge. I believe it was Scrooge -- you know, before the change and the Tiny Tim, "I'd like more please" -- I think it was before all of that, when Charles Dickens wrote the words for Scrooge's mouth, "Well, if we all are going to die anyway, perhaps we had better do it and decrease the surplus population." I, for one, don't believe there's a surplus population. How about you?”

Where to start? Well, let’s see. Starting with a small quibble, the exact quote is, “`If they would rather die,' said Scrooge, `they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.'” It comes early in the novel, before any of the spirits arrive, when a “gentleman” tries to get Scrooge to contribute to the less fortunate for the Yule holiday. Christmas Sweater Beck is identifying with Scrooge? Bah! Humbug!

Granted I used Der Google, and did not re-read the Charles Dickens holiday classic to quote that exactly [because I only have so much time on my hands to research these columns], but Beck could have done the same thing with the same results. In fact, he should have used his Googleizer. Even without mine, I know that Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, Every One.” It was another Dickens character, named Oliver Twist, who in another Dickens book, even more famously, begged for more gruel.

More to the point: Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Dickens knows who said what in which book. Everybody but The Beck.

The Beckereeno’s other fun mistake(s) on Monday came when he was comparing himself to Galileo. We all remember Galileo, right? According to the Tee Vee Funhouse Host, Galileo was trying to bring reason and science to a society that still thought the world was flat. And then, all the forces of power lined up to silence Galileo, just like people are trying to silence Glenn Beck!!! Comparing oneself to Galileo is NOT, I stress, a mistake. It’s simply another delusion of grandeur, something The Beckerhead has been expressing more and more lately.

One can argue about when it became common knowledge that the world was round. The Greeks knew this as early as the 4th century and among scholars and scientists this knowledge was never lost. The idea that people in the time of Christopher Columbus believed the earth was flat has more to do with “The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus” an almost complete work of fiction by Washington Irving. This is just one of many untrue myths about ‘Merkan History Irving foisted upon all of us, most of which are still believed, and taught, to this day. In History classes.

I digress. At the very least we can all agree, even uneducated former Shock Jock dropouts who now have a tee vee show, that by the time Columbus finished sailing "the ocean blue," pretty much everybody came to accept it.

As Ellen pointed out, Galileo lived from the mid-1500s to 1642. That’s a long time after Columbus' 1492 voyage. That’s why every thinking school child knows that what Glenn “I’ll correct all my mistakes on the air” Beck said was just something he pulled out of his ass. Note I said “thinking." Beck hopes his audience stops thinking and for the most part they seem to. Otherwise they’d also know that science, like in the Climate Change debate, was on Galileo’s side. He also failed to mention it was the reactionary Roman Catholic Church and Pope Urban VIII who placed Galileo under house arrest. And, not really because of the science. Mostly because in his “Dialogues,” Galileo put the words of the Pope into the mouth of the character “Simplicio.” That made more than a few important people angry.

Furthermore, Galileo was not trying to prove the world was round. He was trying to prove the heliocentric properties of the solar system, where the sun, and not the earth, is at the center of the solar system. This went against the teachings of The Bible, another work of history Blech is fond of quoting. This gave The Church the excuse it needed.

You can, as they say, look it up. Beck didn’t bother.

These mistakes on Monday are important because if Glenn can’t get the most basic facts right, how can he really be trusted on any of the big issues? These mistakes also demonstrate how much a Glenn Beck monologue resembles a 3 Card Monty Game on a street corner. As fast as he can, Beck shuffles one fact onto another, shuffling them, moving them around, showing a card here, now there, now here, and as facts pile on top of facts, it’s really hard to know where the Queen is anymore, even if you noticed just a moment ago it was the card with the bent corner. And while he shuffles the cards, he’s hoping a cop doesn’t pop around the corner to spoil his game.

Dreck lays the foundation of his House of Conspiracy Cards on faulty info and he hopes his viewers don’t breathe too hard on the entire structure. He need not worry. Shallow mouth-breathing creates no air currents.

If angry air currents can bring down a house of cards, some mighty ones are brewing for xenophobic Glenda. This week, as expected, there were demands for an apology over his hateful smears against India, its health care system, and the Ganges River which prompted a group of Hindus to file a complaint with the FCC.

Sadly an apology was not forthcoming. In Beck World this is what passes for contrition:

The full 5 seconds transcribed, in case you’re too busy to watch it: “By the way, the name of the river in India, Ganges. I said last week it sounded like a disease. Didn’t mean to offend anybody.”

Then who did he mean to offend when, this week, in the middle of another of his wacky history lessons, he said, “Ben Franklin was considered perhaps the most important man of his day. He was obviously revered in the Colonies, but he was also so respected around the world, that there was hardly a house in France that didn't have his portrait in it. France had yet to become the ‘surrender monkeys’ and non-deodorant America-haters we now know they are.”

I can't wait until the Paris Business Review gets, err, wind of that smear and demands a boycott of Christmas Sweaters.

Let’s face it, history –especially ‘Merkan History—especially ‘Merkan Constitutional History— doesn’t really seem to be his strong suit. The following took place on his Gold Shill Radio Drama Theatre of the Absurd™ this week. Since I can’t listen to another 15 hours a week of Glenn Beck, I allow Raw Story to listen to it so I don’t have to. The Beckistorian had an interesting defense of the “3/5ths clause” in the Constitution of the United States, which counted blacks as less than a human being. “That’s why in the Constitution, African-Americans were deemed three-fifths people, because the Founders wanted to end slavery and they knew if the South could count slaves as full individuals you would never get the control to be able to abolish it.”

But…but…but…didn’t the Founding Fathers own slaves, Glenn?

It’s not even the first time Perfesser Beck has shown oddly different views of our history of slavery. Media Matters read his idiotic book “Arguing With Idiots” so I didn’t have to.

His misreading of the Constitution this week also was also evident when he tried to gin up charges of treason against The President of the United States of America.

“I have paused three times and gone back to my producers today and said, ‘Are you sure we have enough on this one? Are you sure we have enough?’ Because this is a story I do not want to believe.”

Aside from the fact that he didn’t have enough for a first year journalism student to go ahead with a story sourced from one, unnamed "Senate aide," the Constitution takes treason very seriously. To quote the source material, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

So, not only wouldn’t this have risen to the charge of treason, but it would take at least two witnesses and the originator of this silly smear barely seems to have one.

Why does Beck hate History so much?

Actually, it’s not that he hates History. It’s just that he hates any history that’s not “The New, Improved, Simplified History of the World for White Guys According To Ben Gleck™. (I believe that’s the name of his next book, but I could be wrong.)

This he demonstrated more than adequately this week when he played a video of First Lady Michelle Obama. “Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices; we are going to have to change our conversation; we're going to have to change our traditions, our history; we're going to have to move into a different place as a nation.”

Beck was outraged.

First came some 3 Card Monty Mumbo Jumbo that included facts from an unattributed poll (possibly from the University of I Don’t Know) such as “92 percent of Americans believe in God, 83 percent believe public schools should celebrate religious holidays, 66 percent say they will celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, only 6 percent don't celebrate Christmas at all, 3 percent were not sure how to answer.”

Then came a series of lies about 2 incidents that have had all the Faux Noise Christians in a tizzy lately, which Priscilla does a very good explaining here and here.

After getting his audience completely confused, he finally got to the point:

“Dateline, Wisconsin: Teachers at a Wisconsin schools will have to teach the history of organized labor, under a bill signed by Governor Jim Doyle. Doyle added that he was ‘happy to sign the bill so students would understand the importance of the labor movement.’”

Condescendingly he added, “I know the cheese unions were crucial in building Wisconsin, but really? Let's see, which has been better for Wisconsin: Jesus Christ or the labor unions?

“Imagine if the governor came out and signed a bill forcing kids to learn about the positives of Jesus in textbooks? The ACLU would be in full crisis mode.

“Where are the teachers? When a politician can not only say what to write — because of a special interest group — but also the importance of it? When they are out of power, who gets their turn to indoctrinate? Every member of the teachers union should be screaming at the top of their lungs.

“They are changing our history, changing our traditions and indoctrinating our children.”

As Howard Zinn and James Loewen have demonstrated over a lifetime of writings, the history most often represented in schools in ‘Merka is, essentially, the history of the wealthy Europeans who came to these shores. Underrepresented are people of colour, the poor, the disenfranchised and, the labour movements, no matter how great their contributions may have been to society. The history of the United States is the history of progressivism. The employment rights gained over the years were those for which these people fought. You have the labour unions to thank for 8 hour work days and 5 day work weeks. Certainly the Capitalists didn’t give these to workers out of the goodness of their hearts. Learning some of that might be a good thing.

Teaching Eurocentric history is wrong for an entirely different reason as well. When students of colour don’t see their history reflected in the books, and the contributions of their ancestors in the building of this nation reflected in the schools, they tune out early. Shep Smith should look elsewhere for the failure of Detroit schools. What are these students being taught that has any relevance to the lives they live of extreme poverty and the systemic racism echoing down through the generations?

While history doesn’t change, how we tell our history—and who we include when we tell that history—changes over time. And that, I believe, is what really scares Ben Gleck the most.

Just this week population projections showed the Becks of this world will be in the distinct minority in 2050. The history books that future generations will study, if they still have schools in the future, will be vastly different than these Eurocentric tomes our students study today. Beck’s afraid his history is going to disappear down the memory hole. However, to make all his cases, facts and truth go down the memory hole in order to spin wild conspiracy theories based on “guilt by association.”

Let me paraphrase Santayana: “Those who believe in Glenn Beck’s Wacky and Wonderful Version of the Past are condemned to repeat it, wallowing in relentless stupidity and willful ignorance.”

With all my love,

Aunty Em