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Does Glenn Beck Know Anything At All About Cass Sunstein?

Reported by Julie - April 25, 2010 -

Because of a more pressing work schedule, I'm now, along with Aunty Em, keeping an eye on Glenn Beck instead of Bill O'Reilly. So, my first foray into the blathering of Beck began last week. Since at least September 2009, as reported by News Hounds, Beck has painted a red "X" on the back of President Obama's "regulatory czar," Cass Sunstein, and urged his viewers to start target-shooting. (Yes, I'm invoking violent imagery to prove my point -- when in Rome . . . .) Anyway, last week, in a segment entitled "Cass Sunstein vs. Tea Party," Beck, looking solemn and serious, invoked Martin Luther King (the Godfather of peaceful protest, by the way) to, I guess, defend the Tea Party and simultaneously take some more shots at Sunstein, "the most dangerous man in America." (What he didn't mention is that Sunstein is also "the most often cited legal scholar in the country." But hey, college dropout Beck can spar with the loftiest academics in the country -- as long as he's not held to the truth, that is.) Beck also blamed the media for the fact that Dr. King's civil rights achievements didn't happen more quickly, and he threw in Woodrow Wilson to prove some point he neither explained nor proved. My first thought was, do people really take this seriously? My next thought was, how in hell can people take this seriously? My last thought was, holy shit, people actually take this seriously. But, I soldiered on. With video.

Beginning with a discussion of Dr. King that segued somehow to the tea partiers, Beck said, "He knew the average American was not a racist . . . He had faith in you, he knew that if you'd see it, you would reject it. He knew that people would reach out and strike them . . . kill them. . . and when Americans would see it, it would all be over . . . He knew it would be an uphill battle because he also knew the media was not on his side, nobody wanted to show the truth . . . You see, that's what they're trying to get the Tea Parties to do . . . they need you to reach out and strike . . . ."

A little news flash for Beck -- Americans saw it. It wasn't all over. The reasons for the way the media portrayed Dr. King is for a social scientist to address, not me -- and certainly not Beck. But Beck's contention that Dr. King didn't believe the "average American" was a racist is denied in many of his speeches. Although it's true that Dr. King had faith that someday things might change, his speeches deny Beck's contention:

"The first thing I would like to mention is that there must be a recognition on the part of everybody in this nation that America is still a racist country."

"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

"This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream -- a dream yet unfulfilled. A dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the color of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality."

"I accept this award [Nobel Peace Prize] today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind . . . I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."

"Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them."
Beck, however, apparently needed the invocation of our greatest civil rights leader to provide the launching pad to attack the Administration's alleged censorship of media reports.

Beck first erroneously accused the Obama Administration of closing down Lafayette Park because of gay protests, "to get the press to stop filming." However, as reported by Politico, the U.S. Park Police is taking responsibility for the snafu, admits to screwing up, and said the White House had nothing to do with how the police handled the protesters.

Beck lamented (sans evidence, natch) "how vicious these people are . . . SEIU delivering beat-downs," and went on to say that "Cass Sunstein is the most dangerous man in America." Beck mentioned Sunstein's book, "Nudge," and alleged that Sunstein views Americans as "lab rats." His position, apparently, is that Sunstein is out to remake the political discourse, and to prove it, Beck indignantly cried, "To make the Tea Parties look racist and radical several sites . . . actually advocate the infiltration of the tea parties . . . pretend to be one of them, bring racist signs to the rallies . . . . only a crazy loser whack job would even think about doing this . . . crazy loser whack job and Cass Sunstein . . . ."

Beck sarcastically commented that that there's no evidence Sunstein had anything to do with the "infiltration" of the tea parties (it's actually driven by Jason Levin, creator of http://www.crashtheteaparty.org), but no matter -- Beck went to his trusty chalkboard to show us how Sunstein proposes to handle opposition groups (presumably groups like the Tea Party), and alleged, without citing any evidence, that Sunstein believes that anything "anti-government" is a conspiracy theory.

Beck displayed Sunstein's remedies for the spread of misinformation on his board: (1) Ban conspiracy theories, (2) impose tax on those who engage in conspiracy theories, (3) government counter-speech, marshaling arguments to discredit theories and theorists, (4) hire private parties to engage in counter speech, and (5) informal communication with such parties. Beck displayed a Sunstein quote: "Our main policy claim here is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories."

Beck acts like forcing people to be held accountable for spreading conspiracy theories is something new -- maybe he doesn't know that New York already has a law prohibiting people from spreading false rumors about banks.

Ironically, given Fox' history of spreading misinformation, using fake footage, and peddling outright lies, Beck alleged that Sunstein is "spreading the truth using lies . . . this is nothing short of propaganda."

Except . . . that's not exactly what Sunstein's all about. First of all, the book Sunstein wrote, "Nudge," discusses the possibility of “libertarian paternalism" and "not government control, to encourage good behavior." (emphasis mine)

As reported by online.wsj.com, "Mr. Sunstein, a prolific academic with wide-ranging interests, may be best known for advancing a field known as 'law and behavioral economics' that seeks to shape law and policy around the way research shows people actually behave. The theory builds on earlier approaches developed at the University of Chicago law school that sought to harmonize regulatory law with free-market economics. Although widely embraced by conservatives, critics said it failed to account for the sometimes less-than-rational aspects of human behavior. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Mr. Sunstein said Mr. Obama was intrigued by 'law and behavioral economics' as an approach to regulation that would avoid ideological extremes."

Even one of Beck's libertarian brothers, University of Chicago's "libertarian-leaning law professor," Richard Epstein, supported Sunstein’s nomination to the Obama Administration, “notwithstanding the many substantive disagreements between us.” Epstein went further, saying, "The Beck stuff is well over the top.”

In fact, Sunstein endorses something called "debiasing," which is "an understanding of how false information spreads. That understanding leads to more caution in accepting false rumors as truth and may prevent harm to people who are targets of false rumors."

Pulling out a picture of Woodrow Wilson, Beck hyped the claim that the last administration to "recruit goons on soapboxes" and "preach government good news" was that of Woodrow Wilson, and went on to gripe about Wilson's "Committee on Public Information." Beck decrided President Wilson's attempts to influence the public discourse through the use of "4-minute men."

So, Wilson was the last Administration to do that, huh? Hmmm . . . 'cause what Beck forgot to mention was that the LAST administration before the Obama Administration -- led by the guy known as George W -- got into the "reshaping public opinion" game early on. As reported by globalissues.org, "Within weeks of Sept. 11, Charlotte Beers, celebrated as the 'queen of branding' among the public relations cognoscenti, was named undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Her job was explaining and selling the Bush administration's foreign policy, especially its war on terrorism. The problem of 'Why they hate us' was rephrased, in ad speak, as 'How we reposition the brand.' To help win market shares from jihad, the former chairwoman of the J. Walter Thompson Worldwide advertising agency recently received a $520 million congressional appropriation to focus on 'disaffected populations,' especially in the Middle East and South Asia. As Beers testified, 'a poor perception of the U.S. leads to unrest, and unrest has proven to be a threat to our national and international security.'" And what about the "stoic, stern-faced retired generals, colonels, majors, military advisers, former Pentagon officials" who were trotted out to play up the PR side of Bush's wars? As the New York Times reported, "Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks."

So . . . it appears that the Bush Administration and Sunstein agree that "a poor perception" of the U.S. -- whether about war or the economy or whatever -- leads to "a threat to our national and international security." And the Bush Administration didn't seem to mind working its magic on public perceptions, either.

Glenn . . . don't you care about our national and international security?

"Learn history, you will know our future, you will also know how it ends [tapping picture of Wilson] and you'll know how to defeat it so we can get back on the right track and be America again."

I have a suggestion for you, Beck, on how to get America "on the right track." Well, several suggestions, actually. Shake hands with the truth -- or at least do a little research. Become intellectually curious, and actually explore the belief systems of people like Cass Sunstein before going on the attack. Following that, become intellectually honest. And, finally, ditch the damn blackboard. Blackboard or not, nobody is gonna mistake you for a Rhodes Scholar.