Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Glenn Beck is an Intellectual Idiot...

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that Glenn Beck has compared the Norwegian social democratic Labour camp on Utoye Island, yes the same youth camp to which Anders Behring Breivik brought right wing terrorism and mass murder over the weekend, to the camp meetings of Hitler-Jugend, Hitler Youth, in the 1930s and 1940s (http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/glenn-beck-compares-victims-of-norway-attack-to-hitler-youth-1.375388). This comparison, of course, is not a new idea. Beck is simply mouthing the cliches and stereotypes that have become common among some on the right since the Cold War, the same right who ironically whinge about, for instance, comparisons of Western bureaucracies with those that existed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Some on the right have long liked to argue that those who have often been the victims of fascistic terror, socialists, are the same as the fascistic terrorists who yearn to kill them. Can you say rationalising and justifying there own ideologies?

This comparison is just another example of why Beck is an intellectual idiot. Historically speaking there have been and continue to be camps of all kinds: political camps (the Labour Camp on Utoye, Young Republican retreats, Young Democrat retreats, Tea Party camps in Missouri and Florida), economic camps (the get togethers of political and economic elites at places like the Bohemian Grove), religious camps (Christian and Jewish camps in the US), and nature camps (Boy Scout camps, Girl Scout camps, Eagle Scout camps, Pioneer Camps). It is important to remember that these different types of camps are more Weberian ideal types than different types of camps. The Boy Scouts, for instance, bring together political ideologies (democracy), economic ideologies (laissez faire and/or social insurance capitalism), somewhat generalised religious ideologies (notions about the upright moral life drawn from Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Judaism), and cultural ideologies about manhood and womanhood.

All of these camps, thus, served and serve a socialising function, often a broad socialising function. All societies, groups, nations, corporations, educational institutions, cliques and so on, of course, socialise and, in particular, socialise their young. Most of these camps, however, didn't and don't socialise their members to kill or committ genocide. I know of no evidence, for instance, that the Norwegian Labour Party has or is organising its members to genocide the right. I know, however, of evidence that the Hitler-Jugend did, in part, train their members to hate Jews, to hate political leftists, to hate Romani, and to hate homosexuals and that there was a final solution to each of these problem categories that would allow the "German race" to achieve its historical destiny through lebensraum, a code word for genocide. And I know that several self-described rightists have targeted and sometimes killed "abortionists", "liberal unitarians", and, here we are back to Mr. Breivik, social democrats, liberals and leftists, in other words.

Anyway, Beck is an ideologue and demagogue not a comparative historian. And he is the worse for it. What is a pity is that so many Americans (and beyond) eat this intellectual lunacy up and spit it back out as though it were their own. Can you say this is how demagogic oligarchic populism typically works? And to top it off I'll bet many of these same guys and gals who were adults at the time of the Cold War whinged at the time about "evil" "godless" Soviet, Chinese, and Cuban communisms breeding mindless automatons who mouthed communist platitudes thanks to "brainwashing". Can you say people living in glass houses shouldn't be throwing stones? Well I can and just did.

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