In a recent post
attempted to argue that the "Glen Beck fandom" is motivated primarily (or perhaps even solely) by racism. This argument is not original to him, and it even enjoys a relative degree of popularity. I think it will be instructive to consider it in more detail.
In brief, the argument is that since none of the fandom's grievances are legitimate, their actual motive must be racism because 1) they are predominantly white as a group, and 2) the current president is black.
This is an odd idea. eracerhead
surely doesn't intend to imply that any white person who disagrees with the president must ipso facto
be a racist. It seems that the disagreement of white Beckites in particular is being singled out here, probably because some of them actually are racist. But in spite of that, and even if all the Beckites' grievances are illegitimate as well, it doesn't follow that their primary or sole motivation must be racism.eracerhead
offers us the following list
of afflictions from which the Beckites purportedly want to "take back the country:"Could it be spending or big government? Nope, as they did not object to Bush or Reagan.
Could it be taxation? Nope, as taxes are lower now than when Bush was in office.
Could it be socialized medicine? Nope, as the healthcare bill was in no way socializing medicine.
Could it be the secularization of America. Nope, as America has always been a secular nation.
The assertions with which eracerhead
dismisses these grievances are all painfully glib. Nonetheless, they are the crux of his accusation against the Beckites (unless you count the photograph accompanying his post, which I am charitably ignoring).
But let's disregard this glibness. Let's suppose that eracerhead
is correct in every case, and that the Beckites therefore hold grievances based on beliefs which are either inconsistent or false. Does this entitle us to conclude that the Beckites are only motivated by racism? Of course not. Incorrect or nonsensical grievances do not thereby lose their power to motivate, for human beings have an apparently boundless capacity to sincerely believe things which are incorrect and nonsensical.
In addition, even if we allow false grievances to be disqualified as valid motives, there's no reason to single out racism as the only remaining motivation. One can easily identify any number of distinct motivating factors behind the Beckites' disapprobation. As a group, they consist mostly of rural middle-class people with a paucity of education — that is, one of the groups hit hardest by the recession. They are also older, and they adhere to standards of value which are becoming increasingly outmoded. In short, they feel themselves to be disaffected. And on top of everything else, they are inflicted with the bitter sectarianism which has increasingly come to be the predominant feature of political discourse in the US.
These people are not equipped to think clearly about any of the issues mentioned above, but that doesn't lessen how seriously they perceive their predicament. And to a considerable extent, their predicament extends to the rest of us as well. The US is in the midst of a serious recession: government spending is indeed going to be affected by public debt and a depressed economy, and taxes will probably have to be raised; current social programs will be imperiled and new ones will be difficult to implement; and public battles between and amongst secularists and various believers, while certainly not as pressing as the other items on the list, are at least a continual irritation. I don't think it's unreasonable to assert that everyone (as long as they are fair-minded) should be able to identify with the root causes of the Beckites' discontent.
To conclude: there is no good reason to suppose that Glenn Beck and his fans are primarily or solely motivated by racism, even though many of them may be racist. (My suspicion is that the racial bigotry in question has the same relation to Tea Party ideology — whatever that may be — as pork does to a Congressional bill.)
It is both disingenuous and uncivil to sweepingly dismiss an entire group based on a glib accusation of racism. At best, it displays the same shallowness and truculence of which it is so delightfully easy to take note in the political engagements of the Beckites, and at worst, it can only be a malicious rhetorical stratagem intended to evade debate. In either case, it is unfortunately symptomatic of the political sectarianism mentioned above, and as such it should be abandoned by anyone who cares about the quality of public political discourse.