Monday, March 15, 2010


A little story in today's New York Times about Glenn Beck's use of an obscure radical manifesto to smear those to the left of him:

"Revolutionary movements do not spread by contamination but by resonance," write the anonymous authors of "The Coming Insurrection," a call to overthrow capitalism that first appeared in France in 2005 and was recently published in translation in the United States.

...: In July, [Glenn] Beck introduced the book to his three million or so viewers, accompanied by video of burning cars and swarming protesters. "Here is the one thing everyone seems to be missing. The extreme left is actively calling for violence," he told his audience....

This month, Mr. Beck proclaimed it "the most evil book I've read in a long, long time."

The next day, "The Coming Insurrection," whose authors call themselves the Invisible Committee, rose to No. 54 on Amazon’s best-seller list. In July, the book briefly reached No. 1....

Sylvere Lotringer, a professor emeritus of French language and philosophy at Columbia and the general editor of Semiotext(e), which translated and published the book, said there was no doubt that Mr. Beck was feeding what had been "in a short duration, the most books we have ever sold." ...

It's true that after the book was published in France, nine people were arrested on suspicion of having disabled power lines serving high-speed trains -- one of whom is suspected of being an author of this book.

On the other hand, none were charged. And there's no evidence that the book has led, directly or indirectly, to "burning cars and swarming protesters" in France or elsewhere, despite the fact that Beck, in that July broadcast (video below; transcript here), said,

This started in France and started to spread to countries like Greece and Iceland, where people are out of work, out of money and out of patience. Now, it's about to come here to America.

What actually did come to America was a silly unauthorized reading of the book last summer, before a crowd of about 100, "mostly people in their 20s and 30s, including some graduate students," which took place at a Barnes & Noble and then, after it was broken up by B&N security, decamped to ... um, a cosmetics store.

The book was published in America with a whopping first printing of 3,000. It was destined for obscurity until Beck put it on the extended New York Times bestseller list (#34, paperback nonfiction). And if you have any doubt that the current sales are mostly coming from Beckistas, note that the first item on Amazon's "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" list for the title is A Patriot's History of the United States, which carries blurbs from Beck and David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine. Note that other titles on the list include New Deal or Raw Deal?, Liberal Fascism, and The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party, as well another lefty book that only right-wingers read these days, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. (Editions of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers are also on the list -- not the usual fare for radical left-wing insurrections, but likely fare for people who, like Beck, fancy themselves newly minted patriotic intellectuals.)


In the headline I invoke 1984. Maybe that's a bad comparison -- Beck isn't involved in running the government or issuing propaganda for it (yet).

A better comparison would be to the sort of incitement that leads to pogroms and lynchings. What Beck is saying is that people like us want to destroy this country violently:

This book is the anti-common sense. In fact, I talk about books like this in [my book] "Common Sense," in a section called "The Enemies Within."

In this book, when I wrote this, I knew people like this -- I didn't know this book was coming out -- but I knew people like this were going to show up, enemies within. And they were going to tell you to pick up a gun and they're going to use every kind of emergency and stress to get you to do it.

This is a book about revolution. This is a book of peaceful revolution. This one is from the right -- you know, the radicals everybody is so worried about in government. This one is from the left.

... You know what people are thinking. You know who the enemies are and you be ready when it does. And let me tell you something, don't dismiss these people, don't dismiss them.

I give him a tiny bit of credit: he does say,

You're an idiot if you start shooting people. All that does is de-legitimize the cause. Be like Gandhi. Be like Martin Luther King.

But while he says this, he also says that we're going to be violent. Isn't that like saying "One of those colored boys whistled at a white woman" or "The Jews in the ghetto are killing Christian babies and using their blood in matzohs"? Isn't Beck saying, "They'll kill you if they get the chance"?

How are the people who hang on his every word supposed to react to that? Especially if they don't manage to beat Democrats at the polls in 2010 and 2012 (they don't see any difference between Democrats and radical grad students), while Beck continues to fan the flames? What if Democrats hang on to the White House and congressional majorities, while Beck is still talking like this?


A small irony: Sylvere Lotringer, the publisher of this book, was a professor and early mentor of Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker, and he is full of praise for the movie ... as is James Pinkerton of Fox News, who declared that the Oscar success of the "pro-war" Hurt Locker was "something to celebrate." Go figure.

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