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America has to take collective responsibility for Glen Beck

January 11, 2011

Ari Rabin-Havt made a good speech at NetrootsUK on Saturday 8 January. He came over from America to personally display the kind of organisation a left-wing online movement can become. Media Matters has 80 staff and a reach across a country many times the size of ours. Left Foot Forward has two members of staff and what I think is an off-putting party political name. We haven’t got it right, just yet. 

The most moving part of Rabin-Havt’s speech was a video, the gist of which is captured below:

We laughed, we cringed. It’s quite nasty stuff. It doesn’t need derision or correction. It is plainly inflammatory and rhetorical. It is not based on fact. It is based on ignorance. Why are so many Americans falling for this? 

Idiots will say idiotic things. But I am inclined to question the people who listen to him. 

Culturally, America is commonly anti-left. At the heart of American Dream are right wing philosophies. Work had and you will achieve. Anything is possible. You are responsible for your own success. 

Conservatism believes hard work will be rewarded with individual wealth. Socialism believes the rewards so be shared amongst everyone. 

America is, and always will be, a conservative country. It doesn’t want healthcare. Everyone is blaming Republicans for the seizure of the Bill. It hasn’t been derailed by Republicans. Blame the American public. The day after it was passed, 50 per cent of Americans did not want it. They said “no” to healthcare. They prefer things the way they are. 

They voted for Obama because Bush was that bad. They didn’t vote for him because there was a fundamental shift in the ideology of the nation. Yet if you read the Audacity of Hope you will see Obama’s administration has naively taken his election as a mandate to assume that very change happened. 

It did not. Obama’s mid-term elections evidence this. If we don’t acknowledge the stubborn nature of national ideology, we will fail to attack the root of the popular, right wing influence. 

I think the Lefties will ultimately be unsuccessful in stopping the influence of Beck, Palin et al because we fail to acknowledge the cultures in which they are allowed to thrive. When a person gets home from a hard day’s work, chills in his/her castle and absorbs the nonsense Fox discharges, it’s a culmination of many things that makes their message more palatable than Rabin-Havt’s. Rabin-Havt is a threat to their freedom, a threat to their gun. Essentially, the left is a threat to their way of life. 

Beck isn’t shaping public opinion. He is gently flaming opinion that is already there. 

Beck is popular because he listens to his audience, then amplifies their opinions to the power of insanity. It works, because his audience are always the point at which he begins. 

The left is struggling to compete in America because it has not yet married left, or centre left values with the American national sense of self. When you are trying to communicate a message and influence a shift in public opinion, the most important place to start, is with public opinion itself. 

We in the left – we’re a bit self righteous, we think our principles are just obviously correct, and our tactics are to shout and shout until somebody listens. The culture of America needs to be listened to first.

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