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against the world
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Glenn Beck vs Reality, Redux
Mood:  mischievious
Now Playing: Portishead
Beck's been having a go at the Weather Underground lately. They seem an easy target, a bunch of students so radical they had to break off, essentially, from first SDS and then from RYM and even had to break off of their own organization, Weatherman (or the Weathermen) when things started to get violent. But, as per usual with Beck, his version of reality is a little different from actual reality.

First, a simple factual thing—and this one bugs me because in response to Beck's claim that no one in the Minutemen ever killed anyone, I cited online the murder of Raul Flores and his 9-year old daughter by Minutemen members Jason Bush, Shawna Forde, and Albert Gaxiola. The best anyone could counter was that these men were members not of THE Minutemen but a smaller group also called Minutemen. So, when Beck claims the Weather Underground "robbed a Brinks armored car, killing two cops [and a security guard] in the process," it's necessary to point out a couple flaws:

1) The Brinks robbery was committed by the Black Liberation Front, which included former members of the Weather Underground, notably David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin, who went to prison over it.
2) The Weather Underground no longer existed when this crime took place. Jeremy Varon, in his book, Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies, suggest Weatherman (known by then as the Weather Underground or WUO) "disbanded voluntarily in 1976" while a 1977 bombing of Immigration and Naturalization Services in San Francisco has been attributed, as its last, to the organization. The armored car robbery took place in 1981.

Beck's need to attribute the robbery to the Weather Underground is an important detail; Weatherman never killed anyone except for 3 of its own members in an accidental explosion. Sure, the organization dealt in violence, sure, as Beck likes to cite from the preface to Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground" [they] "rejoice at the militant resistance to war, racism and imperialism," but what's a little property damage when you can pretend they killed people?

It's worth mentioning, here, that in that preface, they also say that they "cringe at the overheated rhetoric and the bombast" in their Weatherman-era writings. They know how over-the-top they were, how radical.

But, back to Beck, and his attack on the Weather Underground [sic]. In the "manifesto" of Weatherman, the document entitled "You'd Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows," the word "dictator" can be found once, the word "dictatorship" twice. Beck would have his audience believe the goal of the manifesto and of the organization was to "their words 'institute communism and a dictator'" (Beck's tv program, 2 August 2010). Now, my quoting of his quote has a minor problem in where to place the quotation marks (red state news only quotes it just like I chose to). Beck calls them "their words" but uses a phrase that is NOT in their manifesto. For the record, "instituted" appears once and "institutes" appears once, neither one connected to communism. Some context: they refer to "the possibility of wage-price controls being instituted" and they refer to "pig institutes" needing to be "out." But, more importantly is the use of "dictator." The manifesto refers to "empire[s] and petty dictator[s]… in the long run [being] dependent on US imperialism," the obvious inference without further context being that, since Imperialism is bad in the eyes of Weatherman, these "dictator"s are bad as well. This clearly isn't the dictator to which Glenn Beck is referring, so let's move on.

In referencing the historical struggle for self determination in Vietnam and China, the manifesto suggests the first stage is "a united front against imperialism and for New Democracy (which is a joint dictatorship of anti-colonial classes led by the proletariat, the content of which is a compromise between the interests of the proletariat and nationalist peasants, petit bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie)." This "dictatorship" is the decision-making being handed over to the proletariat masses, not an individual dictator—this distinction is important, as you will see below. The manifesto also says, "some people suggest two stages for the US too—one to stop imperialism, the anti-imperialist stage, and another to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat, the socialist stage" Now, that "some people suggest" phrase distances the organization from the pronouncement, but that wouldn't stop Beck from arguing that the manifesto is calling directly for the "dictatorship of the proletariat." Let's give him the benefit of the doubt; let's say the organization used distancing phrasing but still wanted such dictatorship—it's a safe assumption. But, still, the key here is that they refer to not A dictator but dictatorship, decision-making… i.e. government by the proletariat. For the layperson in my readership, let's define that one (not to get into defining things just yet): in Marxist use—and Weatherman was a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist organization, so this would be fair use—the proletariat are those who do not own the means of production. This would mean that most of Beck's audience—not that he would acknowledge this or, God forbid, ever use the term—IS in the proletariat. The Tea Party, grass roots movement set on ousting Obama so "we the people" can be in charge—that's right in line with proletariat dictatorship. Simply put, Weatherman wanted what the Tea Party wants, for the PEOPLE to make the decisions.

But, why simplify?

On to definitions; and here is where Beck makes his play for an Emmy (in my opinion). Given the three uses of "dictator" or its variants in the Weatherman manifesto, let's take a look at what Beck had to say in his TV show, 29 July:

"The goal of the Weather Underground—this is their manifesto written in 1969—the goal was a dictatorship of a new democracy that developed into socialism… end capitalism and imperialism in the United States and replace it with a new democracy with a dictator and global socialism." Aside from his switch from "dictatorship" to "a dictator" he's getting it fairly correct.

"Now, let's—let's focus for a minute on what dictatorship really is. A dictatorship—according to the dictionary that I have but that could be rewritten now—is an autocratic form of government in which the government is ruled by an individual, the dictator. Pretty simple."

Pretty simple, except for the clear phrasing the Weatherman manifesto, the "dictatorship of the proletariat." That phrase is a Marxist one, suggesting not an autocratic ruler in the style of a Roman dictator (nevermind the temporary nature of that title, historically), but something closer to direct democracy, the populace, the masses, the proletariat dictating the goings on. So, no it isn't "pretty simple" because Beck has taken one word out of one phrase out of a document of more than 2 dozen pages, and defined it… well, like a dictator would, I suppose, giving it one simple, specific, definition, instead of bothering with any of the nuance of 1) the English language, or 2) Marxist terminology. In Marxist terms, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is a response to the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie." For the layperson, the bourgeoisie, in Marxist terms, is the class that owns the means of production, i.e. the money that owns and lobbies the government nowadays, "a kind of congressional-financial-bureaucratic complex in which the needs and concerns of the unconnected were secondary to those who were on the inside" (Jon Meacham, "American Lion"). Even Beck's most devout followers would agree that, in the words of Andrew Jackson, "the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes." Beck's people like to argue about class conflict plenty. They just don't want to use Marxist terms.

"Never in America," Beck goes on to say. "It could never happen in America. That's why these people failed in 1969." Minor factual nitpick: they didn't fail in 1969; in fact in 1969, Weatherman hadn't even really gotten started. And, given the fact that the Vietnam War DID end, given the fact that the two big names in the Weather Underground, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, went free because the FBI liked to do illegal things, where's the failure? Sure, they didn't get their "dictatorship of the proletariat." But, 1) Beck would have us believe they are still working toward that, so if the process is still ongoing, it can't have already failed, and 2) even the Tea Party wants "dictatorship of the proletariat" so, wouldn't that be success, when those who stand antithetical to you want what you want?

Beck asks: "are we headed in the direction of more power going to you or the government?" Missing the point, deliberately, that Weatherman and its smaller successor, the Weather Underground, wanted more power to go to YOU.

"See, dictator is a really bad word," he says. He got that right. "But if we replace "dictator" with 'all powerful,' 'all powerful government,' well, which is it going to?" Now, he's onto his usual angle—the government is seizing all power and we the people will suffer. There's no longer any connection here to the Weather Underground, except he's done his usual segue, connecting things by juxtaposition and association. He suggests, but in question form, that we are headed toward "a government controlled by the few," except, Weatherman didn't want a government controlled by the few. Or, would Beck have us believe that the proletariat, the working people, are few in number?

Folks online love to wish for violence or death (or sometimes threaten it directly) on Obama, on Muslims planning a mosque a couple blocks from ground zero, on politicians who use Marxist rhetoric, on me, simply for saying in my Facebook profile that I have Marxist tendencies. We Americans love our violence. Weatherman, or rather the Weather Underground, went forward with its violence. The WUO stood up to the man. It's the kind of thing we should idolize in this country… if only its goal wasn't socialist.

Just gotta remember. Violence is great, when it's OUR violence. When it's their's, well then, it's an abomination.

Posted by ca4/muaddib at 9:32 AM PDT
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