David Greenberg, a professor of history at Rutgers, has a very self-satisfied and sneering essay in Slate which admits his failure to understand conservatism at great length. Apparently inspired by the latest "Time" magazine, he dredges up the old Marxist nonsense of Hofstader, Adorno & Co. and seems to think that there is something in it, but ends up admitting that none of them give a useful explanation of modern-day American conservative politics. Rather amusing really.
It is difficult to fisk something as lightweight as Greenberg's essay but maybe I should make two points:
In typical Leftist style, he projects onto conservatives the very thing that most moves Leftists: Hate. The title of his essay is "The Obama haters". That people might violently disagree with Obama's policies without hating him seems to be a combination outside Greenberg's limited emotional range. Again in good Leftist style he offers no evidence that ANYBODY hates Obama. He just asserts it. He KNOWS! Obama is personally a very agreeable personality so I find it hard to imagine that anyone hates him. Obama's extremely limited understanding of economics (e.g. his claim that he can give healthcare to more people with less money) does reduce one to despair at times, but despair is a long way from hate.
But I suppose the main defence mechanism that keeps Greenberg's sense of superiority alive is not so much projection as denial. He just cannot see that people like Glenn Beck have reasonable points to make: Points reasonable enough to cause at least one Obama appointee to resign. So if the words of Beck & Co. are not reasonable, there must be something other than reason behind them. Frustratingly for Greenberg, he just cannot figure out what that might be. Again, quite amusing.
If Greenberg reads this, he will probably accuse me of "psychologizing" or some such. That would be amusing too as that was precisely what Greenberg tried to do, but could not convince even himself. But I do after all have over 100 papers in the academic literature on the psychology of politics so I probably have a more useful background for "psychologizing" about politics than he does.
Some excerpts that might interest Prof. Greenberg:
Secret protocols of Beck’s legions
Grassroots conservative enthusiasm notwithstanding, the talk-radio host and Fox News personality is under attack this week, with the liberal establishment's favorite weapon, a Time magazine cover: "Mad Man: Glenn Beck and the angry style of American politics." This continues a long tradition of weekly newsmagazine covers demonizing conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich... After a few more paragraphs, Von Drehle plays his trump card: "The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called 'the paranoid style' -- the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country -- is aflame again…" Von Drehle's invocation of "the paranoid style," a trope that Hofstadter derived from Theodor Adorno's "authoritarian personality," is intended to clearly signal the reader that Beck is a kook, a conspiracy theorist, a demagogue pandering to the dangerous emotions of the ignorant mob.
Having never met Beck, I am not qualified to speak of whether he is representative of the "paranoid style." However, my friend and fellow American Spectator contributor Matthew Vadum has been a studio guest on Beck's Fox News program and did not mention any "roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger." If Beck rants off-camera about black helicopters and Masons, it eluded Vadum's notice.
While my acquaintance with Beck is limited to occasionally catching a few moments of his TV or radio shows, I did have the opportunity to speak to many of the people at the Sept. 12 Capitol rally. My Arizona blogger friend Barbara Espinosa was there, and I spent many hours before, during and after the event talking to the organizers, attendees and speakers, including Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and author Mason Weaver. None of these people seemed to think that Glenn Beck represented a menace to public safety or the conservative movement.
They're all in on it together -- the grandmother and teenagers, Pence and Vadum and Weaver! It's all a clandestine conspiracy to conceal the hidden agenda for global domination by the Secret Legion of Beck! And if you don't believe it, then you're obviously a paranoid kook.
Why the left hates Glenn Beck : "For the last few years the left and the press would take shots at Beck, but never in a concerted fashion. He simply could be ignored, and they had bigger fish to fry, like the long-reigning king of conservative talk radio, Rush Limbaugh. Things changed when Beck shifted from CNN to Fox News, just in time to comment on the policies of a new Democratic administration. Beck caught fire, both with his commentaries and with his growing fan base. He even took to the road for another comedy tour, blending mainstream humor with his political jabs. A few Beck bestsellers later, and he officially became a media empire. But the talker’s ability to take down his targets changed the dynamics — and the ferocity of the attacks against him.”
Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here