Sunday, August 14, 2016

Glen Beck and "Black Lives Matter"

Having created Donald Truck, the media is now in full panic mode, piling on to destroy him.  Cable news wanted to enhance its ratings and put a little pizzazz into its political coverage; the pernicious outcome of this approach to political reporting is now on full display and, so, of course, the responsible parties are asking for a "do over."  (Given the state of the electorate, probably the less news and the more wonkishly boring the better -- if she weren't a liar and a crook, Hillary Clinton would be, in my estimation, the best possible candidate.  Very few people would vote; the febrile temperature of the Republic would lower and events wouldn't woozily stagger from crisis to crisis.)  In any event, news media are now lining up for interviews with anyone who ever flew the Republican banner but will publicly utter the words "Never Trump!"  The Holy Grail of interviews, of course, is a Republican elder not only unwilling to vote for the orange-haired lout, but, also, espousing support for his nemesis -- unfortunately, these folks are presently rare as hen's teeth. 

Scott Simon hosts a weekend morning show on public radio -- it's mostly inoffensive liberal stuff:  earnest and sorrowful accounts of the state of race relations in this country, gee-whiz! style sports reporting, interviews with soft rock and third-world musicians touted to be the next great thing but who vanish without a trace after their ten minutes of public radio fame, predictably left-slanted coverage of climate change and poverty and welfare reform:  some mornings, you are left with the comforting conclusion that there are almost no White people left in the country, although everything you see outside your car window, waiting for your breakfast burritos, belies that impression, and poor Scott Simon mewling on-air sounds like the whitest of all White men.  Accordingly, it was with some interest that I listened to Glen Beck in conversation with Scott Simon on National Public Radio -- what could this be about?  Predictably, Beck was invited on the air to denounce Donald Trump -- something that he did eloquently.  Beck has a made-for-radio voice, deep, resonant, intensely persuasive.  The contrast with Scott Simon's high-pitched giggly whine was astonishing.  In most aspects of life, an absence of comparators makes the mediocre seem better than they deserve.  Listening to Beck in comparison to Scott Simon was eye- (or I should say) ear-opening:  Beck's  voice had a primordial unsettling authority that made Simon's words shrink into insignificance.

 I don't know anything about Glen Beck except that I reflexively dislike him -- it's my impression that he's some kind of a hard-right kook.  However, nothing that he said to Scott Simon supported this perspective.  And, in fact, he said one thing that was so helpful that I am going to repeat his words in this space.  Beck spoke about the contrast between the slogans "Black Lives Matter" and "All Lives Matter."  Surprisingly, he criticized the latter motto as implicitly racist.  I think that many people have come to that same conclusion.  Whenever there is a protest about the police shooting a Black man, Black Lives Matter demonstrators take to the street.  They are, then, met by counter-demonstrator shouting "All Lives Matter" or even "Blue Lives Matter" -- referring, of course, the uniforms that cops characteristically wear.  Intuitively, I understand that this counter-protest draws a false equivalence and is specious, but I have never figured out exactly why I hold this view and haven't been able to articulate an argument supporting my perception.  Worse, I have heard activists with Black Lives Matter melt into helpless and incoherent sophistry when asked to define what's wrong with the phrase "All Lives Matter."  To his credit, Beck provided a helpful parable.  He said that the listener should imagine being at a Sunday dinner with a half dozen people.  Everyone but you has been served a big, heaping helping of apple pie.  When you protest that you haven't received your due share of the pie distributed at the table, your Aunt sanctimoniously replies "All Pies Matter."  For me, this little fable is exceptionally helpful in explaining why the slogan "All Lives Matter" is pernicious and an untruth.  (And consider this tweak to the fable -- your Aunt actually reaches across to your pie and takes it away to put in front of her plate.  Then, she meets your protest with the phrase "All Pies Matter."  This is the equivalent of the Blue Lives Matter movement.) 

I don't have any illusions about "Mr. Beck" as Scott Simon called him.  He's a consummate media personality -- he understood that people exactly like me would be listening and that the occasion called for him to say something conciliatory, something that would reach through my prejudice against his views, and soften my reflex attitude of visceral distaste.  But he succeeded with this endeavor and, in this season, of political incompetency, any success in communication should be celebrated.   

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