Glenn Beck’s History Lesson: Amnesia and Conformity





Mr. Briley is Assistant Headmaster, Sandia Preparatory School. He is the author of The Politics of Baseball: Essays on the Pastime and Power at Home and Abroad.

A perusal of Glenn Beck’s commentaries on Fox Television reveals a man who perceives himself as a traditional history teacher.  He has his blackboard and trusty pointer, while he removes his glasses to underscore key points.  His lessons are essentially lectures in which professor Beck leads his viewers (class) to the proper conclusions.  There is no room for discussion or creative thinking in the Beck classroom.  A healthy respect for the role played by ambiguity and paradox in historical causation and human motivation is discouraged by Beck who insists that his pupils adhere to rote memorization and learning.  It is hardly the classroom of the twenty-first century, but Beck’s pedagogy was on display for the entire nation during the staging of his “Restore America” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the forty-seventh anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Beck’s history lesson is a rather confusing one.  He states that he wants to restore America and return the nation to God.  But when exactly did the United States abandon God?  Was the abandonment present at the creation when the Bill of Rights provided for freedom of religion and a separation of church and state based upon colonial opposition to the established Church of England?  Beck, of course, ignores the Founders’ attraction to Deism and the Enlightenment, including Benjamin Franklin’s questioning of Jesus’s divine origins.  Instead, Beck proposes that America was founded as a Christian nation, and, indeed, some colonies proposed freedom of religion for all Christians in order to prevent the immigration of Jews.  While Beck does appear willing to expand his religious boundaries to include a Judeo-Christian tradition, there is certainly no room in Beck’s America for non-Christians or those who might profess no belief in a supreme being.  Thus, Muslims are left out of Beck’s national classroom, and he and his followers are able to embrace a clash of civilizations historical narrative which opposes the creation of an Islamic Center within blocks of Ground Zero, even though a gentleman’s club and lap dancing are tolerated.  In addition, Beck’s religious history lesson omits the tradition of Christian socialism in the United States which helped foster the social gospel movement and combined fundamentalist tent revivals with socialist political meetings on the Oklahoma frontier in the period before World War I.

Beck’s notion of America as a capitalist, Christian nation allows him to endorse American exceptionalism and the concept of manifest destiny.  In Beck’s world view, Americans are God’s chosen people, ant it is incumbent upon Americans to share the blessings of their civilization with the less fortunate peoples of the earth.  Thus, the continental expansionism of the United States and formation of a global empire, in which American military personnel are stationed around the world, are the unfolding of God’s plan for the planet.  Beck’s history does not allow for introspection or reflection.  Instead, a blind patriotism is celebrated in which subjugation of the environment and Native Americans, racial slavery, intolerance, exploitation of labor, and global imperialism are glossed over in a story of triumphant expansionism.  American soldiers and settlers brought the gifts of democracy to the Natives and Mexican peoples of the West and Southwest, while in World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror, America is exporting freedom to the world. 

It is a type of unthinking patriotism which renders Americans incapable of comprehending why some in the world might question the commitment of the United States to democratic principles.  Thus, professor Beck refuses to consider how the Cold War implementation of the Truman Doctrine led to the support of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes in the Philippines, Indonesia, Nicaragua, South Vietnam, South Africa, and Iraq.  Beck’s myopic view of history makes it difficult for his students/ followers to understand that Iranian resentment toward the United States is fueled by a CIA coup in 1953 which removed a democratically-elected government and installed the despised Shah who was overthrown in the Iranian Islamic Revolution.  To raise such issues is unpatriotic and not allowed in Beck’s “democratic” classroom.

Despite this historical celebration of America’s civilizing and democratic mission, accompanied by a failure to acknowledge that there might be any historical failings in American foreign policy--even in the jungles of Southeast Asia--Beck and his prize pupil, Sarah Palin assume that the United States somehow got off course and that God and honor, along with traditional values, must be restored.  Accordingly, we must return to the 1960s and redeem the Civil Rights Movement, for that seems to be where the nation got off course in attempting to bring the promise of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to all Americans regardless of race, gender, class, or sexual orientation.  Rather than a period in which America got off track, the 1960s commitment to a more egalitarian society may be perceived as the moment when the nation returned to its founding principles. 

Yet, Beck and his Tea Party pupils seem threatened by such a diverse America.  Seeking to identify with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., Beck and his Tea Party followers perceive themselves as citizens whose civil rights are violated by increased taxation, government regulations, and the health care bill signed into law by President Obama.  While the Beck crowd may have an argument when it comes to bailouts for special interests such as the banking industry, there is a travesty in equating health care reform with the injustices suffered by African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s in the American South when they were beaten and killed for simply registering to vote.

And, of course, the Beck classroom refuses to acknowledge the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the continuing intersection among race, class, and poverty in this country.  The Beck classroom is essentially white, but at his Washington rally there were some black religious speakers.  They, however, knew their place at the periphery and would not assume to steal center stage like the great imposter, Barack Obama.

Thus, the Beck classroom/rally was largely a white, older, more affluent group who wants to take their country back from the minorities that are not real Americans—thus, the “birther” movement questioning the legitimacy of an Obama presidency.  But here Beck and his cohorts, who may do well in the anticipated low turnout for the 2010 midterm elections, appear to be on the losing side of history.  America is becoming a more diverse nation, and demographic estimates are that whites will become a minority be mid-century.  Such a state of affairs seems threatening to Beck, and some fellow conservatives are proposing to amend the Fourteenth Amendment, denying citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants and ignoring the historical origins of this amendment in assuring citizenship rights for America’s black population.

So, in the Beck classroom we must abandon the very individualism which professor Beck claims to embrace and cherish.  We must all adhere to the same religious and economic principles, denouncing free speech for those who fail to support the troops and dare to critique American foreign and military policies.  Women must be denied their right to choose, gays and lesbians must not be allowed to marry, and immigration must be controlled in the name of restoring honor.  To restore America and reclaim the Civil Rights Movement, professor Beck insists that his pupils engage in historical amnesia and illiteracy.  The straight jacket classroom of Beck works better if we all become the unthinking drones of The Stepford Wives or the obedient aliens in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Of course, such drones are perfect candidates for Beck’s hucksterism as he shamelessly promotes his position as the spokesman for the purchase of commemorative gold coins.  On the other hand, is professor Beck’s national classroom really the type of America envisioned by Thomas Jefferson?          



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Clare Spark - 9/13/2010

Ms. Krustens, If you read my blog on Beck, you would see that I criticized for him for his constant generalizing about progressives, also for concrete errors in mischaracterizing Walter Lippmann for instance. I have my own critique of the progressives, but they are done with the tools of history. I am suspicious of all pundits who are not trained historians, and not all historians are trustworthy either. So I guess you could say that my work is anti-ideological and scrupulously faithful to the sources, always acknowledging limitations of my own vision, or readings.


William J. Stepp - 9/6/2010

Beck is not a political leader, which is a politician (someone who holds a political office, and therefore steals from taxpayers) by definition.
I fail to see how his rally was a racist poke in the eye against anyone in the civil rights movement, particularly considering the roster of speakers, some of whom were black.
I'd bet money that the racial views of the crowd there were little different from mainstream America.
Speaking of racism, the New York Times is a racist publication.
Racism means viewing the world in terms of race and making distinctions based on race (which the NYT obviously). Jim Sleeper refers to its type of racism as "soft" or liberal racism. Its insuferable self-righteousness is obnoxious.
Also, what do mean by "greatly slanted to the left"? It's at least 60/40, maybe 2/3 / 1/3 which strikes me as greatly slanted. (I'm not counting the apolitical essays, where you can't tell the writer's political leaning.)


Michael Furtado - 9/5/2010

I never said that HNN's comments are evenly split between those leaning toward the left versus the right. I simply responded to the (false) claim that it is greatly slanted toward the left. It is not.
I did not say that Beck is a racist - I said that his 'rally' last weekend was a "racist poke in the eye to the continuing civil rights movement". In my mind, the jury is still out regarding whether Back is fully a racist or simply uses racist tactics to help inflame his followers.
Finally, 'demagogue' is a somewhat subtle word with more than one definition. See, for example:
<<n.
A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
A leader of the common people in ancient times.
tr.v., -gogued, also -goged, -gogu·ing, -go·ging, -gogues, -gogs.
Usage Problem. To speak about (an issue, for example) in the manner of a demagogue.>> http://www.answers.com/topic/demagogue
or:
<< S: (n) demagogue, demagog, rabble-rouser (a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular passions and prejudices) >> http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=demagogue

Unless you claim that Beck is not and does not seek to be a 'leader', the definition clearly fits.


Maarja Krusten - 9/5/2010

You are most welcome, Mr. Shcherban. I appreciate your taking the time to read them and to post a reactioon.


Arnold Shcherban - 9/4/2010

Sharp and well-stated remarks, Ms. Krusten. Thank you.


William J. Stepp - 9/4/2010

Whatever Beck is, I see no evidence that he's a racist. Moreover, he's neither a professor ("professor Beck," as Briley refers to him), nor a demagogue. A demagogue is a politician by definition. Beck is a private sector huckster, which means he isn't stealing from taxpayers to finance his speechifying. Huey Long was a demagogue. The Roosevelt(s) I/II were demagogues, as were the Bushes ("Read my lips, no new taxes"--liar), and Comrade O.

The idea that articles on HNN break down about 50/50 liberal/conservative is preposterous, at least counting those written by academics.


Elizabeth Cregan - 9/4/2010

All summer i ended up sending off emails to this man over and over either correcting his childish lessons of history that were no more than children's stories (really? molly Pitcher pretended to be a man until found out after being wounded? in what universe did that happen) or his total lack of responsibility in his calls to the tea baggers, I mean partiers, and inspiring not logical, informed and intelligent calls for change, but pretty much inspiring revolution. This man is on my stinky list. It just goes beyond reason and I honestly I would not care a hoot about the man except that so many mindless americans take his word for gold as he is presenting himself as educated OMG I dare someone to read his founding women from founding fridays and not want to punch a hole in the nearest wall. And to think, he has the nutters enough to compare himself to the likes of Thomas Paine? Perhaps in his older, less sane and rational years. Ok I will stop before I go off on a rant or something


Maarja Krusten - 9/3/2010

Feel free to weigh in not just on the points I raised above, but also my comment to Mr. Hughes about the sissification of America at
http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=144859&;bheaders=1#144859


Maarja Krusten - 9/3/2010

I disagree that the American credo is strong. I used to think it was, but Beck and the men and women who share the opinion microphone at Fox have convinced me that the credo was illusory. They have sissified America. When a man says on tv that President Obama hates white people or white culture, as Beck did, and viewers cheer him on, it illustrates weakness, not strength. It demonstrates reaching for a crutch and suggests an inability to cope with the world as it is. Far from cheering, I worry about the immortal souls of Christians who so readily lap up and spread lies, not just about President Obama, but about their fellow citizens--about anyone who isn't a hard right conservative. False witness used to be considered bad. If it no longer is, then talk of credos rings false. The corrosion didn't come in schools--that's not where character building takes place--it came in homes where parents modeled victimology and embraced the idea that the end justifies the means. All of that undermines our ability to solve intractable problems, which, above all, require the courage to look at the facts, respect hard data, and work towards solutions.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 9/3/2010

Jefferson can't tell us if he approves of Beck's classroom, but I suspect he does. Jefferson had a certain faith in the people, and Beck has a lot of the people in his corner. He seems to be reading them the Federalist Papers, and that is strong medicine. Beck's pupils average three times the brainpower of John Edwards followers--as everyone knows--which may account for much of the liberal fury at Beck. The American credo is very strong, and it really appeals to those who didn't get it in the schools or at home when they were growing up. This is part of what we are seeing.


Mike Schoenberg - 9/2/2010

Probably everyone here knows the old saying about the difference between history and fiction is that in history the names and dates are true-everthing else is made up. For fiction it's the other way around. For Beck as I see it they are both made up.


Mike Schoenberg - 9/2/2010

And what had the Anglo-Iranian done for Iran but take nearly all the profits from Iran. Their greed led a couple of decades later to the formation of OPEC.


Maarja Krusten - 9/2/2010

Apologies for the typos and missing article, I tend to type these posting quickly as I'm about to run out of the house or while doing something else.

Establishment of a robust news side of the Fox News Network by Ailes could have led to the establishment of a good cable news show. Instead, Ailes has thrown it all away and helped create the image of a bunch of whiny people who so fear their fellow citizens, they would punish anyone who disgreed with them if they had power instead of talk shows.

It is the opinion side of Fox which torpedoed the network. GOP does NOT equal BOB (Big Old Baby). But to watch Fox's opinion side is to get the impression that it that is exactly what it means. I learned that soon after George W. Bush became president. Fox's opinion side hurt him badly. It is from Fox bloviators such as Hannity that some of the most cartoonish and unfair images of George W. Bush derived. Instead of debating his policies and supporting him in a manly fashion, by admitting to errors while acknowledging positive achivements, the Fox opinionators started playing the poor little us card. All this while the GOP held power over two branches of government between 2001-2007. Very destructive and harmful to conservatism which, as I keep saying, actually has some decent principles. Bush deserved better from his own side.


Maarja Krusten - 9/2/2010

I agree that Briley's piece is a caricature but he's not my favorite HNN writer to begin with. I rarely read anything by him that makes me think.

But your comment and post did lead me to think. Would you care to elaborate on why you said "If Beck is a demagogue (and he certainly is anticommunist). . . ." I am interested in anti-communism, since my parents were forced to live under Soviet communism for a while. If their country of origin were under communist subjugation, I still would call out demagogues on the right. Because character and tactics matter. People such as Joe McCarthy gave anti-communism a bad name. Just as the men and women who serve as opinion leaders Fox News hurt the right. I call the people on Fox opinion side marshmellows wrapped in aluminum foil pretending to be all steel. By my standards, only O’Reilly shows the capacity to show flashes of backbone at times. (I wonder at times whether O’Reilly is in danger of being eclipsed by newcomers on Fox, those whose playing of the victim card appeals to the weakest parts of the American character.)

The reason I ask is, it is entirely possible to be anticommunist and not a demagogue. Just as it is possible to be a Republican pundit (David Brooks, Michael Gerson, David Frum, Bruce Bartlett) and not a demagogue.

In your own essay, you say Beck urges people to read books and to question him. Does he urge people to read books such as David Remnick’s The Bridge? Or Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father? Or Jonathan Alter’s The Promise? Or Christopher Andersen’s Barack and Michelle? And to let people ask him how he can reconcile the cartoonish image he presents of Obama and his policy goals with what those books portray? It’s hard for me to imagine that he would be brave enough to do that.

Certainly, it’s hard for me to imagine that Beck could continue to vilify the President and to present him as a big scary figure, if his audience actually read those books. (Interestingly, when I submitted a post to Richard Jensen’s Conservativenet mailing list asking if the recent commenters had read any of those books in an effort better to understand Obama, my submission was not posted. As much as I respect Dr. Jensen, I don’t think the rejection served the listserv or conservatism well.)

I guess it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t pass Beck’s litmus test. I focus too much on preserving a moral compass and defending all presidents who come under attack unfairly, Democrats and Republicans alike. The Daily Caller reported in February that Beck “mocked Republican leaders who say ‘we need a big tent’ to bring in more moderates to the party. “What, is this a clown show? he said.

“America is not a clown show. America is not a circus. America is an idea. America is an idea that sets people free,” Beck said.

With chalk, he wrote the word “progressives” on his blackboard, saying that is “the disease in America.”

I am not a progressive, I’m a moderate. But what Beck says about progressivism is wrong. It’s cowardly. (Look at Beck’s attacks last year on recent efforts to reform health care insurance -- initiatives which Richard Nixon might not have attacked, given his own proposals in the early 1970s. Nixon and Ted Kennedy might have been able to make a deal on health care back then. It was a very different age.) Beck’s call to eradicate progressivism does a disservice to the idea of a free people. You don’t eradicate the other side – that’s how totalitarian dictators rule -- you offer counter proposals and work with the other side when possible. It doesn’t matter to me if someone is anticommunist if he creates cartoonish images and uses them as targets in ways that would make Pravda proud. Party and ideology don’t trump values and character.


Clare Spark - 9/2/2010

I should add that my rebuttal to Briley is not a quasi-Republican rant. We are historians here, and should report primary sources with accuracy and a broad knowledge of how narratives and the most important debates are transformed with new facts. Though not a Wilsonian, I got more from Woodrow Wilson's A History of the American People (1902), its outmoded racism notwithstanding, than I have from many a more recent historian who echoes Soviet propaganda about American character and history.


Arnold Shcherban - 9/2/2010

<...it is extremely damaging when conclusions from such interpretations are based upon false facts, or even when based upon half-true facts.>
Meanwhile, that's exactly what Mr. Hughes based HIS respective "interpretations" (more like premises) on...


Clare Spark - 9/1/2010

I am appalled by Briley's PC rant against Beck. I actually watch Beck and have been curious about the sources of his ideology for some time, as he is harder to pin down than Briley thinks. I had a stab at it here: http://clarespark.com/2010/02/20/the-glenn-beck-problem/. If Beck is a demagogue (and he is most certainly anticommunist), then what is Mr. Briley, who makes positions that I have never heard Beck enunciate?


Maarja Krusten - 9/1/2010

Via Huffington Post ("National Archives Refutes Whopper Told by Glenn Beck at Rally"), Mother Jones explains how:

http://bit.ly/aZJhNO

I didn't pay much attention to the news coverage of the Beck rally but may check around to see how bloggers and news sites cover this NARA related story. The issue of discrepancies (what one calls for and what one does) is interesting here. Given the stated purpose of the rally, I had hoped that Beck would use the forum on Saturday to apologize in public before a large crowd for his earlier statement that President Obama has "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." He didn't, although he implied the next day in a television interview that he regretted having said that. I'm generally interested in how members of the public deal with exaggeration, hyperbole, and lies (do they call it out wherever they see it? make excuses for it when someone on "their side" does it?) due to the archival angle. I see a potential connection between personal values and widespread public support (or lack of support) for archives, which are geared towards revealing facts. So it's interesting to see a NARA spokesperson, of all people, saying that what Beck said about handling a document was not the case.

It'll be interesting to see how this story plays. I waver between idealism and cynicism about core values but I tend to think there's something to Dr. Timothy Burke's concern that being caught in lies and exaggeration just doesn't have the impact in might have back in the day. (see
http://weblogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/2010/08/02/evidence-is-old-fashioned/
Dr. Burke's is an interesting essay marred by his pointing to one side only as indulging in lies or exaggeration. Read enough blogs and you see examples from both the left and the right of people cherry picking evidence, ignoring facts that don't fit their theories, exaggerating, making unsupportable assertions, and avoiding questions they don't want to confront.)

This particular instance isn't the worst example of what blowhards do; it seems to be a largely a case of hyperbole. Politicians often slip into the same types of exaggerations.


Maarja Krusten - 9/1/2010

Please overlook all the typos and errors in the comment above, I was writing this while trying to deal over my shoulder with a family issue, multi-tasking didn't work well for me. No offense to anyone and thanks for your patience and forbearance.


Arnold Shcherban - 9/1/2010

<I think that Glenn Beck is a clever rabble-rousing demagogue trying to maximize his income and power at any cost.>
While I second your opinion (with exception of "clever"), it's a very sad fact that in this country every politicizing clown (and that's who G.Beck really is) gets large public arena for preaching any absurd, backward ideas/views...
To me it's much less about freedom of speech and much more about freedom of making profit of the former freedom.


Maarja Krusten - 9/1/2010

I agree with Dr. Dresner. There are people on the right and on the left who write ideological pieces here on HNN and ones who write as scholars. So one sees pieces that are polemical and ones that are academic. The mistake that many posters make in complaining about it is to complain about the end of the ideological spectrum they oppose, but to fall silent and give a pass to polemical pieces that fit their own voting habits or issue advocacy. If you object to ideological screes, then the best thing to do is to write and protest ones from your own side as well as ones from the otherwise. Otherwise, you're just adding to the corrosion of values.

Mr. Briley's piece about Beck doesn't make much sense to me. Too cartoonish, too much use of a shoehorns. For example, Beck is not strongly associated with the battle against marriage equality. It's unclear to me what his position on it is.
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/08/12/beck-oreilly-gay-marriage/

Some of his supporters may be opposed to marriage equality, some may not. Where's the polling data in this piece to support the assertion? I see none.

I generally am not a fan of cable tv, talk radio or blogging blowhards, but then I'm an historian. And I have particular reasons for objecting to mud slinging, unsubstantiated allegations and demagoguery. I cover them in the first three paragraphs at
http://www.hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=144834&;bheaders=1#144834

Generally, I think writing pieces such as this about Beck doesn't achieve much tactically. Fox News sells a peculiar mix of strength and weakness to its viewers on its opinion shows. I call it toughness wrapped around marshmellows, because it overpraises some Americans while also appealing to their sense of victinmology. I think the cartoonish approach some of Fox's pundits use has been very destructive to the image of conservatism, which actually has some decent principles.

Given the reliance on victimology, it makes no sense to turn around and turn some of the people associated with that into cartoons themselves. That's the last thing you want to do, to adopt their tactics. Kevin Drum put it well when he wrote recently at Mother Jones that calling broad swaths of people anything (he uses the examples of stupid or racist) makes no sense is insupportable.
http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/08/who-you-calling-racist

What we historians really should do, in my view, is advocate fairness and fact based presentations, whether the subject is George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Glenn Beck or Keith Olberman. Examine their records but make sure you meticulously support what you say. Avoid broad brush depictions and the temptation to veer into speculation or unsupported allegations. (You meaning historians in general, not anyone specific.) Aim for the decent, honorable readers, there are plenty of them in America. Don't form the wrong impression of the country from message boards and com boxes. Go out and talk to people. There still are a lot of sensible ane ethical ones out there. As I've noted, I know people who voted for W in 2000 and 2004 and for McCain in 2008 who are appalled at what some of the Fox commentators are saying about Obama. They call some of what is said on Fox nonsense and unfair. I also know people who voted for Gore and Kerry who were appalled at what some liberal bloggers said about Bush, calling it nonsense and unfair.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 8/31/2010

The above includes a very slipshod reference to "the democratically elected government of Iran," something which probably has yet to occur in the history of that country.

Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower agreed that Mosseddeq had a dangerous (to us and to Iran) alliance with the Tudeh (or communist) party of Iran, that he probably wanted to tip Iran into the Soviet orbit, so they cooperated in covert measures to get the Shah to remove him from the premiership. For various reasons, Mosseddeq was guilty of high treason under Iranian law, and the Shah had the power to have him executed, but decided to take mercy and let him live for years under house arrest and die a natural death, instead.

Previously, of course, Mosseddeq had led the government in expropriating the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which was anything but a democratic act, and did not endear him to the British or to the rest of the West.

When Mosseddeq was elected Prime Minister, by the way, the electorate was limited to a minority of the people--only those who could read and write. Mosseddeq personally directed that ballots from illiterate areas should be thrown out, because he knew they would defeat his election.

(If the foregoing is not exactly right, it is much closer to actual events than the hit-and-run abuse of the facts by Briley, who probably should not be faulted for merely repeating what he has picked up from contemporary U.S. textbooks and classrooms, but nevertheless he
continues here to mislead people).

If history is not history when simply a recitation of accurate facts, but always needs strong interpretations to have merit, it is extremely damaging when conclusions from such interpretations are based upon false facts, or even when based upon half-true facts.


Michael Furtado - 8/31/2010

I assume from your comments that you haven't read too many articles on HNN, since there are just as many written from a very conservative perspective (i.e., the "channeling Washington" posts) as from a more liberal perspective.
History can be simply a recitation of verified facts, without interpretation or attempts to draw lessons from the past. That would presumably meet your definition of "objectivity" in history, but how truly useful would that be?
History is about people, and for the study of history to have any real purpose, it musty include the (necessarily) subjective interpretation of facts from the past. The questions of why are impossible to answer completely objectively, for example. The issues of 'propaganda' aren't exclusively the purview of the past, but is a factor in the recording of history as it happens. Thus, interpreting the events of WW2, for example, must include deciding how much that was recorded at that time was accurate or slanted (intentionally or not) by the perspective or purpose of those doing the recording.
The most important aspect of the study of history is discussion - publishing an interpretation of some event based on available evidence, followed by critique and commentary by others. It is a process, not a cookie-cutter factory of facts.
Mr. Beck has every right in this country to publish his interpretation of history - accurate or not. Those who hear or read his interpretation can accept it or respond to it. That is what HNN is about.
Personally, I think that Glenn Beck is a clever rabble-rousing demagogue trying to maximize his income and power at any cost. I agree for the most part with Mr. Briley's comments in this article. Beck's twisted and selective version of history is neither objective nor useful to the political discussion in this country. His cynical attempt to co-opt the movement led by Dr. King (who also had many faults and missteps) is little more than a thinly-veiled racist poke in the eye to the continuing civil rights movement (which also has its own faults).
Briley has as much right to critique Beck as Beck does to spout his nonsense. This is America.


Jonathan Dresner - 8/31/2010

We get just about the same level of complaints from the left about the conservative-sourced material we feature and reprint. HNN is not trying to be referees in this discussion, but to facilitate the dialogue.

Jonathan Dresner
HNN Assistant Editor


Chokhar Stephen - 8/31/2010

For the record, I'm not a Beck fan. But he bothers me rather less than a website called "History News Network" which is all too often a Daily Kos ran by historians, with history taking a backseat to ideology. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I think the best way to counter propaganda is to extol and illustrate the virtues of objectivity. On the other hand, if you are just interested in scoring points for your team and don't care if you happen to reinforce prejudice that history is just politicized bullsh*t, well, keep on the good work. You're right on target.


Chokhar Stephen - 8/31/2010

As far as I know, being a college drop-out and a Mormon is still legal in this country and I fail to see how it's relevant to the discussion of Beck's merits, unless of course ad hominem attacks are allowed when the cause is right.


Caroline Hamilton - 8/31/2010

As I've recently learned, Beck dropped out of college after one semester.

For whatever it's worth, he is also, although I have not heard him say so, a Mormon.

Glenn Beck is just the sort of demagogue that the more pessimistic Founders & Framers feared would rise to prominence. Jefferson--who also doubted the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth and deleted the miracles from his version of the New Testament-- would be horrified by him.

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