I was watching Jon Stewart’s show from last week (my husband had TiVo’d it), and Jon did an extended segment on Glenn Beck. It was, as you can imagine, stupid. After showing Beck saying “Don’t let the government push you around,” he showed clips of Beck himself telling people what to do. The implication was that Beck was a hypocrite, who wants to control people and who therefore sees the government as a competitor.
I assume that Stewart understands that there is a difference between coercive government power (criminally enforced taxes, anyone?), and a person’s voluntary desire to follow the advice of a private citizen. I wonder, I really wonder, whether Stewart’s audience gets this, or whether it realizes it’s being played. Given the disaster that is public education in this country — a disaster getting worse by the minute — you’re probably not erring if you underestimate the average American’s knowledge and analytical abilities.
But that’s not my point.
My point is that Stewart also made fun of Beck for urging people not to be led astray by Progressive fear-mongering, and then showed Beck doing some fear-mongering of his own. It’s a stupid charge no matter the side of the aisle it comes from. Of course political ideologies are going to motivate people by carrot (what they can do for you) and stick (the looming disasters the other side is creating). This means, naturally, that the fears being mongered are going to be quite different, but each side is logically going to be rely on encouraging people to engage in ideological acts that will steer away from any given fear — and you can’t steer clear of a fear that hasn’t been identified.
On the Right, we fear (1) Islamists, (2) Iran, (3) economic collapse, and (4) overreaching government.
On the Left, they fear (a) global warming, (b) Israel, (c) Christians, and (d) conservative women, especially Sarah Palin.
I consider my (Right) fears realistic, (1) because the Islamists have committed deadly attacks against non-Muslims around the world almost 16,000 times since 9/11, and continue to make explicit threats against America and other Western nations; (2) because Iran will be in imminent possession of a nuclear weapon and has stated its willingness to use it against the West, especially Israel; (3) because we are watching the economic collapse happen in real time, and it seems to be tied closely to excessive government spending; and (4) because overreaching government because I believe history has shown repeatedly that the more power a government aggregates itself, the more likely it is to use that power against its own people, at first, perhaps, benignly, but inevitably with a statist cruelty that transcends traditional justice, ethics and morality.
I consider the (Left) fears to be unrealistic, (a) because the global warming science is politically tainted and scientifically flawed when it assigns man a ridiculously large role in a questionable phenomenon; (b) because Israel, despite being a nuclear power, has shown extraordinary restraint against those who wish to destroy her citizens, a fact separate from, or perhaps because of, the fact that she’s the only free, democratic society in the whole Middle East; (c) because Christians haven’t done anything bad to anyone since about the late 17th/early 18th centuries but, instead, have been a consistent force for freedom and mercy; and (d) because I’m a conservative woman, and I think fairly highly of myself, and even more highly of those who have entered the public sphere.
So, my fear-mongering is factually valid; their fear mongering is fantasy and bad history. But I’m still doing fear-mongering and they’re still doing fear-mongering. The only question is whether American citizens will do as I do, and look at actual world events, or if they will allow themselves to buy theory over fact. But that, my friends, is a task left to the marketplace of ideas. It’s up to us, therefore, to market our fears better, instead of just complaining about the Left’s temerity in marketing theirs!