The Biggest Difference Between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party

I started my observations about these two movements a month ago with a point of conciliatory commonality–their shared opposition to undue influence by rich special interests in politics, whether left or right.  However, after two months of Occupy Wall Street, the most stunning thing about these two movements is how their core is starkly contrasted.

Tea Party protests usually had a “vote the bums out” message–their signs and speakers focused on what those in the crowd should do.  Occupiers, however, seem focused on what others should do for them–their signs and speakers are about the demands they have for what “the rich” should be providing them with (student loan debt relief appears to be a big one).

This is a broad generalization, of course, but a useful one.  While there are certainly Tea Party protesters who want government to do things for them, even those things are more limited and more for the benefit of others than what Occupiers demand for themselves.  Decreasing spending so that future generations of taxpayers won’t be saddled with unpayable debts (as many a Tea Party sign begged, such as at 1:52 in this video from a Las Vegas protest) is a far cry from insisting that “government has a responsibility to guarantee access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement,” as a poll of OWS protesters showed, according to a survey cited on the OWS Wikipedia page.  Rescinding fairly recent policies that exacerbate economic problems strikes me as more restrained and pragmatic than demanding the spontaneous erection of a new infrastructure for a panoply of progressive fantasies.

Consider Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally last year.  Continue reading

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The Overton Window Is Awful

The new meme for conservatives who want to score some easy brownie points with the mainstream crowd is, “But I don’t like Glenn Beck!”  This is the new version of those old apologetic tropes, “Some of my best friends are black (or gay)!” or “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” 

I’m not going to disavow Beck, or even comment on his positions here at all.  However, liking him and agreeing with much of what he says does not mean that he has to be a good writer. 

I’ve reviewed two other books of his here (The Christmas Sweater was OK pulp, but with a horrible ending, and Common Sense was also so-so, but random and poorly edited), and even though I gave each of those average reviews, this new book from Beck somehow manages to go from average to awful.  It is far, far worse than anything he’s done before. 

First of all, yes, all the negative reviewers are correct: the writing in The Overton Window is pitiful, amateurish, so excrementally bad that after the first hundred pages I was skimming through the rest as fast as I could to get it over with just because I wanted to write this review.  At one point early on, the protagonist’s love interest is actually described as “very easy on the eyes.”  Good grief. 

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Reviewed: Glenn Beck’s Common Sense and Jeff Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion

14589344Two chapters near the end of Jeff Shaara’s historical novel Rise To Rebellion focus on Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet Common Sense.  Shaara even includes a handful of choice quotes from Paine, making sure the reader understands that Paine was the common man’s advocate for independence, as opposed to the sincere but often elite (and therefore sometimes out of touch) leaders at the Continental Congress.  It was Paine’s words more than those of Adams or Henry or Hancock or Franklin that won over the Americans to the cause of revolution.

Is it a coincidence that I read Shaara’s novel at the same time that I read Glenn Beck’s attempt to update Paine’s pamphlet?  Either way, the contrast proved useful. 

Shaara’s Rise To Rebellion is the best historical novel I’ve ever read.  He begins with the Boston Massacre and takes us through the lives, hearts, families, struggles, and triumphs of our Founding Fathers over the course of the subsequent six years, ending with the Declaration of Independence.  He makes Franklin and Adams his protagonists, and suavely works in tons of trivia, as well as bringing to vivid, three-dimensional life the human stories that made their achievements even more awesome.

Here we see John and Abigail Adams trying to squeeze out a bare living as they raise a young family and maintain a loving marriage–it doesn’t help matters that John soon finds himself thrust into the middle of controversy, as he grows increasingly strong in his convictions over time. 

Here we see Franklin as he tries to manage the office politics of England, at the cost of his own family relationships.  He has much to regret despite his fame and fortune, and the chapters near the end where the emotional break between he and his loyalist son are laid bare are genuinely heartbreaking. 

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Has Glenn Beck Jumped The Shark?

I’m a big fan of Glenn Beck.  His show has the most cutting, spot-on satire in news commentary today.  I only catch the show when I happen to be driving when it’s on, and I’ve only seen the TV shows in the form of YouTube clips.  Beck speaks to me, and my students have even said that I remind them of him.  However, what I’ve heard in recent weeks makes me worry.

This came most forcefully to mind just within the last several days, as my wife and I were driving home and caught the last few minutes of one show.  Beck was ranting about the coming political apocalypse and doing so with phraseology deeply steeped in LDS doctrine.  Now, I don’t mind that his commentary is infused with language based on beliefs that he and I share, and by no means was he explicitly promoting his sectarian beliefs, but I still found his references to a plan for us to prove ourselves in a life of enduring good and evil to be, in this context…over the top.  Frankly, he was getting a little hysterical.  Suggesting that people, for instance, save some food is perfectly rational (even the Wall Street Journal has done so), but I don’t know that it does our political or our religious beliefs any good to frame them together in breathless doomsday scenarios. 

And make no mistake about it: Beck has become a Malthusian through and through.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Christmas Sweater

beckIt’s only on the title page of The Christmas Sweater that you’ll learn that Glenn Beck enlisted the help of two co-authors in the writing of his book.  I don’t know just how much each of the three writers contributed, but I have a guess: though the book is uniformly plain throughout, there are segments that feel like little more than a glorified movie of the week, and others that produce some decently composed examples of subtlety, imagery, and thematic development. 

The narrator’s running interior dialogue favors crediting himself with unlikely, convenient leaps in self-understanding and psychological perception; at times I half expected him to become aware that he’s a fictional character being manipulated by an author.  However, one specific character trait rings true each time it’s used, and done so with increasingly frustrating realism: his conscious decisions to shut people out and embrace the cold comforts of anger and self pity.  We’ve all been there, and it’s a dark place, one from which we do need to decide to be rescued.

That is The Christmas Sweater‘s strong point: ultimately, it’s a sermon about letting God into your life to help you find joy amidst life’s nearly-crushing sorrows.  Though most of the story reads like a preteen’s coming-of-age after school special, the climax is surprisingly effective: the protagonist confronts the dark world “of his own making” in a very real way.  That scene is genuinely harrowing, and his path through it (not around it, through it, with God’s help), makes the whole thing worthwhile.  It’s a satisfying illustration of the power of the Atonement in our lives, and isn’t shy about telling readers as much up front.

Last week a popular evangelical Christian web site removed an interview with Beck about the book because of complaints that, as a Mormon, Beck shouldn’t receive any warm quarter from “real” Christians.  Though this would be a perfect opportunity to vent my incensed spleen as a Latter-day Saint myself, the protesters, if they want to keep the mainstream gene pool unpolluted by Mormon toxins, might do well to avoid The Christmas SweaterContinue reading