Saturday, November 14, 2009

What we "know"

We all know Glenn Beck did not murder and rape that girl in 1990 ... don't we??

Anybody who has seen Glenn Beck on Fox News is either mesmerized or repelled. He uses awful logic, makes associations that are bizarre, to say the least, and these antics have already been reported and analyzed so broadly on the Internet...

But there is now a backlash under way, that uses the exact same techniques as the Far Right and National Enquirer commentators like Glenn Beck, and the reason it is getting so much traction so fast is because it uses parody and satire, and the good stuff is really good.

First, let's look at the way in which Birthers used the media (which includes the Internet) to question Barack Obama's birthplace. They use massive assault, with web sites asking the questions. They are supported by Fox News, whose commentators ask the same questions. They are further supported by that segment of the print press that report on two headed Martian babies, because wild stories sell sensationalist fiction in tabloid form.

For anybody who understands scientific investigation, this barrage of disinformation is fairly easy to disprove, because behind the smoke, there is no fire. Nobody has hard facts. Slips of the tongue become proof of a conspiracy, invalidating the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

America has a very large percentage of True Believers. They are not inquiring minds. Some 45% of Americans believe the world is only 6,000 years old, despite utterly overwhelming evidence that it is over 4 billion years old.

To maintain these kinds of beliefs in the US is pretty easy. First, go to a church where this is a founding tenet of the beliefs, so you are surrounded by people who regard it as heretical to question it. Second, isolate yourself from people who question the concept. Third, watch television programs that either confirm your beliefs, or never discuss the issues.

Americans are overwhelmed by the huge amount of information available on every subject. The number of books and web pages published every day continues to grow, encouraging people to drill down ever more precisely into the publications and groups of people who most closely mirror their own beliefs. Americans do not learn math, or scientific investigative procedures, and consequently, are prey to illogical gossip.

This is profoundly the environment in which the Far Right finds itself. It is immersed in Fox News, Right Wing blogs, church activities and beliefs, all of which isolate them into a teeming backwater of misinformation. And the numbers of people in these backwaters are enormous.

Accordingly, when this huge group gets into any Belief Movement (defined as a group who simply Believe without looking at the facts), and the Belief is repeated often enough to other parallel thinkers, it becomes an unquestioned mantra, a foundational belief, that cannot be changed by investigation.

And now, we see the thinkers taking over with humor. Using satire and parody, the Far Right commentators are being help up to the light for their style and substance in the same way they have been creating clouds of confused belief in their media environment.

"Yes, it seems the dirty tricksters have adapted yet again and figured out that search engines and crowd-sourced “fact checking” is incredibly easy to manipulate and because so many lay people have no idea how to distinguish between verified facts and unsubstantiated rumor when using search engines, the rumors are perpetuated simply by people asking online whether they’re true.

But now the fun really begins as some web savvy pranksters have targeted Fox News commentator and all-around good time guy Glenn Beck for a little Search Engine Optimization bombing. Spreading like a wild fire is the phrase “Did Glenn Beck Rape and Murder a Girl in 1990?” They’re even hitting up Yahoo Answers and employing the exact same tactics as those used by Birthers to sow seeds of doubt regarding the President’s place of birth. A quick review of the thread is like a text book case of Search Engine Manipulation."

The Glenn Beck saga has been nicely summarized by Ben Sarlin at the Daily Beast.

The web site in question is now at

If you spend a little time browsing the web site, you can find the same kind of anecdotal "evidence" that appears in Far Right web sites for Believers. One example:

In the 'Comments sections to the letters are a couple of excellent fake snapshots that mirror the rhetoric of the Far Right in a hilarious manner. Check out and

Watch Jon Stewart's satirical piece on The Daily Show. He parodies Glenn Beck humorously and accurately, using Beck's style, mannerisms, and awful logic.

Then there is the Onion link. It is much more hard hitting but right in line with Beck's style in the way he makes illogical associations.

When you have watched these, go watch Glenn Beck on Fox News. If you don't laugh out loud at his on-stage antics, then you are probably one of the "one-out-of two Americans" who believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, who don't question unbelievable assertion and invalid association.

1 comment:

  1. Here's an amazing video, The Fall of the
    , nearing 700,000 views, that really makes you wonder about what's true and what's not. I think we've gotten to the point where it's almost impossible to know the truth anymore, which is quite frightening.

    This video seems important because it makes it possible for progressives watching it to have an understanding of where the Glenn Beck crowd is coming from--they have some legitimate points. This is the first thing I've seen that offers some home to me that we can work with these people.

    We've been distracted by the huge us vs. them battle we waged for the year leading up to the November '09 election, but now it's becoming clear that we on the left and our brothers and sisters on the right have a much bigger enemy than (from our perspective) Sarah Palin or from theirs (black Obama). The people of Afghanistan unified against the Soviets, but once the Soviets were out, groups of Afghans began killing one another over slight religious and cultural differences, once again.

    The progressives and the Glenn Beckites (along with the brainwashed middle-of-the-roaders) are so evenly split that there is no hope of solving anything unless we, at least temporarily, work together with them.