Derbyshire on Beck
My not-really-necessary comment: I think you’re too hard on Derb.
The occasion: I think you’ll appreciate his article about Glenn Beck, especially this:
On the other hand, as with most conservatism nowadays, I was left with the impression of a crowd of people marching east on the deck of a west-bound ship. The underlying concepts of Beckism are all liberal. They dare not be otherwise, or Beck would lose his TV show, his O’Reilly spots, his publisher and sponsors, Sarah Palin (and all his other links to official Republicanism), and be cast into outer darkness. To pursue the ship analogy, he would have jumped overboard. All public displays in our society, from 30-second TV commercials to Acts of Congress, are constructed on liberal premises. That’s the direction the ship is sailing—westward, to the left.
(The list of items worth noting continues.)
Hence Beck’s extravagant praise for Martin Luther King, a radical leftist. Hence the failure to mention uncomfortable truths like, to take a random sample:
* the impossibility of continuing federal entitlements at anything like their present levels;
* the radical reduction in public services and public employment that would follow if tax rates were lowered to the degree Beck and his supporters claim to wish;
* the mad folly of giving settlement visas to a million foreigners a year when unemployment stands at ten percent;
* the doubleplus-mad folly of permitting illegal settlement of millions of Mexican and Central American peasants to form a permanent new underclass making huge new demands on government services;
The underlying concepts of Beckism are all liberal … All public displays in our society, from 30-second TV commercials to Acts of Congress, are constructed on liberal premises.
Why are you telling me to give credit to Derbyshire? You should be telling him to give credit to me. :-)
Paul Nachman writes:
Well .. maybe he should! That hadn’t occurred to me.
I was just thinking of it as clear thinking in parallel to yours—and not something I would likely have reached on my own.
But he is also being superficial in the typical way. He thinks Beck is taking these positions not because he believes in them, which he obviously does, but because he’s afraid of losing his job. Materialist reductionists never understand anything correctly. They are incapable of understanding human motivation, for example, because, for them, human reality consists solely of material, external forces (e.g. pressure from an employer, status competition), rather than what a person believes to be good and true. Materialists don’t believe that there is a good and a true, they deny the existence of that entire, “spiritual” sector of existence; therefore they are incapable of understanding what makes people tick. To use Arthur Koestler’s analogy, they are like a man who looks at a house, and sees only the basement, and doesn’t see the rest of the house—doesn’t see the first, second, and third stories. What value would we place on such a man’s thoughts about the meaning and function of houses? For the same reason, what value should we place on a material reductionist’s thoughts about the beliefs, values, and motivations of human beings? Material reductionism adds as much to our understanding of humanity as does, say, Marxism or feminism—which is to say, zero.
Steve R. writes:
Derbyshire said if Beck dared to offend the right liberals he would be cast into the darkness. It seems your stinging rebuke of Derbyshire’s material reductionism is predicated on his use of the word “dare.” Of course usually, comments that “dare” or don’t “dare” to offend, presume intention on the part of the speaker. But in reading the article I don’t see that this could have been Derbyshire’s thought. He assigned the “non-dare” action only to potential comments that Beck never would have made in any circumstance.
Derbyshire holds that Beck is truly at heart a liberal; he doesn’t think that Beck says liberal things for material gain. It seems that Derbyshire, in his “dare” comment is just diverting a bit to stick it to faux conservatives for keeping it pure inside their bubble . I only read those words to mean something like: How lucky for Beck that he actually is a liberal; if he made comments that dared to offend right-liberals they’d excommunicate him.
So while I don’t see that Derbyshire can be accused, with any certainty, of engaging in material reductionism here, I thank you much for the concept as it finally explained to me some of the wierder hallucinations of liberals—that wars were fought to get oil from Iraq, tungsten from Vietnam and now I’ve actually heard that we’re in Afghanistan to exploit its “vast mineral riches.”
Leonard D. writes (Sept. 6):
I object to your statement that “materialist reductionists … don’t believe that there is a good and a true”. I’ll grant you the good (as you mean it, at least). But not the true: materialists believe in truth as much as transcendentalists do. [LA replies: No, they do not. They believe that the only truth is truth that relates to matter. They dismiss all other forms of truth.]
Also, I don’t see where you get the idea that materialists disbelieve in other people’s internal motives. Just because we think motives are patterns in the brain which we cannot currently observe directly, doesn’t mean we can discount them. [LA replies: I’ve discussed this issue at length several times (see, e.g., this and this) and don’t wish to revisit it.]
As for what the Derb thinks about Beck’s actual beliefs, I don’t think that is clear as you make it. Derb states that he does not watch Beck or know much about him. So I don’t think a firm statement about Derb’s beliefs about Beck’s beliefs is warranted. Derb does suggest that Beck is cowardly in the face of the forces he faces, but he does not say that outright. This strikes me as a reasonable hedge. I know even less of Beck than Derb does; my entire acquaintance with Beck comes via Jon Stewart. But I find it hard to believe Beck is not trimming, simply because once you’ve stepped outside the bounds of progressive thought even a little, it’s hard not to see things that should disturb your liberal beliefs.
What Derb can state clearly is what you are accusing him of exclusive belief in: his understanding of Beck’s position in the media. The statement that Beck would lose his microphone if he expressed sufficiently illiberal ideas is not a statement about Beck’s beliefs, but about the nature of progressive cultural control.
You are missing the plain meaning of Derbyshire’s statement. Derbyshire said: “The underlying concepts of Beckism are all liberal. They dare not be otherwise, or Beck would lose his TV show, his O’Reilly spots, his publisher and sponsors, Sarah Palin (and all his other links to official Republicanism), and be cast into outer darkness.” [Italics added.]
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 06, 2010 07:45 AM | Send
The phrase, “[The concepts of Beckism] dare not be otherwise, or Beck would lose his TV show … ” indicates that Beck, even he has non-liberal beliefs, conceals them, out of fear of the consquences of expressing them. So Derbyshire’s statement goes to the nature of Beck’s beliefs and motivations, not just to the nature of liberal cultural control.