Politically, the United States is often referred to as a “center-right” nation, meaning that the majority our 300 million citizen’s political views, when plotted on a liberal-conservative line segment, fall somewhere in the moderate conservative area. In order to win elections and govern by consensus, politicians on both sides of the aisle campaign and write legislation to appeal to the sensibilities of those who buy into this ideology.
Over time, politics tends to shift toward the left-leaning, progressive side of the spectrum, as groups who were previously shut out of the political process begin to demand representation and inclusion. But if one were to survey U.S. politics of last 30 years or more, it would appear we have moved closer to the right. In part this perception has been aided and abetted by the rise of right-wing talk show hosts, who have been among the loudest voices and most influential in shaping the national discourse.
Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and more have hijacked the airwaves, both radio and television, to shout, with inaccuracy, about the evils of the “liberal agenda” attempting to undermine the American way of life. They adhere to an extreme conservative ideology that resists progress in all forms. In the past decade, perhaps the most compelling, for lack of a better word, of these fringe conservative ideologues has been Glenn Beck.
WATCH ‘ED SHOW’ COVERAGE OF VAN JONES VS. GLENN BECK:
The Glenn Beck Program, an AM talk radio show, premiered in 2000 and went national in 2002, with Beck translating his radio success into a television hosting gig with CNN in 2006. He then moved to FOX News in 2008 falling in line with the rest of the station’s conservative all-stars. It is there that Beck has captured the public imagination through his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.
One of the most notable “crusades” Beck has garnered attention for was the 2009 smear campaign of then Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Van Jones. At that point, Jones had been a notable environmental activist and advocate for job growth through the creation of a “green collar economy” (also the name of his New York Times best-selling book).
Beck took exception to Jones’ appointment to the Obama administration, citing as reasons Jones’ support for Mumia Abu-Jamal and his name’s appearance on a 911Truth.org petition that suggested the Bush administration had deliberately allowed the attacks of 9/11 (which was eventually proven false). The media hysteria Beck managed to incite through his trademark antics and ignoring of facts forced Jones, one of the few truly progressive voices in the Obama administration, to resign (this scene would replay itself a year later with different actors, this time Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod).
But Beck didn’t stop there. In the past two years, he has continued to refer to Jones as a “communist” (a word that has lost all meaning among conservatives) and paint him as a radical. Jones is understandably frustrated with the constant haranguing and after trying to settle things quietly, had his lawyers issue a cease and desist letter to Beck and Fox News in an attempt to prevent them from further engaging in “a series of sensational and inflammatory charges.”
Annoying, incessant and always standing on the wrong side of history, Beck certainly has proven himself to be a thorn, but is hardly worth Jones’ time. Jones’ mission of moving the U.S. toward a more eco-friendly economy and energy independence is much bigger and more important than any “battle of wits” he and Beck could ever engage in. So while the cease and desist to protect his name from being dragged further through the mud is respectable, Jones’ challenge to Beck for a debate is the ultimate exercise in futility.
It may serve the liberal/progressive ego to see one of the icons of the conservative movement be taken down a peg, but it likely only further enrage and mobilize the sizable audience Beck has accrued over the years and distract from movement building on the other side. He no longer has a voice within the Obama administration, but Jones has quickly risen in influence over the political discourse in this country, and as such should move wisely with his newfound capital.
Besides, Beck can, will, and has done enough to bring about his own implosion. Prompted by a comment Beck made referring to President Obama as a racist with a “deep-seated hatred of white people”, Color of Change, a web-based organization co-founded by Jones though he is no longer an active part of, mounted a campaign to pressure the advertisers of Beck’s show to pull out and succeeded. Within the next few weeks, his television show will be phased off the air.
It won’t push the nation’s ideology back left, but with one less conservative attack machine clogging up airspace, it’s not unreasonable to believe at some point real discourse may be allowed to take place.