Tag Archives: Socialism

Beck Caught “Redistributing” Two Year Old Lie

Fox News was Heavily Criticized in 2008 for Misrepresenting Obama Quote.  Glenn Beck Does it Again Tuesday Night.

Glenn Beck

Courtesy of CBS News

One of my initial goals for “Holding Glenn Beck Accountable Week” was to take the first quote that Beck displayed at the beginning of one of his programs and determine whether or not it was presented in an honest context.  I had my suspicions that Beck distorts the context of most of the quotes that he throws up on his nifty video screen, but I wanted to test my theory.  I decided to use the first quote he displayed on his show Tuesday and report on it no matter the outcome.  Yes, that means that if it was an honest description of whatever the person being quoted had said, I would have been forced to acknowledge that Beck was right.  However, that scenario was not to unfold.

Beck started Tuesday’s show by proclaiming that he wanted to have “a reasoned conversation” with America about the 10.2.10 One Nation Working Together rally in D.C.  He concluded this “reasoned conversation” by exclaiming that Obama is in fact a Marxist communist dictator who plans to, someday soon, overthrow our Republic’s form of democracy and replace it with a tyrannical form of socialism.  I’d love to get into why that statement is ludicrous, but I need to stick with my stated agenda.

“Quite honestly, I feel stupid when I say communist.  Two years ago, I didn’t even think… I mean, I wouldn’t have believed half of this stuff.  I don’t want to believe it now,” Beck began.  He continued, “During the election, 2008, some people were questioning whether or not Barack Obama were a socialist.  There was some strong evidence.  His past associations and his own words.”

Beck then displayed the following quote from President Obama:

“I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.”

Sounds pretty damning, right?  I’ll be completely honest with you – I was shocked when I saw that statement.  I thought to myself “maybe Beck is onto something here that I’m not seeing.”  Then I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and started doing my homework, as Beck encourages his audience to do.

Perhaps we should give Obama’s statement a little bit of context.  The quote is taken from a comment that Obama made while on a Chicago Public Radio broadcast in 2001 during a discussion about the civil rights movement.  The first video contains Obama’s original, unedited quote.  The second video, which contains a statement from Obama that came less than three minutes after the first quote, shows that Obama does not believe the courts should be in the business of mandating redistributive change.  I’ve provided a link to the entire broadcast here (click on the audio link next to January 18, 2001), but the audio clips below occurred between minutes 42 and 47 of the broadcast.

After the Drudge Report, Fox News and magazine columnists misrepresented the quote back in 2008 (while Obama was running for president), Chicago Public Radio’s Ben Calhoun posted the audio along with a statement intended to set the record straight.

“The twist here is that, when heard in the context of the whole show, Obama’s position is distinctly misrepresented by the You Tube posting. Taken in context, Obama is evaluating the historical successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement—and, ironically, he says the Supreme Court was a failure in cases that it took on a role of redistributing resources.”

Here’s the YouTube video that sparked the controversy.

The corrective statement disseminated by Chicago Public Radio to set the record straight was targeted at Beck’s own news organization two years before Tuesday’s broadcast.  Do you mean to tell me that there wasn’t a single producer or research assistant that remembered Calhoun excoriating them the first time they got it wrong?

Beck concluded yesterday’s show by criticizing Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) for misrepresenting a statement Republican challenger Daniel Webster made in a campaign ad.  Those in glass houses…well, you know the rest.  That said, Grayson’s ad was despicable, misleading and slanderous.  Referring to your opponent as “Taliban Dan” is disgraceful.

Scroll to the end of the video for Beck’s statement regarding Grayson.

Beck’s audacity is shocking.  To criticize Grayson for slandering his opponent’s character in ads that ran in a district of 639,000 people when he did the same thing to Obama in front of his 1.7 million viewers is disgracefully hypocritical.  Sorry to micro-focus today, but this really needed to be reported.

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Holding Glenn Beck Accountable Week: Part One

Glenn Beck

Courtesy of earthfirst.com

If you read my blog post last Thursday, then you know that I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week to analyzing and fact-checking Glenn Beck as a way to celebrate the first anniversary of The Beltway Perspective.  Every day, I’ll be watching Glenn Beck’s program, summarizing what Beck discussed on the show, and offering my own analysis on whatever the predominant topic or theme was.  In addition, I’ll keep a tally of the number of times that Beck mentions progressivism, socialism, communism, Marxism and fascism, just for fun.

Because of the nature of my self-imposed assignment, I will not be able to go into as much depth in countering Beck’s arguments as I would like to.  I’ll bullet most of the topics that Beck discusses, but I’ll identify one subject per episode to cover more extensively.

Tonight’s episode was a bit tame by Beck’s standard.  He limited himself to only 13 mentions of progressives (in a derogatory context), three mentions of communism, one mention of socialism and one mention of Fascism. Below is a list of a few issues discussed on tonight’s show:

Show Recap: Monday

  • Beck started the evening by linking President Obama with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  He reports that Ahmadinejad met with Louis Farrakhan of the New Black Panthers, and then implies that Obama is Farrakhan’s ally. He suggests that Obama had the lawsuit addressing voter intimidation at the polls against Farrakhan’s Black Panthers dropped, and insinuates that because Obama is a “Farrakhan advocate,” he must also support Ahmadinejad’s tyrannical government.  Beck started down the schizophrenic rabbit hole right from the start with this little monologue.
  • In the vein of an Oprah style book club guide, Beck started rambling off a selection of books that every American should read.  Among them was Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” which links the welfare state to totalitarian rule of government and “New Deal Raw Deal” by Burton Folsom Jr., which suggests that FDR’s economic legacy damaged America.  Biased, but I’ll give Beck some credit here.  At least he is encouraging people to read.
  • I believe the following will be the focal point of tomorrow’s show, so I will not cover it in-depth now, but Beck suggested that Obama is responsible for the Feds pushing for warrantless GPS tracking, cyber surveillance and x-ray vans that spy on you in your homes.  To quote Beck on the subject of the x-ray vans, “They’re using them now in your neighborhoods and the Obama administration won’t say exactly why we’re buying their vans and driving them down our streets.” I need to dig a bit on this one, but I have a feeling a Glenn’s leaving a few pieces of the story out of his report.
  • Apparently the Department of Education is indoctrinating our children with environmental policies that are meant to turn them against their parents and into zombies for the government.  This is part of the broader, in-depth story that I will publish tomorrow morning.

I wanted to provide you with a bit of content today, but because Beck does not air until 5:00 p.m., I need a bit more time to really break down the content of the show.  Please check back tomorrow afternoon for a deeper look into Beck’s allegations that Cass Sustein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is the “most dangerous man in America” because he wants to “manipulate the American people,” whom he supposedly believes are too stupid to realize that they are being manipulated.

Please let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to add to the Beck reports, and if you have any specific concerns that you would like me to address.  If you want to watch with me and discuss the show on Twitter, use the hashtag #WOB (Week of Beck).  See you then.

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The Word War

Why rhetoric almost drove me away from politics

Have you ever hit a wall doing something you love?  This phenomenon is often associated with runners who have to muster up every bit of strength and intensity they can to breach an invisible barrier that threatens to derail their run.

Health Care Protest

Courtesy of Syracuse.com

Well I hit a wall (metaphorically speaking) a few weeks ago when the health care debate reached a fever pitch.  I’m usually one who appreciates the idiosyncratic aspects of the political game.  I cognitively distance myself from the rhetoric and emotion, choosing instead to observe the often comedic routine that is political posturing.  But the health care fight took all the fun out of political debating – it became downright ugly.

I’m all for using language strategically and effectively; it’s one of the reasons that I’m in public relations.  However, I draw the line at language that drives the public to behave heinously.

I know that my more conservative readers will offer their “proof” as to why I’m wrong to identify the following talking points as inflammatory lies intending to incite nothing less than riots.  Let me offer a disclaimer.  This blog post is intended to be anecdotal.  It was drafted to retell the story of my mounting frustration, so regardless of whether you dispute the validity of my claims, their effects on my psyche were very real.  With that taken care of, lets discuss what had me so darn flustered.

Remember back to the Joe Wilson scandal?  When he screamed “you lie” during President Obama’s health care address to Congress? Everybody flipped.  The GOP demanded he apologize for his inappropriate outburst and the Dems were out for his head.  That anger was fueled by an understanding that political rhetoric is all well and good, but everyone has to play by a certain set of rules in order to maintain public order.

Woman Protests Health Care

Courstesy of BigGovernment.com

Fast-forward six months, and I’ll paint you a gloomier picture where the “disenfranchised” party has determined that it would rather write its own rulebook.  Rather than expound upon some of the more egregious incidents that arose from this new dynamic, I’ll leave the wording to New York Times columnist Frank Rich.

There’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at congressmen like the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. And as the week dragged on, and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the F.B.I. and the local police had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.

How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.

Yet it’s this bill that inspired G.O.P. congressmen on the House floor to egg on disruptive protesters even as they were being evicted from the gallery by the Capitol Police last Sunday. It’s this bill that prompted a congressman to shout “baby killer” at Bart Stupak, a staunch anti-abortion Democrat. It’s this bill that drove a demonstrator to spit on Emanuel Cleaver, a black representative from Missouri. And it’s this “middle-of-the-road” bill, as Obama accurately calls it, that has incited an unglued firestorm of homicidal rhetoric, from “Kill the bill!” to Sarah Palin’s cry for her followers to “reload.” At least four of the House members hit with death threats or vandalism are among the 20 political targets Palin marks with rifle crosshairs on a map on her Facebook page.

Click here for the full article

Rich goes on to explain the true source of the public’s discontent, drawing the same conclusion that I came to about a month ago – the conclusion that frustrated me to the point of getting out of politics altogether.  This health care debate has very little to do with health care reform.

President Obama in front of symbols of health care

Courtesy of Planetpov.com

Obama’s election unearthed some deep seeded unease felt by much of his opposition.  His election to the presidency radically changed our political social construct, whether we’d like to admit it or not.  It would be too easy to simplify the public’s unrest as being propagated by subliminal racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  But the reality is that our social construct has undergone significant reforms, and not everyone adapts easily to change.  The Tea Party movement and the fervency seen in health care opposition is merely a backlash against the evolution of our society.

In identifying the source of this feud, I came to the unnerving realization that no matter what argument I brought to the table, my words would fall on deaf ears.  No one wants to debate health care.  They want to debate change.  They want to qualify every policy change as part of a grander socialist plot to destroy capitalism.  They want to polarize our nation as much as possible.  They want to feed this monster.

Health care Bill - Final Vote

Courtesy of NJ.com

But in viewing this from a historical perspective, I was reassured that the storm will subside.  We saw similar passions swell during the inception of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare.  I once told a friend that this health care debate is simply a war of words that I’m losing.  Their party’s rhetoric is more effective than my own party’s, and until we figure out the right way tell the public that health care reform is really a good thing, we can never win this battle.

I was wrong.

The Democrats cannot win the fight for public support on the health care bill.  Rather, they need to win the campaign for change.  They need to construct a message that assures the American public that changes to our society can be scary, but are ultimately for the best.  There are still too many people disenfranchised in this nation.  There are still too many people discriminated against.  There are still too many people whose health care is inadequately covered.  There are still too many people worth helping for me to throw in the towel.

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Back to Basics

Politics and PR: There’s Still Room for Both

I feel like I’ve deviated from my original intentions for this blog.  The Beltway Perspective was created for the purpose of examining political issues in the context of public relations.  I sought to establish a forum where I could separate the message from the issues, explore the communication components involved in political debates and determine how those components impact the public discourse.  Recently, it’s been all politics and no public relations.

I found myself eager to reconnect this blog with its roots.  So I embarked on a quest to find a story that represented the perfect blend between politics and PR.  I defaulted to my trusted trio: The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, delving into those Web sites in search of the perfect story.  After an hour or so, I came upon an interesting column with the headline “Obama Needs to Flex his Political Muscle,” written by Dana Milbank of The Washington Post.

Can anyone lend the President some tape to fix his glasses?

In his column, Milbank likens Obama to a “98-pound weakling [who] gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers.”  He says he is bullied relentlessly by both Democrats and Republicans, but does nothing to defend himself.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown

courtesy of The Guardian

He suggests that Obama take the Gordon Brown approach to politics – you know, Great Britain’s Prime Minister who is facing allegations of “shouting obscenities at his advisers, grabbing one by the collar, punching the seatback in his car, abusing switchboard operators and even forcing a secretary from her chair when she wasn’t typing fast enough.”

Barack Obama looking dejected

courtesy of Scrape TV

Milbank proposes that if Obama were to take the “it’s my way or the… I’m going to throw this hot coffee in your face way,” his political endeavors might find a happier resolution.  While Milbank admits that Obama would be better suited to adopt a watered-down version of the Brown approach, he contends that both sides will beat on Obama’s policies until he decides to stop being the victim and adopts the role of bully.

I’ll be sending Milbank a “thank you” for helping me refocus.  He might not realize it, but he touched on one of the most fundamental questions in public relations– when does perception become reality?

Polls: Exposing  American stupidity one question at a time

According to a poll described on politico.com, “63 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a socialist; 39 percent think Obama should be impeached; 24 percent said Obama wants ‘the terrorists to win’; and 31 percent agreed with the statement that Obama is ‘a racist who hates white people.’”

The logical, well-informed individual would immediately dismiss these claims as ridiculous and irrational.  But the “reality” is that nearly a quarter of Republicans believe that Obama actually wants the terrorists to win. These people did not come to this conclusion all by their lonesome.  These beliefs were disseminated by Republican opinion leaders.

Two-step flow communication model

courtesy of /visualjournal-mares.blogspot.com

There is a communication theory that could explain this process of indoctrination.  The two-step flow model suggests that opinion leaders listen to messages from the media, interpret those messages and redistribute them to the general public.  According to this theory, public opinion is not really the opinion of the public, but rather the opinion of a select few influential individuals who dictate opinion.

Perhaps this model could better explain the relationship between opinion leaders and the public if it accounts for the fact that opinion leaders have become an extension of the media.  Fox News attempts to distinguish between its pundits and news anchors, but the reality is that the lines are intentionally blurred.  The same can be said for MSNBC and every other news network.  Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow are all associated with the news, but all can be considered political opinion leaders.

When the textbooks don’t explain it, improvise

I think the two-step flow theory needs a face-lift.  Our news is interpreted by the media that increasingly purports to convey points of view as fact, meaning that at least part of the flow of information is eliminated.  Perhaps we should rename it the one-and-one-half flow model.

This new dynamic is dangerous.  Traditional journalistic standards set up a clear line of demarcation between the reporting of news in a straightforward manner and commentary. That line has been substantially obliterated in recent years and the reality is that the media can no longer claim to be “fair and balanced.” Yet most people still believe it is.

On the surface, it would seem the Republicans have mastered exploiting this new communication model.  They know that if it sounds newsy and controversial, it will get major face time in the world of news punditry.  Thus, Obama is likened to a “black Stalin.”

Sound ridiculous?  Of course it is, and it will be exposed as ridiculous once America realizes that this is what our political conversation has become.  This is why I chose to discuss Milbank’s column.  He argues that Obama needs to become the bully.  I agree that Obama needs to become a little less complacent in his role as victim, but don’t believe that he needs to assume the role of aggressor.

TSA pats down an old woman at an airport

courtesy of About.com

Obama is an incredibly cerebral individual, and that’s something to be admired in this nation replete with reactionaries.  I’ve argued before that we’re collectively too shortsighted; a trait that usually is to our detriment.  Bush learned the hard way that acting on emotion lands you in Iraq for the better part of a decade and results in grandma getting a cavity search every time she enters an airport.

Revenge of the nerds

Obama knows that the politicians calling for his “socialist” head will be backtracking with their tails between their legs in a few months time when the government is not handing everyone their own hammer and sickle.  Congressional representatives can survive to live another day after they’ve made fools of themselves – presidents can’t, and Obama knows that he cannot become enmeshed in this foolish game.

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Best of the Worst for 2009

Rest assured, I am still among the living. I have just been severely overworked.  I assure you that if there were 25 hours in a day, I’d have posted every week this past month.  Despite my hectic schedule, I would be forlorn if I failed to write at least one more blog before we usher in the new year.

And what better way to cap off the year than by doing a “Best of 2009” list.  Sometimes we all need a little help remembering everything that happened in the past 12 months…especially those in the audience who were exposed to mercury as children.  So without further ado, your top five “Best of the Worst” political public relations stories from the year that was.

5. Yay! Our Humvees are finally leaving Iraq… and parking in Afghanistan?

Troops scaling rocks in Afghanistan

Troops scaling rocks in Afghanistan

In February, President Obama carried out his campaign promise of setting a date for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  Anti-war advocates celebrated the announcement, which prescribed an end to the military campaign that has resulted in more than 4,300 U.S. troop casualties and has cost more than $800 billion in taxpayer money.  This euphoria was short-lived, however, as Obama announced plans in early December that would increase the number of troops by 30,000 for 18 months.

Obama’s Biggest Mistake: The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.  I won’t even pretend that I have come to this conclusion after years of dutiful research studying military tactics and strategies.  Rather, I’ll rely on statistics from the Commander of the U.S. Central Command who rewrote the military doctrine for dealing with counterinsurgencies.  You may know him as Gen. David Petraeus. In the first chapter of his manual, Petraeus describes the necessary “force ratio” for stabilizing a country during an insurgency as being about one soldier for every 40 citizens. The population in Afghanistan in more than 28 million people, meaning it would require more than 700,000 troops to effectively stabilize the country.

Even with the escalation, Obama is about 600,000 troops short of winning the war.  According to Gallup, Americans are split over whether or not goals in Afghanistan can be met.  Most in Obama’s own party want to see a withdrawal, which is never good from a public relations standpoint.

The reality is that we are setting ourselves up for another crisis in Afghanistan.  We supplied Afghanistan with weapons to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  After they had successfully driven the Soviets out, we left the area without offering to help rebuild.  This act birthed the anti-American sentiment that first drove the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to attack us.  The message Obama should be communicating with the American public is the need to help build schools and infrastructure in Afghanistan.  Trying to convince the public that the war is winnable is bad PR, and is simply untrue.

4. You’re going to kill grandma?  At least sit down with her and tell her how you plan to do it.

Obama (left), Palin (Right)

Obama vs. Palin on the "death panel" debate

Who can forget “death panels,” a term first conceived by the ever-eloquent orator Sarah Palin.  Palin first dropped the “death panel” bomb on her Facebook page, the Web site she (and 16-year old girls across America) used to tell her friends why she had quit her job. But don’t give her all the credit for contriving the “death panel” concept.  She simply repackaged former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey’s claim that the health plan would involve senior citizens to have “a required counseling session” that would “tell them how to end their life sooner,” and formatted it into a nice PR-buzzword.  Factcheck.org debunked McCaughey’s and Palin’s claim.

3. Red Scare: Why is Karl Marx giving me my vaccination?

Buzzword of 2009: socialized (fill in the blank).  Nothing like a good red-scare to stir up discomfort in the American populous.  Don’t like what the Democrats are doing?  Just call them socialists, and that’ll turn everyone against them.  This tactic was most heavily employed in the fight against Obama’s health care bill.

In reality, socialized medicine would require that the government controls every aspect of medical coverage, including the distribution and administering of medical supplies and procedures.  Obama’s original plan never claimed to do away with private insurers, doctors, or hospitals.  He simply proposed that a public option could be available that would help the 36 million uninsured Americans afford health care.

Sadly, the false threat of “socialized medicine” proved too frightening for centrist-Democrats, who refused to sign a bill that included the public option for fear they would be labeled as socialists—or worse– if they passed it.  The GOP does it again.

2. Ben Nelson: Even the mafia thinks he asked for too big a cut.

Senator Ben Nelson

Senator Ben Nelson

On December 24, Democrats finally passed the bill that would overhaul the American health care system.  However, news of the landmark passage was sullied by what some called “seedy Chicago politics.”  At the center of the controversy was Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. Nelson, a pro-life Democrat with a long conservative voting record, was the last Democrat to agree to the terms on the health care bill.  Nelson’s approval was needed to create the 60 vote supermajority that would break the Republican filibuster.  This put Nelson in the position to negotiate his own terms for the bill.

Polls show that if Nelson were to run against Nebraska’s Governor David Heineman today, he would lose 61% to 30%.  Some pundits believe this poll was the motivation Nelson needed to ask for what’s been dubbed the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which included promises that no federal program would fund abortions and that Nebraska would be the only state in the country to be exempt from any new Medicaid costs.

Nelson’s move was desperation at its finest.  As the adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Approval ratings can only be temporarily revived with a shot of adrenalin when it is administered correctly.  Nelson didn’t even do that.  Only 17% of Nebraskans approve of the deal that Nelson made, and his party is even more furious.  This move sent that wrong message to Nelson’s constituents, and it will cost him in the long run.

1. Somebody has been pouring bourbon in their tea

Nothing like a third party to shake up the system, and 2009 gave rise to a powerful one: the “Tea Party.”  During the election, the Republican Party had taken a more centrist stance, deemphasizing its conservative social positions and turning the spotlight instead on its fiscal policies in an effort to bolster McCain’s presidential bid.  This move alienated the party’s social conservatives, which gave rise to the fringe group known as the “Tea Party.”

The Tea Party sought to reemphasize conservative social values and the fight against big government.  The group organized protests throughout the country to express its condemnation for government spending, taxes and gun policies.  The group was blessed by conservative heavy-hitters such as Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh.

The movement was extraordinarily effective.  Some state elections featured “Tea Party” candidates, and it ultimately threatens to drive the Republican Party back to the right in order to reclaim tea-partier votes.

Despite the group’s success, it represents a dangerous faction.  The group is notorious for misrepresenting the truth.  It helped fuel the “death panel” claim, gave rise to the “Birthers” movement (The birthers deserve an honorable mention on this list.  This group claims that Obama is not a natural born citizen, and is constitutionally ineligible to be president.  This claim is absolutely untrue) and urged citizens to quickly add to their personal munitions stash before Obama and his cronies take away everyone’s guns.

The group relies on fear tactics to promote its political positions and frequently twists facts to further its cause.  These public relations strategies are deplorable and reprehensible, and for that reason, the “Tea Party” gets top honors for the worst political public relations story of 2009.

For those who did not make the list this year, there is always 2010.  We can only hope that next year proves even half as interesting for politics as 2009 was. With midterm elections looming, even better “worsts” may be yet to come.

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