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Reductio ad Glennbeckium, or, Shut off His Mic!

I was a religion major as an undergrad. I found that, when religious people discovered that I was majoring in religion,  they often wanted to talk to me about religion. It didn’t take many of these encounters to notice a pattern: Ostensibly friendly conversation would quickly turn to argument, and the debate would be one I was destined to lose. At some point, my interlocutor would present something as fact that I found dubious. I would ask for the source of this position, and the response would be, “It’s in the Bible. The first few times I had this experience, I would opine that my debate partner was offering an interpretation of Scripture, at which point I would be assured that, no, the other party was giving me a “literal” reading—that is, she wasn’t telling me what she thought the Bible meant; she was, rather, telling me what it actually said. This is why I was destined to lose these debates: I was arguing against God.

I find that a similar dynamic pertains with fans of Glenn Beck. To his loyal viewers, he is a fearless champion of the truth, while the nation’s paper of record and similar news outfits are exemplars of liberal media: craven, self-serving and fatally compromised by a leftist agenda. How can mere facts compete with such belief? How is it possible to engage in rational discussion with someone who can watch, say, this and still maintain that Glenn Beck is a serious  journalist and a patriot committed to healing an ideologically divided nation? How is it possible to engage in rational discussion with anyone who can watch, for example, this and still maintain that Glenn Beck is anything other than a slandering, hate-mongering douche bag peddling half-truths and outright lies for his own aggrandizement?

Just as I once forswore talking to religious people about religion, I must now forgo talking to Glenn Beck devotees about Glenn Beck or any of the positions he advances. I wasn’t altogether happy about the former, as I was interested in the varieties of religious experience and would have enjoyed the opportunity to engage in a discussion of religious belief that didn’t devolve into homophobic, sexist, or anti-choice bullshit (and I mean bullshit from a fairly informed theological perspective). Similarly, I am saddened by the realization that trying to engage Glenn Beck’s fans in civil, rational discourse is doomed by the fact that Glenn Beck is, himself, apparently incapable of—or inimical to—civility and reason.

So allow me to suggest a new rhetorical principle—let’s call it reductio ad Glennbeckium—which states that anyone who takes Glenn Beck seriously automatically forfeits any claim to truth or respectability. I’m sorry that it’s come to this, but, fuck it: I’m tired of losing.

September 14, 2009 | Permalink