by Dan Hanley
Last week Glenn Beck apologized to his fans for calling himself a libertarian in the past. Upon hearing this many libertarians probably jumped for joy…until they heard his reasoning.
Beck’s apology centered on his treatment of Texas Congressman Ron Paul during the 2008 Republican primaries (1). He apologized for labeling Paul as “kooky” and claimed that he wished he could go back and rethink his opposition to Paul’s stance on foreign policy and social issues. He failed to mention his assertion that Paul’s supporters were domestic terrorists following their November 5th fundraising event (2). Perhaps Mr. Beck would have given more thought to Paul’s candidacy were it not for his (likely racially motivated) fear of the “Kenyan” opponent Barack Obama. Apparently the “birther” conspiracy theorists are worth Beck’s time but not his supposed political allies.
Glenn Beck’s apology to libertarians for his treatment of Ron Paul ranks very low on the long list of things for which he should apologize. It is quite ironic that this apology comes almost exactly a year after his support of the bank bailouts (3). Perhaps an apology for distorting the public’s view of libertarian fiscal policy would have been more apt. Until recently, Beck had never even questioned his support of a militaristic, interventionist foreign policy. He supported the drug prohibition through the 2008 primaries, citing his alcoholism and past drug use as influences in this stance. These would have made for a far more interesting and relevant apology piece. Upon close examination, it seems that all of Beck’s so-called “libertarian” stances have only presented themselves over the past year or so.
Beck’s conversion coincided with two important political events. The first is the decline of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party. Beck began to drop positions to which he attributed this decline. Therefore, social conservative positions like opposition to equal rights for homosexuals and support for the ineffective “War on Drugs” had to go. The attention-craving Beck realized that the libertarian stance on these issues was gaining popularity, and his change in position allowed him to grab many libertarian and social moderate viewers. Beck is one of many GOP conservatives to take the label of libertarian as an out from the unpopular neo-conservative establishment. This leads into the second event: his move from CNN to Fox.
Beck’s network switch created a need to pull in listeners which other Fox shows were unable to capture. The label of “libertarian” gave him more legitimacy in the eyes of those wearied by the hypocrisy of the Republicans. Beck’s show also allowed Fox to throw right-libertarians a bone without hiring someone who would bring with them legitimate criticism of the Republican Party and its neo-conservative base, such as Andrew Napolitano. Beck also gave Fox an outlet to gain access to the populist Tea Party movement which the open establishment neo-conservative pundits could not.
Either Mr. Beck is nothing more than an opportunist seeking to profit by hijacking the name of libertarianism, or he has absolutely no idea what the word means. No libertarian would have voted for Clinton (7) His pro-war stance completely defies the non-aggression aspect of libertarianism. One cannot be a libertarian without supporting a foreign policy of peace. He ignores fiscal conservatism and the principles of Austrian economics with his support of the bailouts, though he only supported them when they were proposed by Republicans. Finally he rejects the anti-authoritarianism inherent to libertarian beliefs with his nonsensical banter about the dangers of drugs.
In short, Glenn Beck has to include quite a bit in his apology to libertarians. He should apologize for further associating libertarianism with conspiracy theorists like the “birthers” and FEMA camp lunatics. Perhaps he should apologize for corrupting the label of libertarianism by associating it with the interventionist foreign policy of the GOP conservatives. Another apology is deserved for his association of libertarianism with the daily insanity he displayed on his show: from hatred of the victim families of the 9/11 attacks (6), to saying he would enjoy choking Michael Moore to death (4), to screaming at callers who criticize his stance (5). “Glenn Beck libertarianism” is nothing more than outdated Fox News idiocy rebranded. Glenn Beck owes libertarians many apologies, none of which will come. So instead Mr. Beck must answer one question, “Where were you for the last eight years, Glenn?”
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