When Should We Fear Discourse?

September 8, 2009 | 55 comments
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In Nephi Anderson’s short story, “On the Border-land of Light,” his protagonist meets a woman who knows little of Mormons:

“Have you never been down in the lower valley?” he asked.

“No, never. You see we were afraid of the Mormons at first,…

…but now I know that was foolish.”

“And you have never read a Mormon religious work?”

“No, and I don’t care to. I am a Christian woman, and don’t care to change my belief.

(“On the Border-land of Light,” Juvenile Instructor, 29 (1 September 1894), 538-542.)

Of course, this seems rather silly to members of the Church, but not unfamiliar. Our missionaries are used to hearing that prospective members have been told not to talk to them and not to read LDS materials. Our missionary efforts are largely characterized by efforts to find the open minded, and by actions that help people become more willing to listen.

It might be simple, then, to claim that we should be open to listening to others, just as we want others to listen to us. But it is much more complicated than that.

Despite the nursery rhyme claim, words can hurt. Every parent who has comforted their child after a playground disagreement knows that the hurtful remark can reduce a child to tears. Adults are hardly imune, and if anything seem to be getting more sensitive over time. Words do have power to hurt, and to help.

If you think about it, you realize that writers must believe that words have power, or why bother to write? We, Mormons, believe that they influence others, or why would we send missionaries out to, basically, use words to influence others?

So, if words do have power, aren’t there things that we should not listen to? In my view there are some, especially when children are involved. I don’t think that I want my six-year-old reading erotica, nor do I think I should be reading literary pornography.

But in my view there is precious little that we shouldn’t be open to reading or to listening to. There is a social aspect to all this also. If we want others to listen to us, we must listen to them. If we want to live in an society that is open to our ideas, we must be open to the ideas of others.

This social aspect of reading and listening is vitally important. In the extreme, the fear of the power of words leads to ostracising those with unusual ideas. I’ve heard stories of non-Mormon parents who refused to let their children interact with Mormons–apparently since some of our words might influence them, they don’t want their children to hear any of our words.

It is in this vein that the events of the past week (and also U.S. politics of the past decade or so) disturb me most. Political discourse has turned nasty, and since words have power, it does make a difference. Lies and half-truths are spread, and the extremists don’t want to hear what those they disagree with say.

Today, the President of the United States is to speak to school children. The speech, released ahead of time, is quite good, I think, and its content is hardly controversial. The words, hopefully powerful words, seek to encourage children to do better in school and make a positive impact on our society. The content of the speech makes you wonder what the fuss is all about. [Personally, I think this is a nice model for the kind of speech that a President should give to children -- and I'd be open to such a speech at the beginning of every school year.]

I know words can be powerful. Even if the President was going to make a more political speech, I’m not sure that children should not hear such words. Is it so bad for children to learn about political speech, or for parents to have to explain to their children why they disagree with the President? Do parents really expect their children to side with the President on political issues over their ideas, and would it really make a difference in their home if they did?

What is most disturbing to me is the idea that somehow, just because they disagree with the President’s political positions, now those opposed to his policies don’t want to listen to anything he says, no matter how innocuous.

And, most importantly for LDS Church members, can we really justify not allowing our children to listen to the President and still expect our neighbors to listen to our missionaries?

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55 Responses to When Should We Fear Discourse?

  1. Geoff B on September 8, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Kent, as a conservative, I have no problem with Obama speaking in school to my children, and I think it is a positive gesture. However, there are several points you are missing: one, there is a big difference between political discussions at school and missionary work; two, you are misunderstanding the source of the opposition, which is related to Obama’s cult of personality; and three, the Democrats held hearings when the first Pres. Bush dared to speak to students:

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/When-Bush-spoke-to-students-Democrats-investigated-held-hearings-57694347.html

    So, to summarize, you are missing the point in this particular situation in many ways.

  2. Kent Larsen on September 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Oh, I don’t know. My perception is that those reasons conveniently came along after the issue was brought up, and that most of those who object to the speech have never heard of these reasons. They just don’t like having to hear someone they disagree with.

    I do grant that your reasons are accurate. Yes, school and missionary work are quite different. I don’t want religious messages delivered in school. Nor do I think, in general, that schools should present politically biased material. [For the record, this speech doesn't seem to be politically biased.]

    I do see that Obama is charismatic (cult of personality seems like a very politically charged way to put it), but I have a hard time seeing how a speech to school children is going to feed into that much. And unlike Democrats at the time, I had no objection to Bush speaking to children in school.

    So, not only do I think these are convenience reasons, irrelevant to the majority that are objecting, I don’t think they have much validity.

  3. Kent Larsen on September 8, 2009 at 9:20 am

    By the way of disclosure, my own children will only be able to see the speech if it is on cable TV here. School doesn’t start here until tomorrow.

  4. Dave on September 8, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Given the way candidate Obama was lionized by students of all ages, it seems quite proper for now-President Obama to use some of that schoolhouse popularity to encourage kids to do their homework and do something worthwhile with their lives. After all, the presidency has often been characterized as a bully pulpit.

    Of course, this was all as true twenty years ago when President Bush made a similar address to schoolkids (see link above) as it is now, so it’s hard to understand why Democrats in Congress were so incensed at the time. I can think of some explanations, but I don’t want to derail the conversation.

  5. Confutus on September 8, 2009 at 9:46 am

    What the reaction shows mostly is how badly President Obama is mistrusted by much of the public. Many people are convinced that he does not say what he means, and does not mean what he says, and therefore mistrust his motives in speaking to their children. It hardly matters what he intends to say, even if the transcript provided yesterday shows that it will be innocuous, and even beneficial. The fuss is really not so much over what will be said, but who will be saying it.

  6. queuno on September 8, 2009 at 9:47 am

    three, the Democrats held hearings when the first Pres. Bush dared to speak to students:

    Geez, how many years ago was this now? Hopefully we’re a more enlightened nation now that the Republicans don’t think that a “score must be settled” when the other party decides to do a presidential message.

    I continually think that the Republicans’ best chance of success is to be the more enlightened party, but I’m constantly reminded of how this is currently not the case.

  7. Geoff B on September 8, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Kent, I think this is kind of a “perception conversation,” in which we can only argue our respective perceptions. I spend a lot of time listening to talk radio, and I spend a lot of time with conservatives. Far and away, the biggest reason that they cited for their opposition to the speech was not that they didn’t want their kids to hear Obama discussing staying in school and doing homework or even writing something on how they can support the president — the primary concern is that Obama’s face is everywhere. They fear the cult of personality that developed during the campaign and that is continuing right now.

    I hasten to say that I don’t agree with this argument, and I’ve actually said to several people, “look, he’s the president, it’s a nice gesture for him to speak to the kids, I have no problem with it.” In fact, I would probably agree with you that such opposition is counter-productive. It makes us look exactly as you describe: people who want to drown out the other side and not listen to what they say even to the point of not respecting the positive things the president has to add.

    But I still say (based on my perceptions) that you are missing the primary source of the opposition. Also, as the link above shows, you are missing that unfortunately such discussions are always partisan and probably always will be. It would be nice if we could rise above partisanship, but it is unlikely to happen.

  8. Chelsea on September 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I agree with Confutus (5) that this situation illustrates the lack of trust in President Obama that is so prevalent among many conservatives. In my opinion it’s entirely unfounded, but that doesn’t make it any less real. When I posted about this issue on my Facebook page I was inundated with comments from my conservative friends about how they feel the president is trying to take away their rights as parents to teach their children what to believe about politics (!). One commenter said “Would you let your kids listen to a speech by Hitler or Hugo Chavez?” These are people that are otherwise reasonable and intelligent.

    My question is, where does all this fear and mistrust come from? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s healthy to have a certain level of skepticism about government. But suggesting that the freely elected president of the US is a short step away from a murderous dictator goes way beyond healthy skepticism. Can we blame it all on Glenn Beck?

  9. Geoff B on September 8, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Chelsea, I will attempt an explanation, not as somebody who agrees with these fears but instead as somebody who understands them. To make it clear: I do not share these feelings — I oppose Obama for political reasons but find him to be a good role model for children and basically a pretty decent guy.

    I think you need to consider what I call the “cult of personality” that has developed around Obama — all of the posters, his face on Time magazine a record amount, his constant presence on TV. This is pretty much unprecedented. There is a feeling among conservatives that the media is “in the tank” for Obama and that there is a significant percentage of the population who literally worships him. Conservatives consider this dangerous because it recalls other cults of personality and it causes people in the Fourth Estate to hide negative facts about Obama. Consider the Van Jones controversy: however you feel about Van Jones, the NY Times and most of the major media sources chose not to report on the issue until it was already over. If you have ever heard about state-run media in Cuba and the Soviet Union, this is exactly what they do with negative news, they cover it up and then spin it when it has already taken place.

    Obama supporters need to face the opposition to the cult of personality as a real issue. Yes, the right has its share of kooks and losers and racists who will hate Obama no matter what. But these people don’t have much influence over the broad center of the population, and it is this center that is in play in terms of national politics. The issue that is in play and is having an influence on the center is the worry about the adoration of Obama, which can potentially have very negative effects.

  10. Stephen Carter on September 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

    An excellent book describing and analyzing the agonistic strain that has taken over political discourse is Deborah Tannen’s _The Argument Culture_.

  11. Kent Larsen on September 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

    “There is a feeling among conservatives that the media is “in the tank” for Obama”

    Uh huh. And, as they have repeatedly pointed out, Fox News is the largest news channel now.

  12. Mark B. on September 8, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I was ready to start worshipping Obama until I found out that he smoked.

    You think he’ll light up during his speech to the kiddies?

  13. Geoff B on September 8, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Kent, regarding your #11, I think it’s interesting to note that Fox News adopted its recent course and had success because it was speaking to a percentage of the population that felt unrepresented by the MSM. I think the NY Times and MSNBC feel they now need to “balance” Fox News. And then Fox feels it needs to “balance” the balancers. And on and on. The old model of objective journalism is pretty much dead.

  14. Sam B. on September 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I have to say, the right is trying really hard to make me into a confirmed Democrat. I have never declared party allegiance since I first registered to vote (almost 16 years ago now!). I’ve voted for Republicans and Democrats for President. But if the right is so petty as to expend political capital to attack the President for making uncontroversial points to schoolchildren (seriously, stay in school has communist underpinnings), the Republicans are flushing my vote (and probably my generation’s) down the toilet.

    Geoff, the Democrats objected in 1990 to Bush’s making a similar statement? Yawn. I don’t remember it; if they did, they, too, were idiotic and petty. But to even the score almost 20 years later? The link isn’t there in my mind.

    Of course, I confess that I have an eye infection and, as such, didn’t read the speech carefully. Maybe his call for workers of the world to unite was at the very end, after my eyes refused to focus for another second on a computer screen.

  15. Mark B. on September 8, 2009 at 11:38 am

    That old model of objective journalism is largely a 20th century fiction. Just ask (if you can find him) anybody involved in political life in the late 18th century whether there was an “objective” press. Objectionable, certainly. But no pretense at objectivity.

    Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly would have fit right in with Benjamin Franklin Bache.

  16. Geoff B on September 8, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I have commented way too much on this thread, but I do want to respond to Sam B in #14. The reason I linked the Dems’ investigation of Pres. Bush speaking to the children was to show that there is a long history of such partisan tactics (which I also deplore), not to justify them. And btw, I don’t think Republicans are so much stirring up opposition to Obama’s speech as are grass-roots sources such as talk radio, Fox News and the Drudge Report.

  17. Bro. Jones on September 8, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    #5 I think you’re right, and I’m left wondering: where is the respect for our nation’s leader? A year or so ago I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural baseball game in the Washington Nationals stadium. Then-President Bush threw out the first pitch, and when he stepped onto the field about 3/4 of the stadium erupted in boos.

    I was not and am not the biggest fan of GWB, to put it mildly, but he was still the President. I would never heckle a President–it’s just low-class. And that’s more or less how I view the people freaking out about Obama’s speech. By all means tell your kids that everything he says is wrong, but refusing to let your kids even hear the speech strikes me as boorish.

    #12 I was under the impression that Michelle Obama made her husband quit before his presidential campaign–I’m not sure if he’s started up again since then.

  18. bfwebster on September 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    As someone who blogged about this elsewhere, I was less concerned about Obama talking to kids than the tone of the pre-K to 6th grade “lesson plan” sent by the Department of Education to schools nationwide. If I still had school-age kids, I would have encouraged them to listen to the President and would have talked with them about it afterwards — but I would also have asked to see whatever work the teacher had them do in relation to that talk.

    In short, I worry less about the President than I do his ardent admirers. ..bruce..

  19. Dan on September 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Geoff,

    #7,

    the primary concern is that Obama’s face is everywhere.

    Ah, because Bush’s face wasn’t everywhere. oh and don’t forget about this

    Generally speaking I have found that if the right blame something on the left – say ‘cult of personality’ – it is usually because that’s what they do with their own guy. I can’t tell you how many examples of cultism there are in the last eight years of George W. Bush.

    It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.

    Ah feel the love. That was John Hinderaker of Powerline blog, one of the leading right wing blogs in July 28, 2005. And who can’t forget Peggy Noonan’s heartfelt swoon over the greatness of George W. Bush.
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110005844

    God bless our country.

    Hello, old friends. Let us savor.

    Let us get our heads around the size and scope of what happened Tuesday. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, became the first incumbent president to increase his majority in both the Senate and the House and to increase his own vote (by over 3.5 million) since Franklin D. Roosevelt, political genius of the 20th century, in 1936. This is huge.

    George W. Bush is the first president to win more than 50% of the popular vote since 1988. (Bill Clinton failed to twice; Mr. Bush failed to last time and fell short of a plurality by half a million.) The president received more than 59 million votes, breaking Ronald Reagan’s old record of 54.5 million. Mr. Bush increased his personal percentages in almost every state in the union. He carried the Catholic vote and won 42% of the Hispanic vote and 24% of the Jewish vote (up from 19% in 2000.)

    It will be hard for the mainstream media to continue, in the face of these facts, the mantra that we are a deeply and completely divided country. But they’ll try!

    The Democrats have lost their leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle. I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.

    The elites of Old Europe are depressed. Savor. The nonelites of Old Europe, and the normal folk of New Europe, especially our beloved friend Poland, will not be depressed, and many will be happy. Let’s savor that too.

    George Soros cannot buy a presidential election. Savor. “Volunteers” who are bought and paid for cannot beat volunteers who come from the neighborhood, church, workplace and reading group. Savor.

    The leaders of the Bush effort see it this way: A ragtag band of more than a million Republican volunteers who fought like Washington’s troops at Valley Forge beat the paid Hessians of King George III’s army. Savor.

    See, it’s okay for leading conservatives to have a cult of personality over their guy. But don’t let liberals have that. Oh no. That would be like dangerous for the country or something.

  20. Dan on September 8, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Wow, I hadn’t noticed it before, but Peggy Noonan did say this in that swoon over Bush in November 2004:

    The Democrats have lost their leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle. I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.

    hahahahahaha. Savor indeed!

  21. Gina on September 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I understand that the right fears a cult of personality. Obama is a popular guy. However, I think the idea of this “cult of personality” itself is almost completely a concoction of the typical right-wing personalities. I am a big Obama supporter and associate with lots more. I know no one whom I would consider overly adoring of Obama. If anything, most of his biggest supporters are quiety disillusioned and disappointed at the moment. But I think that most people who strongly disagree with Obama’s policies don’t know many supporters, so they believe the crazy talk that supporters are all breathlessly awaiting the little book that’s on its way.

  22. Sean on September 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Dan (#19)-
    I agree that the Powerline blog entry is totally over-the-top. I must say that I’ve never heard of Powerline blog. On the other hand, Noonan says nothing about the man (Bush) himself, only quoting numbers and election statistics. That’s hardly a cult of personality example.

  23. Dan on September 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Sean,

    I’ve got lots more examples for you if you really want them. Take the way Chris Matthews and others fawned over George W. Bush landing on the aircraft carrier.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200604270005

    Here is Laura Ingraham:

    Speaking as a woman, and listening to the women who called into my radio show, seeing President Bush get out of that plane, carrying his helmet, he is a real man. He stands by his word. That was a very powerful moment.

    Oooh, goose bumps man.

  24. Dan on September 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/9/8/778562/-The-Great-Indoctrinator

    Now that is the true ‘cult of personality.’ Ronald Reagan. Talking about tax policy, gun control, moral values, and “Negro” private colleges and universities. Ah…

  25. Sean on September 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Dan- OK, at least it looks like we’re operating under a similar definition for cult of personality. The Noonan quote you tossed in had me wondering. I’m no fan of Bush, but excerpt away if you like.

  26. Ugly Mahana on September 8, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I don’t like the sound of the shrill voices, of either pursuasion, that say students should not listen to the President. Nevertheless, they do play a constructive role by making sure that what the President says to children does not amount to political indoctrination. For this I am grateful.

  27. Ugly Mahana on September 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    They=the shrill voices.

  28. Daniel on September 8, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Even if Obama IS trying to indoctrinate elementary school children with this speach, I don’t understand why that is a problem.

    Everybody seems to be aware that the political views of children are a direct representation of the political views of their parents.

    If these children like Obama, they do so because their parents do, and vice versa.

    As for specifics of political platforms, there is nothing Obama could possibly say to these elementary school students that could ever change their political ideologies – because elementary students DON’T HAVE POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES! They either like or dislike a person based on what their parents like or dislike.

    If you dislike Obama (for whatever reason), the ONLY risk with allowing your children to listen to him is that they might become convinced that he is not the monster you make him out to be at home. They may actually think he is pretty cool!

    Now you may fear this as “the cult of personality”, but that is OK because what difference does it make that your children-under-12 “like” Obama? They cannot vote and will not be able to vote for at least 6 more years. They are already caught up in the “cult of personality” with Miley Cyrus and who knows who else! And THAT cult influences them far more than it would influence them to “like” Obama!

  29. Alison Moore Smith on September 8, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Earlier today, I did pledge allegiance to Obama, after being influenced by another great video shown to Utah schoolchildren. But still…

    As a rabid conservative–not republican–I find the “fear” adjective akin to how Mormons (and anyone objecting to a particular behavior) are always called “homophobes.”

    “Ooooo, it’s Obaaaammmaaa! Runnnnnn!!!!!!!!”

    #14

    if the right is so petty as to expend political capital to attack the President for making uncontroversial points to schoolchildren…

    To the best of my recollection, no one attacked Obama for “uncontroversial points to schoolchildren.” The objections I heard didn’t have anything to do with his “points,” since they were not known when the brouhaha started.

    Rather I heard objections to the lesson plan packet that included assignments for children to write letters showing how they would support the president. Now you can debate whether or not you want your children to write such a letter, but I think we can agree that most parents wouldn’t wanting their kids assigned to write a letter of support for someone whose ideas and agenda they oppose.

    And the DoE seemed to agree.

    I think it’s also safe to say that after the objections started, the WH probably took a second and third look at the speech.

    Geoff, the Democrats objected in 1990 to Bush’s making a similar statement? Yawn. I don’t remember it…

    Yea, they objected—and started an investigation and hearings to find all the nefarious motives and funding sources.

  30. Cameron on September 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    If anyone is aware of Al Gore’s speech to children at the recent Inauguration festivities, I can certainly understand why parents would be worried. Al Gore essentially told them that they knew better than their parents…

    Based on the original directive language released to schools and Al Gore’s speech, I don’t blame anyone for at least being concerned.

  31. Dan on September 8, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Cameron,

    Can you provide links to your claim?

  32. Cameron on September 9, 2009 at 1:28 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-8r0Qvrl4Q

    Actual audio from the speech starts at 3:40 and around 5:30. I recommend listening to the entire clip for context.

  33. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 5:27 am

    Cameron,

    I’m trying hard to find any non-Glenn Beck-fed source and I come up empty. Sorry, it doesn’t pass muster.

  34. Cameron on September 9, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Disclaimer 1: I don’t watch any cable news program, including Fox News, not that that would disqualify truth that comes from those channels.

    Disclaimer 2: the post below is not hostile, but tone is hard to create with text.

    If you take just the Al Gore audio by itself, what does that mean to you, then? Naturally, there aren’t other sources because no one officially recorded it or publicized it. Why would they?

    Many media members are technically qualified, but will not give you truth. When Gadianton’s men had infiltrated the government, I’m sure they argued the same thing about credentials. Just because Glenn Beck’s a Mormon or because he’s an amateur looking for truth doesn’t mean he’s wrong. The Van Jones thing happened because of Glenn Beck. There’s an official action for skeptics to latch on to. I think that fearing discourse can include rejecting anyone with evidence, amateur or not. If Glenn Beck had no substance then he could be ignored, and calls for reinstating the fairness doctrine and rearranging of czars would not be necessary.

    The Al Gore language on its own merits is insidious and evil.

    I don’t believe Pres. Obama’s speech to children had bad intentions, but given the original language sent to schools (write a letter on how you can help Pres. Obama accomplish his goals) that could be construed to mean something like his healthcare bill on a general level.

  35. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Cameron,

    How did you come across that particular speech unless you listen to Glenn Beck, or follow those who do. Glenn Beck is a disreputable source. He is a liar whose sole purpose is to tear down otherwise good people who happen to not agree with his world view. I tried to look for any other source to confirm this particular incident with Al Gore and found nothing but sources linking to Glenn Beck. That just simply does not pass muster.

  36. Cameron on September 9, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Think what you will of Glenn Beck. Please evaluate the audio on its own merits. What do you think of the audio? “You know things that your parents don’t know,” etc. Is that not insidious undermining of parental roles?

    Glenn Beck is not an infallible prophet. But, he is right more often than not, and when he’s wrong he admits that he’s made an error. I don’t listen to him often (maybe once a week for 30 minutes), although I’ve listened for a few years. He was ahead of the curve on the economy and many other things. If you want a recent example you need look no further than the White House shuffling Van Jones late Sunday morning after press time.

    I’m curious what you think Glenn Beck lies about. You may think he is misguided or too pessimistic about something (I do sometimes), but his only contention is that he’s an amateur trying to find truth in a complex world. If one is relatively familiar with his radio show, I don’t see how one can honestly deny that.

    Truth is truth, no matter where it is found. I humbly submit that many truths today are silenced and ignored by whose who dislike those truths.

  37. Kent Larsen on September 9, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Carmeron quoting Gore: “You know things that your parents don’t know,” etc. Is that not insidious undermining of parental roles?

    Depends a lot on context. Was he referring to drug use in school or what the social aspect of school is like? I’ll be my kids know a lot more about these things than I do.

    Was he talking about the kids’ own personality and desires? I can’t possibly know all the things that my daughters want. I was shocked last year when my daughter went out for her high school swim team.

    Given Glen Beck’s track record of pulling things out of context in order to pander to his very conservative audience (I suppose he probably believes what he says also, but IMO, it seems like he is therefore very ill-informed most of the time), I am with Dan. I can’t trust what happens on his show, and I can’t trust the video you cite without knowing more.

    Even if your journalism is to push one point of view, the responsible thing to do is to get a response to your claim from the person you are criticizing. Beck time and time again doesn’t do that.

    “Truth is truth, no matter where it is found. I humbly submit that many truths today are silenced and ignored by whose who dislike those truths.”

    Agreed. Thing is, Beck is one of those doing the ignoring.

  38. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Cameron,

    1. I cannot evaluate the audio on its own merits because I have no other verifiable source to draw on. As such it is not a good source.

    2. Glenn Beck is not right more often than not. He is wrong most, if not close to all, of the time. He calls Obama a socialist, communist, fascist Hitler/Mussolini/Stalin. Right there ought to tell you this man is a liar who should not be given any credibility.

    3. The Van Jones controversy is fake and not worthy of any real debate.

    4. Glenn Beck is no amateur. He pretends to be, but this is another of his lies. He is a professional. He knows what he is doing. His whole scheme is to sow seeds of confusion and chaos, to undermine the system we currently use. He wants Americans to never trust and never give credibility to a Democratic administration whilst being fairly benign with a conservative Republican administration. He thinks he understands how to sow populist anger, but that’s not what he is sowing. He is sowing the roots of a revolution against the democratic republic principals this country was founded upon.

    5. You think as you like, but if you wish a respectful debate, don’t bring up Glenn Beck exclusive sources.

  39. Cameron on September 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Point taken, Kent.

    My concern is, when no mainstream outlet will even cover things like this, it is difficult to cite things in a way that satisfies the establishment.

    Frequently Beck attempts to get statements from these people or have them on his show, but they never call back, or they schedule something and back out last minute.

    This is kind of OT, but what do you think of Glenn Beck in light of Van Jones? I think people make the same mistake they accuse Glen Beck of by listening to short, out-of-context snippets and then reject everything he says. He obviously had enough proof with Van Jones…

    I think truth should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Glenn Beck included. If someone I strongly disagree with shows me evidence of something, I will consider it just an honestly.

  40. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Cameron,

    This is kind of OT, but what do you think of Glenn Beck in light of Van Jones?

    He will do this to any and all who work for Obama. Heck, he does this very thing WITH Obama. Let me remind you of a particularly reprehensible clip from Beck’s show this past summer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auQJVhNH99c&feature=player_embedded

    The transcript is as follows:

    Beck: “Do you really honestly believe that we have come to a place to where those very senior people in the highest offices of the land—Congress and the White House—really will not do the right thing in the end, that they won’t see the error of their ways?”

    Did you catch what he did here with his listeners? See, he sets himself up as someone who outsiders can trust to tell them the truth about Washington. Funny, since Sarah Palin reminded her followers to listen to Glenn Beck. Look at what Glenn Beck says. “Are we at a situation where the highest leaders in the land will not do the right thing?” Beck wants his viewers to believe the highest leaders of the United States are irredeemable, and should therefore be replaced. How should they be replaced? Well, we just had an election, so we can’t vote them out. Maybe impeachment? Not politically feasible. How about a popular revolt? Let’s read on:

    Scheuer: “No sir they will not. The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama Bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States—because it’s gonna take a grassroots, bottom up pressure—because these politicians prize their offices, prize the praise of the media, and the Europeans. It’s an absurd situation again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently and with as much violence as necessary.”

    Did you catch that? Only an attack by Osama Bin Laden on Americans could be used as a trigger for the “grassroots, bottom up pressure” — i.e. popular revolt, nay revolution — to make the changes in office of leaders who are ‘irredeemable’ – or in the words of Glenn Beck “very senior people in the highest offices of the land” who “really will not do the right thing in the end.” It’s not that another Al-Qaeda attack will cause the change in leadership through the attack, but that the “grassroots, bottom up” will use the Al-Qaeda attack as an excuse to do what they’ve gotta do: change the current government.

    This is very treasonous stuff. Glenn Beck and Michael Scheuer are advocating that Al-Qaeda kill more Americans so that they can use that attack as an excuse to do an otherwise illegal act: forcibly change the government without an election.

    This is the man who contemplated how he would kill Michael Moore, how he would kill Charles Rangel, how he would kill Nancy Pelosi. This is the man who said 9/11 victim families are scumbags who he hates. This is the man who said victims of Hurricane Katrina were scumbags. This is the man who said that victims of the massive fires in San Diego two years ago were people who hate America.

    I know, I know, he’s joking. Well, I guess he’s only joking about Al Gore.

  41. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    By the way, Michael Scheuer was in charge of the CIA operation to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden back in the 1990s. Seeing what he thinks now about the usefulness of a Bin Laden attack for his political world view, one wonders why Mr. Scheuer failed to find Bin Laden before 9/11…. And one has to wonder why Glenn Beck didn’t pursue this line of thinking with Mr. Scheuer. Surely it would be important to ask the man in charge of trying to get Bin Laden why he failed at his job before Bin Laden killed 3000 Americans. Surely also that man would not be a reputable source to talk about political matters, seeing that he failed. Yet, there he is with Glenn Beck. This is of course not the only time he has appeared on Beck’s show. One has to wonder why Glenn Beck chooses to trust the words of a man who failed to get our greatest enemy, and who actually advocates that our greatest enemy kill more Americans. ‘Only Osama can save America.’

  42. Dan on September 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I only bring this up because Van Jones pales in comparison to the depravity of one Michael Scheuer, a regular on Glenn Beck’s reprehensible show.

  43. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Whenever I listen to Glenn Beck, I get the distinct impression that he believes “secret combinations” have infiltrated the highest levels of U.S. and world governments and are systematically conspiring to destroy – something… not clear what Beck thinks they are after… freedom? They are trying to destroy freedom? Or is it religion and moral values (Beck’s moral values)?

    Anyway, Beck seems to be easily categorized with all the other LDS conspiracy theorists who take what they read in the Book of Mormon way too far and find evidence of grand conspiracies because they are looking for them, just as the “UFO people” find evidence of UFOs in the strange light phenomena of some pictures… because they are looking for something to confirm their crazy ideas!

  44. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    As for the original (NON-Glenn Beck) point of Kent’s – When Should We Fear Discourse?” – that seems to be a rhetorical question, and the comment seems clearly to answer “never”.

    But the issue becomes more complicated when we are talking about “discourse” with young children.

    Is there ever a danger to your children by their having “discourse” with others?

    Most objections against Obama’s presentation being aired in the public schools reflect a concern on behalf of parents who don’t want their children exposed to Obama’s “socialist” ideas.

    I understand the desire to protect children. Apart from the potential recruiting of new blood into the Democratic party (not very likely, IMO), there is the concern parents have that the speech will “undermine parental authority.”

    I have struggled for years to determine exactly in what my “parental authority” consists, and have failed. Do I have the “authority” to select my children’s political views for them? As a registered Republican, do I have a “right” to do whatever it takes to ensure that my children will be lifelong Republicans? Commensurate with that “authority”, do I have the power and right to punish them if they say or do anything that seems to be associated with the Democratic party, its representatives, or platform?

  45. Alison Moore Smith on September 10, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Yea, yea, it’s cool to hate BYU and to hate Glenn Beck on LDS blogs. It shows we’re so in the world but not of the LDS culture. I get it. But I’ve never been into cool. I’m a BYU fan and I listen to Beck, too. Wow, so I won’t be popular. I’m hurt. And you’ll point and mock. I’ll just imagine that you’re in the great and spacious building and I’ll feel better. :)

    There are some things about our world that you know that older people don’t know. Why would that be? Well, in a period of rapid change the old assumptions sometimes just don’t work any more because they are out of date. New knowledge, new understandings are much more widely available, sometimes to young people who are in school, who aren’t weighed down with the old [unintelligible], assumptions of the past.

    You can let your kids listen to whomever you choose. But, no, I’m not cool on anyone—let alone a former VP whose making millions flying around the world on his private jet to tell people they can’t drive a car—put my kids up against me because I’m old and out of touch.

    And your defense is just ad hominem? Glenn Beck is a stinky diaper face and so what Al Gore said is fine. But what’s funny is, in the face of a widely circulated audio (recorded by a 12-year-old attending the school) that Gore hasn’t disputed, there is a demand for “more sources.” Glenn Beck isn’t the source. The kid who recorded it is the source.

    But let’s be sure to apply that same standard to everything. Dan, everything you say must be confirmed by an independent source who witnessed your claims.

    The “context” of Gore’s speech is promoting his Inconvenient Truth agenda to school children. Was that really unclear?

    #40

    The Van Jones controversy is fake and not worthy of any real debate.

    Well, I’m glad that’s finally settled!

    All I can derive from that statement is that you haven’t taken the time to read anything Van Jones has written or listen to anything he has said. Let me restate to be clear. I’m not talking about what Glenn Beck said about Van Jones. I’m not talking about what anyone else said about him. I’m talking about the man himself, in his own words.

    Or you agree with him. You choose.

    Are we at a situation where the highest leaders in the land will not do the right thing?” Beck wants his viewers to believe the highest leaders of the United States are irredeemable, and should therefore be replaced.

    Wow, treason. You’re actually wrong (what is it we’re calling for? context?) in stating that Glenn Beck thinks they are “irredeemable.” He asked the QUESTION. It is Scheuer who seems to feel this way.

    Guess what? I tend to agree with Scheuer. I think the number of politicians who have the country as their primary concern are almost zero. They do what they need to get reelected. They say what they need to get reelected. They buy power by doling out goodies to their constituents. It’s about their own security and position far more often than not.

    And it’s obvious that crises propel people to action. Is that a radical thought? Scheuer happens to believe that most Americans are to complacent to be propelled to boot the buggers out unless there is an enormous threat. On that I disagree, but only as a matter of scale.

    What happened to our no-prayer-in-school-separate-church-and-state-loving country on 9-12-01? Everyone was praying, in all sorts of venues, and even the ACLU didn’t say boo about it. Everyone was patriotic. Everyone loved America–probably even Reverend Wright, when he was scared he might lose the FREEDOM to spew his trash to pay for his CAPITALIST-funded lifestyle.

    But when we feel safe to eat our doritos in relative peace and the millions of abortions are happening where we don’t have to watch, we’re good to sit back and let the politicians do their thing.

    Surely also that man would not be a reputable source to talk about political matters, seeing that he failed.

    So we should listen to you? Could you cite your political expertise and “successes”?

  46. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 10:18 am

    To Alison,

    No, I think you are mistaken. I think it is “cool” in the LDS culture to be main-stream, party-line, pseudo-intellectual in defense of everything the LDS culture propogates – you know, like FARMS and FAIR and all the other “apologists”!

    How’s your seat on the bandwagon? Comfortable?

  47. Dan on September 10, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Alison,

    But let’s be sure to apply that same standard to everything. Dan, everything you say must be confirmed by an independent source who witnessed your claims.

    My viewpoints have clearly gotten under your skin. Relax please. As to your point, I’m perfectly fine with confirming my claims by independent sources. No problem. Be my guest.

    All I can derive from that statement is that you haven’t taken the time to read anything Van Jones has written or listen to anything he has said. Let me restate to be clear. I’m not talking about what Glenn Beck said about Van Jones. I’m not talking about what anyone else said about him. I’m talking about the man himself, in his own words.

    Actually I have, and I do not have a problem with him. But then again, in your Glenn Beck filled world, I’m a pinko-commie-socialist-fascist bum. So why should I care what you really think of me? I will say that Van Jones was wrong to delve too deeply into questioning if 9/11 was an inside job. You can study the evidence, look at what people say, but it’s quite clear 9/11 was not organized by our government in any way. How much they knew about it is, of course, another question entirely, and when it comes to the Bush administration, they failed terribly at protecting the American public. They know this, which is why their reaction to 9/11 was so over the top.

    Wow, treason. You’re actually wrong (what is it we’re calling for? context?) in stating that Glenn Beck thinks they are “irredeemable.” He asked the QUESTION.

    Actually it is treasonous, and yes, Glenn Beck stated quite clearly that he felt the current leadership in America will not do the right thing. His question was a leading question meant to get a “yes” response. Curious that you don’t see that.

    Guess what? I tend to agree with Scheuer. I think the number of politicians who have the country as their primary concern are almost zero.

    I have absolutely no problem with setting term limits to remove every single current member of Congress out of power. Do you know how much I would LOVE that? That all said, this is hyperbolic, and I will have to ask you to show me your evidence for each and every single politician you think does not have the country as their primary concern. Are you ready to prove it? Or will you back down from that claim?

    And it’s obvious that crises propel people to action.

    So you too think only Osama can save America? Good to know.

    What happened to our no-prayer-in-school-separate-church-and-state-loving country on 9-12-01? Everyone was praying, in all sorts of venues, and even the ACLU didn’t say boo about it. Everyone was patriotic. Everyone loved America–probably even Reverend Wright, when he was scared he might lose the FREEDOM to spew his trash to pay for his CAPITALIST-funded lifestyle.

    You really want to know what happened to that country that we saw on 9/12? I will tell you. A man wrecked it. His name is George W. Bush. He used the event, 9/11 as a wedge issue. If you did not agree with Mr. Bush, you were now labeled anti-American, siding with the terrorists. Mr. Bush used the still mysterious anthrax attack to stoke fear even more. Mr. Bush turned the focus to Iraq, which had absolutely nothing at all to do with 9/11. Mr. Bush turned to torture. Mr. Bush squandered the good-will of post-9/11 and wrecked this country. Mr. Bush squandered the goodwill of many many countries around the world (including Iran) and played victim. If you want to know who wrecked that spirit of goodwill after 9/11, look no further than Mr. George W. Bush.

    So we should listen to you? Could you cite your political expertise and “successes”?

    My political expertise? I studied international politics at BYU. I was right about George W. Bush from the getgo. I was one of the 9% of Americans who disapproved of George Bush on 9/12 because I knew he would mess it all up. I was right about the war in Iraq. Can I show you evidence of this? The earliest I can go is 2004. I don’t have anything electronic from earlier than that. But it doesn’t matter. You’re going to build your wall even higher, stand next to your hero Glenn Beck and laugh. See, it is you and Glenn Beck who are sitting in that tower laughing and scorning at the rest of the nation.

  48. Dan on September 10, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I apologize, that last part was over the top.

  49. jeff hoyt on September 10, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Dan;

    “in your Glenn Beck filled world, I’m a pinko-commie-socialist-fascist bum.”

    Please clarify – you are not a socialist?

    Also – you believe it is “treasonous” to believe that leaders of our country will not do what is right? I guess I have had “treasonous” thoughts for about the last four administrations.

    Alison – Thank you.

  50. Dan on September 10, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Jeff,

    1. Um, no, I am not a socialist.

    2. No, I believe it is treasonous to hope that Osama Bin Laden strikes us again so that actions can be taken that these two individuals would otherwise not be allowed to do: overthrow the current government. That is treasonous. That is the logical conclusion to their words.

  51. Alison Moore Smith on September 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    My viewpoints have clearly gotten under your skin.

    You’ve mistaken the exact part of the body we’re dealing with here. But let’s not get too personal.

    Actually I have, and I do not have a problem with him.

    In your “pinko-commie-socialist-fascist”-filled world, could you elaborate on all the “white environmentalists” who are “steering toxins into colored neighborhoods.” Maybe Jones was referring to Gore and Ed Begley, Jr.?

    And please let me know when you sell your house and send it to the reservation. Of course, I’ll expect your bank to independently verify that.

    I will say that Van Jones was wrong to delve too deeply into questioning if 9/11 was an inside job.

    What! Jones is a 9-11-truther? That can’t be true! He said he wasn’t one. It was Glenn Beck who exposed that. So in your Glenn-Beck-filled world, why do you believe the hate-monger Beck instead of the guy you have no problem with?

    Glenn Beck stated quite clearly that he felt the current leadership in America will not do the right thing.

    So, let’s see. Thinking that the “current leadership” (I suppose that applies to any “current leadership,” not just the sainted one) won’t do the right thing is treason. Let me write that one down in my copy of the Obama Manifesto.

    That all said, this is hyperbolic, and I will have to ask you to show me your evidence for each and every single politician you think does not have the country as their primary concern.

    Daniel, really! You are able to identify hyperbole? No!!!

    Are you ready to prove it? Or will you back down from that claim?

    Neither is required. No, I won’t back down. But, no, I’m not going to take the time to do a line by line on all the hundreds and hundreds of federal politicians for you. But I’ll be happy to point out instances as they occur and are germane to any particular discussion.

    So you too think only Osama can save America? Good to know.

    Of course this made no sense. My statement was, “And it’s obvious that crises propel people to action.” It’s not treason, it’s common sense. Pretending that pointing out the obvious is nefarious doesn’t make it so.

    My political expertise? I studied international politics at BYU.

    Well, for crying out loud, I suspect you’ll be on the next presidential ballot with that resume. (I’d have voted for you before either McCain or Obama, that’s for sure.)

    I believe it is treasonous to hope that Osama Bin Laden strikes us again so that actions can be taken that these two individuals would otherwise not be allowed to do: overthrow the current government. That is treasonous. That is the logical conclusion to their words.

    John wants a green Ferrari.

    John believes the only way he’ll ever get a Ferrari is if his great uncle dies of a heart attack before the car stops running.

    Therefore, John wants his uncle to die of a heart attack before summer 2010 and is plotting to make it happen.

    Um, no, I am not a socialist.

    Are you ready to prove it? Or will you back down from that claim? Oh, wait…

  52. Dan on September 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Much as I would love to continue this with you Alison, to do so would be pointless.

  53. Cameron on September 10, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Glenn Beck saying that he thinks it will take another terrorist attack for Americans to ‘wake up’ does not mean that he hopes it will happen (like Mormon praying without faith for his soldiers). He says specifically that he hopes it does not come to that. Recently, he says that he thinks Americans are starting to wake up.

    I think such a statment equates to this scripture and other similar passages:

    “And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.” – Helaman 12:3

    Back to the original point, I do not think I would be afraid as a parent to have my child hear the original Obama speech. However, as I stated originally, I can’t blame parents for being concerned, given the Al Gore scenario that occurred just a few months ago. Thank you Allison for providing more context and background to that event, because I don’t think Dan listened to the Glenn Beck audio at all.

    I don’t know how you can honestly call Beck a liar, Dan. You can call him a fool, an idiot, maybe someone who wears his religion on his sleeve way too often, but I don’t see how you can honestly think he intends to deceive people.

  54. Dan on September 11, 2009 at 5:06 am

    Cameron,

    I don’t know how you can honestly call Beck a liar, Dan. You can call him a fool, an idiot, maybe someone who wears his religion on his sleeve way too often, but I don’t see how you can honestly think he intends to deceive people.

    He calls Obama a fascist, socialist, communist. As Obama is none of those, Beck is therefore a liar. It’s not that hard.

  55. Kent Larsen on September 11, 2009 at 8:47 am

    The comments here have become rather one-note and a little peripheral to the point of the post. So I think I’ll put this post to rest and turn the comments off.

    Thanks to all who responded.

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