Is Best Antiwar Voice on TV Glenn Beck?

By David Swanson

I mean that as a serious question. Now, I don’t think Glenn Beck has much between his ears. I don’t think he has a coherent principled view of anything, and I expect he would throw his own grandmother under a bus for a buck. His opposition to war is driven by the most disgusting priorities, lacks logic or coherence, and manages to co-exist with a certain strain of fascism for dummies. He thinks he can put the military in charge of Congress AND defund the military. Yet it may just be that his is the best antiwar voice on network or cable television. The bar is that low.

I mostly read books and have read Beck’s. I don’t have cable, and my television is stored in the garage. I watch the clips people send me online or blog about or post on FaceBook. I know there are good shows on smaller satellite and cable channels, including Democracy Now! which I watch online. But, as far as I know, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC have yet, in these weeks leading up to a congressional vote on another $33 billion to escalate war, to mention in any way the insanity of spending this kind of money.

I’m sure all of those channels do a better job of covering war atrocities than does Fox. (Again, that’s a bar not measurably off the ground.) And if Rep. Jim McGovern’s pointless bill asking the president to please plan to end the war someday gets any positive press, it probably won’t be from Beck (unless Rep. Walter Jones gets to him). But McGovern’s plan is to push his toothless and dateless can’t-we-please-just-say-it’s-not-permanent-daddy bill as an amendment to the $33 billion supplemental, thereby undoing or at least muddying what ought to be a fight against the funding — not a fight for the funding with meaningless strings attached. Thus far, who has said more in public about opposing war funding than Jim McGovern? That’s right, Glenn Beck.

He may have 85 shows in which he says the opposite. I wouldn’t know. But look what he says here. Beck begins by telling his mostly rightwing audience that it is an admirable thing to change your mind, that this indicates you have learned something. He says he’s “not Ron Paul but on the road to Ron Paul.” This of course means that he is concerned about the financial cost and governmental power involved in militarism and imperialism. He doesn’t want the money to be used for anything beneficial. He doesn’t want to provide aid in place of bombs and troops. He doesn’t seek to strengthen international law. He doesn’t want war criminals or profiteers punished. But he’s on the road to wanting the most useful thing possible out of Washington right now: an end to wars, and even to U.S. military bases all over the world.

Beck says that there are two reasons for his changing his mind. One is the money. The other is that he wasn’t paying attention before 9-11 and now realizes that the United States wasn’t “minding its business” and was “in bed with dictators” – and that “that causes problems”. Here we have looking backward (a procedure forbidden by President Obama) and a statement of the causes of 9-11 (an action forbidden by Fox News for years). Beck is admitting that the “war on terror” is a cause of terrorism. When you combine that with the financial concern, it puts him “on the road to” opposing it. He’s against “nation building” and “UN building,” and completely oblivious to how the UN is weakened by our illegal invasions and occupations, or how it would be strengthened by shutting down our empire.

Beck has on two guests from the CATO Institute who want to shrink government, and want to shrink the military because it’s part of the government. The guests say things I doubt you’ll ever hear on GE’s MSNBC, including that military spending damages the economy. Of course, they claim that this is because the military is part of the government, ignoring the many forms of government spending that actually benefit the economy. But, remember that low bar. At least they said it.

Beck jumps in to explain why he’s only “on the road” to war opposition and not there yet. He says that he wants the United States to be the biggest and baddest nation there is. And yet, he says, he doesn’t want to “mess with the rest of the world”, he wants to find our own oil reserves, etc. This is an interesting way to confess that the wars are for oil. And that’s a nice confession, don’t get me wrong. But the lunacy of imagining that US oil reserves compare in any way to those of the Middle East just makes our new antiwar spokesperson seem ill informed. (He’s onto the right foreign policy, but needs to combine it with diplomacy, restraint in wasteful lifestyles, and massive investment in green energy. Although he’s closer to a solution than we might think before realizing that the military is our biggest consumer of the fuel it fights the wars to control.)

All is far from lost, however, as one of the guests points out that the United States would be made more secure if it pulled back foreign troops. And Beck jumps in with something else you won’t hear too often on our public airwaves or the cable news channels: in Japan, he says, “they hate us, they’re always complaining about us.” You mean our foreign empire of bases antagonizes people all over the world? Who knew? Not most U.S. television viewers.

Beck’s guests also point out that U.S. military spending absolutely dwarfs that of any possible enemies. They even note, in their best xenophobic manner, that some of our military spending is for other countries’ militaries. The countries (presumably Israel and Egypt and those we’re bribing to stay in the Afghan War “coalition”, etc.) go unnamed. But then the conversation turns to the corruption of military contractors and Congress, during which Lockheed Martin is named as a typical offender. (You will see this kind of detailed concern about particular weapons costs on other channels when the White House talks about it, but rarely the overall picture. Rachel Maddow cheered for Obama lowering the military budget last year when he raised it.)

In the end, perhaps inevitably, Beck jumps off the deep end. Ignoring the fact that the military demands 99 percent of the money it wastes, and focusing on those rare instances in which Congress refuses to cut something the military doesn’t want, Beck says he wants the military to oversee Congress rather than vice versa. On the plus side, however, the military already does run Congress, and if its funding were cut, it would be a smaller force with diminished influence.

I’m not suggesting this seven minutes of thought-free rambling and ranting as model public discourse. I’m just pointing out that military and war spending is generally a taboo topic. When Rep. Barney Frank held a press conference last year about his plan to cut military spending, there was no press. If it takes a loony infotainment figure to forget the rule and state some simple but revolutionary truths, sandwiched between his usual bologna, well, what have we got (on television) that’s better? I’m just asking.