Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The New World Order redux

-- by Dave

We already knew that Glenn Beck was a real piece of work, but his latest outburst wades directly into extremist waters:
"Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government." He continued: "You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming." Beck added: "Then you get the scientists -- eugenics. You get the scientists -- global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, 'That's not right.' And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did."

Hoo boy. Where to start?

It might be helpful first to observe that Beck's analogy -- asserting some kind of equivalence between Nazi eugenics and the campaign to confront global warming -- is not only laughably absurd, it is a mind-numbingly vicious smear that makes Rush Limbaugh's demonization of environmentalists look positively civil by comparison. Which may have been Beck's intent here: the farther he pushes the envelope of the discourse, the farther right the "center" moves.

It must also be pointed out that Beck's comparison grotesquely minimizes the suffering of the Nazi regime's millions of victims, who were the subjects not merely of a eugenics that deemed them fit for elimination but also a nonstop campaign of demonization (rather similar in nature to Beck's own attacks on the left). No environmentalist has attempted to scapegoat any group of people or argue for their extermination. To date, there has been no proposal to criminalize anyone -- rather, the campaign against global warming has been about trying to find ways to simply modify the way we act (particularly the way we consume the planet's resources). Fabricating an analogy between these actions and the street thuggery, concentration camps, and mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis pretends that the discomfort some people may feel at being reminded that they are harming the planet is just the same as the horror that faced the victims of the Holocaust.

Almost secondarily, the comparison of the science of global warming with eugenics reveals just how poorly Beck understands science. Eugenics was always considered a "soft" social science, and the underlying data used to support it was always thin, narrowly obtained, and, at base, spurious. In contrast, the multitude of disciplines with evidence supporting the reality of global warming (from biology to meteorology to hydrology, and everything in between), as well as the massive amounts of hard data supporting the science, make it clear to anyone who understands science just how serious the problem really is.

Finally, there's the underlying story that Beck is weaving here: "The goal is the United Nations running the world." Gee, where have we heard that before? Ah, that's right: the American far right -- specifically, the John Birch Society and the militia/Patriot movement. The whole "New World Order" conspiracy theory was predicated on the risible claim that the United Nations was intended to create a One World Government (or, in the neo-Nazi version, Zionist Occupied Government).

And as anyone with a knowledge of the history of these conspiracy theories knows, they are deeply rooted in the very same "Jewish conspiracy" theory promoted by a number of anti-Semites in the early half of the 20th century -- most notoriously by Hitler, but also by such American figures as Henry Ford and Father Charles Coughlin. Indeed, the anti-Semitic tendencies of both the Birchers and the militiamen has also been well-documented.

So Beck is attempting a neat trick here -- broadcasting and mainstreaming the far-right belief in a sinister U.N. conspiracy to enslave mankind, while simultaneously casting that supposed conspiracy as identical to the very forces that historically have persecuted the people scapegoated by such theories. It's Newspeak, of course: Beck is at once nullifying our understanding of the Holocaust and its meaning and the nature of the effort to confront global warming, muting the reality of mass murder even as he twists science to mean something it never did.

How, exactly, does CNN justify broadcasting this crap? Or are guys like Beck meant to outflank Fox on the right? If so, they need a reminder of just how far right that means.

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