“White Culture”: Is Glenn Beck Serious about Discussing What He Means By Using the Phrase?

Of course not. Glenn Beck is not seriously trying to have a dialogue about the subject. He’s not having an exchange. He’s communicating to a base audience in racial code. He won’t even attempt a dialogue on “white culture” with, say, Katie Couric, because that’s not what his use of the phrase is about.

A sociologist or a liberal who might be studying “white culture” in college (with nuance and careful to make distinctions between, say, Italian Americans in Jersey and Norwegian Americans in Minnesota) is fine. But that’s not at all how the category “white culture” functions with Glenn Beck. Rather, it functions as code for a string of anti-black stereotypes. In other words, the right’s use of the phrase “white culture” sets African Americans into the position of being a shadow to idealized post-WWII Protestant norms (think Ozzie and Harriet ). It functions as a racist category, and a locus for prejudice. That’s why Beck won’t define it above because it becomes the inverse of whatever stereotypes some whites habitually set upon blacks.

As for Glenn Beck being “aw shucks” innocent of his own uses of language, that too is bullshit. Beck is not dumb. He’s Iago deliberately pouring poison into Othello ear. He knows exactly what kind of crap he’s putting into the public square, and, like Iago in Shakespeare’s play, he’s hoping that the poison he’s whispering around will end in the undoing of a black man (Barack Obama).

To put it bluntly: He hates the Moor.

Let’s not pretend that Beck’s schtick (or Limbaugh’s, or any of these other haters stoking white fright of Obama) is innocent, or the product of a sincere, emotionally and intellectually vulnerable, inquiry. Instead, it is a thinly veiled, and perhaps even murderous, hostility towards our first African American president, and it is impervious to dialogue or serious engagement. It is a psychologically authoritarian and racist phenomenon, and if we can’t call it what it is, then we will be unable to think clearly about it.

When you are hearing Limbaugh or Beck, you’re not hearing from a mature, vulnerable person. You’re hearing from an emotionally armored person hell bent on casting doubt upon, and trying to destroy (without any serious regard for truth) the reputation of another human being.

To counter Beck’s yucky karma, I offer this:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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15 Responses to “White Culture”: Is Glenn Beck Serious about Discussing What He Means By Using the Phrase?

  1. Roger Salyer says:

    Regarding the second sad video attached here:

    “Every man… is born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

    No he is not.

    “Everyone is entitled to…. You have the right to….”

    No they do not.

    These “rights” are in fact demands to be treated a certain way. These are demands that others help ensure certain things. One has a “right” to demand of another.

    PROVE IT.

    Rights are the correlative of duties. To say that one has the right to things—whether tangible (e.g., to an education), or intangible (e.g., to equal respect regardless of race, religion, sex, etc….)—is ultimately to say that others have the duty to provide them.

    No one is entitled to anything, merely because one happens to be a biological homo sapiens. And the faculty of reason, by itself, does not change this.

    To claim otherwise is simple assertion.

    Again, no one has a “human right” to demand acceptance, to demand help. Rather, rationally, the first of any rights is the right to exclude. The question then is what may one refuse or exclude? Anything. If one is an atheist.

    But I am not.

    As such, I do have duties. And others do have rights viz-a-viz me (i.e., not in a vacuum). For instance, I have a duty to treat my own people different than I would a stranger. My family different from a stranger. A man different from an animal.

    And I have a right to be treated as befits my race, rank, and religion… indeed, everything that makes me who I am. Particularly from my own.

    The religion of the Universal Declaration of “Human Rights” is the religion of the corporation… of the fungible man.

    And it is a false religion.

  2. Roger Salyer says:

    By the way, I have always disliked Mr. Limbaugh.

    I am not familiar with Mr. Beck. Although, to paraphrase Joseph de Maistre, I’ve met Canadians and Kentuckians, Englishmen and Bavarians, and I’ve even met a Swede or two. But I’ve never met a “white man.” What nationality is that?

  3. santitafarella says:

    Roger:

    You make an interesting argument. Correct me if I’m wrong. You are saying that:

    1. A human isolated from other humans is born with no inherent rights—and is only another contingent organism subject to Nature, which is indifferent to human beings, and red in tooth and claw.
    2. Rights, to be meaningful, can only derive from the duties that others extend to you, but if you live among atheists, then there are no duties that atheists need commit themselves to. They can do anything to you, if they can get away with it, that they choose to. (Or, as Dostoevsky put it, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”)
    3. Living in a godly community, where people feel duties toward one another (derived not from themselves, but from God’s eternal authority), secures individuals in their dignity and rights.

    Did I summarize your argument fairly? And is there an intellectual that you recommend that I read that fleshes out this conservative argument? I find it interesting.

    —Santi

  4. Roger Salyer says:

    You have given a fair summary. However I do not assert in fact that Man has no rights. He does have rights by virtue of the truth of deity, and with all that this portends, and I recognise these rights. But as such they are not “Human Rights.” They are God’s rights and Man’s duties.

    What I am saying is that the claim of the UN “humanists”—that the mere biological fact of individual man contains something inherent in it, namely his rights—is untrue. The UN wants to claim that rights are not contingent on anything outside Man’s biological existence. However, the biological fact contains nothing other than, well, biology.

    In any event, the UN does not attempt to prove or justify its claim. As such, it is an assertion. To say that the UN’s claim is beyond question is, again, just an assertion. And as an assertion, I can neither evaluate the basis for the assertion in order to judge its truth or falsity, nor can I even evaluate the contours of the assertion. What it means. As Aristotle would say, “to know a thing is to know its cause.”

    I cannot claim that humans are indifferent to other human beings. Human beings are indeed concerned with others. But this is not a line of reason as to why they must be concerned with others. Atheists may point to instinct as the reason to recognise inherent rights/duties. However, this is not an argument, or, at most, it is a circular one. A natural human may instinctively refrain from cannibalism, and may instinctively care for offspring. This is not a reason to act as such; it is an observation of fact, and if instinct were sufficient, we wouldn’t need to recognise or generally defend rights.

    If I make a claim against a wolf or a tornado, this claim will likely be unavailing. My mere existence cuts no ice. If I make a claim against another human being, make a claim of right, I can do so if I point to a third, overarching, rule greater than he or me. Otherwise, my claim can only point to the other’s own self interest. Just as I could do with the wolf, by brandishing a big stick.

    Some thinkers point to Man’s individual possession of reason as that overarching rule. But this just begs the question: So what? What is reason anyway, and why does it create immanent rights and duties? If reason is just another tool of the individual man—the wiliest and most powerful of tools—how is this different from the big stick?

    Others, really only piggybacking the “reason as big stick” argument, point to enlightened self interest and game theory to engender rights and duties. This clever argument is at the root of John Rawls’ theory of justice, and his postulated veil of ignorance. Once under the veil, his conclusions are fairly inescapable. However, he utterly fails to explain why anyone should go under the veil, if he has the ability to escape the veil.

    If I live amongst atheists, there are no duties to which atheists must commit themselves—according to their own lights. They may obey their own sensibilities (their instincts). By the way, the existence of atheists is one I dispute in any event. Based upon my understanding of deity, there may exist pantheists and solipsists, but not atheists.

    If I arrive at the value of a personal loyalty that is a subset of all Humanity, why should I not? Who or what is to gainsay it?

    I am not aware of a long exposition by an intellectual along this vein. Most thinkers in this arena are more interested in making affirmative statements on the ethics and metaphysic of Man, rather than negating things such as the UN advances. That is, they wish to advance their own proposition of rights and are willing to characterise them, inaccurately in my opinion, as “Human Rights.” But if you are interested, I think Alasdair MacIntyre delivers a fairly expansive critique.

  5. Roger Salyer says:

    I might also try Richard Weaver’s discussions on moral imagery, particularly in his “Ethics of Rhetoric.”

  6. santitafarella says:

    Roger:

    Alasdair MacIntyre and Richard Weaver. I’ll check both of those authors out. Thanks for that.

    I do think, however, that whether one is a believer in God or not, we all, like dogs, run after the tails of our own justifications. We all have axioms that we start our thinking with, and axioms, by their very nature, cannot be proved. They are assertions which we accept as starting points.

    Also, I wouldn’t overgeneralize. I don’t think it’s fair to say that the UN has a coherent ideology based in biology. I think it is more coherent to say that humanism is grounded in a lot of assumptions (some of them clearly contradictory), and are derived from the Enlightenment (especially Locke, and later thinkers like Mill).

    Personally, as a secular justification of rights, I like Albert Camus’s idea. Camus thought that rights are grounded in a human solidarity that responds as rebellion and outrage at the universe’s apparent indifference. As conscious beings in the same sinking boat, we establish kindness between one another as a form of rebellion against the universe’s indifferent tendency (which outrages us). I also like Locke’s basic idea that the mind, being man’s tool for survival, necessarily demands protection. Unlike animals, we don’t have instincts for survival, we have reason. And thus if we are to live in a society conducive to our survival we must mutually agree to protect that one thing that we are born with: our reason. In this sense, man’s right to his mind is indeed inalienable (for it is his organ for survival). A person without control of his or her mind is like a bird without wings or a canine without teeth. It is central to the function of its organism—something which its freedom necessarily and naturally demands. It’s not that hard, in a pragmatic sense, and even absent God, to ground the rights of humans. If birds possessed consciousness, and there was such a thing as a bird Magna Carta, it would insist up front that all birds are born to fly, and derive certain bird rights from this obvious fact.

    —Santi

  7. Roger Salyer says:

    To digress from cold and sanguine logic, I am perfectly willing to admit human rights viz-a-viz the raging sea, and defend my fellow traveller, but this is solidarity toward the non-human, not an imposed solidarity within the boat. What I sense in the Declaration is a kind of Platonism, where anything less than unity—the One—is metaphysically flawed, a non-being. The UN wishes to change the Humanity from what it has been, to something else. For it appears to me that part of Man’s nature is his tribalism, and a varied regard for order and differentiation.

    Continuing, I concede that the UN does not have a coherent ideology stemming from biology on the matter of human rights. Indeed, as you note, we all must start from assertions. The difficulty that I have comes when others act as if an assertion is not capable of question, or that no alternatives can possibly exist. That is, it drives me to fury when people do not acknowledge assertions for what they are.

    The difficulty that I have with Locke’s proposal is that it makes Reason just as he describes it—a tool, solely an instrument of survival—something like an eye, just with deeper penetration. Other than individual purpose, it does not apparently have one. This seems to me to lead necessarily to game theory justifications of rights, as do all social contract theories. Such theories are fundamentally flawed.

    In contrast, others see Reason as a tool permitting Man to conform himself to reality, moral reality as well as the realities of survival. This looks at the holistic Man I hope.

    And this is really the point of my critique of the UN. I suppose to repeat, I feel that the UN (et al.) treats with a human who is not—one with pure abstract Reason, and no formation anywhere. That is, the UN seems to be looking for the New Man, one who does not receive his rights from a nature described, however imperfectly, by what is and was before, but one who engenders rights from an incorporeal essence that has never existed.

    Man has Reason. This is a part of his essence. Man needs resources to live. This is also a part of his essence (from a negative standpoint, i.e., Man is neither self-existing, nor self-sufficient). Yet, Man—real Man—also has tribe, station, and an infinite host human associations, influences, creations, etc… wherein his Reason has always been made manifest, and from whence he has received his Reason (as more than just a meme).

    To the UN, I would insist that I have identity, and that that identity be acknowledged, whatever else is done to me. I have a race (a communal identity, as small as a nuclear family or as large as the Han nation), a rank (my place within that community, from emperor to slave), and a religion (that modicum of meaning forming community). We are not alone, and cannot make ourselves. If I do not have identity, how can I be a person?

  8. Roger Salyer says:

    Ergo, from order and differentiation stem different rights. Different people. Different rights.

    “Human” has nothing to do with it.

  9. santitafarella says:

    Roger:

    I went to Amazon. Alasdair MacIntyre looked more interesting than Weaver to me, so I bought two of MacIntyre’s books. Wow! MacIntyre is really fun to read. Very interesting. I’m in a Greco-Roman study phase, and he’s very good on the subject of ancient virtues (as you know). Anyway, thanks for that. I’ll suggest a book for you (that comes at the notion of ancient virtues from another scholarly angle): “Roman Honor”, by Carlin Barton (UC Press 2001).

    As for your most recent longer comment above, I’ll respond later today.

    —Santi

  10. santitafarella says:

    Roger,

    You’ve written an interesting response, but I’m not sure, beyond the use of the word “universal” in the title of the UN declaration, and the “born free” notion at the beginning, why you think the rest of the UN declaration doesn’t catch your concerns. The UN declaration says explicitly that you have a right to a family, property, a nationality etc.

    I think that people will always want family and property, but I also think that nationalism and tribal religious groupings are in a historical process of weakening (with or without UN declarations).

    As for the unformed “new man” that elements of the UN declaration might be capturing, I would say that the circle of concern (from nation to humanity qua humanity) is a positive thing, and in an age of multiplying technology, global communication, nuclear and biological weapons, and environmental degradation, we better transcend nation more and more. We are, over the next two centuries, going to move towards global economic and trade policies, and religious sensibiilities, that are likely to make our current nations and our religious rancor seem barbaric. Just as we can barely imagine what it was like to live in the time of the Reformation, with all that religious tension, people will (two centuries from now) wonder why people, in the 20th and 21st centuries, dealt with each other in such inefficient and obnoxious ways, refusing to see our common humanity.

    It’s not the right to a nationality that people will question two centuries from now. Their question for us will be: “Why did you want one?”

    —Santi

  11. santitafarella says:

    Roger:

    One more quick thing about what you said: All communities accept stopping points for justification. If you are outside of a particular community, you are likely to notice the point at which their justifications stop and say: “You stopped your reasoning prematurely. You guys are not looking closely enough!”

    For example, if you are in a room with a group of Marxists, a perfectly good explanatory stopping point for one of the problems they have with capitalism is to use the word “alienation” in a discussion. It’s a word that Marxists salivate to. It feels explanatory to them. It’s part of the language they speak. And it is a point at which they are happy to look no further. It is the same with Lockeans with regard to reason, or Christians with regard to God as a first cause, or atheists with regard to the laws of physics (“they just are”). Everybody stops at a place where a further why question could be asked.

    —Santi

  12. Roger Salyer says:

    Thanks for the discussion.

    This, as I think we have noted, may just come down a question of internal moral assertions, perhaps better characterised as spiritual reactions. It may just come down to values. What do we value?

    Or perhaps a better question is, how do we view recent progress, and the now? Are they—particularly recent progress—fundamentally positive, or fundamentally negative? Are the World of Man, and more importantly, Man himself, improving or degenerating?

    Then, assuming the former answer, one could ask oneself why he thought progress represented improvement?

    In this, I am alluding to the Great Stereopticon, described in a more limited sense by Weaver in Ideas have Consequences. Is it possible that a person’s optimism may be the function of a constant stream of cultural images fed to him as to what he (normal people, viewers like you) finds enjoyable, beautiful, and the good?

    Digression: I listened recently to an NPR story about a group of (youthful) international aid workers who had travelled into (the recesses of darkest) Brazil to provide (from the wonderful West, and specifically, from über America) electricity to a village of native Americans. The workers came back a year later and were perplexed and angered to find that the Indjuns were now spending practically all their time watching recently purchased televisions. Who needs the village circle? What better way to unlearn tribalism?

    Good job, you pompous Peace Corps asses.

    Perhaps you would not agree with this reaction.

    At any rate, I suppose we have found our root difference of view: I would say increasing the circle of concern to humanity qua humanity is a negative thing.

    I will disagree with you also on whether people will always want family. Interest in the family has been declining for centuries. Today, most people that I know have children—because it feels fulfilling to the parents personally—and then push them off as individuals as soon as possible. Thus, the day-care/education system. Thus, laws on inheritance, etc…

    Anti-familialism is built into today’s legal system. No fault divorce (marriage being an institution for personal fulfillment). Decisions made from the best interest of the child as an individual. Certainly not made from the standpoint of the best interest of the family as a holistic collective.

    I suppose all this points to the fact that I consider the nation (NOT the nation-state) and the family in the same order of things, differing only in degree. If I don’t value the tribe, I see no sense in valuing the family as such. I may feel a biological affection for my offspring, but why should I wish to inculcate the child with the family cultus, religio, traditio? The Man school will give the child what he needs—the ability to self-create. Just ask the Brazilians.

    I have little doubt that I would consider Reformation era Europeans far more human, far more real humans, in every positive sense, than I would consider their descendants of today. To borrow a foolish movie cliché, “Everyman dies. Not every man really lives.” [I confess an interest in the Duc de Guise.]

    The difference between the UN and me may be in perspective of rights and duties, or simply this: The UN says I have a duty to others’ family and nation, to respect their existence, etc…. The UN will not enforce a duty my own family and nation. Diametrically, I maintain that I have duty to my own family. Thus, if I am an Anglo-Saxon, then I have a duty to other Anglo-Saxons, viz-a-viz nonAnglo-Saxons. Or Bavarians viz-a-viz nonBavarians. Or Dakota Sioux viz-a-viz nonDakota Sioux. And yes, to humans viz-a-viz nonhumans. The UN starts from a God’s eye view and tries to be expansive as possible (Dr. Singer from Princeton is the wave of the future no doubt.). I start from me. I know something about me, and not a whole lot about God.

    So, that the world is moving toward a common humanity, that one is valued simply because he is a homo sapiens, is not a world I wish to live in.

    The fact that the world is in fact so moving is neither here nor there. I don’t have a “right” to my preference in the matter. What I do resent however, is someone telling me that I am wrong, that I really do wish to live in such a world, but just don’t know it.

    With respect, I am sorry that you do not have an ethno-religio (dare one say, “parochial”) value to which you feel loyal. Such is a unique empathy. Of course, being cosmopolitan is not evil per se, and indeed it has its own value. I confess to being a little cosmopolitan (i.e. deracinated) myself. I think the difference may be that I know what I am missing, and you do not.

  13. santitafarella says:

    Roger:

    I still think that there is something more to the human than the historically contingent. I think that most religions intuit a Nietzschean overgoing (or whatever you want to call it) to the nature of man, something that transcends the current zeitgeist of tradition and practices. And I have a different take on the TV watchers. Maybe the cultural tradition to which they were born is so impoverished that anything—even Montel Williams—is preferable. I don’t substitute something satisfying for something unsatisfying. I’m not trying to be glib, and people are lazy, but my question is: why do people drop to what you might regard as the lowest common denominator if the alternative is more satisfying or profound?

    I don’t have an answer, I’m just asking.

    Conservatives, as an example, tend to have a certain nostalgia for post-WWII America in the 1940 and 50s, and try to make that tape run again. But the last time that tape ran it led to the 60s and 70s, and to us. In other words, people ran as fast as possible away from the ideal.

    Why?

    —Santi

  14. santitafarella says:

    Roger,

    One more thing: I share your annoyance with people who can’t (or won’t) own up to their metaphysical and epistemological premises. It bugs the hell out of me.

    —Santi

  15. Roger Salyer says:

    Referring to the Brazilians… I had an occasion to visit a very orthodox Catholic seminary in the late 90s. The seminarians were fairly passionate about the movie, The Matrix. Electric about it, in fact. They seemed to believe that the movie blew the lid off of a corrupt culture. I shared the sentiment, though I was not quite so sanguine.

    Satisfaction is a relative question, satisfying to whom, or what. And is satisfaction the ultimate test?

    Anyway, those are good questions you ask. And I don’t know the answers either. Effects are certainly present in their causes, else the latter wouldn’t be causes. So whatever happened in the 60s was certainly present in the 50s.

    As opposed to conservatives who see all error in the universe rooted in the 1960s, I am around people who look to the Reformation as the root of all evil. This always begged a question for me however: What was it that was present, either affirmatively or via absence, before the Reformation that had been left unsatisfied, yielding the Luther and the Calvin. Mere corruption in the Church and the invention of the printing press are not sufficient explanations to me.

    I am convinced of certain continuities and a happy ending. However, the unfolding of history does not seem to me to be obviously one of continual ascent. I tend to respect cycles a little more.

    So I do not know. Dwelling upon questions of this gravity too often, one is likely to become at least a Hegelian if not a downright mystic.

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