Glenn Beck Rally, Cordoba part 2?

I run a modest shop here at the question beggar, and so I was very flattered by the interest that was shown to some of my posts on the Cordoba house/mosque issue.

(*Warning* I use the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in this post pretty broadly. I realize there are differences I’m glossing over, but I’m trying to get out a general point)

Now though, we have an interesting situation in which our democracy has handed us an opportunity to look at the relevance of these arguments in a new situation. There is also the possibility of comparing the right and the left when the issue is about underlying motivations.

There is a story that is growing in strength about the wisdom of Glenn Beck’s planned tea party rally at the Washington Mall on the anniversary of King’s “I have a dream speech.” (a bare bones story is here).

Notice, unlike I think any other media outlet that I’ve seen, how alike this is to the Cordoba issue, mainly because the issue is motivation, which is extremely hard to assess and perhaps invites retaliation in kind, by spawning more attacks and speculation about motivation.

More specifically, people think that Beck is harming MLK’s legacy by having his event on the day of MLK’s speech, and the insult is especially grave given that many in the tea party are supposedly prejudiced (an ongoing squabble on sunday news shows: the degree to which the tea part is racist).

The patten here is so strikingly silly. Conservatives attacked the Cordoba house and were branded prejudiced against Muslims by liberals. Then conservatives fought back by saying that liberals were animated by a desire to provoke the 9/11 families, destroy America. You know, the usual. The Beck event is similar.  Whereas conservatives objected to the Cordoba house’s spatial location, liberals are now objecting to the temporal location of Beck’s rally. They claim that the tea party is tarnishing the memory of MLK with its prejudiced agenda and mostly white set of adherents.

Again, are there racists in the tea party? Yes there are, all you have to do is look at some of the signs that people hold. But the sad fact is that racists are in many parts of our society. And again, liberalism here operates by imputing a motivation to tea partyers, and motivations cannot be refuted like arguments. They are never decidedly put to rest. As far as I can tell, the tea party’s agenda is not racist and I think many people are sincerely concerned about the deficit in this country (see this poll.)

The use of motivation in politics always has silly results and we are seeing it now. Like I said, I think some of the tea partyers might harbor racist motivations, but I think some of the people in the Cordoba house might have a desire to provoke. But who cares. Attacking motivations are a fruitless place to begin an argument and our democracy would be much better off if conservatives had left the Cordoba house alone and liberals left Beck’s rally alone. Misunderstanding is the only result from these kind of skirmishes.

Note: I’m very interested in media bias, which is very hard to discover or show conclusively, but I think this is a WONDERFUL example to look side by side at how similar phenomenon, but from each side of the political spectrum, are looked at by the media. As this develops, there should be some fascinating lessons.


2 Responses to “Glenn Beck Rally, Cordoba part 2?”

  1. 1 K
    August 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I don’t really care what Beck’s motivation is, nor do I object to his planned event. Sure I don’t like it, but that’s hardly a fair comparison to what’s going on with the Cordoba house.

    • 2 questionbeggar
      August 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm

      I don’t object to it either. I just think they are like in that the essence of the argument or objection is to put a motivation into the mouth of a group. Some Americans don’t want a mosque near ground zero. I don’t agree with them, but I’m not prepared to speak about their motivations, whether they are predominantly racist or not.

      Here, people are objecting to having a tea party event on the anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech. The argument is that tea partyers can’t use this day because they are animated by racism. Again, I’m not prepared to speak about the tea partyer’s motivation. I do think that their policy proposals do not have to do with racism.

      I’d be interested to hear more though on why you think the two cases are importantly dissimilar. I mean, they are dissimilar, but I just beginning my thinking on this and I’m interested in sharpening the debate.

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