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Is Glenn Beck the Reincarnation of Cleon from Ancient Greece?

Posted by Audiegrl

Perfecting the Paranoid Style in 500 BC and 2009 by Peter Struck

Socrates

Socrates

From Buckley to Beck

by Peter Struck Back in 1996, I had a correspondence with William F. Buckley, Jr., who, like many of those on the Right at the time, had a habit of claiming ownership over the ideas and spirit of the classical past. So it wasn’t altogether surprising to see him on television aligning himself with Socrates and pressing for the triumph of absolutes over relativism. What did catch my ear was that Buckley was arguing in favor of the death penalty, and was using Socrates to make his case. I couldn’t resist writing the man about the cruel irony of holding up as a poster boy for the death penalty the Western Tradition’s most famous victim of it. Buckley responded promptly, but never really engaged the most challenging issue: that Socrates, the paragon of classical rationalism, was deeply suspicious of that other signature legacy of his countrymen, democracy. He saw it as a system of government whose weakness was precisely that it rewarded those who could most artfully whip up a bunch of hot-headed boobs with the power to kill whoever displeased them. At its worst, it was rule by mob.

It Was Cleon Who Shouted the Loudest

The 2,400-year-old temple of Ifestos, which sits in the ancient Agora of Athens, where ancient Athenian statesman Cleon placed shields captured in a victory over Sparta

The 2,400-year-old temple of Ifestos, which sits in the ancient Agora of Athens, where ancient Athenian statesman Cleon placed shields captured in a victory over Sparta

The archetype for Glenn Beck is a fifth century B.C. Athenian figure named Cleon, our first well-documented populist. Cleon represented a new class, made possible for the first time in democratic Athens. The notion that the whole people of Athens should participate in decisions collectively allowed for the rise of figures who presumed to speak for them. Cleon became wildly famous and successful not by coming from a powerful family, or by serving in regular office, but by delivering fiery speeches to thousands of Athenians in public. The Greek sources leave behind an unsparing portrait of an impulsive, histrionic bully. Aristotle tells us that “he was the first to use unseemly shouting and abusive language in the public assembly; and while it was customary to speak politely, he addressed the assembly with his cloak lifted up.” In Thucydides’ version, Cleon’s own lack of a pedigree provided him a plentiful source of resentment against those that had one, and he cast every self-aggrandizing gesture as a motivated by a love of the people over the aristocrats. He flattered his audience as being more capable of governing than the supposed experts in power. He personalized politics and under his influence those who disagreed with the state were referred to, for the first time in ancient Greece, as “haters of the people.” The comic playwright Aristophanes vividly portrayed him on stage as a man in a constant state of anger, his voice resembling the squeal of a scalded pig.

From Beck to Buckley
William F. Buckley, Jr. and Glenn Beck

William F. Buckley, Jr. and Glenn Beck

In the line from Cleon to Beck there is hardly a wiggle. Less obvious but telling is the connection between both these figures and Buckley. Driven by an unyielding sense of their own correctness, all three are experts in the trade of absolutes, always pressing toward a higher-contrast world of black and white. While it has become utterly common to see people in the public sphere assume such a posture, it does not stand to reason that they must. Among Republicans, for example, one used to see a strain based on intellectual modesty, of resistance to grand theories and attempts to explain everything. Eisenhower built a coalition around such principles that held up for decades. Obama may well be up to doing the same. In order to get on with fixing what it was possible to fix, they recognized the usefulness of an ability to live with a degree of uncertainty, a quality that Goldwater, and later George Bush and Karl Rove, vanquished from the Republican Party.

gallery-bachmannteaparty8

Tea Party Protesters in Washington,DC

This Republicanism of certainty has had a good run, but it has likely reached the end of its appeal. David Brooks, whose sympathies attune with refinement to Eisenhower Republicanism, sounded its death knell in a recent column in the New York Times. If Beck’s days as the center of attention are numbered, as Brooks claims they are, it will not be because of his coarseness or his rejectionism, but because of his imperviousness to doubt. Intellectual hubris is tiresome in any case, but it is an especially odd standard to use to rally people who understand themselves as conservatives. Certainties are what one needs to upend things, and at a some point conservatives grow uncomfortable with that sort of thing. Cleon, that ancient voice of certainty, was not among the conservative lot at all, but a radical through-and-through.

While Buckley was of course right to point to Socrates as someone who endorsed the idea that there are absolutes, he missed the most important part of the story. The Greek philosopher was equally convinced that only a fool and a demagogue would claim to know them. If only Buckley were around to teach this lesson too.

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coinsFounded and edited by Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly is a New York-based journal of history that seeks to revitalize both our excitement and familiarity with the past. History, as Mark Twain supposedly said, may not repeat itself—but it does rhyme.

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Mocking Politicians Has An Ancient History

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Debbie Wasserman Schultz for President/Vice-President in 2016?

Written by Guest Contributor 2morrowknight

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

It almost happened in 2008. It could happen in 2016. At some point, and some point soon, we’ll see a woman in the White House. And her name might not necessarily be Hillary or Sarah. How’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz sound? I know, I know, you’re saying, “I’ve never heard of her. She doesn’t have the name recognition of Sarah Palin or the major public policy buzz of Kathleen Sebelius. And while she doesn’t have the baggage of a Michelle Bachman, she’s not a Governor or U.S. Senator.” All true. But listen up: Wasserman Schultz is riding a wave that will only get bigger, and she’s got a few advantages that few others in the field — woman or man — can match.

Here are five reasons she could be on the Democratic ticket in 2016:

Democratic Unifier
Throughout the 2007 and 2008 primary season, Wasserman Schultz was resolute in her support for Hillary Clinton. Whether on TV, radio, or in the blogosphere, Wasserman Schultz was unflappable. But when Barack Obama won the nomination, Wasserman Schultz quickly endorsed him and campaigned vigorously. None of this has been lost on Democratic leaders. Her tireless efforts to unify the Obama and Clinton camps won her kudos from the party faithful, and instantly made her a power player in national politics.

Florida. Florida. Florida.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz at a April town hall with her constituents.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz at a April town hall with her constituents.

Wasserman Schultz represents the Sunshine State in the U.S. Congress; having her on the ticket would give the Democrats the upper hand in the infamous I-4 corridor connecting Daytona Beach, Orlando and Tampa. Grab the middle and you win the state — Wasserman Schultz could be the Dems’ surest bet.

Her Jewish Heritage
Before last fall, nobody thought a Jewish-American would ever have a legitimate chance at the White House. But with the tolerant views of 80 million politically involved millennials who helped elect President Obama, Wasserman Schultz’s Jewish heritage won’t be a liability. How she weighs in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between now and then will have a real impact on her standing in the Jewish community, but if she can find a way to please those folks while maintaining cred with younger voters, she could bring far more voters to the polls than Joe Lieberman did for Al Gore in 2000.

She’s Tough … Seriously!
Rep. Wasserman Schultz testifies during the nomination hearings for Judge Alito in January 2006.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz testifies during the nomination hearings for Judge Alito in January 2006.

By all accounts, she’s funny, engaging and benevolent. But if you’ve seen her on cable and network shows, you’ll know she’s also very skilled at dismantling nonsensical arguments, and, leaving unprepared opponents picking their faces up off the ground. And she has used her tenacity, and tirelessness, to fight for the rights of families, women and children.

The 2016 and 2020 Anniversaries
2016 isn’t just a presidential election year, it’s also the 100th anniversary of Jeannette Rankin being the first woman elected to the Congress. Her victory was all the more remarkable because women couldn’t vote — that didn’t come until four years later. The 2016 and 2020 elections promise to be reflective, euphoric and celebratory periods — and with her considerable political gifts, Wasserman Schultz could take full advantage of the great national mood.

And yes, I know, it’s still very, very early. A day in politics is like an eternity, and one day’s worth of political earthquakes could shake up or diminish any predictions. I know. But don’t tell me that a woman won’t be either president of vice-president seven years from now. I just wouldn’t bet against it. And I wouldn’t bet against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz being that woman.

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Meet 2morrowknight…

2morrowknightlrgHe’s a author, blogger, and community activist whose work has been published in the Huffington Post, The Stimulist, Womentality Magazine and Essence.com. He has lectured at leading colleges and universities, including Morehouse, Spelman, and Emory University. As a volunteer internet strategist for the Obama Presidential Campaign, he created an effective, “50 State” email list that helped increase traffic to the campaign website and helped neutralize the falsehoods and misconceptions about then candidate Obama. 2morrowknight’s first children’s book is scheduled to be released in early 2010. Follow 2morrowknight on Twitter

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Calling ‘Em Out: The White House Takes on the Press

Posted by Buellboy

Obama aides say they can't rely on reporters to referee public debates

Obama aides say they can't rely on reporters to referee public debates

Time/Michael Scherer—There was never a single moment when White House staff decided the major media outlets were falling down on the job. There were instead several such moments.

For press secretary Robert Gibbs, the realization came in early September, when the New York Times ran a front-page story about the bubbling parental outrage over President Obama’s plan to address schoolchildren — even though the benign contents of the speech were not yet public. “You had to be like, ‘Wait a minute,'” says Gibbs. “This thing has become a three-ring circus.”

For deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer, the more hyperbolic attacks on health-care reform this summer, which were often covered as a “controversy,” flipped an internal switch. “When you are having a debate about whether or not you want to kill people’s grandmother,” he explains, “the normal rules of engagement don’t apply.”

President Barack Obama marks veteran reporter Helen Thomas' 89th birthday

President Barack Obama marks veteran reporter Helen Thomas' 89th birthday

And for his boss, Anita Dunn, the aha moment came when the Washington Post ran a second op-ed from a Republican politician decrying the “32” alleged czars appointed by the Obama Administration. Nine of those so-called czars, it turned out, were subject to Senate confirmation, making them decidedly unlike the Russian monarchs. “The idea — that the Washington Post didn’t even question it,” Dunn says, still marveling at the decision.

All the criticism, both fair and misleading, took a toll, regularly knocking the White House off message. So a new White House strategy has emerged: rather than just giving reporters ammunition to “fact-check” Obama’s many critics, the White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims, like the assertion that health-care reform would establish new “sex clinics” in schools. Obama, fresh from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, cheered on the effort, telling his aides he wanted to “call ’em out.”

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HBO Documentary Films: Outrage: Do Ask. Do Tell

Posted by Audiegrl

<i>Outrage: Do Ask. Do Tell</i>

Outrage: Do Ask. Do Tell

An official selection of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, OUTRAGE investigates the hidden lives of some of the country’s most powerful policymakers – from now-retired Idaho Senator Larry Craig, to former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevy – and examines how these and other politicians have inflicted damage on millions of Americans by opposing gay rights. Equally disturbing, the film explores the mainstream media’s complicity in keeping those secrets, despite the growing efforts to “out” them by gay rights organizations and bloggers.

Barney Frank, the best-known openly gay member of Congress

Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)

Through a combination of archival news footage and exclusive interviews with politicians and members of the media, OUTRAGE probes the psychology of a double lifestyle, the ethics of outing closeted politicians, and the double standards that the media upholds in its coverage of the sex lives of gay public figures. As Barney Frank, perhaps the best-known openly gay member of Congress explains, “There is a right to privacy, but not a right to hypocrisy. It is very important that the people who make the law be subject to the law.”

The film also spotlights Michael Rogers, a gay activist and founder of blogACTIVE, a Washington, D.C.-based website dedicated to outing closeted public figures. Rogers feels it is necessary to expose the hypocrisy of those who may live one way in public and another way in private, explaining that his work is not about outing people who are gay, but rather about “reporting on individuals who are working against the community that they then expect to protect them.”

OUTRAGE was written and directed by Kirby Dick; producer, Amy Ziering; executive producers, Tom Quinn, Jason Janego, Ted Sarandos, Chad Griffin, Kimball Stroud, Bruce Brothers and Tectonic Theater Project; co-producer, Tanner Barklow; editors, Doug Blush and Matt Clarke; music, Peter Golub. For HBO: senior producer, Nancy Abraham; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

Outrage: Do Ask. Do Tell is premiering Monday, October 5 at 9pm only on HBO. For more information, visit HBO.com.




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