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You Say You Want A Revolution

Once a month, I get a newsletter in the mail, printed double-sided on purple, 8.5″ by 11″ copy paper. I signed up for the newsletter of Lavender Seniors of the East Bay at a Car Free Day in Oakland a number of years ago. I confess I have never participated in any of Lavender Seniors’ events. I mean to some day so I stay on their mailing list. Their publication Lavender Notes includes the header “A Project of the Tides Center.” The Center itself is a part of a larger organization that is based in San Francisco’s historic Presidio. It is known as the Tides Foundation. If you are aware of the Tides Foundation now, you probably were unaware of it until the past few months. If you are unaware of it now, you probably will be soon. In either case you can thank Glenn Beck.

I already knew about the Tides Foundation before I started receiving Lavender Notes in the mail. One of my first explorations on the Internet came through a Usenet group called PeaceNet, another project of the Tides Foundation. My previous online experience started with Quantum Link on my old Commodore Computer, which was the predecessor to America On Line. I also signed up with the Well, a group started by the folks who gave us the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review. I signed up for the Well with the user name BikerTom to show my interest in bicycles. It turned out that my other Well Beings assumed I was a motorcycle rider; not the message I intended to send. When I signed up for PeaceNet, accessing its text-based service with my 1200 baud, dial up modem, I chose a more conventional user name, my last name preceded by my first initial. Sending e-mail with the account tyamaguchi@igc.apc.org matched my nonprofit style. I liked being a dot org instead of a dot com. The IGC stands for the Institute for Global Communications. The APC is for Association for Progressive Communications. Being on PeaceNet made me feel like the early pioneers of radio and TV, reaching out to find like-minded souls in a community undefined and unrestricted by geography. I did not consider anything about PeaceNet, or IGC, or Tides to be subversive or evil. Nor would I have thought that anyone else in the world would think so. I guess I was wrong. Enter Glenn Beck.

Writing about people like Glenn Beck is difficult for me. It is obvious his main motivation is to get publicity for himself. The more the media writes about him, even if what they write is negative, the more they help him succeed in his goal. Those of us who do not listen to his rants on radio and TV are never successful in avoiding him for long. He has been the target of Jon Stewart’s humor on a number of occasions. Beck does make an easy target. His villains include the Progressives, by which he means the Progressive Party of Teddy Roosevelt and Hiram Johnson in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. These are the folks who gave us direct election of US Senators, along with direct voter participation through initiative, referendum, and recall. People may complain how those institutions have been abused, but you can’t argue that the motivations of the Progressives was anything but democratic. To call them fascists defies logic, and defying logic is something Glenn Beck does quite well in his broadcasts. Yes, he is difficult to ignore, especially when a few take him seriously enough to take their marching orders from him.

When Byron Williams opened fired on CHP officers who tried to stop him on an Oakland freeway last July, many of us woke up to a news story that defied our imaginations. We watched the video footage Oakland resident Manny Black shot from his apartment window next to the freeway, now posted on YouTube. “Get down blood,” he shouts to his roommate to the sound of gun shots and squealing tires coming from outside. It has the look of a fictional movie shot with jerky camera movements to appear real. Yet, this was all too real. Byron Williams had driven from his home in Groveland, armed to the teeth with the intent of killing people at the ACLU and Tides Foundation in San Francisco. His erratic driving on I-580 prevented him from carrying out his mission. After wounding several police, he was finally brought down. He was heavily protected in body armor when he was stopped. He later told police he wanted to start a revolution.

In recorded interviews Williams credits Glenn Beck as his his source of information and the motivation that led him on that early morning drive to San Francisco. Naturally, the question is how much responsibility does Glenn Beck bear in this crime? Beck did not tell Williams or anyone else to go kill employees of the ACLU and Tides Foundation, but his words of fear and conspiracy did have an influence on the mentally unstable Byron Williams. How much responsibility does a broadcaster have?

A few states away, Nidal Hasan has been sitting in a courtroom, paralyzed from the chest down, accused of opening fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. Some call the shooting a terrorist attack. E-mail correspondence with the radical Islamic leader Anwar al-Awlaki has been offered as proof of Hasan’s link with Al-Qaeda, but the military insists that Hasan acted alone. Like Byron Williams, Nidal Hasan suffers from mental illness, which is especially ironic since Hasan was working as a psychiatrist. If he did act alone, he was no doubt motivated by the anti-American rhetoric he heard from people like al-Awlaki. How much responsibility does a religious leader have?

Who are the terrorists in these stories? Byron Williams? Nidal Hasan? Both? And who is responsible for their acts of violence? Al-Qaeda?  Anwar al-Awlaki? Glenn Beck? Fox News? Or is each man alone responsible for what each has done, even if these acts were committed by insane minds?

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right
(Revolution by the Beatles)

More on the subject:

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/1016/Did-Glenn-Beck-s-rhetoric-inspire-violence

http://blog.tides.org/2010/10/13/why-is-tides-a-target-of-the-right/

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/07/24/INPG1EIKHU.DTL

One last word about Glenn Beck and his followers:

Like many, I was angered by Beck’s exploitation of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. When Dr. King spoke at the Lincoln Memorial, the message was social justice, the message that Glenn Beck tells his followers to run from if they hear it in church. I took relief that Beck’s rally was much smaller than the 250,000 that turned up on August 28, 1963. I tweeted that CBS News estimated Beck’s crowd to be about 87,000. One of Beck’s followers saw my tweet and decided to add me to one of his special Twitter lists, “soul-less-assholes.” The list’s description reads, “Hate filled people who have nothing better to do they have empty lives so they attack others.” So every tweet I write goes directly to the “soul-less-assholes” list. What a great place to send messages of love, compassion, empathy, and tolerance! And what a message that sends about the person who would label those tweets as hate speech! Let that be my small response to Glenn Beck. Now excuse me while I get back to my empty life.

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October 18, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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