Common Sense: The Case Against an Out-of-Control Government, Inspired By Thomas Paine
As a title, Glenn Beck’s “Common Sense” works as a sickly come on. Here is TV’s most incendiary talking head – the man who once called Hurricane Katrina survivors "scumbags" – to lecture us on common sense. It’s a rather stomach turning thought. But at the same time, you are intrigued as to how exactly this man’s brain works? What is his concept of common sense? How will he balance his screaming mimi TV personality with his newly proclaimed role of professor of all things sensible?
The book feels and reads like most of the best-selling political screeds out there. Wrapped in a glossy, easy to read package is a full throttle attempt to work the reader into a state of outrage and then convert them to the ideology being presented. Beck spends the first half of his incredibly short book (his section is only 111 pages long) playing it down the middle hoping to find a common ground with his audience. He feels as though America has lost its core values and as though the government is too big and intrusive…who would disagree with that?
But as the book moves along Beck picks up steam, slowly morphing from a voice of reason into the partisan hack we all know and love. His main pet peeve seems to be that there are still some people out there who believe in global warming. Whether or not the left is using it to advance their own agenda aside, it is perhaps not in the best interest of the right to deny that there is a problem at all.
Late in the book Beck expresses his disgust while discussing a quote from Barack Obama in which he calls for less SUV driving and more conservation. To Beck this runs contrary to the "more is more" America he, as a rich person, believes in. More importantly though, it also runs contrary to an earlier chapter in which he mocks George W. Bush’s post 9-11 call to shop and take your family to Disney Land. As much as he might like to pretend, it is hard to believe that he stands above both more consumption and less consumption simultaneously.
Some of his claims are very well reasoned. His take down of gerrymandering and how it is still running amok today rang true, as did his equating Congress with America’s aristocracy. Sadly though, most of his ideas and populism just seem disingenuous. On the topic of protest for example, he says: "Let your voice be heard and your anger be seen. Some will label your words as inciting or dangerous; help them understand that the truth will always sound angry to those who can’t recognize it." This coming from the same person who was silent when it was Bush’s government that was arresting protestors and who once inferred that Ron Paul supporters were terrorists (it is right there on youtube).
There are other problems here too, but that is par for the course when reading propaganda. Beck falls back on that conservative cliché which has now been used beyond ad nauseam – in the 1970’s some scientists believed that there was a global cooling going on. Now instead of admitting that there really isn’t much sport involved in beating up a 30-year-old scientific theory, Beck uses it as proof that the whole climate change thing is just made up in the mind’s of progressives.
As a bonus feature the book includes the original Common Sense by Thomas Paine. It reads like most historical documents: sluggish, outdated and pretty useless. His section on the inevitability of government is worth a look though. It is also worth questioning whether or not it was wise of Beck to invoke the Revolutionary War when the US is currently playing the role of oppressor in the Middle East. To those on the far right, this book will provide a quick jolt of entertainment and validation. To everybody else, it will leave them stymied, confused and/or angry.
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