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Glenn Beck's Myths
How the Fox News pundit distorts the Progressive legacy.
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When Glenn Beck wants to look serious he dons oversized horn-rimmed glasses and begins to lecture about Progressivism. In his telling, Progressives have contributed significantly to our latter-day political problems. He finds their ideology—combining massive bureaucracy with a command economy and certain forms of social engineering identified with eugenics—at the heart of today’s big-government liberalism. His litany of real or alleged Progressives includes Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Franklin Roosevelt, and occasionally Franklin’s cousin Teddy. Early feminist and birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger also sometimes appears among this unsavory group.

Beck could list many more. Self-described Progressives included President Wilson’s son-in-law and secretary of the Treasury, William McAdoo; the Wisconsin antiwar senator Robert La Follette; California governor and longtime senator (from 1917 to 1945) Hiram Johnson; Idaho senator William Borah; historian Charles Beard; sociologist Harry Elmer Barnes; and Republican president Herbert Hoover. In fact, there were so many prominent Progressives in the early 20th century that Beck would have to devote several of his talkathons to the topic to give us some idea of the broad range of personalities and positions within the movement.

The radio host’s history is not altogether wrong. Originally identified with the reform wings of both national parties before World War I, Progressivism attracted many luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt, Hoover, and Wilson. Those who adhered to this vaguely defined tendency typically favored the expansion of public administration as an alternative to party patronage, periodic use of referenda for determining the popular will, and public education as a source of national solidarity. Progressives generally preferred a highly centralized government run by professional bureaucrats, and they naïvely believed that the methods of the hard sciences could be applied to governing.

Indeed, Progressives thought that government should be the “science of administration.” This was an idea that Woodrow Wilson promoted as a professor and president at Princeton, as governor of the Garden State, and finally as the 28th president of the United States. Scientific administration demanded some significant changes in political practice. Progressive judges like Louis Brandeis and those who came after him used the courts to increase the powers of organized labor and extend federal authority at the expense of the states. Hiram Johnson, as California governor from 1911-1917, worked to expand the civil service; he also favored women’s suffrage because he hoped the fair sex would rally to his notion of an impartial public administration.

Certainly there are features of Progressivism that anyone concerned about centralized power has every right to criticize. But there are problems with how Beck frames his critique. There were different types of Progressives who stressed diverse themes, not all of which can be subsumed under the rubric of “big government.” The connection between Progressivism and modern liberalism is weak. And in truth, Fox News personalities like Beck support many federal programs vastly more intrustive than any the Progressives dared contemplate.

There are many several sides to Progressivism that Beck fails to acknolwedge. Progressives like Robert La Follette were more interested in popular referenda than they were in centralized public administration. Others like Senator Borah came out of a rural populist tradition and never overcame their distrust of the national government. Although McAdoo designed the Federal Reserve System at Wilson’s behest, he was a zealous hard-money man and fought to maintain the gold standard until it was abolished under Franklin Roosevelt. McAdoo was at most an unwitting agent for bringing about inflated paper money.

In foreign policy there was an unbridgeable divide in the Progressive camp between liberal internationalists and isolationists. Most of the opposition that FDR encountered to Lend-Lease and other policies leading to America’s entry into World War II came from his fellow Progressives in both parties. Antiwar Republicans in 1917 and again in 1939-1941 included Progressives such as La Follette, Borah, and FDR’s neighbor in upstate New York, Hamilton Fish. Hiram Johnson not only opposed American entry into both European wars but had the distinction of being the only U.S. Senator to vote against America’s joining the League of Nations and the United Nations. Although a self-described “Lincoln-TR Republican,” Johnson protested entangling foreign alliances and carrying an overly big stick into the international arena.

Pro-war Progressives came to be known as liberal internationalists and are the ancestors of today’s neoconservatives, not a few of whom have taken to calling themsleves “Hard Wilsonians.” Some of the original internationalists broke ranks, however. Though a pro-war Progressive in 1917 and lifelong admirer of President Wilson, Herbert Hoover changed his foreign policy stance in the 1930s and became a critic of American military involvement in Europe. Nevertheless, even as president, Hoover considered himself to stand firmly in the Progressive tradition of strong public administration.

Contrary to the impression conveyed by Fox News, Progressivism had effects in more than one ideological direction. By today’s standards its cultural orientation might seem quite conservative and was certainly pro-family. Even left-wing Progressives like Eleanor Roosevelt and Frances Perkins would have emphatically opposed anti-discrimination legislation aimed at encouraging women to enter the workforce. Progressives in the interwar years favored government support for a single-family wage, one that would allow men to provide for their families “in dignity” while wives stayed home and tended to their children.

In Central Europe, Progressives’ notions about consulting the people in critical political decisions became their primary legacy. Interwar European jurists, including many on the Right, appealed to the idea of holding frequent referenda as an alternative to party-run politics. Conservative authoritarian leaders in the Baltic States admired and quoted American Progressives not as socialists but as nationalist populists.

In the postwar U.S., meanwhile, liberals such as historian Richard Hofstadter went after some Progressives for what was seen as their right-wing suspicion of administered democracy. Hofstadter attributed this populist streak to an atavistic dislike for rational control from the top, and he saw this as a blemish on the their left-wing credentials.

ORDER IT NOW

Progressive commitments to centralized administration and to popular referenda at the state level obviously pulled in opposite directions. The apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that, like the Populists of the late 19th century, Progressives were above all against governments being run by parties and machine politicians. Expert public administrators and popular referenda were both means of circumventing the corruption and deal-making associated with party politics.

California’s Governor Johnson supported a law to let voters register in more than one party. Its obvious purpose was to weaken the solidarity and power of the national parties. But the parties proved adaptable: they harnessed Progressivism by claiming to represent it. Republicans and Democrats alike went after the votes of the group that the Progressives had championed, public-sector employees, and the Progressives ultimately ended up reinforcing our two-party duopoly.

Progressivism’s influence has not been limited to one side of the political spectrum. Among isolationists on the Right, Beard and Barnes were heroes for their attacks on FDR as a warmonger. Yet both of those critics of liberal internationalism came from the left wing of the Progressive movement, and Beard alternated his invectives against Roosevelt with calls for a redistributionist government. The antiwar Republican Hamilton Fish, whom FDR would rail against in public addresses, was a social liberal in the interwar years. Fish had commanded a black brigade in the Great War, and he thereafter became an advocate of civil rights as well as a fierce opponent of liberal internationalism. It’s a mistake to ascribe to all Progressives Woodrow Wilson’s views on racial differences or his Anglophile attitude in foreign policy.

There is some truth in Beck’s caricatures. As social historians Carl Degler and Pat Shipmann have demonstrated, many Progressive reformers were indeed attracted to eugenics. Plans to sterilize the mentally deficient and to discourage those deemed unfit to reproduce were not foreign to the Progressives’ design for public administration. And McAdoo, who was as much a segregationist as his father-in-law, gladly accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan when he ran unsuccessfully for California governor in 1924.

But none of this links Progressivism to latter-day liberalism, as Beck professes. Surely today’s Democrats are not calling for measures to ensure racial hygiene; nor are they enlisting Klan support to get elected. If anything, they are morbidly anxious to confer government favors on supposedly victimized minorities. Indeed Democrats discriminate against the majority in order to please those considered disadvantaged.

It also seems absurd to equate liberal support for abortion with the eugenic policies of Margaret Sanger. Today’s abortion advocates are in favor of killing fetuses of all pigmentations and ethnicities, as long as doing so allows women to express their autonomy. Abortion rights are not about eugenic notions of racial hygiene but about a late modern, feminist interpretation of individual liberty.

Borrowing from his frequent guest Jonah Goldberg’s ideas about “liberal fascism,” Beck frequently attempts to identify Progressives and modern liberals with the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Because fascists and Obamaites have both favored social programs, and because the Nazis were genocidal murderers, we are free to denounce Obama and his party as racialist fanatics. The syllogism is simple: big government means fascism, fascism means the murder of minorities. He who grants the premises must concede the rest of the argument, despite the dubious connections being drawn.

Fallacies abound here. Lots of governments have advocated extensive social programs—indeed, programs far more extensive than those undertaken by most fascist regimes—without coming to resemble the Third Reich. In America, Republicans as well as Democrats have voted for welfare statism. Yet for Fox pundits somehow only the Democrats stand on the slippery slope leading to political-moral damnation. Not until Democrats had taken over the executive branch did Beck and company notice the fascist and Progressive genealogy of the federal government. Presumably those authoritarian influences were nowhere in sight as long as the GOP was riding high.

Beck and other Fox critics of the Progressives may be far more addicted to big government than those they demonize. Tears glaze their eyes when they talk about 1960s civil rights laws, which placed entire regions of the country that once discriminated against black voters under what is now perpetual federal surveillance. Beck rages against the late Sen. Robert Byrd for voting against the Civil Rights Act. Byrd believed this legislation would interfere excessively in commercial relations and plunge the country into endless suits and investigations over racial and gender discrimination. The senator may or may not have been right in this judgment. It is far from clear, however, that someone who zealously embraces such governmental interference long after the end of segregation has any right to accuse Progressives of being in favor of the “nanny state.” Although this indignation may be Beck’s attempt to woo minorities, it makes one wonder how serious he is about scaling back public administration.

Beck maintains that Americans stand at a crossroads between freedom and statism, much like the watershed of 1932—but this time we’ll do right and get rid of the welfare state. In promoting this idea, he is either mendacious or delusional. Americans will not be voting on the New Deal this year or in 2012 but on whether or not to expand Obama’s programs. A certain historical perspective may be needed here: FDR had a truly pressing reason for bold action, even if his policies were largely misconceived and had long-range harmful effects. The unemployment rate was many times worse in 1932 than it is now. And with few exceptions, people in the 1930s depended on single-breadwinner incomes, and the average family of four had far lower earnings than today, even taking inflation into account. Our present dependence on government is not the desperate behavior of impoverished people. It’s a habit instilled by the ideologies of both parties—by security statists and national-greatness conservatives no less than by the old Left.

ORDER IT NOW

The Progressives prepared the first tiny steps on a long journey that has resulted in a much bigger government than most of those early 20th-century figures planned to give us. The talk radio and television pundits who now inveigh against Progressivism have fully accepted the increased government that those they revile helped to create. And these faux conservatives celebrate the additions to it that came long after the Progressive era, amid the civil rights and sexual upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Our plight today has less to do with Progressives who lived a century ago than with the pabulum dispensers on our televisions every night.

Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers , among other works.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Glenn Beck, Progressives 
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmericanConservative, Michael Cullison. Michael Cullison said: @glennbeck Your myths about Progressives: http://www.amconmag.com/blog/glenn-becks-myths/ […]

  2. What the progressives really achieved was to contribute to the tearing, down of the bulwarks set up by the founders in the Constitutional Federal system. The creation of the Federal Reserve, the Income Tax,the direct election of the Senate,going off the Gold Standard,and government interference in the economy especially during the 1st World War, occurred during mostly progressive administrations. This,and other courses of action,set up the New Deal,the Great Society,foreign entanglements, thru the U.N.,and the growth of the central government. The progressives cleared the path for the collectivism that followed and helped contribute to the creation of today’s run amok Federal government..

  3. It will all end badly since it is all unsustainable, the welfare/warfare state has already started to collapse.

    This is how Empire’s die and it will be the end of the U.S. Empire as well. The Ruling class and their servants may not wish this but it will happen eventually.

  4. “By today’s standards its cultural orientation might seem quite conservative and was certainly pro-family.”

    this is correct and a very important to point out.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    My problem with Beck is that he and other conservatives have a selective eye on historical POV when it comes to those they give a pass to on ‘their’ side. All of the progressives Glenn “hates’ had other aspects to them, of which he would approve including Teddy Roosevelt. Beck’s prism on history is as cracked as everyone else’s. As far as I am concerned guys like GW BUSH or Newt Gingrich who WERE big government establishment types more than they were conservative or constitutionalist …..are more at fault for where we find ourselves than George Soros. Yet you rarely hear Beck or anyone else bring the republican or conservative establishment into the finger pointing circle. Now he is blaming SOROS for being puppet master behind the scenes. Holy moly ms molly ….. Soros is a johnny come lately in the BIG scheme of things. The Tides Foundation is small potatoes compared to a dozen other foundations that have funded leftist OR globalist causes for decades and decades. You can look at Paul Volcker or Kissinger or Brezynski ….other masters of the universe and/or policy gurus who are more responsible than SOROS for our current mess. If Beck thinks that all would be well if Soros went away or the Pelosi Obama left went away …..he better think again. As long as there is a Bush, a Gingrich, a Wolfowitz, Feith, Haas, PNAC, Lugar, Zoellick, Graham, McCain, Group of 30, Council of Elders, or those pushing for ‘integration’ with the EU like George W. Bush …….. Soros power and influence will be no better or worse than the ‘other’ group of masters of the universe. Beck makes the same mistake so many make, they THINK their prism on events, history, or future trends is the right one. By and large they have tunnel vision and refuse to incorporate other information that is important into their latest theory. I turn Glenn off when he gets into Soros mode….I think Soros is a corrupt semi evil fool but he isn’t the worst and he does not have the power some of the other so called ‘insiders’ have or will have if we are not careful. Glenn needs to be less obsessed with progressives and more concerned with abuse of power by anyone with access to the seats of power on Wall Street or the US federal govt.

  6. Brian says: • Website

    Libertarian Jerry,

    Unfortunately the scholarship doesn’t support your argument about the 17th Amendment, and it may be the same with the 16th and Federal Reserve Act, although the belief is fairly mainstream. I recommend you check out the writing of Prof. Todd Zywicki of George Mason University, particularly his paper “Beyond the Shell and Husk of History: The History of the Seventeenth Amendment and Its Implications for Current Reform Proposals, 45 Cleveland St. L. REV. 165 (1997).” Zywicki points out that the “progressive” or “external theory” doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons, however, his belief is that the “public choice theory” is much stronger.

  7. Brian, Your input is a point well taken. I have read some of prof. Zywicki’s papers,although mostly his views on bankruptcy. I still believe that the centralization of power,especially the power of Federal enforcement was made possible by the actions taken by Lincoln and later on by the Progressives,To our detriment today.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Sadly, neither Glenn Beck, Fox News, nor the mindless lemmings who play the name-calling shell game that is American political discourse, have the capacity to consume, digest, and be sustained by this wonderful, and depressing screed. To “spin” (as only neo-cons can) a phrase; “progress in defense of liberty is no vice.”

  9. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Interesting article.
    My only factual quibble is that, going by the official rate, the current unemployment rate is not “many times” lower than that of the Great Depression – the spike in that era was 25%, and we peaked at 10%, at least officially.

    In other media, it’s been claimed that the “real” unemployment rate is as high as 17%, if under-employment is taken into account. Given that the economic and personal/social effects of unemployment are only more severe than, not fundamentally different from, the effects of underemployment.

    Additionally, it’s possible that the informal market is less a source of revenue for the US population, at least proportionately (although rates of illegal immigration, relative to the two eras, may strengthen or weaken this point).

  10. nothing is more uncertain than the future, except maybe history?

  11. Royden says:

    Zywicki does feel that the 17th Amendment derived from the desire of “special interests” to more easily influence the federal governments actions for their own gain. I’m sure many of those “special interests” were progressives attempting to find a path to further their agenda in order to “scientifically” manage the country; certainly a collectivist action.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This could be the dumbest critique I’ve read, yet, from The American Conservative. Professor Gottfried strays so far from logical criticism I’m surprised he didn’t finish writing in gaelic. Examples?: Fox news has never taken a position on Progressivism, you would know that had you ever watched, porfessor dimwit. The suggestion that Robert KKK Byrd was against the Civil Rights Act because it was pro federalism vs states rights is on it’s face laughable, but pathetic once you realize you consider yourself a professor at an institution of higher learning. Progs being racist is the essence of who these dirt bags are, professor, it’s who Liberals are today. If you think that the Prog/Liberal statist philosophy has done anything but destroy minority communities, than I’ve got an inner-city I’d like to sell you. You and your fascist friend Buchanan are about as conservative as Pol Pot.

  13. Joe Dark says: • Website

    kind of a deep dicussion for,I don’t have the background in history you all seem to have Beck just seems real creepy to me.I don’t watch Fox or MSNBC(unless I know Pat is on)
    just way to much spin.The cable media allow our politicians
    to constantly lie to us.Both parties have a network to do their dirty work

  14. Royden says:

    Actually, Beck is correct about many things. His biggest flaws are his support of Israel and interventionist attitude towards Iran.

    Oh yes….and his infatuation with Sara Palin.

  15. ian says:

    Weakly written and dull.

    Cowardly approach to an interesting phenomena. Royden I don’t know if Beck is correct about very much. The nazis killed my mothers brother in 1941. We’re pretty familiar with them. Beck has a lot more similarities than a 13 yr old Jewish child in Hungary being taken to a house to inventory possessions.You couldn’t be a lower or more disgusting propagandist than Beck.

  16. Royden says:

    Don’t forget, Ian, that the Nazis were actually progressives and collectivists. When the theory that “experts” can perfect society is pushed to the extreme, you get Nazis.

  17. ian says:

    Frankly youre deluded. Read a book Royden…. and not one of Beck/hannitys make it a real book.

  18. ian says:

    Last word on it… Peoples whose families/family members were killed by actual Nazis are quite aware that the Nazis were not a healthcare movement. They weren’t. They were however ardent propagandists who demonised there opponents. remind you of anyone?

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Where there is an action….there will be an opposite & equal reaction. Beck is the ‘reaction’ to the Lefist media. So, I cut him a break as to interpert history as he wants too as the rest of us do.

    After saying that, I am not impressed with his style of speaking & tends to put me off & not give credit to what he is trying to force on me.

  20. Eric says:

    Ok, time to get a few things straight. I will miss some things, but I’ll try to get most of the big statements of this article (and some of the comments)

    1) George Soros is not a “johnny come lately”. Look back over his life, he has started/been involved with/funded MANY organizations. The Tides Foundation is somewhat new compared to alot of them. He has been very actively involved for a long time, with a TON of his money.

    2) Beck criticizes republicans very often (which keeps coming as a surprise to me). You say that he just now started attacking progressives because the democrats are in power? Not true. When he was on CNN, he criticized Bush and republicans on many things. Before he was on CNN, when he was only on the radio, he would often criticize republicans for spending, social programs, waste, pork, etc.

    3) How much research have you done into the Eugenics movement? I’ve done plenty recently and it’s scary. Eugenics is now known as several much happier terms – Population control, Population stabilization, Climate control, Overpopulation, etc – but it’s the same principle. If you look up any of these terms, you’ll find that EVERY organization that supported eugenics in the 1920’s and 1930’s has changed their vocabulary from “Eugenics” to one of those terms. Every single one of them. It’s amazing how an organization goes from “involuntary sterilization” to “population stabilization” overnight and everyone stops worrying about it.

    I’m sure you are questioning why I said “Climate control/Climate change”. Look up current environmental organizations that have been around longer than 50 years. They have been preaching about population control for a very long time, or are decendents of other organizations focused on population control. However, ever since the re-emergence of climate change, their language has changed. In the 1970’s, they were talking about population control to stop global cooling. Now they are talking about it to stop global warming. It doesn’t matter if the Earth is cooling or warming, their answer is always that code word.

    Many of these organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and EngenderHeath, changed their language and have actually succeeded at completely normalizing abortion. I personally do not have a strong feeling on abortion because I can understand both reasonable arguments, but abortion should still be more taboo. Why? Because it should NOT be used as birth control and it should NOT be forced on young people as their only option, but it is. My favorite term they use is “family planning”. Seriously? No one goes to them and gets their insight on actually STARTING a family…so the family planning is planning on not having a family. It’s actually sickening how they have made abortion mainstream and more of a casual topic.

    4) Progressives today use different code words than they did 60 years ago. Eugenics was a code word for “getting rid of the unwanted/undesirable”. Involuntary sterilization was a code word for “we don’t need more people like you”. Population control is now a code word for “we need to protect the planet, so we need to lower the population total however possible”. And as most of their rhetoric is focused at developing nations as they tend to have more children, it is fair to say that the rich, white, elitists are going after poor blacks and latinos. Just like when Margaret Sanger first began building Planned Parenthood in the ghettos throughout America, the progessives are targeting who they consider less desirable (primarily because they are poor, don’t benefit society, and as a whole are the main cause of pollution). Yes, you can say that I am race-baiting, but that doesn’t make it not true.

    5) You phrased somethings that progressives did as positive, yet they were ALL negative. You were trying to rationalize, saying that they did some things Beck would agree with, but Beck would not have agreed with any of those. You said that progressives from back then are more like modern-day conservatives, and as an example you said they would have “been against the government encouraging women to join the work force”. So you are saying that modern-day conservatives are against women in the work force? Are you that ignorant?

    6) Seriously, check out the history of these organizations like EngenderHealth, Planned Parenthood, The Sierra Club, Red Cross, American Eugenics Society (doesn’t exist anymore, but the companies and people that founded it and funded it are insane), etc. They changed their language after WWII because of Hitler’s use of their ideas. But do you really think their feelings about eugenics changed overnight? Are you really that ignorant to think all of these people who believed whole-heartedly in it changed their minds? If you look closely, they are saying the SAME things, but with a much more pleasant connotation.

    7) Margaret Sanger wasn’t JUST a feminist. She wanted involuntary sterilization of mentally ill and wanted to euthanize the “poor and indigent” (Negro Project). She was one of the worst parts of the whole Eugenics movement, along with George Bernard Shaw who believed in euthanizing people not fit for our society (feebleminded, poor, etc).

    8) Environmentalism and eugenics have been closely linked since the late 1800’s (and probably longer). Every environmental group has something along the lines of “need to control/stabilize population”. Most have something along the lines of “need a considerable decrease in population”. Bill Gates for instance gave a lecture recently where he said that through “vaccinations and health reform, we could see a 10-15% drop in population”. Now, maybe I’m just feeble-minded, but isn’t that counter-productive? Shouldn’t vaccines make people live longer and thus make the population rise? Hmm…The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives a ton of money to EngenderHealth and has partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation (look them up, more interesting stuff about all the Rockefellers did over the last 100 years in the name of eugenics and social engineering). Oh by the way, it’s not good news that the richest people in the world are giving half of their money to that foundation, especially when Bill Gates is going around talking about how to reduce the population through vaccinations and health reform.

    9) Just a few more things to look up about the “social engineering” progressives – The New School (funded by Rockefeller, originally called “New School for Social Research”, and was founded by Socialists), Population Connection, American Genetic Association (formerly, American Breeders Association, supported and pushed eugenics research and legislation), Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, World Wildlife Foundation (all environmentalist groups have an anti-population stance) and many more!

    10) Reproductive Health and Family Planning have always been and will always be a pleasant way to say “population control”.

    11) No, Im not trying to sound like an alarmist, and yes I know I sound like one…and I wish I didn’t, but the connections I’ve made in my research and just too ironic to miss. It’s scary and honestly, I wish I never knew about this stuff because now I’m obsessed with tracking down every last vestige of it and trying to learn how I can stop it. Once you start getting into it and see how everything connects with modern progressives, you’ll wish you didn’t know.

    12) Am I serious about this? Yes, very. Beck might be alittle off in some things he says and he might not always hit the nail on the head but this is something worth watching. Learn about the strategies of how to turn a capitalist country into a socialist country. If you know your current events, you’ll definitely notice a clear pattern over the last 30 years of what liberals and some conservatives have been doing. And their is a pattern over the last 120 years, but it’s not as obvious.

    Royden, you’re right. The Nazis were progressives (called themselves national socialists, which is why Russia didn’t like them because communists and socialist never get along…such as what happened during the election when the Nazi party came to power). The Nazis based the majority of the holocaust on the American Eugenics movement, and implemented their ideas. They took from Sanger, Rockefeller, Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Carnegie, etc, etc. ALL of these people believed in involuntary sterilization and euthanization. It wasn’t just a fleeting thought of these people, it was their life works. Just like the Nazis, progressives in America from the early 1900’s up to today believe in the Earth before humans. It’s not about creating a better life for people, it’s about helping the Earth by any means possible. It’s about getting rid of the useless or worthless people so that everyone else can have more of nature to enjoy. Every single proponent of conservation has been a socialist and has espoused some view of population control. From Bill Gates and Al Gore, to Teddy Roosevelt and Hitler.

    And sorry, I didn’t get any of this out of any books by Beck or Hannity. I researched it online, found multiple, varied sources for all of my information and if I wasn’t too lazy, I’d list every single source. Many of these people have published papers, books, and essays on their views concerning eugenics(and population control, social engineering, behavioral engineering, etc). So seriously, don’t be ignorant and call other people out on what you perceive to be ignorance. Chances are you just see it as being “alarmist” and are too pathetic to actual do any research for yourself. I don’t like being wrong so before I argue a point, I find out everything I can about it. I know that I am right. So before you call me out, research it. Then you will not think that I sound crazy. Or you can be worthless and ignore what has been happening all along right before our eyes, call me stupid, say I watch too much Beck, call me a racist (since I don’t like Obama), and just be generally ignorant to what is so obvious if you just open your eyes.

    Oh and I think Beck is alittle annoying at times too. I also can’t listen to him drone on about Soros…

  21. Royden says:

    Ian…..which book would you recommend?

  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    getting mired in language (controlled by the left), and being forced into a false choice of which modern party is right or wrong, allows the big picture to escape notice and the ‘progress’ to continue.
    Nobody is even trying to do the “right” thing today. Bush was more wrong than Clinton was, but today you try to draw attention to the appalling communist bent of the current admin and all you get is how “your” president wasn’t perfect either.
    The progressive movement set the stage for the destruction of the greatest nation ever developed, and it continues today as if they were supermen in their foresight. I don’t believe they were, and I’m at a bit of a loss to explain how this country has devolved so far after the magnificent beginning. We all must be in some way responsible for the demise, there is no way a bunch of eggheads a hundred years ago were that dam smart to cause all of this. They opened the door, certainly, but they have had help all along, and arguing about whether Sarah Palin is smart when we just elected the stupidest incompetent communist puppet is a sure sign that we aren’t going to fix it, Dark Ages are inevitable.

  23. R says:

    Beck is a conman who gets paid to do this. Why take him serious at all? Why expect anything more than shallowness from a radio host? The only reason I can see that justifies debating the man’s views is the fact that he manages to delude so many people. Progressivism and Nazism are not the same thing. Nazism was a unique phenomenon that needs to be seen in its own context. Its objectives were not those of modern-day Progressives and frankly the means they used are not either. Last time I checked, Liberals did not advocate a one-Party State, for instance. The Eugenics argument is especially lame. Churchill supported some degree of Eugenics, as did virtually everyone back then. Does that make him a Liberal, a Progressive, or even a Nazi? I personally don’t agree with interracial marriage, does that make me a Nazi, too? How about Henry Ford? I guess he was a Liberal, too, right? To equate Fascism and U.S. Liberalism (or Islam, i.e. “Islamo-Fascism” in Neocon parlance) as some self-professing Conservatives like to do, is sheer nonsense. First, Italian Fascism and Nazism are not one and the same thing. Secondly, many European Conservatives actually supported Fascism because it was a reactionary movement against Marxism and Socialism that managed to appeal to and gain the support of the common man at the same time. Although it posed as a revolutionary movement, it actually consolidated the status quo and defended traditional family values that any Conservative would have supported. Fascism, however, is an openly and all-out Totalitarian ideology whereas U.S. Liberalism with it’s attachment to liberal democracy and free elections is not. How did we arrive at this point where Conservatives are using such shallow arguments against Liberalism? The result of growing up in a dumbed-down, liberal culture, it would seem!

  24. Royden says:

    R…..Liberals would love to have a one party state. And so would Conservatives. Then they could force their misguided views on the citizenry that doesn’t conform to their way of thinking.

    But R, one question….. what’s so horrible about interracial marriage?

  25. Stephen says:

    To the degree that Beck, et al. conflate liberalism and progressivism (as it was then defined) Gottfried has a point; if you want to see Beck as setting up straw men. However, Mr. Gottfried acts like the “little bit pregnant” argument didn’t, in one form or another, precede Hayak. The progressives were entirely comfortable with the state’s expansion. They still are. Whatever underlying philosophy they adopt will always reflect that swelling desire.

  26. I honestly believe that Beck is a elite paid, and highly trained shill (probably via the CIA). The goal is to corral in the paleo-conservatives, and libertarians from taking off, into a true anti-state, anti-war, free market political movement, which would undermine our current interventionist, centralized state. His anti-progressive message is to keep the anti-war left from joining forces with this movement, and to focus questioning conservatives to a new target to serve establishment GOP interests.
    These (even now after being totally discredited) people keep promising us freedom from government, once they rout the Democrats, crush the left wing on campus, and in media, and conquer foreign lands.
    From 1969 to 2009 they controlled the presidency for 28 of 40 years, and had legislative control 12 years. I will let you surmise whether we have more freedom, harmony, and prosperity in our country, or whether or not our governments are smaller in terms of funding, and/or personnel.
    I frequently get comments that I should listen to Glenn Beck from my GOP friends, and family. He is a libertarian they claim.
    I reply that I can’t. He is for public education, and I am for the elimination of it.

  27. R says:

    @ Royden: I don’t think of it as being horrible or even immoral, but I do believe it is irrational and often irresponsible and asking for trouble. However, it’s not so much about race as it is about nationality or culture to me. I simply want to preserve and pass on my identity and that of my people, which is why I am not in favor of mixed marriages. I’m from Europe and know first hand that children from mixed marriages, especially interracial and interreligious ones, suffer from a perpetual identity crisis, usually never quite fit in and will eventually rebel against their “White” side, and almost always perform worse than “non-mixed” children. My philosophy is basically to say “to each nation their own country”, i.e. let the Japanese remain Japanese, and the Russian remain Russian respect all races and nations but stick to your own kind. I hope that clarifies. Regards.

  28. I say Mr. Beck is one of the progressives he speaks against…as a neoconservative.

  29. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Why is Homeland Security still intimidating and harassing Dr. Kenneth Tennant ? They arrested him on Nov. 5, 2004 (see April issue TAC, article The Knock On The Door, by David Lindorff)
    The man and his family was humiliated by the media, his father suffered a heart attack and subsequently died over this, his wife lost her job of almost eight years despite numerous awards and accolades from her employer, Quad-City Bank & Trust, their children have been targeted with trumped up false allegations by school officials (proven false), the wife has an appeal pending in the Iowa Supreme Court over a false charge that claims her rain drains, which are with City Code, caused “severe land erosion” to a “long existing fence” despite the fact that the fence is not within City Code nor is it “long existing.” Moreover, there was never any evidence or proof of injury or damages produced to support the false claim, and there is no verifiable complaint as required by CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS vs. ASTINGER. But it seems the rule of law doesn’t apply in the Iowa judiciary where the good ole boy culture of corruption rules the day. In the COTY OF DAVENPORT vs. Kenneth Tennant, magistrate Douglas Wells declared:”I don’t want to hear anything about the Constitution” as he proceeded to prosecute from the bench finding Dr. Tennant “not guilty” as charged but guilty to an “amended” complaint that has never been seen nor tried. There was no injury or damages, as testified by Officer Cliff Anderson, and there is no verifiable complaint, so the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. But, that is law and the Iowa judges are above the law because Homeland security has made a deal with the devil. I’m Dr. Kenneth Tennant and my no. is 563.355.7073 if anyone cares.

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I just want to comment on the Bill Gates reference in the long comment above.
    The Gates argument that vaccinations and medical care will help reduce population growth is based, at least public ally, on the libertarian position that economic growth by itself will reduce population growth,. IOW, if there is economic growth coupled with better health care, including vaccinations, the infant mortality rate will decline. Economic growth and lower infant mortality both contribute to dampening the need for the poor to have large families.
    You might want to argue that there is a hidden agenda (with some proof), but on the surface at least this is NOT a program for sterilization or eugenics. Perhaps the anti vac crowd will claim conspiracy, Alec Jones of course already has.

  31. Sam says:

    Inveighing against Beck is like inveighing against someone who passed gas loudly at a gathering. It just isn’t worth the trouble.

  32. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    I’m disgusted with the constant nitpicking attacks on Beck (and other Conservatives). So you know more about the wide range of progressives than Beck. So what? So your Libertarian ideology is purer, more radical than our Conservative principles. Bit deal; you end up with very little. You’re surprised when Beck criticizes Republican. That’s because you don’t really understand where he’s coming from. When libertarians could make common cause with Conservatives and support the things they agree on, instead they write such invidious pieces as this one. For most people something is better than nothing. Libertarians insist on Everything and end up getting nothing. If little-minded, doctrinaire Libertarians prefer high-sounding Nothing to incremental Somethingt, they will continue to sabotage the cause of freedom, smugly sneer at their natural friends, and aid and abet their common enemies.

  33. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I fault Gottfried for ignoring or missing the foundational structure for the Progressive movement, that being Fabian Socialism. One blogger mentioned George Bernard Shaw, who was a founding member of that notorious gang of arrogant pretenders. It is not a disjunction that members of both major and many minor political parties were secret Fabians, if not card-carrying, then at least brothers-in-the-blood.
    The fundamental premise of Fabianism is that a small elite ought to manipulate and control the greater masses as a means of organizing societies, national and international, into harmonious, efficient orders, according to the perceptions a predilections of those elites. Of course, the socio-political precepts and prejudices of those elites were the guiding principles for creating those orders. Malthusian concepts clearly influenced them.
    Anyone who looks at the history of Progressivism in America can clearly discern this attitude: “we know what’s best for everyone, so shut up and let us do what needs to be done for your own good”. What was done has been pretty well elaborated in other blogs.
    It should be an easy reach to conclude that any social or political movement that promotes compelled behaviors in a society in the interest of homogeneity, for whatever reason, is anathema to individual freedom.
    There is no such thing a collective mind or a collective idea. Humans are individuals. We don’t share brain tissue or blood supplies or digestive tracts. Any scheme that proposes or attempts to coagulate us into a regimented entity is folly. Humans of every race and culture exist and function as individuals. Where humans have common interests and willingly cooperate to achieve common goals, societies are organized and operate to serve those interests. Individuals who do not share those interests cannot morally be compelled to engage in effecting ends for which they have no wish to achieve. The fundamental precept of democracy, as political science once held, is “majority rule with respect for minority rights”. Nowadays, democracy is a red herring used to dupe the gullible into participation in elections that are predetermined by computer programs, ensuring continuity in the Progressive order.
    The greatest damage, in this writer’s opinion, that Progressivism wrought is the removal of common law from America’s legal structure. By displacing the common law in favor of administrative regulations, founded as they were on socialist premises, individual rights got sidetracked for what is known as “public policy”. Accordingly, socialism was established as the prime directive in the government of the United States. The three branches of government, specified in the Constitution, got homogenized into an organ of Fabianism. All the so-called “social issues” were/are mere eyewash and window-dressing.
    It is likely that the themes promoted in Progressive propagandizing had appeal to a people who were still trying to recover from the utter destruction of Lincoln’s war against freedom. Ignorant people without means, thanks to a totalitarian government and the predations of the Robber Barons, may have found hope in the snake-oil promotions of Progressive politics. They didn’t understand that the same charlatans, who had brought paper money and income taxes to America, were erecting legal fences around the populace so they could be shorn of their properties and what little wealth they had left. Consider the statistics that show how a vast majority of America’s wealth is claimed by such a tiny minority of its people. This is not a colossal accident of history; it is the result of special interests controlling the economic, political, and legal machinery of the country. This phenomenon is not limited to America, of course. Consider what is happening in Greece and Ireland today; this is part of the operation whereby nations are lured into traps and locked into regimens that control their behaviors and their prospects.
    The current TSA degradation and humiliation regimen is a perfect example of such an operation. It is about teaching people to comply and accept being dominated, all for their own good, of course. Regard the talking heads, posed on TV news, who obediently praise the government’s protections and willingly abandon their rights. I believe that it was Jefferson who proposed that those who sacrifice freedom for safety will have neither.
    Trusting people with ulterior motives to act in your interests is both naive and irresponsible. Progressivism succeeds with people who want someone else to solve their problems and take care of their needs, at the expense of others.

  34. T.J. says:

    The author mentions several different flavors of Progressives as evidence that they aren’t a monolithic movement. To me, this merely indicates the different pies that they have their fingers in. Regardless of particular flavor, the Progressives, no matter what they are called today, have centralization of power as their primary focus. Modern-day progressives/liberals wouldn’t accept endorsement from the likes of the KKK because the KKK is not in vogue; but they take support from the likes of George Soros, the Rockefellers, and other internationalists.

    I do agree that Beck is confusing at times. He rails against Progressives like Wilson and TR, but continues his hero worship of Lincoln, refusing to see him as the Progressive’s power-centralizing prototype. He focuses on Soros, but refuses to take on the larger picture of the CFR and Trilateral Commission. Having said that, no one is perfect. Beck has done a lot to awaken the American public to things that they had never dreamed of.

  35. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I come not to praise or to condemn Beck, but to condemn the “us versus them” mentality of too many commenters. It was Nixon, I think, who said “we are all Keynesians now”; more recently, Newsweek said “we are all socialists now”; and in a sense, “we are all Progressives now” – or at least this is true of just about everyone who has his hand on the tiller of the ship of State in recent memory. That should be one of the main takeaways from Paul Gottfried’s article.

    To fix the problem, we need to end the silly D versus R debate, and think a lot more about the systemic problems.

    Public Choice Theory goes a long way to describe why, in Thomas Jefferson’s phrase, liberty tends to diminish and tyranny tends to grow. We can reverse the process if we recognize and boldly fight against tyranny wherever we see it.

    Today, most people dare not even recognize the tyranny of the State; they do not even question the notion of using government force to “help” with education, health care, banking, money, or many other important matters.

    If we are prevented from even discussing these fundamental matters, we’ll never find our way to a solution.

  36. Mike says:

    As far as Hitler being a progressive; well in fact he was an environmentalist, eugenecist, gun control, state health care politician. It all starts out innocently enough with social planning. It actually worked splendidly for some time in Germany. It all ends in death for millions, and yes, Churchill was also a liberal progressive wack job. What kind of sick animal agrees to give Poland to the Commies and sends thousands of people who fled the Soviets back to face death under Stalin?

  37. Seek says:

    Excellent piece. The idea that progressivism is a first cousin of Fascism/Nazism is wrong on so many levels that one barely knows where to begin to refute it. But Paul Gottfried has given some good guideposts. It’s sad that mainstream conservatives, desperate to wash their hands of any taint of connection to a Fascist/Nazi legacy, have chosen to blithely torture history until it says the right things.

    Were Glenn Beck merely a quixotic showman, the Clown Prince of Tea Parties, he would be a moderately entertaining side freakshow, a la Reverend Ike, Tiny Tim and Jessica Hahn. But his tenuous grasp of history and reckless conflation of mass politics with religious piety make him a demagogue of the highest order. Many people looking for Real Simple Answers, regrettably, believe every word. Beck’s conspiratorial worldview, by the way heavily shaped by prominent and now-forgotten World War II-era Nazi sympathizer Elizabeth Dilling, is the stuff of a dangerous political movement.

    Political elitism — at least up to a point — is a necessity. We need more of it, at any rate. Thanks to Paul Gottfried for underscoring this.

  38. Steve says:

    Until Beck examines Henry Clay and the “American System” that failed at the state level before being pushed into the Federal System I will continue to view Mr Beck as a Judas Goat who exists only to deliver the sheep back to the Neocons.

  39. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Seek: get a grip and learn your history. Fascist/Nazi/Communist/Socialist….. ALL ARE OF THE LEFT AND ON THE LEFT. The common thread, as stated by some above, is big government, statist control by self-selected elites that manipulate and control the rest of us by force and coercion. More government = LEFT, less government = RIGHT. It is the left that is forever tainted with the solid connection and philosophical agreement with all of the ‘isms’ listed above. And no, political elitism is not a necessity; for a free society, it is prohibited.

  40. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    This debate is as useless as testicles on a cow. You folks, whether D’s,R’s Progressives, Nazi’s, or whatever are all barking up the wrong tree. The only problem to human existance (and to allowing each human to live an unencumbered life) is government, pure and simple. Any intrusion into the individual’s life deters that freedom. So, it’s not the philosophical make-up of the government that’s the problem, IT’S THE GOVERNMENT, STUPID. We’d all by light years ahead if we coul;d only practice that simple credo.

  41. Zorg says:

    While it may be interesting to some to detail the history of statist political movements and argue about whether X was a true “progressive” or – after some deeper analysis – more of a lopsided neo-quadrasectarian-libomartian with fascist tendencies, it misses the point.

    Beck misses the point with his progressive obsession. He’ll
    close a show on the evils of big gov’t progressives with a casual remark about torture – a word which apparently induces laughter in him. He’ll do a show on how tyrannical states murder thousands, and then without missing a beat he’ll talk about the “war on terror.” He doesn’t seem interested in counting the corpses that that terse bit of warfare-state propaganda has piled up. He’ll talk about
    our rights being taken away, but then demonstrate that it is only Americans he believes have rights. Iraqis and Afghans
    do not. Prisoners held without trial in Gitmo do not. And those who talk about big gov’t violating rights overseas must therefore “hate America” or “blame America first”.

    He could do endless shows on the Military Industrial Complex and how it siphons endless billions off of us, but I only heard him mention that term once. Again, it was a joke to him. It’s odd that he still does that “You’re a kook” schtick even though he himself has ventured into “kook” territory. Still, anyone who doesn’t think exactly like him is someone to mock mercilessly. That’s strange considering how far he has gone by bringing NWO stuff into mainstream discussion!

    So it’s really hard to take him seriously. If A is wrong when it does X, then so are B and C. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

    In short, people like Beck never seem to have a center – a place to work from in order to judge all things by the same standard. While he tries to intimate that he is critical of Republicans, I doubt we will ever see an expose on the
    Bush family, for example. It’s as if he’s trying to cover for
    his one-sidedness by bringing forth “the progressives” as a stand in for the usual left vs right claptrap. We’re supposed to think he’s moved past left and right, but it’s clear that he hasn’t.

    Liberty knows no party. Statism knows no principle. They are fundamentally incompatible, but few have the guts or the clarity to say so. If Beck wants us to think he’s a champion of liberty, he’s going to have to continue his journey and get where he says he wants to go quickly. If he goes all the way and starts applying a single standard to all, then I’ll be convinced that he is really what he claims to be.

    Like someone else said here, I am suspicious of him. He seems like he does fit the bill for an establishment shill, someone useful for corralling the cattle when it looks like they’re going to stampede. He appears to be copying Alex Jones systematically, but presenting it in an establishment-friendly way. He’s seems to be trying to sanitize the freedom movement and keep it within the acceptable parameters of
    “the American system”. Holding a rally at the Lincoln memorial? Give me a break. Lincoln should be the first guy on Beck’s hit list for amassing centralized power and trashing the Constitution and violating rights, and utterly destroying the America of the founders.

    As long as Beck or anyone else is caught up in silly mythology about the federal gov’t and gets teary-eyed talking about the military, we’re still in the same boat we’ve always been in. This guy is not, as yet, any kind of radical for liberty. He’s not a Jeffersonian by any stretch. So aside from some good information sometimes, what is he offering? A “land of the free, home of the brave” crying party?

    I know he has had some states’ rights people on and some good economists here and there, but the fact that he does not focus on topics like the Fed, nullification, secession, etc., is just more evidence that he’s just a flag-waver at heart.
    He’ll criticize the Fed, but does he call for its abolition? Which federal agencies should be abolished? It would be a great series of shows to pull out the Constitution and then compare it to the leviathan that now exists in DC. I’ve never heard him call for abolition of the monstrosities, but that just makes him like every other talking head out there. He’s sort of one step beyond the faux-libertarian Republicans/conservatives in his rhetoric, but like them he is ultimately unconvincing and tragically weak.

    You can tell by the way he assails “radicals” that he really is a good ol’ boy statist. It’s funny to me that he’ll go hog wild over the commie radicals and what they say about tearing down the structure of gov’t, but he gives himself away there because he always reverts back to the orthodox statist finger-wagger warning people against being an “anti-government type”. I guess he doesn’t think that you can be a radical for liberty and human rights! I guess that the federal gov’t really is, after all, mankind’s greatest achievement, its shining tower of strength and the Seat of Wisdom.

    Even though he has gotten better, I really don’t think he’d be on Fox if they weren’t sure he was in the fold.

    I can’t believe I wrote all that about Beck. I guess I needed to vent. I don’t like him and think he’s extremely annoying, but he is also interesting and does seem to be doing some research. I’ll watch and wait, but I agree with the author above at least as far as making a fetish out of progressives. When will it end? Now we’re on the Soros train. Where does that go? He won’t be for real unless he starts really and truly breaking through the left/right crap of politics. So far it’s only lip service.

  42. Roger says: • Website

    Beck bashing, Bush bashing, Soros examining, obama madness all the same firing from all the sides with various opinions. That’s great that we can all vent and express our opinions. After reading the original article and reading the comments I believe most of you got off of the original subject line. One of the great things about America is that we currently can express our opinions but there are those people that would do away with that right. Progressives, Democrats, Liberals, Republicans, Socialists and anyone I missed all have their missions and agendas and “we” in my opinion are just grains of sand on the beach that the controllers of the world (who ever “they” are) get to walk on while they enjoy their day in the sun. Beck is not an enemy. Maybe some of you think of him as such, to bad.
    I believe there is a God and someday we all will answer to him and He doesn’t care about money or power because he owns all of everything and everyone will be judged according to our lives, good luck. Let’s be for the promotion of good and unity of the common good and figure out who we need to get out of the system. Who is the monkey in the wrench?

  43. Rich says:

    The Nazi (and Mussolini) fascists were first pragmatists. Recall, they made their countries work; they made the trains run on time, and truly did improve the conditions of their populations, who were suffering under an imprudent economic regime imposed upon them at Versailles. Hitler replaced Germany’s traditional rulers. He was considered an avatar of modernism and progress, Nazi propaganda and Soviet propaganda were remarkably similar…They BOTH promoted the “new man”.

    Along with his economic successes Hitler made people feel good about themselves. There’s no doubt the Hitler employed many of the self affirming ideas, to put himself in power, and to show Germans that their WW I defeat was a betrayal by groups within Germany…not the fault of the German people. Hitler (and Mussolini) like all such self-promoters used the media for their theatrics…theatrics that mesmerized a nation into yielding their democratic will to a dictator…a dictator who had improved their lives substantially.

    If Hitler has stopped here; supporting the democratic government..and if he had muted his anti-semetic hatred….he would have had an entirely different historic legacy. The “illustrious” Mr. Hitler might have, as Pius XII had hoped…he might have served as a bulwark against the rising Soviet power.

    But he didn’t…and the rest is history….that is after the 50 million deaths of WW II.

    I hate it when the Hitler analogy is throw around willy-nilly, like Glenn Beck does. It’s good to underline, that no one of us is Hitler….NOT one of us….no matter political party. We can disagree without this kind of ridiculous accusation.

  44. […] friend of mine pointed me to recent piece in the American Conservative on Glenn Bleck’s historiography. Passages like this make it well worth the read: Beck maintains that Americans stand at a crossroads […]

  45. […] Old Right leaves a lot to be desired. Progressivism had right-wing as well as leftist qualities, as Paul Gottfried has made clear, and some of the outstanding Old Right libertarians were themselves close to the progressive […]

  46. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Seems to me that this website should change it’s name from The American Conservative (what a joke) to The American Progressive. No true Conservative could bash Beck or Fox News but Obama would be proud at how you knock someone who is telling us what the Obama administration never will..the truth.

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