Dissent Of The Day

Sep 2 2010 @ 10:07am

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I watched (twice) the Beck rally video you posted and forwarded the link to a few of my Beck-loving and Beck-loathing friends.  I anxiously await their responses.  I do, however, feel compelled to make a comment or two with respect to the video, its producer's motives, and your choice to post it.

I'm no fan of Beck (or of Palin), and the people in this clip certainly represent the types of folks that I come up against every day here in small town NC-USA. But I think it's a bit unfair to use this piece as some sort of us-vs-them commentary on the state of contemporary American politics.  Does anyone (seriously) think that Beck's rally was completely void of thoughtful and intelligent people?  I may not agree with them, or with Beck's brand of conservatism, but I doubt these rubes truly represent the Tea Party types that showed up for this event.

Of course, I'm not surprised that the video exists, or that it was edited as it was.  Conservatives did the same thing with clips from the various Obama rallies in 2008.  I'll never forget the one that showed an unfortunate African-American female celebrating the idea that she no longer had to worry about her bills because "We got Obama!"  Sean Hannity practically dedicated an entire month to it, running it every chance he got.  It turned my stomach to see him imply that Obama voters were nothing more than a bunch of economic illiterates who deserved to be mocked viciously on national television every night. 

And of course, this brings up a more important point: both sides do it.  The right constantly paints the left as commie-loving freaks, and the left never misses a chance to portray the right as Bible-thumping inbreds.  The entire display (from both sides) is despicable.  I've sworn off cable news, talk radio, most blogs, and the NY Times editorial page because not one of them has anything interesting to say anymore.  There is no debate, no analysis, and no neutral commentary.  None. 

I've walked away from Andrew's blog on more than one occasion for the same reason, but lately I've been giving it a second chance.  I like the give and take, the constant revisions, and the interesting stories he tells.  This video, however, and your choice to post it with only an accompanying line of snark to introduce it, again makes me wonder why I even bother anymore.  How about a bit of grace?

The idiom I used to introduce the video, "straight from the horse's mouth," was meant to convey that the most direct, authoritative source on the mindset of aggrieved white conservatives was the rally-goers themselves.  The interviews were important because they bypassed blog commentary and allowed the people to present their own views (unlike this other interviewer).  Of course the video was edited, and selective bias was certainly in play.  But I do believe that the views expressed were largely representative of the crowd and Beck followers in general (and apparently so does the reader: "[they] certainly represent the types of folks that I come up against every day here in small town NC-USA.")

Giving someone a microphone and allowing them to voluntarily voice their views is not an "us-vs-them commentary"; it's an attempt to understand them. I for one didn't laugh or feel disdain for the people in the video. Rather, I felt pathos that people commonly confine themselves to such close-minded views. Also, I thought the young interviewer did show a "bit of grace"; he politely let the people speak and refrained from any snarky commentary, either during the segments or afterward.

But to the reader's larger point, I agree that the media tends to filter out sensible voices in favor of sensationalism.  So the video above is a small contribution to countering that filter.