Afternoon Inquisition

AI: I know I’m wrong… but I can’t be

Glen Beck is everywhere these days. I don’t even have cable (or hell, even an antenna for my TV) and I can’t get away from the guy.

But I don’t get it. When I see him, it’s obvious to me that this is satire. It’s a mockery of everything on the right and especially Fox News. It’s funny. It’s entertainment. And it’s better than Colbert. Except, it’s clear to me that some people don’t see the sham. They think he’s serious.

In fact, enough people think he’s serious that I’m starting to think that I might be wrong. Maybe he is serious. But… that just makes no sense. I look at him and I am completely unable to see someone who is really trying to be taken seriously. I see the wink and the nod to let me know that it’s satire. Or am I imagining it? It seems I am.

I guess I suffer from Beck Blindness or something. Because I can’t see him for what he is. He’s like one of those optical illusions where I know that both shades of gray are the same, but no matter how hard I squint or tilt my head, I still see two shades of gray… crazy, rabid, nonsensical, political gray… but without metaphorical shades of gray.

Is there anything that you’re completely wrong about? Something that you know you’re wrong about but no matter how hard you try you cannot see it the “right way”?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. With those two shades of grey, it helps if you use paper to cover the other bits so you can only see the two grey patches. I guess you could try putting paper on Glenn Beck to see if anything leaps out at you?

  2. There is nothing I know I’m wrong about. There are quite a few things I strongly suspect. There are certainly bushels full of things I’ve been wrong about in the past.

    I’m starting to suspect majority rule is a very bad idea. Bring on the robot overlords.

  3. I do think he’s serious — about making money. It started out as satire and mockery, but then he started to get a real following.

    I also don’t know how much of it is *true* satire anymore. Now it’s just manipulation of his rabid followers. It’s a bastardization of satire. The man is evil. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

    Anyway. I can be a stubborn ass sometimes. I will say now that I am never wrong :D :D. Which is a total lie, of course.

  4. I’m reminded of the study where some researcher found that conservatives unfamiliar with Colbert thought that under the satirical clown act, he truly believed what he was saying(I’m paraphrasing, possibly badly). They suffered from a sort of conservative blindness.

    It sounds like you may have the liberal equivalent. You want so badly to believe that people cannot be that biggoted and stupid, you hope the whole thing is satire.

    I have no idea whether Beck is sincere or a schmuck. However I bet that many hard core conservatives don’t even even see the satire angle.

  5. I’ve been saying this exact same thing for months now. I’m just waiting for the broadcast where he goes, “Just kidding! Wow I can’t believe how many assholes there are in this country. Anyway thanks for all the money, and I’ve been voting Democrat since 1978. Assholes.”

  6. @ Elyse. I understand how you could think Glen is satire but I’ve smelled his type of manure before. Beck started in radio when he was in high school and I know a couple people who went to high school with him who don’t think he has changed much. He developed his radio persona and shtick when quite young and his style apparently hasn’t changed much. Beck is convinced he was a horrible bad person when as a younger man he slept around, drank and did blow. He then got cleaned up, met a Mormon woman who wouldn’t do him unless Beck became a Mormon and married her. Beck’s a dead serious convert, and a born again conservative Mormon. His radio and TV act are who he’s been on the radio for decades and I can’t see any satire in what he does. I saw a lot of Becks born again, I now have the answers so I’ll be a preacher/pastor/missionary and straighten out the world when I was hanging out in churches. My take is that Beck is sad, dangerous, and very sincere.

    As for what I know I’m wrong about but persist in believing; it has to be my ability to control matter with my mind. You see, I make regular attempts to influence inanimate objects with the power of my thoughts. I attempt this potentially amazing feat on the golf course with great regularity and while watching sporting events on TV; and this despite a lifetime of repeated failures and clearly useless efforts.

  7. Recycling. I maintain the idea that recycling is always the right thing to do and will save the world. I understand on an intellectual level that this is not always the case, but I don’t feel like I’m wrong.

    And I had the same initial response to Beck as Elyse did. I admit that I’ve turned on his show and found it enormously entertaining as satire. But, yeah, he’s for real. Unfortunately. And there are that many people who are that stupid. Damn! I second @cicero: ‘s recommendation of the POI interview.

  8. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Glen Beck is not satire. He’s real. and if he’s not for real, if he is doing satire, then he’s done enough damage to the political discourse that he might as well be for real.

    Same with Fred Phelps, and the occasionally floated notion that he’s some kind of performance artist doing satire, in some kind of runaway example of Poe’s Law. If he is putting on a show, then he’s spreading enough lies and hatred that he might as well be for real.

    With Poe’s Law, there’s a certain honesty. Sometimes you’re intentionally mislead for a short while, but eventually you’re let in on the joke. Other times it’s unintentional, and you’re just caught up for a moment. But eventually, you see behind the curtain, and you see how you were fooled. Not unlike James Randi or Penn & Teller doing slight-of-hand. You know it’s a trick. It’s an illusion. They’re lying to you, but you know that they’re lying to you, and you’re going along with it for the sake of the performance.

    You know Colbert’s doing satire. He so seldom breaks character when the cameras are on, but there’s an honesty there. You know his character isn’t the real him. If you’d never heard of him, and if you could play a clip with the audience reaction muted, you might be fooled for a few minutes. But eventually, you’d realize he’s not serious.

    But Glen Beck is serious. The fact that he’s been going on for however many years now is evidence of that, and he’s rallied his influence enough to begin doing some serious damage. If a performance artist were to pull off that kind of stunt, and not eventually let their audience off the hook, and could live with themselves for doing it, then they might as well be for real.

    As for something that I’m wrong about but can’t seem to come to grips with; I was thinking of a recent example a few minutes ago, but it’s slipped my mind while I was off on that rant. Maybe it’ll come back to me later.

  9. For me the main one has to be the Monty Hall problem. I know it’s a 2 in 3 chance if you change your mind, I know that’s what statisticians say, I know people have run experiments that verify it, but I still can’t for the life of me figure out how.

    In my mind, the only way it can possibly make sense is if it is still 50/50 from the start as Monty will always open a dummy prize/empty door effectively nullifying that choice. But I know that’s wrong.

  10. @Bastard Sheep: Consider what you would think if everything else were the same but instead of three doors, there were 100.

    You choose a door, then Monty opens 98 doors that don’t have the prize. Now how likely does it seem that switching to the one door left would be better?

  11. OK, I get it. The odds of picking the correct door in the first place is 1/3. Monty will open one door, leaving the choice of sticking with my original choice, or switching. Since it’s most likely that I picked the wrong door in the first place, then it’s to my advantage to switch.

  12. Why don’t we tie him to a pole, lower it into the water, and see if he sinks or floats? If he sinks, it means he was totally fucking with us and we lose a great performance artist. If he floats, he’s a genuinely evil human being and he must be burned at the stake.

  13. Glenn Beck is a symptom of the split happening in society. He is making a clarion call for the congregation of ‘right’ thinkers to ‘mass’. This is just part of the splitoff of homo sapiens to homo dumbass and homo correctominious.
    Oh, this evolution won’t be quick, but the believers that thump the good book and marry their granddaughters will be the ‘fathers’ of one group.

  14. I’m sure most skeptics could easily prove me wrong, but I still believe that Oswald was a patsy. I know I’m probably wrong, but I’ve developed a blind spot for evidence that Oswald acted alone.

  15. I know if I sit in the right chair or squint with the correct eye I can will my team to victory. I know I’m right. And I have evidence! Fifty percent of the time what I do works perfectly!!!

  16. Democracy. I know it’s supposed to be near-sacred, but time and again I find myself thinking it’s just a bad idea.

    Letting everyone, regardless of education or understanding, have an equal “say” in how things are run seems, frankly, barmy to me.

    How can the same people who’s judgement is so impaired they for example, smoke, be trusted to make an informed decision about how to deal with, say, the deficit?

  17. @russellsugden: “Democracy…”: Yep a bad idea but as others have said, all others are worse.

    “Letting everyone…”: There is absolutely no equality when it comes to media access which is all that really counts.

    “…smoke….”: I’m more concerned about world leaders who smoke the mental crack of religion. And really, toss out Churchill and FDR??

  18. FTL travel without the time dilation: I desperately want the Star Trek-like warp drive where there’s not only FTL but no apparent time dilation to be real.

    However, there’s this pseky guy named Einstein that’s holding up a sign that says “186,000 mps isn’t just a good idea.It’s the law.”

  19. Free will, mind-brain duality, and the fact that food tastes better if you really get your hands dirty when you’re cooking it. I know all of those things are bullshit, but they still feel real.

    Oh, and Beck is an experimental robot. He was part of Reagan’s Star Wars program, meant to annoy the communists into submission, but he became self-aware. Mwahahahahaha.

  20. There was a multi-year, very dark period of my life where I was seriously drinking the post-modernism/deconstructionalist koolaid. There may even have been a time when Deepak Chopra made sense to me.
    I’m on medication now and I’m told I will be able to live an almost normal life.

  21. I have the same thing with Beck. The few times I’ve watched a clip I always think he’s aware it’s a joke.

    Other than that, I try to keep in mind that I can ALWAYS be wrong about just about anything – including things I was absolutely sure of five minutes ago. It’s like living on a mental balance ball.

  22. @slxpluvs: I’ve no idea about Joseph Decreux, but I’m going to find out…

    @James Fox: But is it better than all the others?

    The near constant wrangleing in america about vaccines springs from the democratic notion that any tom, dick or harry’s opinion is equal to (or in the case of “mother’s instinct” better than) the medical profession.

    The perminant hoo-har in US schools around text books arise because they are democratically control by the people of the local area. People with little or no qualifications to make desicions about what should be taught.

    These debates are non-exsistant in the UK, where the public accept some people (experts) are best placed to make certain decisions of their behalf.

    Also, most of the Glen Beck Fear is really fear that, being a democracy, america is subject to the whim of the plebians and that he has the plebians in the palm of his hand.

  23. @russellsugden: True but… The problem with text book selection is not that it is locally driven by non-experts, but that it is inconsistent. Most states (AFAIK), the text book decisions are made by local school boards (city, town, county, school district), and most of the time they make good decisions based on advice from teachers and other experts or at least informed public-spirited citizens. When they screw up (i.e. Dover), they get bad publicity, the reputation of the schools goes down, and real estate values plummet. It is eventually self-correcting.

    The problem is there are a couple of elephants in the room. Texas, California and a few other states have central, state-wide school book selection. I think California just publishes a list of multiple choices of acceptable text books, but Texas does central state-wide purchasing (hence the infamous Texas School Book Depository.) Getting the Texas contract is a huge financial win for any publisher, so they write the books to Texas standards. If all states did central purchasing, or if Texas did local selection and purchasing, it would have much less influence. I don’t think Texas would voluntarily change though, because they like having power.

    New conspiracy theory… Oswald was employed by the Texas Department of Education… Wait a minute! He was!

  24. @russellsugden: I agree about Glen Beck. But that’s also self correcting, at least as long as democracy prevails. People who lost their pensions or retirement savings in the Bush meltdown and are ticked off that the economy hasn’t recovered and magically restored them will eventually discover that the Beck/Palin/Koch Brothers/Tea Baggers plan to steal their Social Security as well.

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