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Brian, Beck, and Bitterness

So NBC anchor Brian Williams was caught telling a lie. He was not in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq, despite having said he was on a number of occasions.

The reaction to Williams has been widespread outrage. Most people recognize that lies don’t happen in isolation, and someone willing to make up one story is likely to make up a lot of stories. And, predictably, tall tales told by Williams are now coming out of the woodwork. His reputation is shattered, and his career is likely over.

But what if I were to tell you that the people who called Williams’s falsehoods to light didn’t like him? What if they worked for ABC News or some other competitor? What if they had a longstanding grudge against the guy? Or, for you Mormons out there, what if Brian Williams were a member of the LDS Church? Would any of those qualifiers lessen the severity of what Williams did? Would any of them make him an honest man? Would they restore his credibility and salvage his career? Of course not.

But when you change the name “Brian Williams” to “Glenn Beck,” all bets are off.

This began on a Facebook thread, where noted Mormon scholar Daniel Peterson linked to this article about Glenn Beck’s “crisis of faith.” I jumped in and pointed out that Glenn Beck, like Brian Williams, doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, so, like Brian Williams, he can’t be trusted. Beck’s defenders then leapt into the fray with weak attempts to claim Beck was just misquoted by his own website, but the conversation quickly shifted to… me. Because, see, I worked for a Democrat at one point, and Democrats are Beck’s ideological enemies. And I’m just a bitter Beck hater because Beck said nasty things about my father. Also, Glenn Beck is a fellow Mormon, and one Mormon has no business calling another Mormon a liar.

That same sentiment spilled over into the comments section of my previous post. A comment from Andy said my  “infatuation with all things Glenn Beck is… disturbing,” while a commenter named Nate directly referenced the Facebook exchange and concluded that my behavior there was “at least as” bad as Beck’s original lie – meaning it was probably worse.

“In a recent Facebook thread where you repeatedly attacked Beck as a “liar” who had embarrassed the church, I couldn’t help but feel that your behavior in that Facebook thread was at least as deplorable and embarrassing to the church as you think Beck’s comment was on that radio show.”
– Nate, February 7, 2015

Nate and I discussed this further in what was, I hope, a civil exchange in the comments section, but I wanted to bring this to light on the main page here, because  many who read my original posts may not pore over what is said about them in the comments.

I found it interesting when I raised the Brian Williams comparison, Nate had no problem with using the “deplorable and embarrassing” language he criticized previously. To quote Nate again:

It is beginning to look like Williams is a pathological liar. How could he possibly retain his position as the face of NBC News?

How, indeed? Also, why is it okay to call Brian Williams a pathological liar but not Glenn Beck? Referring to Williams as a liar is entirely appropriate, but referring to Beck as a liar is “deplorable and embarrassing” – indeed, “at least as deplorable and embarrassing” as the vicious lie Glenn Beck told to millions of listeners.

I don’t get that at all.

I also have no patience for the idea that because Beck is a Mormon, he should get a pass. If anything, Latter-day Saints should have less patience for dishonesty from one of their own than for someone like Brian Williams. Beck’s prominence as a Mormon requires more moral accountability, not less, and Mormons ought to be the first in line to expose Beck’s dishonesty.

Also allow me, for a moment, to address the issue of my oft-cited “bitterness” and “infatuation with all things Glenn Beck.” I have repeatedly written on this blog about the damage that festering hatred can do to the soul. You’ll have to take my word for it that my so-called “obsession” with Glenn Beck – who is mentioned in only 32 of my 833 posts here, and usually only in passing – is not fueled by half a decade of festering bile. Rather, it is motivated by concern for the damage Glenn Beck is doing to the church, which is considerable. A dishonest, inaccurate, and apocalyptic prophet of doom is the most prominent public face of the church to which I belong and a stumbling block for good people who are rightly disturbed by his bad example. I have a big problem with that.

Still, you may not believe me. You may think this is nothing more than a schoolyard grudge. Such is the way of things – I’m the only one who knows my heart on this subject, and there’s nothing I can do about whatever judgment you choose to make on that score.

So let’s suppose my detractors are right. Suppose I really am nothing more than a seething cauldron of anti-Beck bitterness, and that I spend every waking moment of every day nursing my anti-Beck wrath to keep it warm.

How does that change the facts I’ve cited?

How does my being a terrible person make Glenn Beck an honest one?

Peeves
From the desk of Scott C. Kuperman

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13 Comments

  1. But alas you are not a terrible person and are correct on all accounts in my opinion. I followed with interest years ago as to why you disliked Beck. I have appropriately come to the same conclusion over the years, albeit a tad slower. Unfortunately I know you and not Beck, so my opinion obviously does not matter since I must be a Beck hater and a Stallion Cornell obsessor.

  2. “tall tales told by Williams are now coming out of the woodwork. His reputation is shattered, and his career is likely over.”

    I’ll believe it when I see it. I thought that of Kieth Olbermann or Bill Maher but it actually seems to help their careers.

    Remember the famous “but I didn’t inhale!” quote? Got that man elected, made him one of “the people”.

    I am unfamiliar with the specifics and probably do not have a way to sort out the truth anyway so I’m not involved in Glen Beck’s claims.

    An occasional teller of tall tales seems useful in a peculiar way to prevent deifying the general authorities (too late for that maybe). I’m reminded of Paul H. Dunn’s tall tales. He was an excellent storyteller but after some years the tales grew in his mind.

    But I’ve noticed that for myself, too. That’s why from time to time I look in my journal before I tell a tale so that it doesn’t get too “tall”.

  3. Holy straw man! When did anyone suggest you are a “terrible person”?

    Yes, I said you seem “infatuated” with Glenn Beck, and that I find it disturbing. The fact that you’ve *only* mentioned Beck in 32 unique blog posts seems to corroborate my claim that you are infatuated with him. And whether or not your infatuation is disturbing or not is a matter of personal taste.

    I also said it’s inappropriate to publicly predict another man’s apostasy. I stand by that statement, although I know you disagree. But it’s that part that I find most disturbing.

    I’m honestly surprised you are being so defensive here. If all this discussion took place in the comments section of the previous post and resolved itself there, why do you feel the need to make a new post about it now? Apparently because you are worried some readers didn’t “pore over what is said … in the comments”? If they didn’t read the comments to the previous post, they wouldn’t know what I (or Nate) said to begin with, so there’s no need to tell your side of the story when they weren’t even aware of the other side. Seems like an odd rationale, which is why this entire post comes across as unnecessarily defensive.

    • Andy, the bulk of remarks were in response to Nate, not you. I did not mean to suggest you called me a terrible person, as you definitely did not. This was also precipitated by the Facebook thread I referenced – there are plenty of “terrible person” references there, most of them using stronger and nastier adjectives.

      As for my 32 unique blog posts in which the name “Beck” comes up in the search engine, I found precisely 3 before this one where Beck is the primary subject of the discussion. In the other 29, his name is mentioned in passing, usually without comment or judgment in statements like “Lest you think I’m just being partisan, I’m quoting the Obama administration here, not Fox News or Glenn Beck.” And prior to 2010, Beck got nothing but praise here – I used to be quite a fan. At one point in 2008, I referred to him as my favorite radio talk show host.

      Am I too defensive here? Yeah, probably. I confess that I get really tired of getting personally beaten up whenever I mention the guy’s name. However, I do think there’s
      a larger point to be made that is useful for discussion, which is why I brought it out of the comments section. Ad hominem attacks take many forms, and I was trying to illustrate that even a well-intentioned ad hominem that expresses concern for an arguer’s soul is still an ad hominem that doesn’t address the argument.

      As for the propriety of predicting Beck’s apostasy, you probably have a good point there. I rationalize it by pointing out that Beck has made very public claims to revelation to justify his hooey, which, in my mind, already demonstrate apostasy and are tremendously embarrassing to the church. I also can make the case that I’m not encouraging or celebrating the apostasy that already seems to be publicly in progress, and that I’m only calling to attention to something that is happening independent of my efforts one way or the other. But such rationalizations are, indeed, unnecessarily defensive, even though I managed to sneak them in here under the wire.

  4. Well, I think it’s hard for some to see the bad sides of Beck, because he did do some very good work. But it’s clear that he’s gone off the rails to paraphrase Ozzy Osbourne.

    With Williams though, it’s an entirely different matter. NBC personnel were aware of Williams’ Walter Mitty tendencies as early as 2003, and said nothing. The network as a whole was complicit. So I don’t think his career is over by far; he’s still a valuable asset to the Collective. Indeed, NPR and the NY Times have already circled the wagon for him. He’ll likely transfer over to MSNBC where Sharpton the rape hoaxer and Maddow who lies about the Koch Bros and refuses to retract them when found out because she “doesn’t play requests.” He’ll be quite at home there.

    If Dan Rather can make up some kind of award to give Williams, all will be forgiven.

  5. I enjoyed the exchange, but it is a little disingenuous of you to suggest that I said you were a terrible person. I did not do that.

    To clarify, I am not a Glenn Beck defender. I don’t pay much attention to him. I did not attack you in the aforementioned Facebook thread; I did not comment–even once–in that thread. But as I watched the comments on that thread expand, I was genuinely surprised by how vindictive you were. It’s not that I think calling out a public figure on telling a lie is as deplorable as telling a lie in the first place. That is nonsense. It’s just that when you attacked Beck in such a personal, acrimonious way (i.e., in comment…after comment…after comment in that FB thread), and when you dredge up the same incident from the 2010 campaign over and over again as proof that Glenn Beck is a dishonest person, all of that together is what I found disturbing. For you, it doesn’t seem to be enough to say, Glenn Beck told a lie. It’s more like, Glenn Beck is a rotten liar and I hate him for it and I will not stop talking about him until I’ve informed everyone I know about what a horrible person he is. As Elder Holland would say, you must be downing another quart of pickle juice between each tirade. 🙂

    My acknowledging that “It is beginning to look like Brian Williams is a pathological liar” was not a final judgment on Brian Williams’ situation or his character. “It is beginning to look like” doesn’t sound very definitive to me. I didn’t “call” Williams anything; I commented on the mounting evidence. In any case, for the record, I have no animosity toward Brian Williams. But if it turns out he has been lying about the stories now in question, I think NBC should move on.

    • No, you absolutely did not say I was a terrible person, nor did I say you said I was a terrible person. I’ve been unclear here, it seems, and I apologize for that. My final line of the original post was not meant to be accusatory; it was meant as a reductio ad absurdum to illustrate my point – i.e. even if I were the worst person in the world, how would that make Glenn Beck an honest man? Apparently, my rhetorical flourish came across as an indictment of both you and Andy, and I did not intend it to be such. Again, I apologize.

      Your memory of that FB thread is markedly different from mine. I never called Glenn Beck “rotten;” I never claimed to hate him; I never called him a horrible person or any other epithet. Indeed, I made a calculated decision to avoid using such terms. (You’ll notice I didn’t direct any such namecalling to those who were piling on, either.) No, I called Glenn Beck a liar, a label with a specific definition for which I provided irrefutable evidence, and, for doing such, I was inundated with ad hominem nonsense.

      As others tried to derail the discussion with accusations that I was a deeply bitter pickle-juice drinker at best or a traitor to my country at worst, I would try to disarm the nonsense by conceding that I was, in fact, the worst person who had ever lived, but that doesn’t change the fact that Glenn Beck lied. The repetition of my initial accusation may have been tiresome, but it was my standard response to the dozens of personal attacks against me that came “in comment…after comment…after comment in that FB thread.” Perhaps I should have walked away. A better man than I probably would have. But I’m not comfortable with letting ad hominem tirades bludgeon me into silence and thereby win an argument.

      Indeed, “liar” is a term, definitively or not, that you are comfortable applying to Brian Williams, and rightly so. Brian Williams lied, ergo, that makes him a liar. To quote your last comment: “I didn’t ‘call’ Williams anything; I commented on the mounting evidence,” and that’s exactly right.

      Yet when I applied precisely that same standard to Glenn Beck, for that you judged me to be “vindictive;” you judge me personally as being “bitter” and letting my feelings “fester,” and you judge my behavior to be “at least as deplorable and embarrassing” as Beck’s lying to millions. (That one was way, way over the top, no?) Your willingness to apply a clear standard to Williams flounders when Beck’s lies are called to light.

      Okay, yes, now I’m being too defensive again. But I reiterate: I don’t bring this up because I wish Beck bodily harm – or, indeed, any harm. I don’t. I wish him well. I hope he lives a long, happy life, after which he is called up to heaven to inherit eternal glory and return to live in the presence of God.

      No, I bring this up because having a liar like Glenn Beck as one of the most visible, public faces of our church is not a good thing. I think people ought to respond to a liar like Glenn Beck the same way they respond to a liar like Brian Williams – to use your term, everyone “should move on” while Beck steps away from the public eye. Anything I can do to help move that process forward, I will continue to do. But I intend to drink Diet Coke, not pickle juice, while I do it.

  6. Mentioning Beck in 3.84% of your Blog Posts implies only “mild interest” in Convert Beckdomium.

    Personally, I’d like to get back to a situation where 99.9% of your Blog posts concern The Gun on Ice Planet Zero. I’m still confused as to why Boxey decided that being a stowaway was a “good idea”.

    Without reservation, I state Stallion Cornell is a paragon, and Beck is a confused Convert. Give him some time to understand.

    • I’ve never liked “Gun on Ice Planet Zero,” because the idea that an interstellar spaceship would be hemmed in to range of a big gun on an ice planet is really stupid.

      Also, upon further review, it turns out Beck is only mentioned in 29 posts – the false positive on three others came because in one post I used the word “beckoned,” and in two I mentioned the “Beckham Lodge” at Aspen Grove Family Camp.

      • Good Evening Stallion,

        As critical as I am of TCoLDS, I hold a deep and profound respect for the adherents of the moral and ethical tenets of the LDS. As a typical Common Man, I do not consider the convert Beck a spokesperson for the LDS — this is manufactured agitprop by our MSM.

        I hope in the future that Beck comes to understand this distinction, and acts accordingly.

        • This comment doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

          My church is a church of converts, and even those who have been born into its ranks need to experience a personal conversion at some point in their lives. The fact that Beck is a convert is irrelevant. What matters is that what he says is unreliable and unrepresentative of what the church teaches – and that he has such a wide platform from which to spread his nonsense and thereby embarrass his church.