So, apparently Glenn Beck is taking his news network, The Blaze, and re-branding it as “libertarian.” Many libertarians are not happy with this fact.
However, in a fit of fairness and good reason, Thoughts on Liberty writer Cathy Reisenwitz wrote yesterday telling us all to cool our chaps for a bit and realize that any addition to freedom is a good one. After all, with a group as small as ours, every little bit helps.
Glenn Beck can be extremely useful to libertarians, in that he can expose his huge audience to libertarian ideas.
That’s the kicker, though, isn’t it? The real kerfuffle about Glenn Beck is not that he’s obnoxious and is calling himself a libertarian. There are plenty of obnoxious libertarians out there, and we accept them. The problem is simply whether or not Glenn Beck is a libertarian.
As many people have pointed out, Glenn Beck’s past writings, TV show rants, and personal appearances have all suggested that he is not libertarian but, in fact, a conservative who plays the party lines and will draw whatever other lines he has to to “prove” that liberals are the downfall of American civilization.
Maybe he has turned over a new leaf. I don’t know. The front page of The Blaze is not encouraging.
Cathy also points out in her blog that there are millions of people who love Glenn Beck, and adding him to the libertarian table could bring lots of other people with him.
However, I would bet that for every “fan” of Glenn Beck, there are probably two others who despise or mock him. Adding someone like that as a public face for libertarians would only serve to push more potential allies away.
And what of the people who Glenn Beck would bring? Keep in mind that we are talking about a talk show personality with a slight bent for conspiracy theories and neo-conservatism. Because this is what he supports, those are the kinds of people who love him. Would they be good advocates for liberty? My bet is no.
Though I agree with Cathy and others who have said that we need to appeal to more people, adding people to the liberty movement for the sake of their popularity has not gone so well for us. Think of Bob Barr. Think of the Tea Party. All of these things were popular, we took them in, and the conjunction of their popularity and non-libertarianism have done damage to libertarianism’s public perception. Libertarianism needs to be focused on moving forward, not adding people who will hold it back.
It’s been popular to write open letters to Glenn Beck. I have nothing to say to him. He’s not the one who needs convincing. We are. When he’s ready to talk to us, he’ll come to our conferences, read our books, and listen to our scholars. And when he starts contributing to our discussions, then, and only then, should we let his popularity work for us. Until then, it will only work against us.