Several years ago people would have found it unseemly for a white millionaire to tell his mostly white audience that he wants to "reclaim" the Civil Rights Movement. It was just two short years ago that most LGBT people agreed that the "Gay is the new black" mentality was offensive; now millions of people tune in daily to someone who thinks that rich white straight men are the most oppressed people in America.
I still believe that people are generally good and that most Americans' values are generally in the right place even if the last year's event have shaken me a bit. Let me explain.
Someone like Glenn Beck will never have the same interests as I do. He's estimated to pull in $32 million a year, and, if that didn't skew his worldview enough, the fact that he gets that money because he propagandizes for the wealthy means that he can never have a public moment of clarity. It would ruin his effectiveness as a propagandist:
Glenn Beck is the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters of the people we tested. He scores an extraordinarily high 75 percent warm rating, 57 percent very warm.
This affinity for Beck came through very clearly in the focus groups. The only news source that participants said they could trust was Fox. Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity were cited as people who "are not afraid to tell it like it is" and support their arguments with solid facts. Beck was undoubtedly the hero in these groups. Participants consider him an "educator" (in contrast to the popular Rush Limbaugh who is an "entertainer") who teaches people history and puts himself at risk because he exposes the truth. In the words of a woman in Ft. Lauderdale, "I would trust my life in his hands."
How many Americans are we talking about? Media Matters puts the ratings for his least watched show at 1.39 million. And they celebrate - his ratings are "collapsing." He only propagandized to over a million people in just one show in just one medium; normally he gets over two million! Oh, and he gets around 9 million listeners to his radio show, and millions of people have bought his books, attended his speeches, and even bought his video game. And those people talk and email and bark at their family and friends, repeating the lies Glenn Beck has been telling them.
And, of course, all the other kingpins in rightwing land have their audiences. So that's millions more.
It adds up after a while. A Democratic activist happily posted this chart, because it shows that less than a simple majority of Americans have been brainwashed into this very specific, very carefully crafted worldview designed to make people oppose their own economic interests. Only 29% of Americans have ingested enough toxic waste to consider themselves "sympathetic" to a movement that's first and foremost about making the rich richer at the expense of everyone else.
There's nothing particularly good about those numbers. That's tens of millions of Americans who think it's OK for white people to "reclaim" the Civil Rights Movement, tens of millions of people who think that it's possible for
Social Security to go "bankrupt," tens of millions of people who are being lied to about the "threat" posed by Islam, etc.
This isn't so much an argument about how people are fundamentally good, I suppose, but with all this noise in the way, it's hard to imagine anyone still doing the right thing. And lots of people are. Now that the focus is off the gays as scapegoats and rightwingers are propagandizing less about teh gayz, we're seeing progress in the public opinion front. When we were made the center of attention and demonized, we saw regress.
When people know better, they do better. That's why so many resources are being invested in making them know less, and why our struggle should focus on education first, making sure we're at least all working from the correct factual basis. The right figured that one out a long time ago; that's why they set up so many biased media outlets and took over so many school boards. It's a tactic worth emulating.