Sunday, September 4, 2011

Glenn Beck, Human Rights, and Responsibilities

After hosting the Restoring Courage rally in Jerusalem, Glenn Beck was scheduled to give a talk at High Point Church in Arlington, TX. As a side note, Media Matters recently reminded readers that High Point Church canceled the memorial service of a Navy veteran in 2007 because he was gay.

An August 29th podcast recording of Beck's talk is available at www[dot]highpointchurch[dot]com/ under the podcast menu. In that recording of his talk, Beck defended Israel as he did at the Restoring Courage rally, claiming that Israel is not an "oppressor nation", nor is it committing genocide. (Some observers might disagree with this statement, of course.) What struck me most about this talk, however, was Beck's vitriol toward human rights efforts.

At several points in the talk, Beck spoke in harsh terms about the human rights movement. First, he warned listeners about "all the nutjobs in the world" gathering at the upcoming "Durban conference", which was likely a reference to the UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. Also, during a reading of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, he accused human rights movements of keeping records of wrongs in an unloving fashion.

"All these love movements, all these human rights movements, they keep detailed records of being wronged. Love makes no record of being wronged."
Later in the talk, Beck claimed that the human rights movement had been "perverted" into an impotent "chihuahua" that allegedly operates through fear.

"The human rights movements have been perverted. They are so upside down ... you don't even know what they mean anymore. They don't even know. Yes, they do know what they mean. It's not about love, and it's not about freedom. Dismiss them. Code Pink, all of these other groups. Dismiss them. You have no power except the power of fear, and I'm not fearful. It's like an elephant and a chihuahua. Everybody might think that little chihuahua really means something to the elephant, because it's barking and nipping its heals. Yapyapyapyapyapyap! At some point, the elephant doesn't even know the darn chihuahua is there. The elephant is lord. These movements who are engaging in fear and intimidation, that's a chihuahua. Dismiss them. Dismiss the lies, dismiss the corruption."
The YouTube video below provides audio attributed to another Beck talk, including some vitriolic words about the human rights movement at the 0:31 mark.

"These human rights organizations are a grotesque parody. Martin Luther King would be ashamed ... I've studied the pictures of him. I've looked at them. I put one on my desk for almost a year with him standing there in a group of people, linked arms, walking. The guy had death in his eyes. He knew he was going to die. He knew. So did everybody else there. They all had fear in their eyes. It was a moment in time, a snapshot, but he stood. For what? For equal justice and a chance for man to be free. We must understand that you cannot have a human rights movement without a human responsibility movement. So today, let us declare, we dismiss the parody of the human rights movement. We will fight for human rights when human rights -- and it's everywhere, in our own country and elsewhere -- we will fight for when human rights have been lost or are being trampled, but we will fight using human responsibilities."
In effect, these words belittle the present-day human rights movement by lampooning it as a toothless tiger that favors rights over responsibilities. I encourage anyone who embraces this straw man attack on the human rights movement to actually research what human rights defenders do. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, PLAN International, Physicians for Human Rights, MADRE, and countless other organizations are devoted to investigating human rights violations, exposing atrocities, holding offenders accountable, and fostering reform. They alert the world to horrors such as war crimesunjust detention, torture, sexual violence, FGMtrafficking, and a host of other abuses. They hold governments accountable for how they treat human beings. They encourage supporters to take a stand against injustice by pressuring governments to redress human rights violations. In short, these organizations work tirelessly to defend human rights while encouraging observers to stand up for the rights of others. They do NOT resemble Beck's straw man.

As an antidote to alleged emphasis on rights over responsibilities, Beck has put forth his "Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities", available at www[dot]glennbeck[dot]com/2011/08/24/declaration-of-rights-responsibilities/. Beck's declaration contains ten responsibilities for readers, most of which are noble and reasonable, such as the responsibility to defend freedom of speech, to honor others' freedom of worship, to aid the less fortunate, and to speak up for those who are unjustly accused. (Some commentators find great irony in this.) Other tasks, such as accountability to God and the responsibility to uphold the Ten Commandments, reveal the Biblical flavor of the document.

Peppered with references to Biblical heroes and "nature's God", Beck's declaration rails against "political correctness" and the alleged silencing of opposing views. The document alleges that the more people focus on their rights, and the more they are allegedly told not to worry about their responsibilities, the more they lose those rights. I don't know why Beck believes that people are demanding rights while shrugging off responsibilities, but I don't see this in the human rights movement.

Beck's acrimony toward the human rights movement is not unique, since other Religious Right figures have looked askance at human rights efforts such as CEDAW, UNCRC, and a 2010 child marriage prevention bill. What troubles me is the way Beck caricatures human rights efforts, painting the movement as a individualist "chihuahua" while ignoring its many positive achievements. Is it because several human rights organizations demand accountability from Israel, a country that Beck lionizes? Is it because Beck wants to distinguish his "Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities" from the human rights movement? I don't know. What I do know is that we should honor human rights work while keeping an eye on anti-human rights movement rhetoric from the Religious Right.


  1. Where to start. Okay. Has anyone ever actually pointed out to Beck the exact and dubious colonoscopic location of his noggin? Someone should let him know. It's like walking around with one's zipper down all day long and no one has the decency to point it out. I hate it when that happens.

    And this, "all the nutjobs in the world ..." The height of self-deprecating humor. What a master of oratory and logic. Beck is. Not.


  2. Cognitive Dissenter -- The irony and hypocrisy of his words blow my mind sometimes.

  3. Nothing he says anymore shocks me, which in itself is shocking.

  4. Anomaly100 -- Yeah, he's said it all at this point.


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