jump to navigation

The Demise of Democracy August 31, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in politics, Uncategorized.
Tags: ,
add a comment

As a philosophy professor I am very seldom without words; but this video clip leaves me speechless.

Last weekend Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin staged a “rally” in Washington, DC. From reports, it isn’t obvious what the rally was about.

Here is a clip full of interviews of people in attendance. After watching the clip I am even less sure what the rally was about.

I challenge anyone to find a shred of reasoning here. Political thinkers often say that democracy requires an educated public.

How about a public that maintains some connection with reality?

book-section-book-cover2Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com


Beck’s Theology March 15, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Ethics, religion.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Last week, on his radio show, Glenn Beck condemned churches that promote “social justice”.

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church web site,” Beck urged his audience. “If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

He claims social justice is “a perversion of the Gospel,” and “not what Jesus would say” and fears that concern for social justice is a problem “infecting all” faiths.

Many people are upset with Beck for these remarks and Rev. Jim Wallis, a prominent evangelical argued :

“I don’t know if Beck is just strange, just trying to be controversial, or just trying to make money. But in any case, what he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show.”

Religious conservatives have long argued that government-run welfare is ineffective or that it undermines genuine charitable instincts by non-state actors. But the claim that charity in and of itself is irreligious is new and bizarre.

Of course, I don’t know why anyone would listen to Beck’s interpretation of gospel. But many people regard  his opinions on economics, history, or foreign policy to be worthy, so why should theology be spared?

I have always been amazed at conservatism’s ability to use anti-government animus to hold together vastly different ideological positions. Surely Beck’s version of the “libertarian gospel” is pushing the limits of that coalition.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Culture of Violence April 6, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Cross-posted at Reviving the Left

If it seems like every day there is some nut job mowing down as many people as possible for no good reason, that is because it has been happening every day—last week, over a period of 6 days, 30 people were gunned down in mass shootings. The shootings in Pittsburgh, where 3 police officers were gunned down make 33 in 7 days.

But these shootings are only the anecdotal surface of a statistical sea of mayhem—approximately 30,000 dead, 60,000 injured from gunshots in 2005 in the U.S. according to the CDC, of which almost half were homicides.

Compared to other countries, the U.S. is still the wild west:

Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):

  Homicide Suicide Other (inc Accident)
USA (2001)      3.98 5.92 0.36
Italy (1997)  0.81 1.1 0.07
Switzerland (1998) 0.50 5.8    0.10
Canada (2002) 0.4 2.0 0.04
Finland (2003) 0.35 4.45 0.10
Australia (2001) 0.24 1.34 0.10
France (2001) 0.21 3.4 0.49
England/Wales (2002) 0.15 0.2 0.03
Scotland (2002) 0.06 0.2 0.02
Japan (2002) 0.02 0.04 0

Data taken from Cukier and Sidel (2006) The Global Gun Epidemic. Praeger Security International.  Westport

Why are we prone to such violence? This is one of the deepest questions we must answer if the American Dream is survive.

The recent shooting in Pittsburgh, where Richard Poplawski gunned down 3 police officers, is especially disturbing because the shooter was apparently motivated by a political perspective that I would like to say is bizarre:

Poplawski feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon,” said Edward Perkovic, his best friend.

I would like to say this is bizarre—Obama has explicitly rejected any policy to ban guns or to take away anyone’s rights—except that this is the same rhetoric that we’ve been hearing from “respectable” spokespersons for the conservative movement since Obama was elected. Via David Neiwert, Fox News ran a feature in which Glenn Beck and the NRA’s Wayne Lapierre made the same charge.

This apocalyptic rhetoric resonates with other conservative “spokespersons”—Chuck Norris, Michele Bachmann, and the ubiquitous Beck—calling for outright revolution. The conservative hate machine is working overtime to convince their supporters that Obama is a socialist who wants to take their freedom, their money, and their guns. And the GOP members of Congress are repeating their nonsense.

This rhetoric has been accompanied by a surge in gun sales immediately after the election.

According to FBI figures for the week of November 3 to 9, the bureau received more than 374,000 requests for background checks on gun purchasers — a nearly 49 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

And FBI statistics report “1.2 million more requests for background checks of potential gun buyers from November to February than there were in the same four months last year.”  

I am not blaming right wing rhetoric for our homicide rate or for the Pittsburgh shooter. He was clearly crazy and likely didn’t need encouragement from loudmouths on the teevee.

But these conservatives (surely not all conservatives) clearly contribute to the culture of violence that permeates our society. They are one contingent of a vast network of mutually reinforcing cultural actors who think violence is the answer to any problem. That idea dominated our foreign policy during the Bush years and now infects our political discourse.

If its intended effect is not to encourage nutjobs like Poplawski, then what exactly is intended?