Friday, August 28, 2009

The Conservative Myth About a "Civilian National Security Force"

Glenn Beck has recently made accusations that Obama plans to establish a Civilian National Security Force.  What is this security force that he mentions?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Much like everything else that Beck commentates on, he has taken out of context and blown out of proportion a comment Obama had made on July 2nd, 2008 (four months before he was elected president and six before he would take office), in which Obama had said the following:
We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded
Beck typically mentions that the reason why you may not have heard alarming news like this is because the media simply does not report it, either because they are in the president's back pocket, or because they are not simply aware of it, but fear not, Glenn Beck will let you know the truth.

What exactly was Obama suggesting?  Some conservatives interpret this security force to be on par with Hitler's Shutzstaffel, commonly referred to as the "SS", or along the lines of what Saddam Hussein had done in Iraq.  In brief, to understand why the conservatives like Beck are frightened, it is because the SS were responsible for implementing the Nazi's "Final Solution", which was responsible for the atrocities during the Holocaust.  Is Obama suggesting the extermination of inferiors, or the creation of a master race?  No.  Glenn Beck would like you to believe that Obama wants to solidify power by establishing a separate force, under his control, and separate from the military, yet "just as strong" and "well-funded", so he can get rid of the opposition, and establish a communist regime.  This sounds like material that makes a good conspiracy theory.  The story outlined by Beck and his fellow commentators reminds me of a book that I had read, The Secret Terrorist, by Bill Hughes.

According to The Secret Terrorist, the Jesuits have a secret plot to take over the United States, and the conspiracy includes the Federal Reserve, the papacy, and even the JFK and RFK assassinations, as well as September 11th.  Conspiracy theories such as this one are ridiculous, and come out everyday, but rarely get an audience.  During the last several years, people had even believed that the Bush administration orchestrated September 11th to solidify power and expand the authority of the Federal government, but that has been dismissed as pure trash, so why have Fox News shows picked up on such crap and try to pass it off as real news, and what exactly does Obama mean by his comment?

Despite what Bill O'Reilly claims to be the "No Spin Zone", which one would believe only applies to his show and not the station, neither his show nor the others featured offer completely bipartisan news.  I do not have a problem with that, except when they attempt to pass it off as the truth, especially such ridiculous exaggerations.  We all learn in high school at some point about yellow journalism, which according to wikipedia "a type of journalism that downplays legitimate news in favor of eye-catching headlines that sell more newspapers", or in this case, ratings.  Subjects commonly include scandals and use unnamed sources (sound familiar), and according to journalist and historian Frank Luther Mott, was defined by characteristics such as scare headlines, often of minor news (like a year old campaign speech), "faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts", and dramatic sympathy with the "underdog" against the system (a Republican minority).  Essentially all that Fox News broadcasts.  I would not be surprised if the blame the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine on Barack Obama, with Fox News personally delivering the apology to Spain regarding the issue.  Since Glenn Beck has gotten free publicity from his "racist" comment, he had lost advertisers but gained viewership.  It also does not help that Obama had received a considerable amount of votes during the previous election and Democrats had won enough seats allowing them a filibuster proof majority, which backs Republicans into a corner.  Rather than be defensive, Republican strategy has involved constant misdirections and stall tactics to get their way, with pundits allied with the party spreading to millions of viewers numerous falsehoods.

What exactly did Obama mean?  The simplest way to find out , atleast for a rational person, would be to ask Obama himself, but I doubt that would happen and I doubt that would help.  To address the situation is a problem in itself, and the Republicans know that.  Also remaining quiet has its downfalls.  To critics, silence can be an admission of guilt.  If the administration were to discuss these accusations, the right would have effectively diverted the President's message, gaining control of the forum.  They also benefit from his response to such lies because those firmly entrenched in the party's rhetoric will not believe any comment made by the president.  To understand more of what Obama was talking about, you would have to understand what the context was.

You can find the entire speech, as intended to have been spoken, here.  During the speech, Obama had deviated from the teleprompter, making the statement above.  When considering the subject matter of the speech, that took place two days before Independence Day, 2008, it is clear that Obama was discussing increased civil service, doubling the size of the Peace Corps by 2011, and involvement in such community organizations like AmeriCorps, which he was involved with in Chicago and President Bush supported.  He had also proposed a Social Fund Investment Network, that would combine the efforts of the "grass roots, the foundations, the faith-based organizations, the private sector and the government".  His mention of a civilian security force was not implying the creation of an American SS, but simply creating a network to improve America, although a bit idealistic in scope, but nevertheless quite the opposite of the group responsible for decimating Europe's Jewish population.

What is also funny is that Glenn Beck is scaring people with a comment Obama had made on the campaign trail last year, and he coincidentally raises these questions during one of the most spirited and political debates in recent history.  He is purposefully trying to distract the media, as well as the administration, from accomplishing their goals of health care reform, and people like Beck and Limbaugh, have no interest in helping anyone but themselves, otherwise they would be advocating bipartisanship or focusing on the parts of the legislation that everyone agrees upon and that everyone believes will create a positive and meaningful impact on society.  For Glenn Beck to dig up a speech from 2008, given in Colorado Springs, where the then campaigning senator was proposing Americans take a more active and responsible role in shaping not only the nation, but the world, with such organizations like the Peace Corps, is just downright despicable.  I recall this particular speech and at the time, I had found it to be inspirational, opening up a dialogue not heard in the political realm for years.  A politician was actually calling upon Americans to do something.

The conservative interpretation is skewed in the wrong direction, and is creating a more divisive nation then ever.  Dig deep enough and you can find comments supporting your beliefs.  In 2007, Obama had announced in Springfield, Illinois, his intention to run for president, and during that speech, he had praised the founders of this nation for designing "a system of government that can be changed".  Was Obama alluding to the establishment of a Communist or Socialist system?  What do these pundits wish to accomplish with their deceptive practices?  Glenn Beck says it best in his book Common Sense in his section titled "Enemies Within: Tread Carefully":
Being honest about your principles means that there can be a real debate on the issues, with the chance of real progress being made.  It's not just the political class who has mastered the art of deception.  There are other potentially deadly masters who will seek to exploit your frustration and sense of desperation.  Many will warn you of government tyranny; they'll talk of secret societies, vast conspiracies, shadow governments, and the need for violent action.  I urge you to stay away from these individuals and those ideas.  There is no "star chamber" that needs to be found and destroyed, and there is no global conspiracy playing out.  The individuals and groups that propagate those lies have their own agendas, but, like all radicals and revolutionaries, they will eventually seek to impose their rules and lifestyle on all of us.
Is Mr. Beck including himself as a "radical" who is exploiting our frustrations, like over health care reform?  He spends a lot of time talking about conspiracy theories (liberal media, sterilants in the water, etc.), secret societies (like STORM, the Apollo Group, Weather Underground, etc.), and tyranny (Fairness Doctrine, Civilian Security Forces, "Death Panels", etc.).  He states that the people spreading the lies have their own agendas, and will seek to impose their rules and lifestyle on all of us (the call from the religious right to ban homosexual marriage comes to mind).  He even states that no real debate or progress can be made, and he specifically uses the term "deception" when describing these actions.  He even warns people about the thought of "shadow governments", yet on his show, he advertised the book Shadow Government: What Obama Doesn't Want You To Know About His Czars from the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee.  Those who have read Glenn Beck's book love him, but really, I read the same book, and I agree with Mr. Beck in his evaluation of the situation, although I believe it to be inclusive of Beck and his cronies, and based on this statement, my position of distrust for the man is further cemented.  

In my opinion, the administration has been taking the high road, and have been fighting emotion with logic, and the Democratic response to Beck's accusations is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.  I am also reminded by the other phrase "speak softly and carry a big stick".  Commonly used when discussing foreign policy, the principles can translate into the national political scene as well.  The Democrats had a big stick in the form of senate seats, political capital, and a popular president.  Republicans have chipped away at that big stick by using their fear-mongering, and somewhat renewed McCarthyism by reviving the proverbial bogeyman, Communism, and evoking the sins of the Third Reich, which the Obama administration is by no way means comparable to.  If anything, the personal freedoms widdled away, and expanded role Dick Cheney had given himself during the previous administration would be more cause for alarm.

I am not calling for the conservative's complete capitulation to the "liberal agenda", but I would like to see more constructive discourse between the two parties.  Both parties have their favorite presidents to reference, whether it is the Democrats with FDR or JFK (they love those acronyms), or the Republicans with Reagan or Lincoln, I am reminded by George Washington, our first president, who had warned in his Farewell Address on 1796, in a  "most solemn manner... against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally", and although I am right now inclined to direct this comment more towards the Republicans, it appears that the wisdom of our first president may have been lost with time.  As always, we do not have the luxury of hindsight with our current events, but history, as well as the philosophies of those who came before us, can be insightful.

For the meantime, Democrats need to be more aware, and be better prepared to combat the lies spread by these pundits.  The Republicans are masters at strategy and propaganda, and so I would like to remind the Democrats of The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, who wrote "知彼知己,百戰不殆;不知彼而知己,一勝一負;不知彼,不知己,每戰必殆", which can be translated as the following, as mentioned on wikiquote:
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.  
This is commonly translated as "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer".

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