What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
The invite was received. The plane tickets were purchased. The questions were prepared, and I was set to go. Tomorrow, I was going to fly to Texas to appear on Glenn Beck’s TV program.
Those plans, shall we say, “fell through.”
You see, while over the past few weeks I pitched Glenn’s team on having me on to discuss Feardom, I didn’t have in mind what his researchers later found: a blog post from early 2012 in which I said some not so nice things to and about their boss.
Titled “An Open Letter to Glenn Beck,” the post was a reactionary takedown of Glenn’s treatment of Ron Paul. After I was informed that Glenn’s staff had come across it, I went back and read it myself to see what I had said nearly three years ago. I was with my family, and in sheer surprise at the… ahem… strength of some of the words, I read some excerpts to my wife who, along with myself, was surprised by my tone.
Here’s the harshest part, though a similar tone pervades the entire article:
But good heavens, Glenn. You’re so inconsistent! For example, you’ve recognized that Ron Paul is the closest thing we’ve got to the founding fathers, and then you encourage people not to support him. Then you about-face and suggest he’s what we need, only to then attack him a few days later.
Flip-flopping Mitt Romney? He’s got nothing on you.
But hey, I get that you have a hard time with consistently applying a principle. Many people do. No sweat. All is forgiven. I don’t listen to you, and I encourage others to steer clear, but you’re welcome to continue your self-contradicting tirades all you like, so long as you have the breath to do so. I prefer to keep my distance from you, as I don’t consider you a reliable source of analysis and truth. In short, I ignore you.
After I read the article I fully expected my invitation to be withdrawn—and it was. Rightly so, of course; I wouldn’t really want to share my platform with a person who had treated me like that.
The interesting thing about reading this missive I wrote is that I agree with the substance—Glenn Beck was wrong to treat Ron Paul as he did, and wrong to malign his supporters—but I completely disagree with the tone. I can clearly tell that I wrote it from a defensive, reactionary position, but if the same events occurred today, the article would be quite different.
I can also tell that I was enjoying myself a little while writing it; I used to find pleasure in flame wars, tearing to pieces the opposing side. Years ago, I found value in being correct, but undervalued the importance of delivery and diplomacy. That has since changed.
What did it for me is Libertas Institute—a serious effort to change public conversation and policy. Here I found myself strategically planning how to find long term success for liberty in my home state. Could a bombastic approach produce desired results? Clearly not—a few friends might cheer, but it would do little to attract, let alone persuade, those outside my camp.
And so, my new organization forced me to transform both my personal attitude and my public persona. I now recognize, and practice, what I disregarded years ago: that the message I hold so dear will find its way into the hearts and minds of those within my sphere of influence more through friendliness than flames. Respecting others, and wearing a smile on your face, opens doors that angry Facebook rants never did. Liberty will win when more of its messengers behave in a way that others would want to emulate.
Whether or not future opportunities of collaboration exist with Glenn Beck, I apologize to him for the way I communicated my thoughts to him. We disagree on many issues, but agree on many more—and in the past few years I have had great success in working together with people on areas of agreement, despite other disagreements. I no longer see a need to berate a person for the policies they support that I find problematic.
Of course, I still criticize flawed positions, whether held by friend or foe. But that’s where I prefer to focus my ire—on policy, not people. I missed the mark when going after Glenn to the degree I did, and I likewise missed that mark in earlier years on a routine basis. I now see almost everybody as a friend—one who simply needs a little convincing to “see the light” and embrace a position of liberty. Whether they ultimately agree or not, it’s a healthier and happier approach to life, and one I hope others in the liberty movement will adopt.