Demagoguery is defined as “…a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears and expectations of the public — typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes”. Today, with the resignation of Van Jones, we learned again why Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the rest of the demagogues of Fox News and talk radio are the real leaders of the Republican Party.
As George Bernard Shaw once pointed out, the most dangerous form of demagoguery occurs when the personal ambitions of politicians combine with the commercial interests of those who control the media:
But though there is no difference in this respect between the best demagogue and the worst, both of them having to present their cases equally in terms of melodrama, there is all the difference in the world between the statesman who is humbugging the people into allowing him to do the will of God, in whatever disguise it may come to him, and one who is humbugging them into furthering his personal ambition and the commercial interests of the plutocrats who own the newspapers and support him on reciprocal terms.
The prime demagogue in the Van Jones melodrama was Glenn Beck. Few Americans had heard of Van Jones, Special Advisor for Green Jobs at the Council on Environmental Quality, until Beck began his smear campaign. Think Progress explains why Beck chose Jones to attack:
On July 23rd, Glenn Beck began his crusade against Van Jones, calling him “a communist-anarchist radical.” He went on to rail against Jones approximately 20 times on Fox News in the past couple of months. Last Friday, Beck cited “former black nationalist, avowed communist Van Jones” as an example of “the true danger” of Obama’s “czars.” Prior to joining the administration, Jones had co-founded Color of Change, an organization that successfully convinced 57 advertisers to drop Beck’s program in just a matter of weeks after Beck called Obama a “racist.”
That’s correct. Beck went after Jones because Color of Change had helped convince advertisers to drop Beck’s program after Beck called the president a racist. Personal ambition, meet commercial interests.
Of course, the sad story of the attacks on Van Jones is not just about Glenn Beck and his advertisers. The Right saw Jones for what he is, an “uppity” progressive unwilling to compromise his principles. Unfortunately, the Obama administration refused to defend Jones, effectively sealing his fate. For more background of the Jones story, go here and here.
I wonder if Obama will realize that it is impossible to compromise with demagogues before it is too late.