Glenn Beck Watch: Misquoting Franklin [CORRECTED]
[CORRECTION: As a commenter below kindly pointed out, the fault here is with me, and my substandard Google searching. Franklin, while not using the exact words attributed to him, did say something akin to what Beck suggests. You are free to dispute whether or not he captures the precise spirit, but Beck is correct on the baseline merits, and I regret the error.]
Normally, it's merely amusing when CNN's Glenn Beck dishing out his usual bowlful of anti-intellectual goulash. But when he starts misrepresenting the positions of this nation's founding fathers, well...that's when this shizz gets real. And in today's daily email, Glenn has this to say about Benjamin Franklin: "If Ben Franklin were around today he'd certainly be labeled a hate monger." Actually, from what I know of Franklin's libertinism, he'd probably be labeled a herpetic roue, and would have an open prescription of Valtrex waiting for him at Walgreens.
But that is neither here nor there. My interest piqued, I pressed on, into the dense undergrowth of Beck's mental kudzu. And what I found was a rant about how ill-informed people imagine that the Federal Reserve can just print all the money it likes, that suddenly transforms into a hollow indictment of Barack Obama, where he's accused of telling poor people that they'll never make it in life.
BECK: Barack Obama and Michelle Obama of all people are saying, "You can't make it." Look at the disadvantages that Barack Obama started with. Look at the disadvantage. Father was a Muslim, mother is a Christian, dad's gone, raised by a woman -- raised by his grandmother or his mother? He's African-American. He spent some of his time in a foreign country. He comes here and he makes it, he goes to Harvard, she goes to Princeton. They make it. He could be our first black President and they actually are saying in some stump speeches that, "The disadvantages, you can't overcome the..." what! You're kidding me! How is this even possible?
Uhm, for what it's worth, it sort of isn't possible, seeing as how Obama's standard stump speech is that "hope" makes raising oneself up in life possible, that his life is just one example of that fact, and that a lot of hard work has to be a part of the equation.* Good people can argue over whether that's naive, but one shouldn't just, you know, make stuff up about other people.
And that goes double for people like Benjamin Franklin, who's supposed view of poverty is the foundation for this round of Beckian rhetorical diarrhea.
BECK: You know one of my favorite quotes on poverty comes from Benjamin Franklin. I love this quote: "We should make the poor uncomfortable and kick them out of poverty." I love that!
I bet he does love that! Know what I'd love? To be able to find where or when Franklin said this! Because so far, I've had no luck. Along the way, however, I've discovered that Franklin was hardly insensitive to the travails of the poverty-stricken: "But poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue: 'tis hard for an empty bag to stand upright." Additionally, he seemed fairly unimpressed with the trappings of wealth: "The Poor have little, Beggars none; the Rich too much, enough not one." And heck, you give Franklin enough quote, and he can sound like a welfare-queen: "The church the state, and the poor, are 3 daughters which we should maintain, but not portion off."
Truth be told, with Beck's heartfelt conviction that he is being asked to pay too much in taxes, it's easy to imagine that Franklin would be inspired to spit out an angry recitation of The Way To Wealth at the CNN host. He'd likely throw in the admonition: "If your head is wax, don't walk in the sun," as well. But seeing as how Beck wishes that "more people thought like Ben Franklin did," let me lay a little primo Franklin on him: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Chew on that, Glenn.
*Franklin, by the way, would agree that only hard work makes hope profitable: "He who lives upon hope alone will die fasting."