Eric at The Philosophist blogged about Glenn Bleck and his ilk, and makes an important pedagogical point at the end. I don’t normally quote an entire blog post, but Eric’s is short and makes a good point:
The one essential point that Beck, O’Reilly et al absolutely must understand and yet insist on dismissing is that their speech is influential within the discourse. Surprising and perplexing as it is to some of us, a lot of people listen and respond to the things they have to say. When Beck says that “the pot is brewing,” for instance, the pot brews among those who hear of its brewing, simply because Beck says it’s brewing. Beck is someone they respect, he legitimizes a form of – necessarily vague – angst and anger, and they come to understand that the recent violence is some sort of logical backlash to a series of – necessarily vague – oversteps by the left-leaning government. These people are crazy, Beck says, but I coulda told you they’d start shooting. He refuses to believe that his words are part of the impetus for that violence. In this case, as in every case, the messenger is a creator.
These guys operate on a very simple formula: 1) Tell the right-fringe they are victims, they should be angry, and they should do something about it. 2) Immediately distance yourself from whatever they do.
When we teach writing and speech, we insist on specificity to detail. You will not be successful, we tell them, unless you make specific arguments supported by specific, credible evidence. But we’re wrong, and Glenn Beck proves it.
When I was at the Watson Conference last fall, I was on a panel where I discussed slurs online and another panelist discussed CNN’s framing of (if I remember right) violence in New Orleans post-Katrina. Someone asked us about pedagogical implications, and our moderation made an excellent point: perhaps composition is too tied to rational-critical discourse and needs to help students make new media compositions that make moves similar to CNN: draw on emotion, frame debates, collage well, etc.