Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beck's Paine-ful Delusions

Recently, Glenn Beck had a Thomas Paine imitator on his program who had millions of YouTube hits for his rant on policies ranging from immigration to increasing taxes for government spending. Beck applauded this "historian" for truly representing Paine in the 21st Century.

Except he didn't. Paine didn't say much about immigration in any of his essays (he himself was one). Nor was he against taxation -- what ired the colonists, including Paine, was taxation without representation, not the practice of taxation itself. Additionally, Beck probably would have had some qualms with Paine for being a strong supporter of France and their revolution (so strong a supporter was Paine that they made him an honorary citizen). He also supported the idea of a minimum income -- otherwise known as a minimum wage.

Lastly, if Paine were truly alive today, he'd undoubtedly receive criticism from the conservative Beck due to his religious views. "My own mind is my own church," wrote Paine, who felt religious texts held little weight in his beliefs as they were second-hand accounts written by people who didn't experience the events themselves. "When I am told," he goes on to say, "that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man...I have a right to believe [her] or not...but we have not even this, for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is onlyl reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I choose not to rest my belief upon such evidence. (emphasis his)" In addition to his religious beliefs (perhaps because of them), he was a strong advocate of the separation of church and state.

Beck and his guest -- the fake Paine -- portray the real Paine as a populist hate-monger, hellbent especially on closing the borders to immigrants. In reality, Paine, himself an immigrant twofold (first from Britain to America, then to France), would probably have supported a modest open-border policy, much to the chagrin of conservatives like Beck.

That Beck and this actor try to portray one of the most influential American writers of the colonial period as a xenophobic, hate-filled person is deplorable. They both ought to do more research into who the real Thomas Paine was.

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