An Open Letter to Glenn Beck
Dear readers: We here at AK Press were both shocked and (we’ll admit it) thrilled when right-wing media mogul Glenn Beck held up our new book on the Greek Insurrection of December 2008 on his FOX News program a couple of weeks ago, and compared it to The Coming Insurrection, saying that this book was the next “playbook” that radicals in this country would be taking a page from. (We wish.) But we were also kind of confused, because Beck seemed eager to interpret the book as a yet another installment in the “communist” conspiracy … only, well, we’re anarchists, we’re damn proud of that fact, and we’re frankly a little hard pressed to understand why Beck went out of his way to say explicitly that this wasn’t an anarchist book. And then we watched hours and hours of Beck blabbing on YouTube, and we started to notice a more general pattern: Beck tends to avoid directly confronting “anarchism” as a system of political actions and ideals. So we started thinking about why that might be, and the result of our deep deliberations follows in an open letter to Mr. Beck. We encourage you to post this far & wide; let’s take advantage of this unexpected moment and try and push for some real public discourse around anarchism, about what it means, and about why it works.
An Open Letter to Glenn Beck from the AK Press Collective
How’s it going? Since Forbes magazine says your annual earnings are in the ballpark of $32 million, we’re guessing that it’s going pretty well. You can’t put a price on defending the little guy, right?
We are the AK Press collective. In case the word “collective” throws you, it means people who work together toward a shared goal in a democratic manner, without bosses or leaders, and with everyone having an equal say in each decision. For us, that shared goal is publishing and distributing books. If you want, you can learn more about us here: http://www.akpress.org/about/aboutakenglish.
We’re thrilled that you featured our book We Are an Image of the Future: The Greek Revolts of 2008 on your May 3rd show. We were, however, a little confused by your description of the book, and the way that it fit into the overall argument you made.
Okay, to be honest, we weren’t sure what your argument was. We watched the clip on YouTube a dozen times, but it was beyond us.Of course, you’re the guy with television, radio, publishing, and Internet empires. We probably spend too much time thinking about rent, food, and health insurance to fully understand the big picture you’re painting.
We do, however, know a few things. We’re anarchists and we publish books about anarchism. We Are an Image from the Future is one of them. Now, we assume that you actually read the books you talk about on your show. Yet you somehow managed to claim that a book written by and about anarchists was “written by communist revolutionaries.” “They are not anarchists,” you claimed, “but they will use anarchy to their favor.”
As you made clear earlier in your show, you know the difference between Communism and Anarchism. We don’t want to split hairs by bringing up the complex history of communism (with a small “c”), which includes both democratic and nasty authoritarian versions. So we’ll stay on your page here and say, yes, when Communists take state power it’s always ugly. But, as you must know, anarchism has always opposed state Communism. State Communism is the ultimate “big government.” You won’t find an anarchist on this planet in favor of that. Not to mention that, historically, when Communists get in the driver’s seat, anarchists are usually the first to face the firing squad. The capitalists usually get cushy managerial positions.
So we asked ourselves: What could account for this guy waving around a book written and published by anarchists, while never quoting a single word from it, and then going on to associate the book with political groups—like the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Workers World Party—that no one in the book, or associated with the book, would endorse? How could he miss something so obvious?
Then it dawned on us: you’re afraid of anarchists. You’re not afraid of the fake media portrayal of anarchists as bomb-throwing maniacs: that’s your bread and butter. You’re afraid of real anarchists, the actual ideas they espouse, the real work they do.
We don’t blame you, Glenn. When we sift through your rants, we realize that there’s a lot of overlap between you and anarchists. The difference is that anarchists are more honest, aren’t part of the same elites they criticize, and they make a lot more sense. They see you, and raise you one.
Like you, we believe that people’s lives would be much better off without government intervention. Centralized power suppresses individual and community initiative and keeps people from achieving their full potential. Like you, we don’t think the solution to our current economic crisis lies in socialized industry or new layers of well-paid government bureaucrats. And, like you and many of your tea party pals, we agree that bankers and fat-cat corporate elites aren’t exactly concerned with our best interests. As you put it, it’s time to take down the folks who “line their pockets with wealth gained from enslaving a whole group of people.” And, although you seemed a bit confused on this point, that means putting “people before profits,” which is pretty much the central concern of the protesters in Greece right now. And we mean all people, regardless of income, race, gender, sexuality, or immigration status.
You’re right: we’re revolutionaries. But aren’t you? Remember the part of the Declaration of Independence that says that when a government starts screwing with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it”? As anarchists, we’re dedicated to the idea of abolishing the state and capitalism altogether. We believe that without the coercive relations and competition imposed by governments and markets, people would be free to create a more just society in which resources are controlled collectively and decisions are made by the people who are affected by them. We don’t want a government (revolutionary or otherwise); we want a society based on cooperation and common sense instead of arbitrary power and exploitation.
From what sense we can make of your show, you seem happy with “altering” rather than “abolishing” a screwed-up system. For you, replacing the old boss with a new one (Sarah Palin?) is good enough. We understand that you’re confused—these are confusing times. But, deep down, you and the tea partiers know that you can’t trust any politician, or banker, or corporate hack, or union bureaucrat…or anyone who makes their living sucking power and profit from ordinary people. Which, unfortunately, probably includes multi-millionaires like you.
So, Glenn, we’re guessing that’s why you’re so afraid of us. We don’t fit neatly into your black-and-white formula. You simply borrow some of the best ideas from our 150-year-old anti-authoritarian tradition. We take those same ideas and not only run with them, but improve on them. We follow the logic to its ethical conclusion. And we include corporate media moguls like you in our Hall of Infamy.
But we’re reasonable folk. We understand that you find it scary to think about what will happen when ordinary people realize that they actually have the power to make their own decisions and take control of their own lives. So, here’s what we suggest:
Just admit you’re afraid of us. Admit that your passionate and convoluted rants are a nervous dance around your inability to support real freedom (anarchism) over unbridled power (Communism and capitalism). And then use your massive wealth and power for the forces of good.
The AK Press Collective