Glenn Beck is like a troll, swimming around in the blur and glut of corporate media culture. As with trolls in the blogosphere, ignoring him seems like the best strategy.
But then along came Katie Couric, who interviewed Beck this week and asked him an especially interesting question. Beck had recently enhanced his notoriety by saying that Barack Obama has "a hatred of white people, of white culture"; Couric asked him what he meant by the latter, "white culture."
Beck initially responded like I think most white Americans would -- he stumbled and sputtered, and failed to define white culture. Then Beck carried on like so many conservatives do these days when their bluff is called -- by playing the victim card, which he did by insinuating that the question was some sort of "trap," sprung on him by another member of the so-called liberal media. His inability to answer the question became his refusal to play Couric's evil little "game."
So, aside from Beck's weasel-like squirming here, what do you think about the effort in this interview to define "white culture"?
Is there such a thing? If not, is that why Beck had trouble defining it?
I do think that white people have culture. But that's not quite the same, is it, as saying that there is one white culture.
Most Americans do have some idea of what "black culture" is, and could probably put together a definition of some sort pretty easily. But then, how accurate would that be? Is there really just one black American culture? So again, is there one white culture? Or, in both cases, and in the cases as well of other American subcultures, are there several, perhaps overlapping cultures within a larger subculture?
Complicated, isn't it? Not that I'm expressing any sympathy for Glenn Beck's struggle with Katie Couric's question.
Part of the problem that white people have in discerning any "white culture" is that whiteness has long defined itself implicitly, by defining what it's not, instead of explicitly defining what it is. Irish and Italian immigrants, for example, became assimilated "Americans," and thus white people, by suppressing that which marked them as "un-American," including their culture.
"American" meant "white," but the whiteness embedded within such concepts as "all-American" gradually became invisible to most white people (though not, I would imagine, to most non-white people). White people, and whatever could be called "white culture," morphed instead into "normal" and "ordinary."
Although I don't think Glenn Beck is normal and ordinary, his struggle as a white person to define "white culture" is completely familiar.
COURIC: A twitter question is, [from] adrianinflorida: "what do you mean by white culture?"
BECK: Um, I, I don’t…
COURIC: You said he had a deep-seated hatred for the white culture, what is that? What is the white culture?
BECK: I guess it’s…gosh. I’m so tempted to make news here today.
COURIC: No no, I’m just curious, this was actually adrianinflorida.
BECK: What to do? What to do? Adrian, Go to glennbeck.com. Listen to it. You can hear all of it.
COURIC: No, but you didn’t really address white culture, I think, in your explanation about President Obama, I haven’t seen the whole show, but can you? Just for our purposes?
BECK: Just for your purposes? So this will be a little secret between us?
COURIC: No, for this show, can you explain what you mean by the white culture? Because some people say that sounds kind of racist.
BECK: Really? It’s amazing to me that, for the first time, I think in history, somebody can ask a question and say, “Don’t you think that maybe we have several pieces here?” We have several pieces. George Bush says my grandmother was a typical African American that had, that had her views bred into her. You don’t think maybe we would ask questions about that comment? How is it that the first time I think in history, you should check on it, somebody says, “Hey. There’s some red flags here maybe we should look at?” has become the target. How am I? How am I the target for asking questions?
COURIC: People just want to know. What is white culture?
BECK: I’m going to see if I can play your game. People just want to know.
COURIC: You know, well, Adrian wants to know.
BECK: That’s good for Adrian.
COURIC: No but I mean it’s fine if you make a statement though, shouldn’t you be able to defend exactly what you mean by it. I’m not –
BECK: Katie, how many times have you said, how many times have you said something where you’re like, “I didn’t think. What’s white culture? I don’t know. What’s the white culture?”
What? What is the white culture? I don’t know how to answer that that’s not a trap.
COURIC: Mm hmm.
BECK: You know what I mean?
COURIC: Yeah I’m not, I’m just, I’m not trying to trap you, I’m just, I think people wanted to know what that meant exactly.
BECK: Well we know Adrian does.
COURIC: Yeah, and you’re not going to answer her?
BECK: I’m not going to get into your sound bite gotcha game which we already are. We already are.
COURIC: No we’re actually, this is completely unedited so if you felt like you wanted to explain it, you have all the time in the world.
BECK: Mm hmm.
COURIC: No? Don’t want to go there?
COURIC: But basically, you stand behind your assertion that in your view, President Obama is a racist.
BECK: I believe that Americans should ask themselves tough questions. Americans should turn over all the rocks and make their own decisions.