Glenn Beck is Prepared to Give us a “Jack Bauer” Lesson in Political Theory

As I begin my first days here at the Cato Institute, I’ve had a few conversations about the philosophers who have most influenced my thinking. Aside from the standard classical liberals who stand out, I also always mention John Rawls. Rawls has been incredibly influential in helping me think hard about the questions that matter in political philosophy. At bottom, this what we want out of philosophy and why we do it.

When some have looked at me incredulously due to my answer – Rawls is, after all, far from a libertarian – I point out that, just as we may have problems with someone who agrees with our viewpoint but for bad reasons, we can appreciate someone who doesn’t agree with our viewpoint but for good reasons. Like, for example, Glenn Beck.

Beck and I probably agree on more than I’d like to admit but the man makes my skin crawl. This morning I shook my head in disbelief, hand clasped to my forehead, as I read about Beck’s new novel, a “thriller” called The Overton Window. The description says it all and, in particular, the line, “But for Noah, the choice is clear: Exposing the plan, and revealing the conspirators behind it, is the only way to save both the woman he loves and the individual freedoms he once took for granted.”

Not only is this thriller cliche; it’s jingoistic thriller cliche. I am reminded of Jack Bauer and the effect that his torturing of criminals on “24” – criminals, mind you, that the audience knows are guilty – has arguably had on our national debate on torture. I can only hope that Beck’s attempt to be the neocon’s Dan Brown doesn’t have a similar effect.

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