Glenn Beck - Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government

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Inside Beck's Frenetic Mind

May 1, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Thoroughly researched, covers important topics.

Cons:Frenetic layout can be distracting.

The Bottom Line: Although Beck makes great points with supporting data, the format of the pages are distracting for material as heavy as that covered in this book.


I have a confession to make.  I actually like Glenn Beck.  However, I have to take Beck's shtick in small doses.  I rarely watch his television program because it wears me down.  But that doesn't mean that Beck doesn't make good points.  Although I don't always agree with Beck's construction of logic, his points are thoroughly researched and foot-noted. 

Beck also describes himself as an average guy...providing a voice for the average American.  He downplays his knowledge of history and the extent of his research.  Beck is a television talk-show host who has a history in radio as well.  It amuses me that people attack Beck on a basis of him being a news anchor, which he is not.  That would be tantamount to going after Phil Donahue as if he were a news anchor.  But that doesn't mean that Beck's perspectives on current events are invalid.  Quite the contrary.  Although Beck is animated, ubiquitous and histrionic in his delivery, his points have a firm foundation in Constitutional Constructionism and historical documents.  In Arguing with Idiots, Beck engages many popular arguments in a schizophrenic self-discussion of the topics.  These discussions are complemented with a series of cartoons, charts and other "chalk board" like visual aids that are equally informative and distracting.

Reading Arguing with Idiots, I felt as though I was watching the television program.  If you could capture the atmosphere of Beck's program and reduce it to print, you would have Arguing with Idiots.  As I have mentioned, I have to take Beck's program in small doses.  The same goes for his book.  I have read at least a half dozen other books during the time I have meandered my way through the pages of his latest tome.  Beck's Common Sense was a quick, easy read...so I was a bit shocked at the meaty, heavy and scatter-brained aspects of Idiots.  The topics themselves are relevant, well researched and interesting, it is the approach that makes reading difficult.  The structure of this book is captured in the "forward" where Beck describes the book as an "instruction manual" (who cares if there are extra nuts and bolts left over on the floor...that's what vacuums are for).

The topics that Beck delves into in Arguing with Idiots include Capitalism, the Second Amendment, Education, Energy, Unions, Immigration, the "Nanny State," Home Ownership, Economics, U.S. Presidents, Health Care and a line-by-line breakdown of the Constitution.  These chapters are followed by an extensive list of citations that runs two dozen pages long.  The citations likely run in the thousands...if that gives any indication of the research that went into this book.  The problem with that many cites is that it can be overwhelming to read.

Beck makes his case on these issues using a common sense, historically based approach that includes more charts that a Ross Perot infomercial.  The charts helped inform the argument but were scattered throughout the book and designed in a cartoonish format that often interrupted the text.  I tend to be a linear reader, so the placement of the charts as well as the flamboyant use of cartoonish elements distracted me from the very heavy subject matter.  I guess it was an attempt to convey the feel of Beck's program...and maybe an intentional attempt to lighten the material a bit.  But I prefer heavy that I can concentrate on to heavy with diversions.  The approach was chaotic to read for me.  Hence my difficulty in watching Beck's program.

Although I do not always agree with Beck, his points are all well documented and investigated.  Beck also has a cheeky approach to delivering some of his points, taking direct shots at public figures who he disagrees with.  Those shots are often fair-minded points that illuminate his issues with the stance of the person whom he is addressing.  At other times, they are cheap shots intended to invoke humor.  That is Beck's shtick, but it is also why he opens himself up to so much criticism.  If Beck used his research in a straight-forward assault on progressivism, he would be hard to defeat in an argument.  The classic method for attacking the person with the better argument is to attack the person.  When you use inflammatory language, you make yourself a much easier target.  So, Beck's points are excellent, but often delivered with enough fire to make him a target...while his valid points are left unchallenged.

Arguing with Idiots is a 299-page examination of the most important issues facing America today.  Beck presents great arguments against progressivism with tons of empirical data to back up his claims.  The historical foundations of his arguments are also hard to attack.  The book runs 325 pages with the extensive bibliography at the back, in support of Beck's many points.  The frenetic appearance of the pages were difficult for me to peruse, extending my reading time of this book to several months.  I have managed to read several other books in the interim and was relieved to find the end of the book.  The last chapter on the Constitution went much faster than the rest of the book, so I gained some momentum towards the end.  This book is informative and instructional but makes it difficult to maintain a train of thought.  I recommend the book on its content, but limit that recommendation to three stars because it felt more like homework than an enjoyable read. 


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