Glenn Beck, Arguing with Idiots
A spirited, engaged series of salvos certain to get you talking
Glenn Beck’s Arguing With Idiots is a spirited, engaging listen, although its introductory circus music clues you in that this book is not really about argumentation. Structured as 12 chapters of Q&A, Beck poses as the titular idiot (affecting a froggy sneersong voice and sputtery manner) to ask questions, and two of Beck’s staffers narrate the answers. This strawman approach makes for good radio, but won’t win him any points with a high school debate coach.
That’s just as well, because Beck’s got a bone to pick with public education anyway — not to mention labor unions, universal health care, illegal immigration and other classic GOP bugbears. That said, what emerges is a manifesto of Beck’s libertarianism, as opposed to the sheer partisan divisiveness listeners might expect. While Beck has no shortage of withering barbs for Democrats, he isn’t shy about saying things like, “Republicans have shredded our Constitution while smiling and pretending that they actually care about the principles our founders stood for.”
The book is most interesting when Beck finds a new tack to take on an issue — such as his suggestion that home ownership is less than it’s cracked up to be — but he puts on a good show even in the chapters where you can guess what he’s going to say. Beck frames his rhetorical position as facts plus common sense, and while Arguing With Idiots makes an effort to show you the boards and nails that go into his soapboxes, there are plenty of holes he doesn’t account for. Listeners who prefer their statistics with citations will raise the occasional eyebrow, but the real problem is that these issues are bigger than the 45 minutes each is allotted here. Such a short window is easy to fill with cherry-picked questions and examples that shore up your thesis, and then you’re out of time before you have to answer harder questions. Are the book’s chapters idiot-confounding arguments that will “silence them once and for all,” as they purport to be? Not really. But it’s nevertheless a series of provocative salvos peppery enough to get people talking.