We Surround Them

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
God, guns, and freedom
U.S. Politics
Icon politics USA.svg
Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner
Persons of interest

We Surround Them is a tract published by Glenn Beck in April 2009.[1] This is supposed to rally conservatives to oppose Barack Obama, because that's really about the only original idea the GOP has had since the invasion of Iraq. The title is particularly ambitious when the Republicans had just badly lost a major election at the time.

Beck unveiled this campaign in a television broadcast on Friday, March 13, 2009. He encouraged "cell groups" to hold watching parties to view the broadcast.

Presented here, along with rebuttals, are Glenn Beck's "Nine Principles" that can be used to see if you share the same values as him. It is implied that if you agree with these principles that you are not only a conservative, but that you are opposed to a 4.6 percent income tax increase in the top marginal bracket of people making over $250,000 a year.

The Nine Principles[edit]

1. America is good.[edit]

Wait, does that mean that America is[note 1] always good?[note 2] In that everything America does is always good? That America doesn't make mistakes in foreign policy, or step across the line in human rights issues? This goes back to the argument presented by conservative pundits that citizens who disagree with the invasion of Iraq, with torture, with imprisoning people without due process are "bad Americans".

This question is also something of a non sequitur, as America is an abstract concept, unless you are specifically talking about the land America occupies.

2. I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.[edit]

Is this required to be a good American? Is this required to be Republican? This is a huge looming issue for the GOP, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. During the Bush II years the GOP became an increasingly religious party, and if the evangelical Christian branch of the party stays in control, they can look forward to many more years of losing elections. And if God is the centre of your life, where does that leave America? Can God and America be at odds? Who do you choose?

3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.[edit]

Well, of course. We agree. But what does this have to do with whether or not one opposes Obama? And shouldn't good Christians always be honest? It's not like it's hard to be completely honest.[note 3] Also, how much more honest should one be compared to the day before? As much as the limits of the partitions used in a Riemann Integral?[note 4] This statement needs clarification.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.[edit]

Unless you are gay, or single, or unmarried by choice, or divorced, or under 18. Is a "family" the only valid mode of living now? Does it somehow confer special rights that others don't have?

Also, authority on what? Your children? Yourself? Agricultural subsidies? The war on terror? This statement needs clarification.

Does this mean that Beck is pro-choice on abortion? After all, if your spouse and you are the ultimate authority, and not the government...

Cultures where parents (which usually means the father, see Patriarchy) are the ultimate authority within the family also tend to be rife with child abuse and exploitation. Given Beck's admission that his own father was abusive, this statement is either surprising or not, depending on your point of view.[2]

5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.[edit]

Except for Scooter Libby. And white collar criminals. And Bush administration torturers. And Dick Cheney. And..... Didn't he just say that my spouse and I are the ultimate authority, and not the government? And see 8 below.

6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.[edit]

Correct,[note 5] but what does this have to do with whether or not one opposes Obama?[note 6] The implication here conflates improving equality of opportunity with a guarantee of equal results.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.[edit]

What, is government forcing anyone to be charitable?[note 7] And if God is the center of your life via a church, there may be a little artifact called "tithe", which is pretty much mandatory charitable efforts. As such, a Godly government would seem to be out. Perhaps Mr. Beck is referring to the idea of redistributing wealth via progressive taxation; perhaps he is referring to the publicly-funded social safety net. Whatever the case, he needs to clarify.

This point also implies that Beck has had no special advantage in his life that might set him up for an increased chance of success, and the same time implies that anyone who does not have much must not have worked hard enough, and is therefore undeserving. It also implies that he's a douchebag.

Alternatively it looks like he may be trying to join the tax protester movement.

8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.[edit]

See 1. Wasn't it called unpatriotic to question George W. Bush when he was president? Wasn't the argument "all Americans should support their president", or does that only apply to Republican presidents?[note 8]

9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.[edit]

Fascinating. In November 2008, millions of Americans spoke at the polls, and said that the current government was not working for them nor answering to them, and voted for a change. Wouldn't following the will of the people be to support the policies of President Obama? Oh do let us guess: he didn't legitimately win the election, he won because of affirmative action, or because the Zionist Occupation Government pulled some strings, or something.

The Twelve Values[edit]

  • Honesty
  • Reverence
  • Hope
  • Thrift
  • Humility
  • Charity
  • Sincerity
  • Moderation
  • Hard Work
  • Courage
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Gratitude

A Scout is "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent". Nothing new here, except moving "reverent" up to second place, which sort of misses the point; by putting it last, the Scout Law honors it as a benediction, as it were. What this has to do with whether one opposes Obama is anyone's guess, especially considering that "hope" has been added. The differences between these two lists need to be analyzed in more detail. Interestingly, "loyalty" and "obedience" are completely removed, despite all the paeans to "patriotism" above. Can't be loyal to Obama, or obey him, eh? And, actually, all the "be nice to other people" virtues are gone except for "charity."

Some think that sincerity is more or less the same as honesty. Some scholarly analysis holds that sincerity is bullshit.[3] Either way, the "sincerity" entry lacks significant value, leading to the assumption that the symbolism of twelve values was more important than the content of the list. Also, reverence? Towards what?

How do forming "cell groups" and palling around with Chuck Norris, who wants Texas to secede from the union, qualify as moderation?

On the positive side, it does not require a very great stretching of one's personal virtue of charity to believe that although Mr Beck does not specifically include cleanliness among his Twelve Values, he does still expect his followers to bathe.

While not strictly contradictory, it is interesting to note that charity is one of the values in light of principle number 7 above. Maybe it's that government doesn't have the right to tell you to be charitable, but Glenn Beck does?

See also[edit]

  • W. Cleon Skousen, whose 1981 book The Five Thousand Year Leap appears to be the basis of Beck's list of values and principles.


  1. Of course, it all goes back to Bill Clinton who said "It depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is."
  2. Further arguments about what exactly is goodness comes in.
  3. ORLY?
  4. This is, of course, an allusion, since there is no such thing as a unit of honesty (or is there?).
  5. Some people take any inequality of results as proof that some people are being denied life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, but this is a non sequitur.
  6. Of course we do not exclude the possibility that opposing one or more individuals brings someone happiness.
  7. Well, except a government run by Jesus who made it a condition of discipleship that one should sell all his/her possessions and give them to the poor. (See Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, Luke 18:22).
  8. Apparently that does not apply to George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and possibly Gerald Ford (and that's only the guys after World War II); maybe a better classification would be "intellectually impaired" presidents?


  1. Glenn Beck We Surround Them. (www.glennbeck.com, 2nd April 2009)
  2. L.A. Ross, "Glenn Beck Reveals Family History of Sexual Abuse in Response to Controversial Rape Skit (Video)"
  3. Frankfurt, Harry, On BullshitWikipedia, the last sentence on the ultimate page; full text on Archive.org here