Glenn Beck's extraordinary open letter to Muse

Right-winger's outburst comes straight out of left–field

In a bizarre story of unrequited love, American conservative political commentator Glenn Beck has written a heartfelt open letter to Muse frontman, Matt Bellamy.

The Fox News pundit, famous for his sharp tongue, was responding to recent comments made by the singer in an interview with the Observer on Sunday, in which Bellamy revealed that the band had repeatedly denied the use of the track “Uprising” for American political campaigns, calling its popularity among the far-right “weird”.

“In the US, the conspiracy theory subculture has been hijacked by the right to try to take down people like Obama and put forward rightwing libertarianism”, he said, before going on to describe himself as a “left-leaning libertarian”.

Muse and Glenn Beck have a history: Beck previously endorsed Muse’s 2009 album “The Resistance” on his radio show and even likened their lyrical content to his own brand of republicanism, prompting drummer Dom Howard to label Beck “a crazy right-winger”.

“As uncomfortable as it might be for you, I will still play your songs loudly”, the letter reads. “To me your songs are anthems that beg for choruses of unity and pose the fundamental question facing the world today – can man rule himself?

Beck then goes on (and on) to suggest that Bellamy’s own ideology isn’t far off his own principles: “in the Venn Diagram of American politics, where the circles of crimson and blue overlap, there’s a place where you and I meet”.

The rest of the letter then protractedly explains why he believes in Libertarianism before puzzlingly quoting lyrics from their fourth album and wishing them the best of luck on their new record.

Experience the madness, in full, below:

Dear Matthew,
I read your comments in the Guardian via Rolling Stone last week and feel like with a little work we could better understand each other.

As uncomfortable as it might be for you, I will still play your songs loudly. To me your songs are anthems that beg for choruses of unity and pose the fundamental question facing the world today – can man rule himself?

In the Venn Diagram of American politics, where the circles of crimson and blue overlap, there’s a place where you and I meet. It’s a place where guys who cling to their religion, rights, and guns, connect with godless, clinched-fist-tattoo, guys.

You seem to have a pretty good grasp of comparative U.S. and European politics, but maybe there’s a pattern that you’re underestimating. Throughout history, leaders have used music to lull young people into a sense of security and euphoria. They’ve used artists to create the illusion that they can run a country that keeps all the good and wipes out all the bad. Think Zurich 1916. Think artists getting behind guys like Lenin and Trotsky. Think of pop culture’s role in the Arab Spring. The youth rises up, power structures crumble, and worse leaders are inserted.

America, on the other hand, does not rely on leaders — we rely on the individual. Our country was built on the principles of mercy, justice, and charity — we ultimately believe that man left alone is good. That is a primary reason I disagree with Chomsky and others that you’ve touted.

American Libertarians understand that smaller government gives people freedom — the freedom to earn or lose, eat or starve, own or sell. The potential for wild success and happiness is tempered by an equal chance of failure. And it is all up to the individual to take control of their destiny.

This has been a debate since the founding of America, one that has often gotten confused. Even during the revolution — a period filled with the greatest minds to ever discuss the idea of freedom — there were the divisions that continue today. Robespierre or George Washington. OWS or the TEA Party.

Thomas Paine didn’t see the difference at first either — sometimes the difference is too subtle.

Yet the question is an easy one: Do you believe man can rule himself? Or does he need someone ruling over him to force him to be good and charitable?

That is the fundamental divide and everything else follows. Even though faith was important to our American patriots none of them forced Paine to believe. He chose his course and in the end is remembered as a critical patriot in establishing man’s first real freedom.

They understood that we don’t all have to be in the same boat. But rather, focused on the star chart: Are you headed toward freedom or despotism?

The power that American Libertarians like me want to pull down is power that limits the individuals right to roam and create.

Matthew, I realize that converts are pretty hard to come by when the stakes are so high and the spotlight so bright, but I thank you for singing words that resonate with man in his struggle to be free.

I wish I could leave well enough alone and just be quiet…
…but I’ve had recurring nightmares that I was loved for who I am and missed the opportunity to be a better man.

Good luck on the new record

Glenn

Glenn Beck. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Ward is a London-based freelance journalist who has previously worked for the Times & the Press Association. Twitter: @alexward3000

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.