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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There's nothing Luddite about banning zero-hours contracts

The TUC general secretary responds to the Taylor Review. 

Unions have been criticised over the past week for our lukewarm response to the Taylor Review. According to the report’s author we were wrong to expect “quick fixes”, when “gradual change” is the order of the day. “Why aren’t you celebrating the new ‘flexibility’ the gig economy has unleashed?” others have complained.

Our response to these arguments is clear. Unions are not Luddites, and we recognise that the world of work is changing. But to understand these changes, we need to recognise that we’ve seen shifts in the balance of power in the workplace that go well beyond the replacement of a paper schedule with an app.

Years of attacks on trade unions have reduced workers’ bargaining power. This is key to understanding today’s world of work. Economic theory says that the near full employment rates should enable workers to ask for higher pay – but we’re still in the middle of the longest pay squeeze for 150 years.

And while fears of mass unemployment didn’t materialise after the economic crisis, we saw working people increasingly forced to accept jobs with less security, be it zero-hours contracts, agency work, or low-paid self-employment.

The key test for us is not whether new laws respond to new technology. It’s whether they harness it to make the world of work better, and give working people the confidence they need to negotiate better rights.

Don’t get me wrong. Matthew Taylor’s review is not without merit. We support his call for the abolishment of the Swedish Derogation – a loophole that has allowed employers to get away with paying agency workers less, even when they are doing the same job as their permanent colleagues.

Guaranteeing all workers the right to sick pay would make a real difference, as would asking employers to pay a higher rate for non-contracted hours. Payment for when shifts are cancelled at the last minute, as is now increasingly the case in the United States, was a key ask in our submission to the review.

But where the report falls short is not taking power seriously. 

The proposed new "dependent contractor status" carries real risks of downgrading people’s ability to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Here new technology isn’t creating new risks – it’s exacerbating old ones that we have fought to eradicate.

It’s no surprise that we are nervous about the return of "piece rates" or payment for tasks completed, rather than hours worked. Our experience of these has been in sectors like contract cleaning and hotels, where they’re used to set unreasonable targets, and drive down pay. Forgive us for being sceptical about Uber’s record of following the letter of the law.

Taylor’s proposals on zero-hours contracts also miss the point. Those on zero hours contracts – working in low paid sectors like hospitality, caring, and retail - are dependent on their boss for the hours they need to pay their bills. A "right to request" guaranteed hours from an exploitative boss is no right at all for many workers. Those in insecure jobs are in constant fear of having their hours cut if they speak up at work. Will the "right to request" really change this?

Tilting the balance of power back towards workers is what the trade union movement exists for. But it’s also vital to delivering the better productivity and growth Britain so sorely needs.

There is plenty of evidence from across the UK and the wider world that workplaces with good terms and conditions, pay and worker voice are more productive. That’s why the OECD (hardly a left-wing mouth piece) has called for a new debate about how collective bargaining can deliver more equality, more inclusion and better jobs all round.

We know as a union movement that we have to up our game. And part of that thinking must include how trade unions can take advantage of new technologies to organise workers.

We are ready for this challenge. Our role isn’t to stop changes in technology. It’s to make sure technology is used to make working people’s lives better, and to make sure any gains are fairly shared.

Frances O'Grady is the General Secretary of the TUC.