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BOOK REVIEW: Fiction grounded in unsettling fact

- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2010

THE OVERTON WINDOW
By Glenn Beck
Threshold Editions, $26,321 pages

@$:The now-deceased Defense Secretary James V. Forrestal was quoted decades ago as having said that if our leaders merely made mistakes, "they would occasionally make one in our favor."

Though the quote cannot be found in today's leading reference works, it surely reflected the fiercely anti-Soviet Cabinet official's mindset in the days before he jumped (or was pushed) from the window of a hospital room in 1949.

Glenn Beck's novel, "The Overton Window," would tend to validate that skepticism. The author proclaims the fiction as well-grounded in fact. Let us review some suspicious "mistakes"/facts presented here (shrouded in "Mission: Impossible"-style thriller drama):

First is Mr. Beck's belief that multiple "mistakes," which in the composite lead in the same negative direction or to the same unfortunate result, are unlikely to be real "mistakes." Some group or force is guiding them with deliberate intent, he is convinced. This work goes a step beyond the author's nightly TV show, which already explores intellectual venues considered by few if any others with his high profile.

Mr. Beck thus is dismissed by much of the establishment as a "conspiracy theorist." But such ridicule is effective only if its point - for the most part - is demonstrably accurate.

It is ironic that this book hit the stores at about the same time that Angelo Codevilla, an international relations professor at Boston University, penned a long article titled "The Ruling Class" for the American Spectator magazine. Mr. Codevilla separates the "ruling class" - the establishment - from the "country class" - the rest of us. His thesis stops short of some of Mr. Beck's conclusions, but surely bolsters the TV commentator's "us vs. them" view of the world.

In order for the country class to contend seriously for self-governance, Mr. Codevilla writes, those who represent it in the political arena "will have to discredit not just such awful frauds as ethanol mandates, the pretense that taxes can control 'climate change,' and the outrage of banning God from public life. More important, such a serious party would have to attack the ruling class' fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and harden one's own."

Through fiction, Mr. Beck's "The Overton Window" depicts a powerful schemer whose guiding interest is in steering the "ignorant" of the great unwashed toward gradual acceptance of world government.

"Saul Alinsky was right" he says to his "wayward" son, who has joined the pro-American side. "The ends do justify the means. I can't imagine how any thinking person could believe otherwise. Which do you think the huddled masses would prefer if they knew what I know, that they have only two choices: a quick if somewhat painful transformation or yet another century of slow progress and suffering toward the same inevitable end, only this time with all of the country's wealth and potential stolen away from them before the decay begins."

The novel's title refers to a slide show outlining the craft of edging public opinion toward acceptance of outrageous ideas formerly believed to be unthinkable.

The control freak in this story is contemptuous of "these selfish and ignorant meddlers, patriots they have the gall to call themselves, they would stand in the path of destiny."

The book's leading villain is depicted as having begun his "public relations" career with the real-life publicist Edward Bernays (1891-1995), whose bio includes assisting Woodrow Wilson in steering the public toward support for U.S. involvement in World War I. Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels included in his personal library one of Bernays' books on guiding public opinion.

Bernays, a Jew, was shocked to learn that his writings were referenced by a man whose job was to whip the German population into hatred of the Jewish people.

Under the heading of "unintended consequences," this passage appears in Bernays' book "Propaganda": "As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented. Democracy is administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment the masses."

Or as the controlling mastermind in Mr. Beck's novel puts it, the endgame is "one world, ruled by the wise, and the fittest and the strong, with no naive illusions of equality of the squandered promises of freedom for all."

Throughout "The Overton Window," reference is made to the book "Tragedy and Hope" by the late Carroll Quigley, longtime professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Quigley's writings are quoted by Glenn Beck as demonstrating an internationalist professor's premise of Mutually Assured Destruction, "now a reality," the author opines. Except, he adds, "it's not just military destruction that we've got to worry about. ... It's economic destruction as well," The economies of nations "have become so intentionally intertwined that a collapse anywhere else in the world has major ramifications for us."

Prior to his death, Quigley denied that his 1966 book reflected an approval of some secret cabal moving us toward world government, as previous authors have alleged.

Mr. Beck invites readers to judge for themselves. Quigley's book is a "must read," he insists, "if you want to understand the theories of a man who was inspirational to many world leaders, including President Bill Clinton [one of Quigley's students]."

The actual storyline woven around these serious issues is a page-turner. Ingredients include a terrorist plot to set off a bomb in Las Vegas to kill 30,000 people; a riot in a New York City bar partly instigated by infiltrators at a patriotic rally; and of course, the required "boy meets girl" angle.

A good yarn, but not what you would consider "escapism."

Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and veteran broadcast journalist.

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