As ThinkProgress reported yesterday, last week South Fulton Fire Department firefighters from Obion, Tennessee, stood by and watched as the Cranick family’s home burned down — which also led to the death of the family’s three dogs and a cat — because their fire-fighting services were available by subscription only, and the family had not paid the $75 fee. Immediately, right-wing writers at the conservative movement’s bulkhead magazine, The National Review, defended the county and argued that firefighting should not be a public service available to all, regardless of ability to pay.
Now, yet another major conservative has joined the defense. On his radio show this afternoon, leading right-wing talker Glenn Beck and his producer Pat Gray openly mocked the Cranick family. After playing a news clip explaining the situation, Gray adopted a southern drawl and began to mock Gene Cranick’s explanation of how the county’s firefighters refused to help his family.
Beck then went on to complain that “those who are just on raw feeling are not going to understand” that the county’s actions in refusing to assist the Cranicks were justified. He explained that America will be having the “argument” about the case of the Cranicks and that it will go “nowhere if you go onto ‘compassion, compassion, compassion, compassion’ or well, ‘they should’ve put it out, what is the fire department for?’” Beck then went on to say that the Cranicks would be “spongeing off their neighbors” if the fire department had helped them put out their fire. The radio host concluded his rant by saying “this is the kind of stuff that’s going to have to happen, we are going to have to have these kinds of things”:
GRAY: (mocking Cranick’s accent) Even tho’ I hadn’t paid mah seventy five dollahs I thought dey’d put it out. [...] I wanted ‘em to put it out, but dey didn’t put it out.
BECK: Here’s the thing. Those that are just on raw feeling are not going to understand. [...]
GRAY: But I thought they was gonna put the fire out anyway, but it burned down. Dat ain’t right! [...] What’s the Fire Department for if you don’t put out the fire?! [...] I thought they’d put out mah fire even if I didn’t pay seventy five dollars.
BECK: This is the sort of argument that Americans are going to have.
GRAY: It is.
BECK: And it goes nowhere if you go onto “compassion, compassion, compassion, compassion” or well, “they should’ve put it out, what is the fire department for?” [...] If you don’t pay the 75 dollars then that hurts the fire department. They can’t use those resources, and you’d be spongeing off your neighbor’s resources. [...] It’s important for America to have this debate. This is the kind of stuff that’s going to have to happen, we are going to have to have these kinds of things.
It appears that Beck believes that events like what transpired in Obion County should teach Americans lessons about personal responsibility. But where does Beck draw the line when it comes to opposing public services for those who have not paid fees? Would he oppose subscription-based police officers refusing to help a rape victim? How about subscription-based military personnel refusing to repel a terrorist attack on a community that hasn’t paid up? One has to wonder just how far Beck is willing to go.