The political Quote of the Day comes from independent centrist writer and CNN analyst John Avlon who has a column on The Daily Beast titled “Glenn Beck’s Hypocritical Revival.” To many of us who are not Beck fans or fans of divisive talk radio and who greatly admired and supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he nails it.
So this is worth quoting in detail and offering a few additional comments on Beck’s rally, which CBS reports attracted 87,000 people — short of Beck’s prediction but an impressive number. Avlon starts out:
But you can’t just escape your past, even if you’re selling redemption. A gospel choir singing “unity” only goes so far. For all Beck’s exhortations about the importance of personal responsibility and telling the truth, those principles apparently do not extend to his professional life.
The biggest pre-rally controversy was the question of whether Beck was qualified to “reclaim the civil-rights movement” and carry the mantle of Martin Luther King (and this was before LittleGreenFootballs.com unearthed a clip of Beck calling MLK a socialist earlier this year). In a taped video tribute to King, Beck visually compared Tea Party protesters to civil-rights marchers, and quoted MLK self-referentially, saying “We must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” The irony was compounded when signs of hate at Little Rock were flashed on the screen, reading “Race-Mixing is Communism” and “Stop Race-Mixing—March of the Antichrist.” The photo offers fleeting evidence of a continuum between those who embraced hate during the civil-rights movement and those who encourage Obama Derangement Syndrome today.
But the Bad Beck who fear-mongers for fun and profit was nowhere in sight yesterday.
Indeed. Avlon notes that even Sarah Palin was on her loftiest behavior. In watching some of this, I was struck by how Hollywood-like this was even though it wasn’t supposed to be like that.
Here was one of the country’s most divisive, over-the-top multi-millionaire talk show hosts, wrapping himself in the aura of unity, American principles, and spirituality when most of the time on his radio and TV show his professional persona is anything but unifying, all-inclusive, or spiritual. It’s like a Hollywood actor going from one role to the next: you know its Robert DeNiro or Glenn Close but the role changes. But you KNOW who it is in the role. It was akin to when a politician makes a gaffe and later comes out and reframes it a different way.
Because the words are spoken it’s supposed to obliterate all that has come before. It doesn’t then; and Beck’s rally and speeches haven’t transformed him from being a single-man talk show polarizing money machine to being a national moral or spiritual leader — except perhaps in the eyes of the his fans and those who agree with him politically.
And it didn’t place him to being anywhere in the same league as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Restoring America. Reclaiming the civil-rights movement. Restoring honor. This is the language of “taking our country back.” Each of these apparently uplifting statements pushes off the idea that something has been lost in America since the election of Barack Obama—not just jobs, but the character of the nation itself. They are slogans that would divide America into God-fearing patriots and secular socialists, creating the emotional argument beneath hyper-partisanship—an all-or-nothing struggle that pits “us” against “them,” with the fate of the nation at stake. In other words, exactly the dynamic that Beck spent so much time trying to disavow.
To be sure. The great comedy coach Greg Dean often says that a joke is “the shattering of a shared assumption.” Beck’s rally had a shared assumption. And Beck’s rally seemed to have a lot of shared assumptions about those who didn’t see things exactly his way. The biggest assumption seemed to be that Beck & Co “get it” (and they just happened to be people who are mostly Republicans or Tea Party movement conservatives) while the rest of the America, particularly those with a “D” party label or an “L” ideology and perhaps some of those wishy washy independents who aren’t yet convinced that Beck is not a talk show host but a great moral and spiritual leader don’t get it.
The assumption was that those who didn’t agree didn’t get it and weren’t as spiritual, patriotic or wise.
But, mostly, Beck and those who idolize him lack what George H.W. Bush tried to do in setting the goal of“a kinder, gentler nation,” or his son GWB tried to do when he talked about a “compassionate conservatism” as a goal…a goal not realized. But a goal that when looked at within the context of today’s new conservatism rhetoric appears as if GWB resided over a virtual Golden Age of Compassionate Conservatism.
At the end of his three-hour revival meeting, Beck asked the crowd to keep the spirit of faith, hope, and charity alive in their actions, warning, “This wakeup call will fade if it was just about today, and the critics will be right.”And so I’ll be watching, waiting to see if Beck keeps faith with his call to “get the poison of hatred out of us.” It will presumably mean no longer demonizing people who disagree with him, no longer using fear or hate as a recruiting tool to pump up ratings. Beck told his audience to attend any house of worship, provided “that [it] is not preaching hate and division”—it is a standard that will have to apply to his own televangelism as well.
It could happen. (It could also happen that this Easter a nice, fluffy bunny will hop into your house and deliver Easter Eggs.)
Here earlier today on my Twitter page.
Satirist Andy Borowitz had several one-liner items on his Twitter page.
We know there are other viewpoints on this — so feel free to leave yours in District TMV. Also note that there have been other writers on TMV who have offered different takes on this event (scroll down).
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A DIFFERING VIEW:
The Christian Science Monitor has this take on the rally:
Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington Saturday could not have been an encouraging sign for Democrats and the Obama administration.
The crowd was huge by any count – likely at least a couple hundred thousand people judging by aerial photos and the reported comments of some police officers – stretching from the Lincoln Memorial back to the Washington Monument.
And far from being a gathering of self-proclaimed rabble rousers carrying offensive signs insulting of President Obama, as has often been the case with “tea party” rallies spurred on by Mr. Beck, it was mostly a heartfelt and largely nonpartisan expression of civic concern, patriotism, and religious faith.
In other words, there may have been some Democrats in the crowd, but even they are likely not happy with the direction the country’s taking, according to recent polls – including the policies and programs pushed by the majority party in Congress and the White House.
The irony regarding Beck – a brilliant communicator whose talents earned him $32 million last year – is that much of what he told the crowd flies in the face of what he espouses in his Fox News broadcasts.
“We must get the poison of hatred out of us,” he told the crowd. “We must look to God and look to love. We must defend those we disagree with.”
This from a man who has called Obama “a racist” and likened Al Gore’s campaign against global climate change to “what Hitler did” in having scientists use eugenics to justify the Holocaust.
Which drives Beck’s critics nuts.
UPDATE II: Thoughts from Steve Benen.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.