Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally on Saturday is flawed by its very name, as noted by Ed Brayton's reply. Brayton countered Beck's implication by observing that "America hasn't lost anything," let alone its honor. "We are today what we have always been," writes Brayton, "a nation of people that proclaims a set of very audacious ideals to the rest of the world and only sometimes lives up to them. It isn't any worse today than it was in years past; in fact, it's better -- but only because the forces of progress won previous battles for liberty and equality:"
Those principles provide the solid base from which we have launched assault after assault against discrimination and oppression. America fully has its honor only insofar as we live up to those ideals. America hasn't lost its honor, it is the same as it always was, partially living up to our own declared principles and partially failing. And the more we live up to them, the closer we come to that illusive place of honor.
Glenn Beck isn't going to do a damn thing to help in that effort. He's on the side of regress, not progress. He's a carnival barker on the political midway, selling a product -- fear -- to an eager public. For him, the notion of honor is just a marketing slogan, something flashy with which to fleece the rubes and keep the money flowing.
But the rest of us must continue the fight for freedom and equality because in extending those ideals to others, we provide them more fully and more meaningfully to ourselves. In extending those promises where they should have applied in the first place, we reinforce our shared humanity, the thing that Martin Luther King fought for so bravely.
Hitchens takes on the "White Fright" of Glenn Beck's weekend rally is that its "overall effect was large, vague, moist, and undirected: the Waterworld of white self-pity." Hitch continues by noting that "recently, almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country:"
The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it.
Politifact's summary of Beck's bullshit is a useful refresher on his general mendacity, and another example surfaced this morning: Beck's claim that "I went to the National Archives, and I held the first inaugural address written in his own hand by George Washington." Mother Jones notes the implausibility that "the persnickety gatekeepers of the nation's historical legacy at the National Archives [would] allow some talk show bombthrower to put his mitts on a rare (and fragile) artifact:"
Beck was not telling the truth.
Beck did receive a special VIP tour of the archives, arranged by an as-yet unidentified member of Congress. During that tour, he did get a peek inside the "legislative vault," which isn't open to ordinary visitors. But Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper insists that Beck didn't lay a finger on any precious documents, much less George Washington's inaugural address. That would be a major violation of policy. "Those kinds of treasures are only handled by specially trained archival staff," she explains. Cooper acknowledges that someone at the archives did show the document to Beck, but that was the extent of it.
In addition to Beck's propagandistic Ministry-of-Truth style, AlterNet's Chauncey DeVega calls the rally a "Perversion of Dr King's Vision" and accuses Beck of taking the "nakedly Orwellian" and "morally repugnant route of claiming progressive heroes like Martin Luther King as his own, never mind the fact that they are about as different from each other as two people can get:"
One stood for social justice, peace, coexistence, freedom, and equality, the other stands for avarice, ignorance, opportunism, divisiveness, and bigotry. To my mind one represents that which is right with America, and the other what is so horribly wrong and getting worse in our troubled political times. You can guess who is who.
Here's a clever vision of Beck transported to the Civil Rights era:
(David Fitzsimmons/Arizona Star)
Will Saletan suggests that Beck's attempt to co-opt King and the civil rights movement (as other conservatives tried to do at Coretta Scott King's funeral four years ago) should be celebrated instead of ridiculed. Saletan quotes various rally speakers discussing themes of "Consciousness, shame, redemption, change, impatience. These are more than concessions. They're ways of thinking and living. They're the core of the progressive worldview:"
If you think this isn't enough--if you're holding out for an endorsement of carbon taxes or subsidized health insurance--you're looking at the rally the wrong way. This is how conservatives embrace progress. First they resist it. Then they lose to it. Then they assimilate it. They frame it as a fulfillment of longstanding values. They emphasize common threads between reformers and founders. They reinterpret the nation's origins to match the new ethos.
He continues by noting that "Crying 'socialism' is what conservatives do before they yield to change:"
It's a stage in the process of defeat. But the process doesn't end with defeat. It ends with absorption. It ends with the political descendants of George Wallace embracing the legacy of Martin Luther King. Beck today is just catching up to where King was 50 years ago. That's because King was in the front of the civil rights bus, and Beck is in the back. And it's a really slow bus. [...]
Fifty years from now, when conservatives gather on the National Mall, they'll be celebrating the integration of American Muslims. On the hologram projector, they'll show dimensionally enhanced video of an anti-mosque rally from the bad old days of 2010. Their tribute won't be insincere. It'll just be a little bit late.
Speaking of insincerity, a right-wing rally wouldn't be complete without vastly inflated attendance claims. MediaMatters notes Michelle Bachmann's wild declaration that "We're not going to let anyone get away with saying there were less than a million here today " is unsupported by the actual attendance--which CBS called at 87,000 (give or take 9,000).