Douthat: Beck and I Can’t be Bothered Anymore

Seriously, he’s just phoning it in now:

There was enough material, in other words, to justify almost any
interpretation of the event. A Beck admirer could spin “Restoring
Honor” as proof that left-wing fears about the Tea Partiers are
overblown: free of rancor, racism or populist resentment, the
atmosphere at the rally resembled that of a church picnic or a high
school football game. But a suspicious liberal could retort that all
the God-and-Christ talk and military tributes were proof enough that a
sinister Christian nationalism lurked beneath the surface. (I’m sure
The New York Review of Books has already commissioned an essay on that

Similarly, one could call the rally a gross affront to the memory of
King, who presumably wouldn’t have cared much for Beck’s right-wing
politics. But one could also call the day a strange, unlooked-for
fulfillment of King’s prophecies: 47 years after the “I Have a Dream”
speech, here were tens of thousands of white conservatives roaring
their approval of its author.

Herp derp derp. Coulda been anything! Don’t have to make up your mind! Don’t have to think about it one way or the other! Don’t have to be worried or outraged or even overjoyed! I went to the Glenn Beck rally and all I got was bored outta my skull. Coulda just as well been at a Michael Moore movie! Don’t bother paying any attention, kids, it’s all just one thing.

I have the same question at the end of Douthat’s column as I have had reading most of the Beck coverage this past weekend: To what end is he doing this? For what purpose? Does he need something to do? I am willing to teach him crochet. Is he just out for money, for himself? There are more fun ways to get rich, at least for Douthat, than spending time each week telling people they don’t have to give a shit about the world. He could make bazillions, for example, as a consultant, or in PR. I do not understand why, if your entire columnist thing is that nothing really matters that much, you continue to get up in the morning. What the fucking fuck?

Now more than ever, Americans love leaders who seem to validate their
way of life. This spirit of self-affirmation was at work in
evangelicals’ enduring support for Bush, in the enthusiasm for the Dean
campaign among the young, secular and tech-savvy, and now in the
devotion that Palin inspires among socially conservative women. The
Obama campaign raised it to an art form, convincing voters that by
merely supporting his candidacy, they were proving themselves
cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip.

Good Lord. His inability to see voting for Obama as anything other than some kind of trendy statement is just so transparently petulant. Ross, I’m sorry the girl in the Obama shirt wouldn’t fuck you.

For a weekend, at least, Beck proved that he can conjure the thrill of
a culture war without the costs of combat, and the solidarity of
identity politics without any actual politics. If his influence
outlasts the current election cycle, this will be the secret of his

WHAT FOR? I keep reading stuff likeAli’s excellent piece:

Indeed, a lot of my time leading up to the Glenn Beck rally was
about fear. After the delightful James Withers and I agreed to go, I
realized that I didn’t understand Beck’s fans (followers?) at all, and
so I assigned myself the task of watching every episode of his show
that aired during the month leading up to the rally.

It was not an easy month – I’d only seen clips of Beck’s show
before, and it turns out the full hour can be hard to take. He
prophesizes imminent economic collapse and ticks off examples of the
nation’s ongoing moral collapse. He compares our current society to
long-dead civilizations and the Weimar Republic. He breaks out the
chalkboard to spiderweb out vast, decades-long – generations-long –

He yells, over and over, that the country is on fire.

And thinking, “Okay, and … buy Glenn Beck’s books? Attend the rally and then … what?” It’s the same thing that pisses me off about a lot of our cheap-ass life-coach hustler culture, that it seems to lack specificity. The older I get, the more I just want to be excused from the meeting until there’s a task needs performing, like, if it’s all the same to you, I don’t need more motivation, I need instructions I can carry out. Rededicate our country to God? God and I are fine these days. The couples counseling is really helping. What is the fucking POINT?


10 thoughts on “Douthat: Beck and I Can’t be Bothered Anymore

  1. The point is to neuter liberalism. MLK wasn’t a great speechifier, he was an activist who, oh yeah, also happened to be a magnificent orator. If Beck can get everyone to focusexclusively on King’s words then he can turn the man’s legacy into a tug of war. He gets everyone to look away from the fact that he championed unions, opposed the Vietnam war and was generally a ceaseless crusader for social justice aka liberation theology.
    Beck wants to disappear all that. That’s the point. When only words remain he and King are on equal footing.

  2. Judging by all the gray hair in evidence at Beck’s event, surely many of them actually remember when Martin Luther King was alive. They hated him. Conservatives called him a traitor and a Communist (now it’s socialist), the same things they call the guy in the White House now, except now they throw in Muslim.
    Things haven’t changed much on the far right in America over all these years.

  3. Why? I’ll tell you why. It was a PR event. A — pardon the pun — whitewash. Staged, manufactured to put a shiny happy face on the Teanuts. To appeal to the Mushy Middle. Too much of a bad taste in peoples’ mouths from all of those rancorous Town Brawls last summer and the embarrassing misspelled signs and hanging Congress Critters in effigy and racism and birtherism and Tentherism. Teanuts poll very, very badly with real Independents. Hell, the Republican Party polls very, very badly with Independents. So the needed to stage a huge PR event to make themselves not appear batshit insane.
    This event was very carefully managed. No signs allowed. No racist T-shirts allowed. They found every the sole conservative in every minority group and got them to appear on stage. See how multicultural they are! They aren’t haters, they’re patriots! They LOVE civil rights!
    It’s snake oil, pure and simple, but there’s an election coming up, don’tcha know.

  4. “Herp derp derp” is pretty much my standard response to right-wing fucktardery these days, and its common internet usage quite accurately describes the level of careful thought and consideration that said fucktardery demands.
    If it had been a meme in common usage during the hoopla surrounding “Liberal Fascism,” it would have been the ultimate “Shorter Jonah Goldberg.”
    Hell, it probably is still the ultimate “Shorter Jonah Goldberg.”

  5. I mostly agree with you, Dan, but I think Beck, like so many others, also wants to focus on an extremely limited subset of MLK’s oratory, a good example being the I Have a Dream Speech itself.
    You can listen to the entire oration on You Tube. It’s not that long, only about 20 minutes or so.
    Beck, et al tend to focus on a single line or two (“not the color of one’s skin, but the content of their character”); as I’m sure you know, the speech, in its entirety, is a call for social and economic justice and a reminder that it’s a century past due.
    And, not to go liberal bashing — after all, I’m a liberal, and not prone to masochism — but I think liberals, neo-liberals, and whatever you might call mainstream Democrats beginning with Jimmy Carter, likewise tended to selectively cite King as a matter of political expediency — content of character is all fine and good, but getting down to brass tacks with fair housing, genuine school desegregation (busing), affirmative action, etc., is a different story.
    Which in its own way helps enable the wingers, to the point where at least some of them honestly believe that African Americans aren’t sufficiently grateful (I think I read at Hullabaloo a quote from a Tea Party type that without slavery, blacks would all be starving to death or dying of AIDS in Africa.)

  6. I’m a little more cynical on this. Perhaps it is a deliberate attempt to silence MLK by sanitizing him?

  7. No, dammit, people, we all fell for it. This was a way for Beck to make more money off poor, not very bright, scared white listeners — evangelical politics 101. Not calling it out for what it is makes us complicit.

  8. It’s a clever scam for money that at once makes him lotsa money and ensures his bosses at Fox will be pleasantly satisfied with his drivel enough to keep him on the payroll (which also makes him lotsa money). Hell, maybe they’ll even give him a raise.
    I don’t know that Beck even believes half the crazy shit he spews, but it makes him money, so he keeps on spewing it.
    That said, his employers like it hateful so I’ve no doubt this was an attempted stab at silencing and/or confusing MLK’s message, which, let’s face it, is exactly the same thing they’ve done to Obama.
    As far as asking “what’s the point?” I too get irked by our “cheap-ass life-coach hustler culture”. Saying “you need to change your life around” is useless if they don’t tell you how. It’s the exact reason why I loathe Dr. Phil with a burning passion. Aside from the fact that one show was spent hatefully scolding teenage girls for having sex (in which they addressed the “when is it too young for sex?” issue, yet conveniently didn’t interview any male teenagers), his “advice” is full of bullshit and given to people who’s problems are pretty easy to give bullshit answers to. Sure, it’s easy to tell a mother she needs to be able to tell her children “no” within the confines of an hour, but you don’t see him “curing” hardcore drug addicts in an hour. It’s like yelling at a kid for doing poorly on the test and then refusing to teach him how to do the work himself. Any teacher who gave the “advice” of, “just don’t be wrong anymore” would be fired.

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