In his weekly New York Times column today, Ross Douthat says he underestimated Glenn Beck and that the Fox News personality’s star is indeed on the rise. I was surprised to discover that Beck’s star was not on the rise; true, his ratings are down somewhat, but it is summer, and he keeps publishing book after ridiculously terrible book. Perhaps even more importantly to his anti-liberal image, his appearances on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” border on constant these days.
In any event, Beck managed to make a day that otherwise would have been about Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights about himself and laissez-faire economics. By all accounts it upset contemporary civil right leaders and anyone with a firm grasp on the real meaning of the civil rights movement.
Douthat is surprisingly deluded about the event’s real focus and the general presence on the ground, outside the press box he occupied.
The Fox News host had promised that the rally, billed as a celebration of American values, would be an explicitly apolitical event. And so it came to pass: save for an occasional “Don’t Tread On Me,” banner, the crowded Mall was nearly free of political signs and T-shirt slogans, and there was barely a whisper of the crusade against liberalism that consumes most of Beck’s on-air hours.
Really? Apolitical and lacking the usual offensive right-wing signs? Photos from the crowd are rife with people wearing quasi-racist or anti-liberal, including this man, who wore a shirt that read “Obama is a Socialist, a Fraud, a Liar & a Racist Bigot” underneath a shirt that read “Blacks own slaves in Mauitania [sic], Sudan, Niger & Haiti.” Furthermore, as Douthat himself notes, many people were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, staples at any Tea Party event. True, reports note that this event had markedly fewer such signs and t-shirts, but nevertheless it was far from an apolitical event.
As for the “whisper of the crusade against liberalism,” the speeches were political rhetoric couched in spirituality. As Beck said:
For too long, this country has wandered in darkness. This country has spent far too long worrying about scars and thinking about scars and concentrating on scars. Today, we are going to concentrate on the good things in America.
2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and Fox News personality Sarah Palin also spoke. She noted she was asked to speak “not as a politician… no something more something much more; I’ve been asked to speak as the mother of a soldier.” Simply by acknowledging that fact she is irrevocably linking the two. She went on to refer to Obama:
We must not fundamentally transform America as some would want; we must restore America and restore her honor.
For many people, and especially on the right, religion and politics are intertwined. For them, and for anyone who knows how to read between the lines, this was a political event.
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