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August 30, 2010

A 3rd Reason Glenn Luther King Hit it Out of the Park in DC – God (and GW) are in the Tea House

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

About 2,500 screaming, adoring Glenn Beck fans packed the concert hall of Washington’s Kennedy Center on Friday night to shower affection on their hero. Beck used the event, dubbed “America’s Divine Destiny,” to portray himself as an instrument of God prepared to lead America out of its spiritual darkness.

Beck, who seems to view himself in increasingly messianic terms, says he is helping to launch another religious “Great Awakening” that will shape American history and promised attendees that on Saturday they would be “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

Action film star Chuck Norris read long passages from writings by George Washington, Ben Franklin and Samuel Adams, intended to show their piety and their belief that America’s future depended on Americans acknowledging the country’s dependence on God. Norris was an energetic supporter of Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid and later endorsed “Ten Commandments” Judge Roy Moore’s gubernatorial bid in Alabama. “What does it take to get Gina and I off our ranch in Texas?” Norris asked. “An act of Congress? No way. What it takes is God or Glenn Beck.”

– from: Glenn Beck Goes Messianic at America’s Divine Destiny Event Before 2,500 Screaming Fans (Alternet)

Alex Wong/Getty Images

What took the pundits and the opposition off-guard at the Lincoln Memorial was not Beck’s play to the center, but his hard turn toward the heavens.  His obsession with the deity and the use of the God card — overriding what, up-to-know, has been the separation of church and Tea house — was as surprising as it was deft.

If Glenn is in the grip of a messianic syndrome, however — which is what this  second photo toys with — the obsession, from a political standpoint — is merely an instrument to fire up the patriotism.

Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

In the Red Guy and Blue Gal, for example, besides playing on the theme of bi-partisanship, you can see that the nationalism has become biblically- supercharged.

Beck and his backers get much more clever and subtle, though, about the way they “church up” the founding fathers.  The paragraph above, about Chuck Norris’s story time, helps explain the lead photo of the contemplative-looking guy with George Washington in his pocket.  The thing is, it’s not your typical George. It’s George accompanied by a Godly glow.

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Not content just to wrestle God and Country away from the Democrats, though, this shot of an official “Restoring Honor” t-shirt demonstrates Beck’s mission to morph and lay claim to every potent contemporary political symbol he can possibly draw a line around.

As a result, and like a slap in the Administration’s face, we see the Beck/Tea Party brand consisting of three founding fathers and three words representing biblical saints — not to mention, a powerful spiritual phrase with the capability of echoing through the mind –  packaged seamlessly together adopting Fairey-Obama visual design.


1st Reason Glenn Luther King Hit it Out of the Park in DC — Visual Media Swallowed the King Sham

A 2nd Reason Glenn Luther King Hit it Out of the Park in DC – They Left the Signs at Home

  • thomas

    This is really fascinating stuff. Market research people like to say that markets aren’t discovered, they’re created; and this whole Palin/Beck/Tea Party/megachurch/current events/infomercial thing here seems to have done just that. One does wonder just how large a tranche of the population it can draw.

    Most of the commentary and analysis here and elsewhere has been pretty negative, which is reassuring. But I think there is an aesthetic tradition being employed in Beck’s wacky enterprise that is really interesting: camp. We saw an awful lot of it during the Bush years — Bush pretending to be an orchestra conductor, or posing as a fighter pilot, Cheney as a frontier hunter, Rove as a rapper, and so on — and it seems to live on in Beck’s chalking diagrams like a college professor, weeping like a daytime TV star, strutting like a great political leader, wearing a theatrical military uniform for his book cover, etc. Yes, his audience is being taken in, but how they are being taken in is not so straightforward; they are embracing a campy and unapologetically amplified style of presentation, perhaps for the same reasons gay culture embraced camp originally, as a way of reclaiming mainstream culture so as not to feel so excluded from it, so alienated. By themselves, Beck’s patriotic hysteria and Palin’s over-controlled diva act are worthy of a Broadway musical. But in the realm of real-world public spectacle they are pitch perfect for an audience that caricatures both its enemies and its saints.

    • EM

      I agree that this is fascinating, from the cultural observer’s POV. Beck/Palin/right-wingers shamelessly toy with people’s basest emotions, throwing about empty but emotionally-charged slogans (“restoring honor”? really?) and engage in pretend play and games, including dress-up (how many Founding Fathers’ costumes are sold for the GB’s flying circus?), but what’s particular (or not) about it is that they all do it without an ounce of irony.

  • suspiro

    Funny how people are different – while EM would say they “shamelessly toy with people’s basest emotions”, I feel that it resonates because they “touch on people’s deepest, noblest beliefs.”
    How can anyone look at Congress and not feel a need to restore honor”. The vast majority of the country disapproves of Congress.

    • Dave Ayer

      Perhaps this is what these people truely believe. I am shocked how the left views this as people being led in a lemming like fashion, yet my beliefs have been along these lines for 30 years. Many people forget that for years the only social commentary was from a more left leaning voice of ABC CBS NBC CNN When things like FOX News Rush Beck etc. came along people that heretofore felt isolated and told to be quiet found a voice their voice and they found that they were not alone. On 8/28 they all showed up together in DC this still America and that can’t be a bad thing.

    • cmac

      America disapproves of Congress because Americans individually feel entitled to have what they want, whether or not what they want is reasonable or ethical or fair. This Congress, despite some truly childish behavior on the part of the GOP, has managed to achieve quite a lot; but so far nobody’s gotten the magical ‘everything.’ Liberals didn’t get single-payer health care; conservatives weren’t allowed to nullify the 2008 election. Like a nation of two-year-olds, everybody pouts.

      What does Beck actually intend to restore? I submit he wants to restore the America of my childhood, where black men did not occupy the White House, gays stayed in the closet, and white meant right. I have no empathy for people who find Beck’s hateful, narcissistic ramblings ‘touching.’

  • David

    Sort of like Obama with a Godly glow.

  • DCNW

    In what way(s) might the left’s critique of Beck’s sloganeering, theatrics, and audience-whipping be cut and pasted directly into the script of the right’s critique of Obama ‘08?

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