Do they contradict themselves? Very well they contradict themselves. (They are large, they contain multitudes.)

The tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people who were gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial today for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event share the conviction that they are trying to return America to constitutional government. Yet the rhetorical and emotional centerpiece of the gathering was support for Martin Luther King’s racial vision, and thus support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which gave the federal government the revolutionary power to tell a private employer whom he must hire.

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The blogger OneSTDV writes:

The mainstream has inculcated them with the notion that racism (an ill-defined term equivalent to whatever liberals don’t like, especially naturally occurring disparities) represents the greatest moral ill. Thus, in an effort to attain mainstream acceptance, they have adopted the decidely liberal rhetoric of anti-racism and one of the left’s apotheized heroes: MLK. A successful conservatism must inoculate itself against the prevailing liberal zeitgeist—not being afraid to voice “unpleasant” truths and rattle some feathers.

Mark Jaws writes:

Yes, I agree with you that Glenn Beck has gone overboard with his recent rant of racial reconciliation. However, I think he is dong more good than harm, in mobilizing white conservatives to get their arses off the couch, out of the living room, and into the streets. What is wrong with that? It paves the way for future good work, for example, the abolition of welfare, the total sealing of our borders, the restriction of immigration.

LA replies:

Let’s hope you’re right.

Jim C. writes:

“Do they contradict themselves? Very well they contradict themselves.”

Right on.

LA writes:

From Politico:

Beck had initially planned for a political rally. In November, he said he would unveil a political organizing book on August 28, called “The Plan,” which he billed as providing “specific policies, principles and, most importantly, action steps” to launch “a new national movement to restore our great country.”

Then prominent minority leaders pushed back.

Without specifying why, Beck said Saturday that he came to the realization a political approach would be wrong for this occasion. He attributed part of his idea for what to do in lieu of that to a conversation he claimed he had with God.

“It was about four months ago that we were still kind of lost, and we didn’t know what we were going to do when we got here,” Beck said. “And I was down on my knees, and we were in the office. And I said ‘Lord, I think I’m one of your dumber children. Speak slowly!’ And the answer was, ‘You have all the pieces. Just put them together.’ The pieces are faith, hope and charity and looking for those things inside each of us.’”

Faith, hope and charity—derived from 1 Corinthians—became the three key buzzwords of the day. An award went to a person who embodied each of those three categories: one was an African-American pastor from Texas who had attended King’s 1963 rally. The other was a native of the Dominican Republic, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, for promoting Jesus Christ.

[end of quote]

The idea of a leader who doesn’t know what he’s doing and who is winging it and who is telling his followers how God is guiding him every step of the way is not something that should be welcomed. Beck himself is a work in progress. He’s like a college student, excited by the books he’s reading. He himself doesn’t know what he thinks, but is figuring it out from moment to moment. He’s not in a position to be playing the role of a leader. And most of all he shouldn’t be playing the role of a leader who has got to tell the world how he doesn’t know what he’s doing and how God is guiding him every step. This is an embarrassment as far as I’m concerned. It is like a contemporary, evangelical, “nice” version of the 1957 Bud Schulberg / Elia Kazan movie A Face in the Crowd, in which Andy Griffith plays a demagogic and charismatic radio/TV performer, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, who keeps winging it. Among various parallels, the Griffith character uses a sympathetic black woman to build support for his program, just as Beck brought out the niece of Martin Luther King.

August 29

Mark Jaws writes:

I could not agree with you more about Beck—he is all over the place, and your description of him as a college student shouting “Eureka” after reading one textbook is right on the mark. However, from the Mark Jaws racial conservative point of view, Beck is a “useful idiot” by walking point for us on a wide variety of issues. With his utterance of “controversial” anti-Obama and anti-Black Liberation Theology remarks, he has drawn ineffective fire from the Left (to their discredit), and, more importantly, as a major public figure, he has ALMOST made the unmentionable once again permissible in the public arena. And furthermore, please remember that as a major TV figure who must deal with the network, threatened boycotts, and nervous advertisers, Beck is never going to be to score a touchdown for us. But if he can move the ball downfield for a few plays, before we bench him, then that is A-OK with Mark Jaws, who was there yesterday and reveling in the magnitude and mood of the crowd, rather than the message from the speakers.

Al H. writes:

After reading the coverage on this rally I’m still left with the questions, what was it for and what did it accomplish? It seem to me the reason it contradicts itself is that it isn’t really about anything. What honor do they want to restore? It’s just the so called conservative version of feeling good about yourself and self validation. After three hours of speeches nothing has changed, people will go home and be exactly who they were before they went there. We laugh at the left when they hold hands and sing Kumbaya, how was this any different?

One of clues that these kind of events really don’t send any sort of meaningful message is that the discussion after the fact turns to the question of how many people were there. That’s where we’re at now: my rally was bigger then yours, or NBC claims there were 300,000, but I was there and it was closer to 500,000. That’s the big take away?

LA replies:

You’re making an excellent point that “restoring honor” is a meaningless, empty slogan. It reminds me of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign for the presidency. At the time I felt it was essential for Bush to raise a standard against the nation-destroying corruption of the Clinton years, epitomized in the widespread slogan, “Everyone does it,” meaning that everyone does disgusting and immoral and criminal things, therefore there’s nothing wrong with doing disgusting and immoral and criminal things. Instead, Bush simply said that he would preserve the honor and dignity of the office of President. That statement cost him nothing. It involved no criticism of the Clintonian corruption. It was the stance of an empty suit. It was one of several factors that, in total, led me not to vote for him.

At the same time, I acknowledge Mark Jaws’s point that the meaning of such a rally may be more in “the magnitude and mood of the crowd, than in the message from the speakers.”

Brandon F. wrote last night:

“Do they contradict themselves? Very well they contradict themselves.”

I may be the only reader you have, or one of few, that knows the Walt Whitman reference. Very nice.

LA replied:

Well, I think that’s a pretty well known quote.

Brandon replies:

I knew you would say that. Make me feel super educated please.

LA replies:

LOL. Ok, I’ll post your comment!

Mark Jaws writes:

Another point in favor of yesterday’s rally. It was huge. My family and I could not even catch a DC Metro Train because the train platform was stacked with people, and the station personnel were not allowing any more people from entering the station. Only because I am a local and I knew where to get a cab, were we ablt to attend get to the Arlngton Memorial Bridge to walk across the Potomac. But along the way I saw hundreds of people walking several miles to get there. That is dedication. And it is precisely that level of enthusiasm and devotion to this cause, whatever it is, which has the Secular Progressives all in a tizzy. so much so, they are becoming rabidly incoherent. I cannot find the clip, but I did watch a segment of Ed Schultz’s show on MSNBC on Friday. He was pathetic and unrealistic. I would wager that this movement and this event in particular have been making reasonable and impressionable young lefties wary of their own torchbearers.

August 29, 5:30 p.m.

Paul K. writes:

You wrote, “Beck himself is a work in progress. He’s like a college student, excited by the books he’s reading. He himself doesn’t know what he thinks, but is figuring it out from moment to moment.”

Last year I had occasion to attend a number of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings with a family member. This is a 12-step program similar to AA, and as we all know because he regularly mentions it, Glenn Beck is a recovering alcoholic. I found the human drama of the NA meetings riveting, with people baring their souls, exposing their own weaknesses, confessing to their transgressions, sharing their insights, and providing each other with moral support. I was amazed at how articulately and insightfully many of these people spoke about their problems, and how much laughter and camaraderie there was amid the stories of desperate events. The meetings were much more engaging than any live theater performance I’ve ever attended.

It strikes me that Beck himself is typical of the recovering alcoholic, with his earnest self-criticism, emotional effusions, sense of mission, and excitement over what he sees as useful insights and self-improvement programs. The constant talk of turning things over to a Higher Power also fits in, of course. It occurred to me some time ago that Beck brings the drama of an AA meeting to the airwaves and now to the Mall in Washington, D.C.

James P. writes:

You wrote:

“Beck himself is a work in progress. He’s like a college student, excited by the books he’s reading. He himself doesn’t know what he thinks, but is figuring it out from moment to moment.”

The man is 46. What serious person of that age is a “work in progress” who doesn’t know what he thinks? He ought to know what he thinks about political issues already—especially because it is his job to express opinions on political issues. If he doesn’t know what he thinks, then either he is incapable of profound thought, or he is an opportunist who changes what he thinks in accordance with which way the wind is blowing.

LA replies:

I think you’re being a bit too tough on him. First of all, this is America, where personal growth is a life-long project, and men (and women) often come to emotional and intellectual maturity late. Second, this is far more true in the generations born since circa 1940; indeed, it’s only partly a joke that 50 today is what 30 used to be—not just physically but mentally. Third, Beck himself has told how his own reading and thinking life didn’t even begin until he was 30.

So, the fact that Beck is learning and exploring at 46 is not a mark against him—not at all. What is a mark against him is, first, that he thinks that he ought to be sharing the drama of his spiritual and intellectual growth with the world, and, second and much worse, that he thinks the drama of his personal growth should be the substance of a mass movement. That’s mad.

And may I add: Only in America.

James P. continues:

Reading the Wiki account of Beck’s “adulthood”, one simply cannot take him seriously as a thinker, a moral influence, or as a conservative. Spiritual quests? One class at Yale? Self-education from Dershowitz, Hitler, Sagan, and Nietzsche? Children named Raphe and Cheyenne? The man comes off as a typical buffoonish liberal entertainer, not someone who can lead a return to constitutional government as a result of principle and study.

In 1996, while working for a New Haven-area radio station, Beck briefly attended Yale University. Beck took one theology class, “Early Christology,” and then dropped out. This was followed by Beck going on a “spiritual quest” where he “sought out answers in churches and bookstores.” As Beck later recounted in his books and stage performances, his first attempt at self-education involved six wide-ranging authors: Alan Dershowitz, Pope John Paul II, Adolf Hitler, Billy Graham, Carl Sagan, and Friedrich Nietzsche. During this time, Beck’s Mormon friend and former radio partner Pat Gray argued in favor of the “comprehensive worldview” offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an offer that Beck vehemently rejected until a few years later. In 1999, Beck married his second wife, Tania. After they went looking for a faith on a church tour together, they “settled on Mormonism,” and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1999, partly at the urging of his daughter Mary. Beck would be baptized by his old friend, and current-day co-worker Pat Gray, in an emotional ceremony. In 2008, Beck created the CD/DVD An Unlikely Mormon: The Conversion Story of Glenn Beck, detailing how he was transformed by the “healing power of Jesus Christ.” The couple have two children, Raphe (who is adopted) and Cheyenne.

Terry Morris writes:

I agree with Mr. Jaws. The Tea Partiers in my area have weekly meetings to discuss various issues. I attended their meeting last week, at which fitna was shown and the bane of multiculturalism and the 1965 Immigration Act was discussed in some depth, particularly as it relates to Muslims. My first impression of this particular group some months back was that it was mainly made up of older people concerned about the prospect of losing their Social Security checks and other government benefits. Whether my impression then was wrong, I can’t say, but I’m impressed now by the scope of their understanding of what is happening to our country. I’ve also personally passed out hundreds of pocket copies of the U.S. Constitution over the last several months to people who usually request them because they’re interested in learning the value of its principles. Soon I’ll be forced to send for a new batch. And that’s a good thing.

James R. writes:

I agree, with mild caveats, with the critiques of Glenn Beck and the “Restoring Honor” rally. However, I don’t think honor is a bad concept to encourage; I don’ think it should be dismissed as feel-goodism-of-the-self. Also, I’m not sure if you or many of your readers actually saw the rally. There was as much emphasis on religious faith and the need for God as anything, if not more.

Yes, Glenn Beck seems to be an enthusiast for the last book he’s read, but they’re generally not bad ones. Almost always they encourage people to look at the actual past and reject the current, standard Progressive narrative we’re otherwise fed. He encourages people to look into primary sources themselves.

None of this may be sufficient by itself, but all of it is a necessary precondition to any traditionalist-conservative revival. Glenn Beck is too much of a libertarian to carry it beyond the “necessary precondition” stage, but, to make a somewhat grandiose analogy, he might be considered a John the Baptist leading the way.

This isn’t to suggest a Messiah-type will come next who we should all blindly follow; but that it is the beginning of a potential renewal, and the dismissal of it has a bit of cynical tinge.

LA replies:

While conservatism is a concept surrounded by gray areas, there are some absolute definitional lines. One of them is homosexual “marriage.” A person who supports homosexual marriage is not a conservative, period. A “conservative” who supports homosexual marriage is as much a contradiction in terms as a conservative who supports Communism.

Whoops, I can hear the perpetual Auster critics again (not James R.), complaining about how I dictate who is and who isn’t a conservative. No, I’m not a dictator. Words have meanings, meanings not invented by me or anyone. One of the tasks of traditionalists is to preserve the true meaning of words. If a person who supports the most radical social innovation in history is a “conservative,” then conservatism has been stripped of its meaning.

Now apart from my irritating purism, is it possible that Beck may, along with some bad effects, have some good effects, as you suggest? Sure, it’s possible. But it’s not my job to support Beck or provide puffery for Beck. It’s my job to advance what I see as a correct understanding of conservatism/traditionalism, as the only hope of defeating liberalism.

Or, if I may use your terms, an imperfect John the Baptist may prepare the way to the perfect Christ; but a libertarian John the Baptist is not going to prepare the way to a conservative Christ.

James R. replies:

I never considered you a dictator. Being a person with firmly-grounded convictions is not dictatorship.

Also, I wasn’t suggesting it was your job to support Glenn Beck or provide only puffery. But there’s a fairly decent amount of worth there, and to believe overcoming the mountain of regress will happen in a single bound … well, we will need a Second Coming for that.

LA replies:

Call me skeptical, call me a purist, but I am simply not going to invest any hopes in a “conservative” who supports homosexual marriage. A person who takes that position shows such a radical lack of grasp of conservative principle that I don’t believe that anything solidly conservative can come from him. The issue is so fundamental that for me it is a litmus test. If Beck, as you and others in this thread hope, has the effect of moving some liberals in a more conservative direction, then fine, good. People have frequently told me the same thing about Mark Steyn. Everyone does what he has it in himself to do. Using a “liberal conservative” message to lead liberals in a somewhat more conservative direction is not what I do. What I do is lay out conservative principle. I’m not about accommodating myself to the prevailing liberalism, in the hope of leading people by baby steps to a slightly less liberal position. I’m about opposing the prevailing liberalism, and showing the non-liberal alternative.

Mark P. writes:

I read the threads on Glenn Beck and I believe Mark Jaws is on to something. There certainly is value in someone like Beck being able to rally so many people to a cause, even if that cause comes off as empty to VFR’s traditionalist readership. Furthermore, Beck’s warmed-over liberalism does have value: it exposes the emptiness of the leftist critique against him and slowly chips away at the legitimacy of the leftist social construct.

How does he do this?

Beck is fashioning a bloc vote out of nothing more than opposing the Democrats while not using any rhetoric the Democrats can turn against him. I’m not saying he is doing this consciously, but, somehow, his “civil rights” rhetoric strikes some kind of chord with people. It’s really the ultimate form of reasoning by connotation.

Consider the practical political problem he is creating for the Dems. He’s organizing opposition to them essentially using their own rhetoric against them, and people are buying it. The Dems need to oppose this, but how? Picking apart what he says won’t do it. Smearing him will not work. Dispersing the masses by force certainly won’t work. Before, Beck would’ve been successfully ignored, but that makes it impossible now with the Internet. Improper handling could really cause a problem for the Dems.

I can’t imagine the tizzy he is actually causing.

Steve R. writes:

I agree that the value of a Glenn Beck is not his potential for making the path clear for the truth. It’s his potential for attracting the multitudes and exposing the truth seekers among them to ideas that they might never have encountered. Is this potential greater than the damage he does to real conservatism? I think that may be impossible to know. But speaking personally, the neocon Prager yanked me far enough out of left liberalism to consider taking a look at Horowitz’s FrontPage blog. If not for that, I likely would never have read “How to Oppose to Liberal Intolerance,” the essay that forever changed my life.

Mark P. writes:

I think I should clarify a bit.

Most conservatives find Beck’s rhetoric appealing because most of them still consider themselves to be a part of America. Regardless of the lapses in competence and judgment, these conservatives still trust their instituions and regard America’s existence and history as a good thing, warts and all.

They have yet to come to any understanding that America is now under an occupation government hostile to the interests and well-being of the vast majority of the people, especially white people. Regardless of how we traditionalists may view what Beck says, this song still sings in the hearts of most real Americans. That is why Beck can draw such a rally.

The problem for the Left is that they are the ultimate projectionists. Much of what they do is driven by what they believe everyone else is doing. So, they imagine that everything Glenn Beck says is just some kind of code, since they speak in code all of the time to each other. The coded language meme alerts them to believe that “Restoring Honor” means restoring segregation or Nazism or White Supremacy, or something that they do not like. They are unable to simply take what is said at face value.

Now, since we all agree that most conservatives have a lesson to learn about reality, what better way to teach that reality than being on the receiving end of leftist over-reaction?

Alan Roebuck replies to LA’s comment that he will not support Beck:

This dispute has a parallel within Protestantism: Do we directly confront the unbeliever with his sinfulness and need of a Savior, or do try to attract him by emphasizing the elements of Christianity most appealing to unbelievers, and then later hit him with the full truth? The latter is the approach of the “seeker-sensitive” movement of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, and it has taken evangelicalism by storm. Most evangelical churches have at least been influenced by Warrenism, and many have fully implemented his approach.

But there’s a problem. The seeker-sensitive churches almost never confront their new customers with the truth, because the customers would see a bait-and-switch and accordingly leave for another, more palatable church. Having attracted customers by offering a pseudo-Christianity, seeker-sensitive churches have to keep on delivering the same product. The result is that seeker-sensitive Christianity is effectively a new, pseudo-Christian, religion.

There are always people who pass through liberal Christianity (the seeker-sensitive gang are a form of Christian liberalism) and find the real thing. I was one such person. And the analogy between politics and religion is not perfect, so Beck-style “liberal conservatism” does some good.

But the danger is that the purveyor of the halfway-house will eventually move into the camp of the enemy. In the case of Christianity, failing to tell people the truth makes a church useless, because a church’s primary charge is to save sinners by proclaiming the Gospel. In the case of conservatism, teaching a watered-down message is not useless, but it indicates that the leaders are not fully committed to real conservatism, and are accordingly in real danger of fully and openly reverting to liberalism (see, e.g., Charles Johnson).

So, Larry, keep doing what you’re doing: Clarifying real conservatism, applauding mainstream conservative leaders when they do right, and oppose them when they do wrong.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 28, 2010 09:58 PM | Send

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