I have failed you, dear readers. I promised to journey into the heart of Glennbeckistan for “Restoring Honor,” or “Whitestock,” or “The Greatest Affront to American Ideals in History,” or whatever you wanna call it. Instead, I ended up watching it on C-SPAN and monitoring real-time reactions on Twitter.
The following was repurposed from my various statements made elsewhere; it should suffice as ongoing documentation of Our National Shame. (For extra credit, I implore you to read this lengthy but important article about how the Tea Party movement is underwritten by the elitist world-destroyers at Koch Industries.)
“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”.
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
One thing to understand right off the bat: there was not a single word of substance uttered at “Restoring Honor.” Yet the various speeches and pre-recorded video segments transcended your average jingoism and entered the realm of tailored mindwashing. Overall, the event had all the hallmarks of carefully staged cult propaganda. That it took place on the anniversary of the most stirring call to American virtue in our nation’s history is even more appalling.
Think I’m exaggerating about the cult aspects?
If you listen closely (but not too close!), you’ll hear elements of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) in both the live and canned oratory. NLP is the get-rich-quick scam version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is actually sound science. CBT is simply the Western scientific confirmation of neurological plasticity, which has been beneficently described by Buddhists for many centuries. Buddhist practitioners employ certain techniques to their own minds to transform delusional thinking into an holistic comprehension of impermanence. Since thoughts are squirrelly and their origins not always obvious, there’s an emphasis on stillness so that the turbulent mind can settle and its essential characteristics considered. At this point, an experienced meditator can perceive subtle cognition without becoming attached to any single idea, concept or emotion. After a while, new thought patterns are established and existential strife is greatly diminished.
That’s the healthy, self-directed version.
In the West, similar strategies are used by Cognitive Behavioral Therapists to ameliorate the effects of certain pathologies in their patients. NLP, on the other hand, is endorsed by skeevy marketing dudes as a way to get gullible people to buy stuff. The former is a legitimate branch of neurophysiology, the latter a cargo cult science.
In mindwashing, the idea is to enhance a target’s susceptibility to a given idea or concept. Even before Scientology or pyramid marketing, political operatives and tent revivalists made surprisingly effective use semantic suggestion. Applied skillfully, those with positional power can plant rhetorical, emotional or ideological “seeds” with the subconscious permission of the receiver. To succeed, the operator must have a sense of the target’s value set and informational capacities.
It’s like the old-fashioned Jedi mind trick: softer noggins are the most susceptible, as are those under stress or experiencing collective turmoil. Clearly, the Tea Party is low hanging fruit. In the absence of once-stable ideological constructs (like manufactured consumer consent based on free market fantasies), these folks are putty in the hands of even a marginally-gifted communicator like Beck.
Josef Goebbels was adept exploiting these phenomena. Sarah Palin and her ilk get it. Barack Obama seemingly doesn’t.
“Restoring Honor” was positively Orwellian; a true exercise in doublespeak. Up is down, left is right, bigotry is tolerance, aggression is compassion, reality is what they say it is, facts be damned. I mean, to not-so-subtly imply that the Framers were proponents of organized Christianity, and that Martin Luther King, Jr. would endorse the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Wow.
It’s not honor that needs restoring in this country, it’s a basic understanding of our history.
First of all, America was not intended to be a nation with fealty to either Rome or the Protestant Church of Europe. That’s the reason for the clearly articulated separation of Church and State, which has steadily eroded ever since the GOP made its pact with the Moral Majority and exiled the last conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley. Hey, didja know that Ronald Reagan — that camera-ready darling of the Religious Right — attended church far less than Obama, and regularly consulted soothsayers? Good thing he had cover from evangelicals in exchange for giving wedge issues a spotlight in the national discourse. Which turned out to be a great way to distract Americans from the hollowing out of the public sphere and the dismantling of the US labor market.
But back to our Founders. These fellas were hardly the kinds of Christians Pat Robertson would recognize. Most were Enlightenment-inspired Masonic Deists with radical notions of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality borrowed from the French, of all people. (For various reasons, the French Revolution came later; they had a far worse go of it).
Some of the Founders’ statements about Christianity are so brash that Palin, Beck, et. al would find them nothing short of heretical. Here’s a taste:
“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced.”
“The United States is in no way founded upon the Christian religion.”
“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth.”
“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.”
Even the Great Emancipator, whose marble effigy provided the backdrop to Whitestock, was unambiguous:
“The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion.“
If you watched the rally, you’d have thought that these guys conceived the country as the first megachurch.
Glenn Beck is hardly an exemplar of Christ-like behavior. More like “Who Would Jesus Kill?” Apparently, the answer to that is Michael Moore. Here’s some Beck-style “honor” from 2005:
“I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it… No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus Do wristband, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,’ and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.’ And you know, well, I’m not sure.”
You didn’t hear any of that kind of talk at the rally. But you did hear from MLK’s niece, a notorious campaigner against the rights of homosexuals, trotted out to demonstrate the Tea Party’s deep commitment to social justice. For everyone that isn’t gay. Or Muslim. Or willing to consider secular solutions to problems perpetuated by right-wing corporatocracy.
I saw a comment on a prominent liberal blog calling the Beck event “a proto-facist rally to mobilize the brownshirts in defense of the fatherland.” While I’m not sure I’d go that far, the “support the troops” part of the show was completely out-of-step with the MLK-lauding. Unsurprisingly, it was Palin who tried to make the connection between the civil rights leader and those brave men and women who defend our nation. Here’s a response from that same liberal blog commenter: “Anybody who thinks King would have supported the current War on Terror really should read his wonderful 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech he gave at the Riverside church in Harlem. Is the military under attack? You’d think Obama was proposing to disband all branches of the armed services, the way Beck and Palin are carrying on.”
Having recently lost advertisers over having called the president a racist, Beck likely needed to put a more inclusive spin on his standard bile. But holding a funtime rally where fear-addled white folks can hear how Jesus is colorblind won’t magically erase the many things Beck has said about the threat of African-Socialist-Muslim enslavement. Here’s a few choice quotes you may have missed:
“This guy is not who he says he is. None of his bills, none of his proposals are about what he says they’re about. The health care bill is reparations. It’s the beginning of reparations. He’s going to give — if you want to go into medical school, the medical schools will get more federal dollars if they have proven that they are putting minorities ahead.”
“When the president was sitting there, or standing there, and he was talking about Native American rights in the middle of a tragedy, Fort Hood, it didn’t feel right. And it seemed, maybe to me, that he was even promising reparations.”
“Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America. And they are all driven by President Obama’s thinking on one idea: reparations… These massive programs are Obama brand reparations — or in presidential speak, leveling out the playing field. But, just in case the universalness of the program doesn’t somehow or another quench his reparation appetite, he is making sure to do his part to pay the debt in the other areas.”
“You were voting for — not change, but change, I think, in race. You were like ‘Hey, let’s put this behind us.’ I think a lot of people were there. They weren’t necessarily for his policies because his policies and everything else are — what are they?”
I don’t care how many persons of color you trotted out at your event, Glenn. What you’re saying is clear: the scary black man in the White House is coming to take your stuff and redistribute it to minorities.
All of this offends me deeply, because I’m a Patriot. I patriotically defend Americans from the forces of bigotry and ignorance. I patriotically defend those who are unable or unwilling to see how they are being manipulated from being preyed upon for profit. I patriotically defend the right for Americans to be non-religious. I patriotically defend Americans’ right to self-determination and to reject coercion by corporations that seek to limit individual choice and shirk civic responsibility. I patriotically defend Americans from state intervention in the sexual and reproductive decisions of adults. Most importantly, I patriotically defend Americans’ right to pursue happiness and contribute to the advancement of the ideals that made this country great.
I hope you will start calling yourselves Patriots: loudly, proudly and often.