Belmont Club

And They Still Don't Get It

Clive Crook of the Atlantic professes not to understand why the “Restoring Honor” rally at the Washington Mall was so heavily attended. How could so many people want to listen to the doltish Glenn Beck? There must be something wrong with America.

Doubtless it marks me out as a member of the uncomprehending godless elite, but I find the popularity of Glenn Beck very hard to understand. … He strikes me as a huckster drunk on his own pitch, a true believer in his own cult, ready to hurtle off the rails at any moment — and all of this seems obvious.

But the cause of Crook’s perplexity is equally obvious. He’s starting off at the wrong end of the argument. While Glenn Beck may have genuine fans, the attendance at the “Restoring Honor” rally wasn’t driven by people running to Beck so much as propelled by people running away from “the uncomprehending godless elite.” If Brook wants to understand why so many, he should look in the mirror and ask, “why so few?”

The Washington elite sees everything through its particular prism. Nancy Pelosi, for example, called for an investigation into whoever was “ginning up” opposition to the Ground Zero mosque because in her universe, no grass grows unless it is astroturf. Similarly, Crook cannot imagine such crowds at the Mall as drawn by anything other than mass hysteria and ignorance. It may never occur to him to recall the words, “therefore send not know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

The AP article by Philip Elliott is closer to the mark. He interprets the massive crowd as a sign of widespread voter dissatisfaction with Washington. Elliott is essentially correct. He understands that Beck is riding the wave, but Beck is not the wave. Yet that wave is real and the tsunami is headed straight for DC.

That’s not to say that the rally organizers did not carefully craft their tactics to achieve the maximum destruction. Nile Gardiner of the Telegraph noted that the rally itself was calculated to show the weakness of the traditional media. “The large numbers who turned out defied an intensely hostile and negative media campaign that attacked the decision to hold the event on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ as a cynical political gimmick.” It was hardly a gimmick. It was downright provocation; a dare and double dare. The press bet that if they ignored and pooh-poohed it, the “Restore Honor” rally would dry up and blow away. They bet wrong.

The “Restore Honor” rally was aimed at taking back the symbols of the left, who over the last decades have appropriated certain locations as their own. The Washington Post reported that “counter-protester Ben Thielen caused a stir with a sign that said, ‘It’s because of the 1st Amendment that Glenn Beck can spew his filth on the steps.'” Thielen, identified as a “District public-policy worker,” is probably incensed that so many ignoramuses should befoul what he considers sacred political ground. But he should have realized he was watching the descent of people who paid Washington’s salaries and underwrote the very paving of the road on which he stood. The stockholders had come to Washington to voice their grievances about that most doltish of things: money. That Thielsen considered the rally led by “filth” is the less literate version of Clive Crook’s view, but essentially the same. It amounts to outrage at how these know-nothings should dare tell them what to do with their bucks. Crook pulls no punches.

As I say, I find Beck a tragi-comic figure. And as an atheist (I didn’t deny being godless) I do not thrill when a speaker says, “America today begins to turn back to God” … Beck … praised King effusively as an American hero and sounded as though he meant it. Perhaps he was insincere; even so, an odd thing to say if you are addressing a quarter of a million bigots.

A quarter million bigots. Yes, make no mistake about it. Not everyone came to hear Beck or even Palin. Perhaps a few did. But most everybody came because they wanted to give people who — like one genius, atheist editor of the Atlantic — believe they have the Marx-given right to judge 250,000 people as bigots, a poke in the eye. What is truly astounding is that Crook doesn’t get it. The real motto of the Hope and Change party should be: “we are the people they’ve been running from.”

[I’ve re-read the piece yet again, and believe I’ve misread Crook’s intent by a large margin. Taken as a whole it is half sympathetic to the Restore Honor Rally, a fact which I wholly and inexcusably missed. Thus, while the point that Beck is incidental to rally has not changed, my treatment of Mr. Crook’s essay did correctly reflect, as a I now believe, his true intent. I really ought to read better.]

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