[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
What no one has really pointed out about Glenn Beck's upcoming pep rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial is that, in claiming he's following the example of Martin Luther King, he's actually positioning this gig as a civil-rights event. But whose civil rights? Well, judging by what we've seen at the Tea Parties inspired by Beck, it's gonna be pretty damned white.
It is thus, in essence, a civil-rights march for white people. Or more particularly, for right-wing white people who feel threatened by the growing presence and power of the nonwhite population.
Of course, they don't put it that way. They know that race talk will just get them called out for what this is all really about. So they talk about "government oppression" and "taking away our freedoms" and "preserving the Constitution" and "what it means to be American". Strip these down to the bare bones -- especially when you peel away the layers of illogic required to support these claims -- and what's really at issue here is a black man leading nonwhite minorities to power, which is always perceived by authoritarians as a sign of their loss of power.
So that's what it's really about. If the rhetoric all seems terribly vague to you, that's why.
And what's really bizarre and Orwellian about this whole spectacle is that it's part of Beck's larger campaign to demonize progressives -- even though the civil-rights movement was always a progressive phenomenon, and indeed Martin Luther King Jr. often proclaimed some of the very themes, such as "social justice," that Beck loves to demonize as part of progressives' eeeeeevil plot to destroy America.
Moreover, as we've said previously and often, there's a reason conservatives like Beck should never, ever try to claim his mantle or his legacy: Because it was conservatives who attacked and demonized and opposed King at every turn in his career.
Indeed, having grown up in conservative Mormon Idaho in the 1960s, I recall the visceral hatred and fear with which King was widely regarded in those quarters. I remember seeing sheets like this:
This was a flier that was distributed nationally as part of a campaign to discredit King as a Communist. Among the foremost leaders in that campaign, especially among Mormons, was none other than the Church's future president, Ezra Taft Benson. And Benson, in fact, was close friends with Glenn Beck's guru, W. Cleon Skousen -- who was also known to smear King.
And when I watch Glenn Beck, I'm reminded of those days. Because just like the Bensons and Skousens, Beck is one of those guys who is always eager to point the finger and call someone a "communist" or a "marxist" or a "socialist".
Indeed, Media Matters put together a lovely compendium of the many ways Glenn Beck would have demonized King had they been contemporaries -- and were Beck not eager to try to claim some kind of cultural mantle from him.
Also, be sure and check out Glenn Beck Is Not Martin Luther King.
Meanwhile, Justin Elliott at Salon points out that Beck stands to make a pretty penny from this shindig.
Plus, this statement from People for the American Way:
“Forty-seven years later, Glenn Beck is trying to appropriate Dr. King’s legacy in order to push his agenda of intolerance, fear, and division. Beck says he’s ‘reclaiming civil rights.’ In fact, he’s insulting exactly what Dr. King and his movement stood for. Beck has made himself famous for his attacks on progressives, Muslim Americans, union members and even churches who preach the social justice values to which Dr. King dedicated his life. He claimed that President Obama has ‘a deep-seated hatred of white people.’ Beck is not ‘restoring honor’ to our country; he’s just fanning the flames of tired old prejudices amplified and enlarged for political gain.[H/t The Other 98% and Nicole.]
“Beck’s histrionics and his deeply cynical appeals to bigotry are anathema to Dr. King’s legacy. In honoring the life work of Dr. King, Americans should stand for justice and equality for all people, and against hate and those who speak, teach and promote it.”