(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—Last year I wrote a piece entitled “Glenn Beck is my kind of revolutionary” which received a lot of attention precisely because I argued against conventional wisdom at the time and took a few well organized shots at Beck at the same time. A year ago, when Glenn Beck was ascending to his television peak, the liberal left was borderline apoplectic about his rise to power. His ranting Howard-Beale-like behavior on television, the way he seemed to connect with an audience of like-minded men and women, his ability to get people in a presidential administration fired with nothing more than a few episodes, many in the punditry were convinced that an unstoppable monster was being created. I disagreed. I thought then that Glenn Beck was a joke and a coward, an example of the weak-willed nature of a spoiled and petulant strain of the Baby Boomer generation that has always been desperate to prove their virility. After Beck’s rally to “Restore Honor” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial last week, not only was my initial opinion validated, we have seen just how limited the reach of men like Glenn Beck really are.
Glenn Beck, Fox News’ most popular television pundit, and the third most listened to radio personality in America, created quite the public stir over the last several weeks with his planned “Restore Honor” event in Washington, D.C. The event was promoted like a huge pro-Beck rally, and with prominent speakers like Sarah Palin on the schedule, many feared that Beck was going to make some sort of frightening announcement about his future political goals. But that was just the beginning of the controversy. Beck’s rally just so happened to be scheduled on the very same day, in the very same location as Martin Luther King’s powerful, moving and nation changing “I Have a Dream” speech. Was this just a coincidence, or was Glenn Beck attempting to put himself on the same level as one of the greatest political leaders in the history of the world? Depends on what day you asked America’s “talk” leader. At first he claimed he had no idea that his event and King’s shared the same date, only to claim later that this timing coincidence was a sign that God was approving and blessing his rally. Nevertheless, out of respect for MLK, Beck decided to give the speech two steps lower than where Rev. King stood. How gracious of him!
Al Sharpton was up in arms about Glenn Beck’s rally, and held a very powerful and moving counter-rally and many political commentators condemned the event before it began. However, the furor and handwringing about “Restoring Honor” was unneeded. After watching the programming on Saturday from beginning to end I’m left with the same feeling I’ve always had about Glenn Beck. He is, by all accounts, a media force to be reckoned with, but politically and culturally he is nothing to fear.
The entire rally was a kind of schlock- filled conservative suburbanite dream of convenient multi-culturalism and half- baked ideology. The organizers and speakers bent over backwards to claim the event was a celebration and religious in nature not political. Beck began the event claiming that Jews, Pilgrims and American Indians were God’s chosen people and the event descended from there. They gave out fake purple hearts to people they believed to be heroes, sang off key gospel songs and put together hundreds of minutes of mainstream Christian-Republican mishmash that many people believe but none were converted which is really the point. Glenn Beck has a huge and powerful audience, but he’s not changing any hearts and minds at this point. In fact, putting on events like this, attempting to co-opt Martin Luther King’s legacy and claiming that his actions are driven by God Almighty have begun to slowly but surely turn off common sense Republicans, let alone independents. It’s not shocking that Palin or King’s right-wing daughter were part of the speaker’s list. But what was more prominent is the fact that prominent Republican elected officials in Congress were conspicuously absent, or that well known Tea Party activists and conservative pundits like Lenny McCallister publicly and vociferously rejected their invitations to the event because they considered the whole enterprise to be tactless.
So, don’t fear Glen Beck, let him and his group of marginal followers hold their public temper tantrums with Sarah Palin. It just gives the rest of us more time to actually solve this nation’s problems rather than complain about them.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)