School started this week so I have been busy getting ready for another hectic fall semester. I have not had a chance to comment too much on the Glenn Beck "March on Washington" rally last weekend, but i did want to at least add a couple thoughts.Watching the rally last week reminded me of late nights when i was younger...up late watching tv...and when up late enough, I would catch episodes of The Twilight Zone. Nothing as it appeared...always some type of twist.
So far the discussion has focused on the obvious:
1. yes he is crazy
2. and dangerous
3. and cynical
4. and manipulative
5. and most likely in it for profit and fame.
But his pivot from political pundit trying to ratchet up white fear to "messiah" leading his flock "back to better days" to "restore America" is definitely taking the battle to another level and is a critical lesson in framing. After watching his performance last Saturday, I knew that if he did not suffer a backlash from his own "followers" (for avoiding overt political discourse and for employing minority symbols for faith, hope and charity), he would have secured his power to manipulate a decent segment of the population to accept whatever he said....and follow suit. He would have secured his cult status.
While some in the crowd seemed perplexed by minority after minority being the center of attention for honors...the vast majority stayed with him. When the black preacher talked about going to the "original March on Washington" and being threatened by bus bombs through the south, the crowd had to separate their support for Beck and his "mission" with the reality that many of them or their parents were the ones on the other side of that civil rights battle in the 60s...blocking desegregation of schools and buses...and NOT supporting the original March on Washington.
For Beck it was a test of his "followers" to send the same messages through minority faces...would they be able to "overcome" the label of racism through token representation. In willing participants like Dr. King's niece he was able to test his theory...They welcomed her, not only because she was the niece of Dr. King, but because her message was one they embraced: conservatism. She talked about prayers in schools, a pro-life agenda and utilized anti-government rhetoric.
If she sounded more like her uncle, I'm sure she would not have been so welcomed. ..or would she have? because they TRUST Beck so much now, he can even blatantly spit on them and they would stand by him...hmm. time will tell which is true.
The moment that has not been discussed that spoke volumes to me came at the end of her speech. This was definitely the church revival test...and a way to make this not about race but religion. You are either with God...or against Him. Gospel singers praised...many in the crowd had arms raised...others, still perplexed...but still waited....for Beck. Did they feel bamboozled? maybe...but not enough to abandon their messiah (The God they were praising was just a symbol for the God they had been waiting for).
...and then it happened...the twist...i was officially in the twilight zone...Ms. King told the singers to take them home (wrap) and they sang a brief but recognizable refrain (instantly recognizable to me but probably few in that crowd of mostly white conservative Beck followers recognized it)...they started:
"Lift every voice and sing..." ...the black national anthem.
and i saw a man who looked like he had on some southern symbol (read: confederate) with his hand raised in the air...
...Beck has them yall. Get ready.
here is an old essay to revisit: