Glenn Beck, center, holds hands with faith leaders at the "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Most readers of this blog know that I tend to shy away from topics everybody else is writing about, but I just can't help but be fascinated by Glenn Beck's recent transformation into... well, into what, exactly?
The striking thing about his rally on Saturday was its religiosity, so overt and yet so vague! It was like Beck and associates were conjuring some kind of nebulous God Cloud which, as soon as you try to grasp it, dissolves into vapor (but covers you with its mist).
My friend Steve and I used to enjoy talking about what we called Generality Theory, a process in which slogans and language become so meaningless that assertions are effortless and objections impossible. Coke is it! What is it? It's the real thing. OK!
And so it is with "restoring honor." Sounds good! What does it mean? It means whatever the listener wants it to mean! See how that works? The same goes for the amorphous religiosity, so misty, so fuzzy that it can encompass any belief system, from agnostic to fundamentalist.
This last bit is important, because Beck is, of course, Mormon, so the more nebulous, the better for him, particularly given the Christian right wing's misgivings about the Latter Day Saints. Mitt Romney could learn a thing or two from this guy!
I've written before about how the Tea Party crowd contains an incipient conflict between the Libertarian types and the religious types, always threatening to bubble up and destroy the movement. And that, Pony Pals, is a big part of what Beck's rally was all about (besides promoting Glenn Beck to Godhead): smoothing over this potential conflict with the meaningless salve of "restoring honor."
Pretty clever! I must say, I'm impressed.
Edit – Of course, not everybody on the Christian right is ready to accept Beck as their lord and savior. Read this editorial at One News Now and you can just feel the exasperation: don't fall for it! Don't listen to the Mormon!
UPDATE – Ruth Marcus, of all people, reaches the exact same conclusions in her take on the event.