Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Smoke Monster

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.

7 comments:

Matty Boy said...

Yow! That link is some serious shit. Every time some one talks about this being a "Christian nation", I wonder if they remember that lots of people call themselves Christians and hate each other with a white hot hate.

I dislike the elevating of the Founding Fathers to levels of mystical wonderfulness, but they put that sentence about not establishing a state religion in the Constitution for a reason, and it wasn't fear of Sharia law.

samael7 said...

Heh, you're the second person in the last 24 hours I've heard note the delightful vagueness of some of his sloganeering. It's approaching Herb & Jamal levels of specificity (a nod to your colleague, The Comics Curmudgeon).

But to me, it feels kind of opposite-y to that. Some statements start out bland and stay bland. Some start out with meaning, and that gets lost into unobjectionable blandness.

But I don't think his real message is vague or nonspecific, but he's actively trying to make it seem like it is. And it's double-layered for extra occult value. Because it's not "Vote conservative! Jesus is Great!"

It's, "Please pay attention to me and give me money every day."

hooverific said...

Specifics are sharp and painful. Thank the Beck-head (to say nothing of American TV advertisers of the last 40 years) for keeping those little pains remote and trivial. "Leave the driving to us."

Maddiane said...

Equal love for all!

desertwind said...

Thoughtful post, Princess.

I re-watched "A Face in the Crowd" over the weekend and - woah!

BTW, somewhere I read that a major sponsor ($1 million) of the rally was a non-profit that provides college scholarships for children of dead or wounded special forces soldiers. Part of the non-profit's tax deal is that it can't push a political agenda.

This is one reason the rally's tone was shifted to "religious & inspirational" focus, which also - in Beck drones "minds," at least, allowed them to "embrace" MLK.

A nation of Rodeo Clowns, indeed.

Karen Zipdrive said...

Look carefully at the photo. You'll see shirt wrinkles between the buttons where Beck was fingering his navel shortly before the festivities began.

Jerry Melton said...

And he's wearing a bullet proof vest! Proof for some pistols, AP sniper rounds, not so much.