Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Era of Know-Nothings

Yesterday's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, staged by Glenn Beck, made page 8 of my Sunday newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel, which wisely used the headline, "Two rallies, two visions for America," giving attention also to the African-Americans who were there to honor Dr. King on the anniversary of his historic speech. This is responsible journalism.

Beck is quoted saying of his revival meeting, "It has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God."

Excuse me, but it has everything to do with politics--and with Glenn Beck, who seems to think he is God.

Every issue is a political issue, viewed broadly, as George Orwell wrote in a famous essay in 1946, meaning that every public airing of an idea is political. But in the usual partisan sense of the word, how could any event not be political when it is staged on the national mall for a throng of mostly white Tea Partyers with a political (anti-Obama) agenda? Everything that Beck does is political, even though he claims to run an entertainment company.

Beck, with his limited education (he graduated from high school) and unlimited ego, is one of the Know-Nothings of the present age who claims to speak for God, one of those right-wing types who never let a lack of information or logical thinking or historical accuracy or consistency get in the way of asserting opinions as facts, who toss around "socialism" as an anti-Obama slur without really knowing much about what it means.

His rally yesterday, using religion (a watered-down evangelical Christianity) to justify political views led one Orlando woman in the crowd to exclaim that Jesus would never have agreed with the "re-distribution of wealth" in the Obama stimulus package or any form of welfare. Of course, the Obama administration was not named since this was not a political rally.

I wonder what Gospel this woman reads. It is the gospel of self-interest and extreme individualism that is the very opposite of the "love thy neighbor" Gospel values that demand social justice for the needy.

I have just read an in-depth profile of the somewhat shadowy billionaire philanthropists Charles and David Koch in the current New Yorker (Aug. 30). Jane Mayer's article is essential reading: she shows in great detail how the various Koch foundations have funded the Tea Party movement and anything that stands in the way of progressive environmental policy that would negatively impact their many businesses. Look under anything that is anti-Obama, it seems, and Koch money is at work.

I wonder if Glenn Beck, one of the conservative hacks who have become rich and famous by stating or implying extreme positions on social and political policy, has benefitted from this largesse. I see such people as "sowers of discord," whom Dante (all too familiar with political conniving) condemned to the lower reaches of Hell.

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