Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on Saturday was part religious revival, part group therapy session. “Pray on your knees,” Beck roared like a TV evangelist, and he warned that the country was “at a crossroads… we must advance or perish. I choose advance!” Sarah Palin generously extended her own perpetual-victim status to include America’s troops (“a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for”). Etc.
The politics were mostly kept on the QT — signs were prohibited, and Beck refrained from overtly rightwing schtick such as his CPAC denunciation of that leftist bastard Teddy Roosevelt.
So rightbloggers stepped up to supply them. One of their big points: If you thought having Beck’s speech in the same place, and on the same day, as Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was weird, that proves you don’t get how similar the two men are.
“The theme of MLK’s speech was economics and that of today will also be economics,” said Erick Erickson of Red State, though he admitted that “the destinations of the speeches are different…”
When Al Sharpton denounced Beck’s use of the MLK connection, the Washington Examiner‘s Gregory Kane struck back. “There are some King words Sharpton and other blacks absolutely wouldn’t dream of quoting,” said Kane. He used as an example one line from King’s Stride Toward Freedom: “Our crime rate is far too high.” “No black ‘leader’ would dare utter that statement today,” said Kane. “Most are too busy lamenting the number of black men in jails and prisons.” The nerve of them!
“The Tea Party as Inheritors of Dr. King’s Legacy?” asked Rick Moran. After all, Moran said, the civil rights movement had the “goal of ending state-sponsored oppression,” and the tea party is against “threat of big government”; aren’t they sort of the same?
Eventually, Moran admitted that maybe the tea parties aren’t about the same thing as MLK — but then, neither is the NAACP, he said, because it doesn’t “grasp the essence of Dr. King’s message of redemption and change.” Moran didn’t explain what that message was, or how the NAACP blew it, but claimed that King “would have scoffed at the modern interpretation of ‘social justice'” and that King “saw a different America than the one [Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton] and their white, liberal, guilt-ridden elitist allies are trying to create.”
This wasn’t explained either — though Moran claimed that King would have been just as “concerned” as the tea parties “about how social justice advocates have twisted his message to include strictures and caveats that have little to do with ‘justice,’ and everything to do with reserving goodies for favored interest groups.” If only King were alive today to denounce ACORN and stand with Glenn Beck! Then liberals, rather than Rick Moran’s high school English teachers, would really be embarrassed.
Dan Riehl claimed that leftists like the Times‘ Bob Herbert were “mortified that the dream King offered to all of America might slip a blacks and progressives only grasp that has turned it more into a nightmare, than a dream.” Herbert, Riehl claimed, “doesn’t want it to actually become America’s dream, as King intended. It does too much to empower Herbert’s politics for him to want that.” And Herbert’s politics can’t be those of King, because Riehl doesn’t approve of them, and he’s an expert on minority rights.
“Today,” Riehl added, “Herbert’s dream, stolen from King, has nothing to do with equality. It’s been twisted into a superficial and often ugly means of gaining and holding onto political power.” And what would black people want with political power? They’d probably just spend it on Cadillacs and wide-screen TVs.
To the “so-called black ‘civil rights leaders'” who found the Beck-MLK juxtaposition offensive, Start Thinking Right answered, “Martin Luther King himself was hijacking the legacy of Abraham Lincoln — who was white.” Also, he said, “Abraham Lincoln didn’t stand for the radical race-based crap that the left argues that Martin Luther King epitomized.”
“And speaking of racism,” he added, “how would blacks have reacted had whites staged a counter-event to compete with, say, Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March,” and other such thought experiments as you usually get from conservatives bent on telling you who the real racists are.
The extreme paucity of actual black people at the rally seemed not to trouble them. Instapundit, an expert at finding the few people of color at these events, found a picture of a little black girl and ran that. “AP’s photographers don’t seem to have gotten the JournoList memo,” he observed.
Among the many rightbloggers to pick up the little girl’s picture was Weasel Zippers, who also claimed, “CBS News Horrified by the Sight of Black Women at Beck Rally, Demands to Know Why They’re Not Scared to be There,” and supplied a video and a quote, neither of which showed CBS asking anything like this question.
Bluegrass Pundit and Michelle Malkin, among others, stressed that the rally participants had left very little garbage on the Mall, unlike the crowds at our first black President’s inauguration. If you’re not sure what they’re getting at, click through the minute-long video both of them used as evidence to its YouTube page, and read the comments there, e.g. “So, middle aged White people behave civilly – we all could have predicted that. If there was an event with more than 50 Blacks the odds would be even there would have been a shooting.”
Would it surprise you to learn that the libertarians at Reason magazine endorsed Beck’s call-to-Jesus? Then you must have missed the most recent permutation of libertarianism, in which its followers serve as wingmen to conservatives.
In a scene video, Reason‘s Nick Gillespie, after interviewing a rally attendee who said that Muslims “are here to kill us, if you’re a good Muslim you’ll kill Christians,” told viewers that the rally is “about restoring a lost sense of America. The people here are somewhat inarticulate on what was lost, but they know they want to gain something back.” Inarticulate mobs who “know they want to gain something back” — that’s got to work out well!
Reason‘s Tim Cavanaugh affected to enjoy Beck’s rambling (and often conveniently inaccurate) history lessons. “You get the impression that two weeks ago Beck had never heard of Woodrow Wilson,” gushed Cavanaugh, “yet now he has figured out that Woodrow Wilson was one of the most evil people of the 20th century, and he wants to tell everybody. There’s something fun about that…” (Indeed, a recent poll of rightbloggers listed Wilson as #5 among the worst Americans of all time — worse than Benedict Arnold and Tim McVeigh, though not as bad as FDR — so Beck’s “fun” approach to history seems to be having an impact.)
If any of his readers balked at this improvisational approach, Cavanaugh let them know they were posers in danger of losing their libster cred. “It’s understandable that you don’t want to lose all your invitations” and “the respect of liberaloids in New York and D.C.,” he sneered at his joy-popping comrades, but “the trade-off means you reject the Tea Parties — by far the biggest popular movement with a clear anti-government mood that has occurred in my lifetime…” Plus they sound a lot better on vinyl.
(Cavanaugh rounded out his weekend by observing that Obama doesn’t look as manly on a bike as George Bush. In the afterlife we think we hear Ayn Rand laughing, though whether with amusement or hysterically we can’t quite tell.)
Libertarians weren’t the only ones who believed the important thing was to piss off liberals. American Power was pleased the rally featured MLK’s niece — the one who compared gay marriage to genocide — because he believed it would “explode leftist heads like a nuclear detonation.” “Restoring Honor, Annoying Lefties,” cheered Liberty Pundits. It makes you wonder why they went to the trouble of staging a rally, and didn’t just leave flaming bags of poo on liberals’ doorsteps.
For many, the important thing was getting a good crowd estimate — and by “good” we of course mean “high,” as this would conclusively prove that America is with the demonstrators. (This is a recent development, as back in the days of anti-war and anti-Bush demonstrations, crowds running into the millions were considered meaningless).
“Hundreds of thousands,” declared Little Miss Attila, no provenance cited. “The biased MSM is a bit peeved over this turnout, and the reaction to the turnout,” claimed Flopping Aces, linking to a Memeorandum page that showed no such thing. “They can be peeved all they want…in fact that can blow it out their a*&.”
“Some are reporting that there were 300,000 people,” said Scared Monkeys, while only “Ten’s a thousands were reported by the MSM. How sad that the predictable MSM would be divisive on the day that MLK Jr. gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech.” He neglected to mention that the 300,000 number came from Brian Williams of NBC News, which apparently was temporarily exempted from membership in the MSM.
Pajamas Media said, “How many people showed up for Saturday’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally? If you listen to the legacy media, you’ll never know” — and then ITS reporter came up with a number lower than that mentioned by Williams. Clearly the MSM is wrong even when it flatters rightbloggers’ prejudices, which makes us wonder why they still bother to do so.
In the end, everyone got what they came for: Beck got more publicity for his thriving gold-selling business, Palin kept her name in the papers, and rightbloggers got to see both of them wielding some form of power in Washington, and to fantasize about what it would be like if they actually had the keys to the buildings.
And they got to take Martin Luther King — who in real life advocated a guaranteed income for Americans and called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” and makes our current, allegedly socialist president look like Barry Goldwater — and recast him as a fellow teabagger. That may have been their greatest achievement.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 30, 2010