Monday, August 30, 2010

Beck: Division Equals Unity, Rage Equals Love, Freedom Equals Ideological Alignment, Jesus Equals Howard Roark

Glenn Beck, following his 8/28 rally, which represented an unfinished, somewhat loosely constructed attempt to mix symbols that create emotional arousal and the implied sense of their being threatened--religion, military strength, pride in country--contrasted against the need for a single "drummer" who would awaken the masses in this time of Socialist threat, a call, framed in terms of the "Divine Providence" that led him to make it, for a Moses, a Jesus, who would rally the threatened country against catastrophe, never quite reached Beck's clearly imagined apotheosis.

Beck is clever enough to rouse an audience, uninformed by both fact and his technique, to a satisfying sense of suspicion, one which brings a certain sense of special knowledge--to rouse Neustadt's paranoid style.

However, in an attempt to use a call for "unity" to in fact divide, Beck failed. The structure of the attempt, which he and others have attempt in lurching steps over the past year, was clear: "Unity" is to turn away from the divisions that minorities, with their demands, have brought upon their majoritarian victims. Therefore, "Unity" represents a rejection of the apotheosis of this--Obama's desires to take over America, in the name of these angry minorities, and to cast majoritarian Americans into a form of socialist "slavery".

"Unity", in other, remarkably and blatantly Orwellian terms, is the extreme of divisiveness--as is often the case with the paranoid style, a mass projection, detached from fact, a delusional syllogism based on framing others as a threat, which, with threat removed, creates the wished for (and coincidentally, ideologically and economically consistent) unification, through a removal of the desires and ideas of the other, through the vehicle of the imagined and trumpeted threat of the other:

Delusional Framing Assumption A: The Other threatens to take us over, overpower and control us;

Delusional Framing Assumption B: Therefore, we call for unity--through the other ceasing all action that we impute;

Delusional Framing Assumption C: We define which actions should be regarded as representative of these threatening, anti-unification actions on the part of the other

Outcome: We control the other via the response to the imagined threat of the other. Hence, unity.

The trick here was an attempt to create a fundamental split, and to provide a language and behavior to put that split into broad public action: to contain the pervasive resentment at racial claims and perceived privileges, threat by a paranoid assumption of racial vengeance, anger at imagined incursions and Beck fueled fear at invented attempts at racial, or religious (e.g. Muslim) takeover by the President beneath, stoking them through implication, while using the language of religion to frame their intentions as filled with peace. The translation goes something like this:

A. We are aware that a Muslim president is taking over the United States; that he is unleashing angry minorities to claim rights that they should not and do not have.
B. This is dividing our nation. We must unify the nation by preventing this, and returning the nation to the unified Christian values that represent the "true religion" of the nation.
C. Everyone should want this unity, as it is best for the nation. We love those who embrace this unity.
D. But for those who turn us away from this unity, there is a need for a Moses, a Jesus, a drummer, to return to these necessary unifying principles for our nation.
E. We are filled with love for those who wish for a unity based on these principles.
F. We must remove that which is inconsistent with these principles--today, namely, the Socialist, oppressive, minoritarian President and those who support him.

Unity therefore equals what has, in the past, been called gleichschaltung--a splitting away, division, demonization, and targeting of any ideas which do not equal one idea of American ideals.
All in the name of love. And voice--yet to be fully named--who can deliver us.

The thinking here--I hesitate to call it "logic"--leads to innumerable absurdities. Just a few examples:

1) True American freedom can best be delivered through a repression of ideas that disagree with our own;

2) The free speech that Beck and his supporters relied upon and selectively promoted endangers us if it does not agree with our ideology--that ideological difference is the equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater

3) Jesus is a free market individualist, against any idea of collective social justice--e.g., the Jesus of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is somehow not Beck's Jesus, who would be cast more as a
Howard Roark figure.

And so on.

Beck said that America is being cast down by the angry demands of minorities, led by a anti-American President. Having been described as such, he could then simply ask them to embrace the mantle of love and equality, as his audience had--feeding a deeply satisfying, self-justifying need in his audience. Our rage is just a desire for equality against the catastrophic threat you pose to the nation. Then--with you now disempowered, non-threatening, in place, we would love you, as Jesus intended.

After the rally, on Fox News Sunday, Beck renounced his claim that Obama is a "racist" who has a deep seated hatred against White people", using his overused technique of a false humility--one that, like much of what Beck does, seems oddly self-demonstrating, theatrical, at once feeding the flock who understand the meta-message (Yes, Glenn is just claiming to be a fool, but he really knows) and at the same time, as many such figures have done, feeding himself with his own words, watching himself as he listens to himself in order to try to believe what he will say next, even as he understands its impact.

This was understandable and likely, as this claim stood directly in the path of the technique described above. Such claims must be inferred, stoking hate and rage, to be addressed by a return to the unity of religious fundamental--a sole ideology.

However, his rally never came together quite as I think he imagined--an open, yearning calling, a powerful outwardly seen and activated longing towards a unified goal.

That is because the goals beneath are built on factless rage, on contained anger, stoked by illusion. This is recognized in part even by many who were there that day--those who one could see were confused, as the images flashed by, the narrators voice intoned in a melange the many symbols of American emotional reaction--flags, liberty, freedom, religion-- as to what the actual message was, what they were supposed to do.

As was plainly clear, Beck did not know. Other than to be against. And to say that clearly, the hinge upon which the confused effort rested was broken, and the rally would be over--the secret, disappointingly revealed, self-satisfaction openly displayed as hatred, and it would be time to go home.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Liveblogging the Beck Rally

10:03 Where are the searchlights and the gold standards?

They had to put a scrim with a picture of the Lincoln Memorial in front of the Lincoln Memorial because the symbolism wasn't enough.

This introduction has the sound of a 1950's film strip.

10:06: Shots of the crowd. Pure White. Lots of shaved heads, American flag shirts.

You can feel a seething "against"

Boy Scout leading the pledge of allegiance. This is truly a nationalist rally.

The first people of color--as singers of the national anthem. Two and two. You can imagine the conversation--1 will seem as if it is too little, three too threatening.

10:10 Beck enters. Slightly messianic.

America begins to turn back to god.

For too long the country has wandered in darkness. Darkness again. The slight inference.

Possibly running for office.

Invoking Moses.

God and god's law.

He may have pulled his bolt too soon. He's not quite large enough for the occasion. Did he overestimate his own effect?

Behind him, meanwhile coming up behind him were a rabbi, a naive American and a pastor.

"I would like to introduce the rabbi (said with a slight note of triumphalism--proof)

A rabbi, a native American, a pastor and Glenn beck walk into a bar...

Each speaks. The Pastor first.

Every crowd shot. All White.

A self-satisfied, slightly aggressive Pastor combining nationalism and religion. "It was you the Pilgrims knelt to..."

Where is the black religious representative? This would be too touchy--over the line for the audience--combining religion and race. The audience would be confused, it would dampen the rising of the spirit--what is Beck saying?

They will come later--separately, alone--e.g., in their place.

This guy is likely taking more time than expected--going for his moment in the sun. Right now, this is a fully Christian rally.

Are they not going to have the other representatives talk?

Unbelievable--makes them second--supporters of the majority, "actual" voice of religion--the pastor. This must be the idea of unity--acceptance of the "truth".

10:21 Beck continuing. "Where are the Heroes?". Perhaps the other religious representatives will be interspersed...

Introducing the President of Special Operations Warriors Foundation, a Wounded Warriors group, John Carney.

This is bringing the sacrificing Colonel forward--rousing the sacrifice and strength of the Military, to build in that component into audience response. The nation we know. That is true America. Thus far: Jesus, Nationalism, and others that are on the same stage continent if they quietly know their place.

I'm embarrassed for the Rabbi and Native American couple.

10:25 Deb Argel-Bastian, a mother of a special forces tactics officer killed in Iraq, Capt. Derek Angel.
Red polo shirt with an emblem, blond hair. I'm getting angrier as I see Beck using the emotions of tragedy, death, to shape the nationalist message in a form known so well.

This is a tragedy. What is the message? That concern about such tragedies has been lost? That we should be angry that concern about such "honor" is not occurring? The pain of a mother who has lost a child is being used as part of the pageant, the emotional rousing of such feelings lost, transsubstantiating the origins of the loss of that very child from its origins in the war in Iraq to a blended emotion of rage at those who would build mosques, and not care about this. So now we have Nationalism, Jesus, the acceptance of Jesus by other religions, tragedy.

After, Beck asks the crowd to text to SOWF 85944.

10:33 He is talking about stained glass windows of Martha and Mary, that when the sun hits them right, their chests glow red.

So far, mostly symbolic rousing of emotions, no message really.

In a sense, he is being stripped bare--there is nothing at the heart of him. Introduces Sarah Palin

Big shouts, screams.

10:35: Palin: "Aren't you proud to be an American?"
"We stand at the symbolic cross roads of American history"
Invokes King. All men are created equal.
The one true--emphasizes true--god of justice
Then makes the shift to men in uniform--nothing to apologize for.
Involves Lincoln's mystic chords of memory.
"It is so humbling to be with you here today, Patriots...knowing to never retreat"
We must not fundamentally transform America as some people want--we must restore America and restore her honor. Biggest applause line of the day perhaps--hits the note of what the internal conscious of the crowd is about--THEY want to take away OUR America and they ARE TRYING but we will not let THEM we will RESTORE it. An electoral, divisive message and the core one, fusing rage.

"Honor was never lost--you will find it in those who wear the uniform." And the others?

10:44: Palin introduces Petty Officer Marcus Latrell. She seems to get genuinely excited in introducing these. Ret. Marine Sergeant James Eddie Wright, "once a Marine always a Marine". The hug, just slightly long...

Tom Kirk, Air Force Combat Commander in Vietnam and POW for 5 years. So we have a touch of Swift Boating emotions being roused before the election. I wonder is some of the same people had a role?

McCain invoked. Tepid slow rising applause.

She does get genuinely excited by the idea of love of country and patriotism.

The crowd rises with each named person.

He embraces her a bit too long, a kiss on the cheek. She's slightly taken aback by the degree of it for a millisecond.

Crowd chants "USA".

She hits the note perfectly--let's restore America and God bless America--in a way that Beck, whose inauthenticity, his acting shines through, he always has a slight sense of the slightly crazed, careening--cannot.

There's a crazed subtext if you listen to it "broke into a cold sweat...screamed in his ear..." it's a way of clearing listening room with a slight craziness

It was about 4 months ago that we were still lost--we didn't know what we were going to do when we got here. Revealing because you can see the lack of driven ideological message at the center--rather utilities. He's clever enough to create a kind of humor space to take his crowd. But there, he has nothing else really. He may be just not smart enough to trip himself up as he has his presence for awhile. (Maybe the end)

10:57: Announces that he will award three "Restoring Honor" medals. Faith, Hope and Charity.

It's already a bit long. The hit of a powerful world changing event, the rise,

11:01: The Chief gets to award the Faith medal. Goes to Pastor C.L. Jackson. A quick Google search lists that Jackson is Pastor of the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, TX, apparently shares with Beck speaking on talk radio, on KCOH AM, and has appeared on Beck's show, where he compared Beck to Jehosephat, king of Judah in the Bible.

11:22: Tony LaRussa, Cardinals manager. Hope award goes to Albert Pujols. "I just want to thank God for giving me this platform as a baseball player. "

11:29: Charity. Jon Huntsman. "A successful and wealthy industrialist." Huntsman was interviewed by Beck for a hour-long program back when Beck was on CNN. Huntsman, according to Wikipedia, also had a political career in the Nixon Administration:

"Mr. Huntsman joined the Nixon Administration as Associate Administrator of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and later served as Special Assistant and Staff Secretary to President Nixon."

He also appears to be a major philanthropist. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, "the Chronicle of Philanthropy placed Mr. Huntsman second on their 2007 list of largest donors."

11:42: Clearly, the rally organizers had a certain dilemma here. Without a genuine, fully expressible rallying theme--e.g., the fight for civil rights in the face of systemic inequality against minorities--they could not depend upon that single animating theme to keep the crowd fully motivated, driven by a single, known goal. As a result, they had to try to construct a message without one, and the time it takes to do that is long. Let the rally go on too briefly, and the audience would wonder what happened--where was the full bread and circuses experience? But try to build an emotional message without a single, actual animating goal, and it goes on too long, a diffuse, warming, but not a unifying drive towards an actual known outcome.

Nonetheless, the effects are there. They sit together and are warmed. They see the crowd, and feel they are a part of a larger experience, allowing a greater degree of open belief. A more diffuse normalizing of these emotions--a subtle tilting towards the justification of Nationalism, can occur.

11:49: Angelica Tucker is singing.

He's set the stage for broadening his base slightly to a kind of conservative Oprah.

11:53 Minister is reading from the book of Ezra. Now, some gospel music. "Unity...unity". They are running out of gas. Getting a bit frayed around the edges, and trying to tie it up.

11:58 Speaker:"I've been asked to read a scripture...E pluribus unum...we stand the name of Christ"

11:59: Alveda King.

12:08 Video. Almost a parody of propaganda.

Shots of the audience--they look confused--what's the message? A congealing of religion, images of the Founding Fathers--what are we supposed to believe?

A massive attempt at indirection. Carry this feeling to the voting booths.

A weak ending applause. Tailing off.

12:11 Beck again mounts the podium. Says 500,000 people there. "This is a day we can start the hearts of America again. And it has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with God."

It seems that he is feeling some of the weakness of the wrap up--a slight sense of desperation in his voice, recognizing that it's not quite coming together. A bit tired. He's lost his rhythm.

He's not quite an orator. An edgy presence.

He's going for the one internal message: "The right for everyone to have a dream".

Do we say "The experiment cannot work? Man must be ruled by someone?" Do we set up a straw man?

The message: Be angry at those in power.

Keeps trying to hit that high finishing note.

The essential dilemma is that he can't say what he's actually trying to say. So he keeps trying to find ways to rise to it, to complete it, by unifying different elements: patriotism, religion, inference.

He's analogizing himself to Moses. "They were just like you." i.e.--Me.

I think he doesn't want to stop because of how he will feel when it's over.

Iceberg metaphor + "one man can change the world" plus Moses references = He does think he's Moses.

"I asked you to do three things...The second thing I asked you to do"...this is getting to be too much. Images from Life of Brian are coming to mind.

How dare he equate this time as "failing with us" simply for his own opportunism. Deeply reckless.

OK, now he's ranting.

"Divine providence." Read your history.

Maybe he will just stay there forever.

A melding of AA philosophy with unleashed grandiosity. The connection of this to national restoration is unclear, however, and he seems to notice that leap.

"Human storm." "Global storm." Hmmmmm.....sturm. What's needed for a storm, after all? Troops.

Another crescendo incompletus. See above.

He now claims a representation of 180 million people, at least by partial implication perhaps.

Bagpipes with their many emotional overtones. "Amazing Grace".

Large applause for closing prayer.

And in this rally of unity--we close with Jesus.