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.