I watched my first full episode of Glenn Beck’s show this weekend.
I’m going to interview people at the Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin rally in August. (It’s called the “Restoring Honor” rally. I don’t know if they’ll be slapping each other with gloves or dueling or sewing up hymens or what, but that certainly does sound exciting!) In the name of good faith and fair play, I’m setting myself a goal of truly understanding the attendees instead of just trying to take the most hilarious photos I can find, tempting though that second project is.
So as a part of that, I’m trying to understand the mindset. Which means I have to watch Beck.
I’d never made it through a whole Beck show before – I’d only seen and heard clips. And based on those five-minutes-or-less glimpses into his world, I was completely unable to decide whether Beck is an awful, cynical charlatan or if, you know, Nature left a few cubes out of the ice tray.
Because he does those long Beautiful Mind sequences on the blackboard, but then there’s the bad fake crying. Really bad fake crying. (Are his followers really taken in by the bad fake crying, or is it something they just put up with? Because it’s really bad. The crying seems to take up substantial room in his bag of tricks, so why doesn’t he get better at it?)
Anyway, the rally is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, which already appalling, until you find out that it also coincides with Glenn Beck’s book release.
But I still wasn’t sure which way I was leaning on the charlatan/ice cube tray issue until, oh, five minutes into the episode or so. Beck gave a talk on everyone’s duty, and how soldiers are doing their duty overseas and there are other ways to do our duty back home. Which would be going to Beck’s rally in D.C.
Beck even mocked people who weren’t planning to go to his rally because they’d been to a couple of D.C. rallies or marches before and “nothing changed”. Because couldn’t they see that it was their duty to go? To spend money from their possibly fixed incomes for travel and possibly take time off from work and go? It’s their duty! Just like our soldiers! Only without guns.
So I guess someone is worried that his numbers will be down.
(At first I mentally gave Beck credit for telling his fans not to whip out the guns and/or bombs if they weren’t active duty soldiers, but for crying out loud, isn’t that the baseline? If I tell you not to set fire to a preschool after reading this blog, do I really deserve a pat on the back for that?)
The rest of Beck’s show was about how his 9/12 movement has inspired people to Make America Better.
The most fascinating woman was a libertarian from Kentucky who had opened an evening summer school to re-teach civics based on “proper” principles.
The first lesson she mentioned was a game where the kids got bubble wands and squirt guns. The goal was to shoot bubbles. At first, all the bubble fluid was in one central container that, according to the woman, “symbolized communism,” and the kids could only shoot each other’s bubbles. She said that second part like that was a drag – am I the only one who thinks that sounds like fun?
Anyway, the second part was that each kid got his or her own container of bubble fluid, and they could shoot their own bubbles. And they shot more! And it was more fun! To just have your own fluid and shoot your own bubbles and not have to deal with or even LOOK at other people! So much capitalistic fun!
I don’t think Communism works, and I’m not defending it here. But I did think I spotted one or two flaws in the lesson plan.
Nah. It was probably a totally accurate representation of economic systems.
For example, the central container of bubble fluid was probably way bigger than any of the single containers, right? With a huge supply of fluid to be shared?
And when the capitalist bubble containers were handed out, did some kids get huge ones with fifteen golden wands, and some kids get tiny bubble containers and just a stick?
That everyone-gets-equal-access-to-bubble fluid arrangement sounds a lot like sensible government regulation had come into play. I’m sure the teacher also illustrated unregulated free market capitalism by leaving the room and saying anything goes, right?
I’m sure she just closed the door with a wink and a nod and let the richer kids buy more bubble fluid and the bigger kids steal more bubble fluid and any combination of those form monopolies to make sure some kids never get access to fluid in the first place.
Hell, she probably left out hydrochloric acid so kids could fill their guns with that if they wanted. I bet the kids that controlled the acid vat had extra-capitalistic fun that day!
But the best lesson, she proudly told Beck, was one in which the kids could earn butterscotch “nuggets” (Golden ones! Ooh! I get it!). She explained that the nuggets, as delicious treats, had an inherent value.
And there was a “bank” where the kids could turn in the nuggets for paper play money – if they wanted – and a store where they could buy things.
But as the week of classes went on, the kids realized that the prices in the store went up and up if they were paying with paper money, but stayed the same if they paid with nuggets.
So, yeah. Trying to keep an open mind on the possibly unbalanced theory.
But leaning pretty heavily toward charlatan.