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Glenn Beck: A whole lot of crazy

Glenn Beck and his renegade of sheepish followers descended on Washington this weekend. They brought with them pomp and parade, bagpipes, ministers, tears, anger, Sarah Palin and righteousness. And the crowd of predominantly white Americans in attendance ate it up.

The “Restoring Honor” rally took place at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, “two flights down,” as Beck described it, from the very spot Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech 47 year ago to the day. Needless to say this little “coincidence” was a jab in the eye to anyone with even the slightest understanding of the civil rights movement. After all, it was King who argued for the same strong central government that Beck so furiously campaigns against. And if that isn’t ironic enough, glowering down on Beck and his comrades was the statue of the man who lost his life for the preservation of the federal government.

Yet for an event organized by the man at the forefront of the tea party movement, it was a surprisingly nonpolitical affair. Although tea partiers were asked to leave their guns and infamous Barack-is-a-Shaman signs at home, the rally’s implications were clear: It’s time for real, red-blooded, Christian Americans to start a revolution with God on their side.

Beck’s evening broadcast on the Fox News Channel looks more like the History Channel, with its use of Nazi rally footage and portraits of the Founding Fathers. But Beck’s conspiratorial arguments and general lack of tact are more on par with Oliver Stone than any of this nation’s founders.

Lest we forget, it was Beck who labeled President Barack Obama a “racist” with a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” It was also Beck who mapped out a conspiracy of liberals consisting of Obama, Al Gore, George Soros, Goldman Sachs and ACORN, among others. And on the cover of his 2009 book, Arguing with Idiots, Beck donned what appears to be a dictator-esque military uniform while standing in front of a red background, evoking images of — you guessed it — Nazi Germany. He labeled Republican former President Theodore Roosevelt a socialist and tagged progressivism — the movement which brought you “separate is not equal,” food and water regulations, public schools, child labor laws and women’s suffrage — a “disease.”

Beck is the ultimate cult personality. He may have tried to channel King as he stood at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, but instead he channeled a far different charismatic leader from the same era: George Wallace, the former governor of Alabama and 1968 independent presidential candidate who made a career on state’s rights and segregation.

Beck is a strange cat. He cries. A lot. He has suffered from substance abuse, claims to carry a handgun when he goes to the movies, is a Mormon but an icon for evangelical Christians and acts more like a revivalist preacher than a broadcaster. There’s an old saying that fascism would arrive in America carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag, and this may have been just what it was talking about.

King had a dream, but Beck has a nightmare. Let’s hope we wake up.

Justin Snow is a senior history major. He can be reached at snow@umdbk.com.

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