September 6, 2010

Reactions to “Restoring Honor”

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Thank you all for the comments. Where to begin?

Firstly, Mr. Stubblefield has a point in asking what exactly I mean by “maddeningly civil.” I guess I don’t mean mad/angry but mad/crazy — I wasn’t disappointed that people like Mr. Stubblefield were so friendly, but I admit I was a little surprised. This has nothing to do with my idea of conservatives/conservativism in general, but with the specific personage of Glenn Beck. Whatever our views on Beck’s politics, I think we can all agree that he seems like a rather unpleasant man. That a rally driven so largely by Beck (here I differ with Mr. V.) attracted so many non-crazy people seemed incongruous.

Mr. Masters ‘95, the Daily Sun had every intention of sending a journalist to the rally. Unfortunately, all news journalists were out reading Das Kapital and picking beets on the collective farms, which, as you know, surround campus. It was my day off. (In slightly more seriousness, I don’t think something like the point-counterpoint idea you propose would be suitable for the Beck rally. Point-counterpoint makes sense when you’re dealing with a solid, important piece of news, not a self-described “a-political” event held by an opinionated news commentator [whatever your opinion of said opinions].)

With respect to tithing, if you had watched the event (or read a decent journalistic coverage of it, which, as you implied, you did not), you would know that Beck’s position on the matter was made to be of a singular importance that warranted the most specific proselytizing. I was trying to demonstrate in the article that such an issue was, in a weird way, the area in which Beck’s opinion in favor of a certain kind of “intervention” was most adamant.

With respect to Messrs. Masters/V.’s take on my take on Beck’s take on Jefferson as a suitable face of “faith,” let’s begin at the historical beginning, the good ol’ 1802 Letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists. Jefferson there attempts to assure a religious minority (the Baptists) that its right to practice its faith was unalienable, rather than being determined by a legislature composed of members of a religious majority (the Congregationalists). (The attendant thorniness of the distinction between state and federal legislature seems to be beyond the point as far as myself, Mr. Masters, Mr. V., and most certainly Mr. Beck are concerned.) Mr. Masters’ question as to whether the letter invented anything like the modern notion of the separation between church and state is well taken, especially if one considers the most pressing contemporary issue concerning a religious minority, the right of a Muslim group to build the infamous Burlington Coat Factory Mosque/Intergalactic Al-Qaeda Headquarters. Is this, too, an unalienable right (and should our political leaders be in the business of saying which parts of the First Amendment a particular group is really better off not taking advantage of?)? An “I am rubber, you are glue” back-and-forth seems dangerously likely to formulate itself between me and Mr. V. with regards to historical context, so I’d better stop pressing this point.

The thrust of Mr. V’s argument about me-Beck-Jefferson seems to hinge on the fact that faith comes in all shapes and sizes, including even Jefferson’s stormy relations with the church. True, but in this rally (at least as I continue to understand it) we’re dealing with a particular shape and size, that of Glenn Beck. The rally opened and closed with prayers invoking Christ alone by name, no speaker professed belonging to a religion other than Christianity, and the award for Charity was given to a member of Beck’s own Mormon Church (the flock of religious harmony trotted out at the end of the rally said nothing, serving more or less the same self-congratulating politically correct purpose as MLK’s video clip, discussed in the article). The most incredible example of this was Chief Bigpond, who presented the Faith award. It’s clear that Beck was looking to play identity politics, and here was an opportunity to recognize a faith or faiths profoundly different from the Judeo-Christian model. That he chose a Native American pastor who believes in waging tribal Christ warfare fails to convince me that Beck shares Mr. V’s commendable notion of faith as a mosaic of inclusiveness.  Again, while Jefferson may have had faith in something, I think it plainly wasn’t the sort of something that would go around telling people what position to pray in.  In Mr. V’s final paragraph, he says that, while Jefferson indeed coined and implemented the separation of church and state, he was not its most rabid opponent. Fair enough — while the choice of Jefferson was very, very boneheaded, it is theoretically possible to imagine a choice even boneheaded-er. I would consider Jefferson an improvement on, say, Christopher Hitchens. The one part of Mr. V’s (I’m sorry, other commenters, but I’m getting to you) comments that gave me pause was the assertion that I wrote only about the vitriol-backed hatefest I expected to attend. In writing the article, I took great pains to differentiate the spectacle onstage from the (to tactlessly cite myself) “profoundly decent” people in attendance. As I wrote in a blog post right after the rally, I feel the decency exhibited by the vast majority of the audience was not the stuff of Beck-ian coaching, but the real McCoy. In particular, the couple that stood next to my friends and me during the rally was quite nice, and we all felt comfortable sharing our various gripes with one another. There was only one instance of real, unabiding hatred directed towards me personally, and I took care to banish it behind parentheses. I feel the distinction between Beck and his audience comes across clearly in the article. If not, I am sorry.

With regards to recent alum: I like you. I presume your acuity is matched only by your sensual allure and your lustrous hair, which in my imagination is of a deep chestnut. Finally, the Nazi business. My neologism “reductio-ad-founderum” is of course based on “reductio-ad-Hitlerum,” or “Godwin’s Law” as several commenters put it. The former, like the latter, pokes fun at the absurdity of invoking a particular figure as an indisputable proof of good (or evil). I’m with 1980’s Alum, except for the part about Republicans, who aren’t quite the same as Beck-goers. To compare the Beck rally to the Nazis based on their use of the word “honor” is not only grossly misleading, but, I imagine, should be offensive to anyone who, like ILR Parent, has family personally affected by the ravages of the Nazis. What they did was beyond analogy, and certainly beyond any analogy involving the likes of an oafish, overexcited rabble-rouser like Glenn Beck. However, it’s interesting that the Godwin’s Law crowd failed to notice the real absurdity in discussing Nazi arguments beneath a column on Glenn Beck. Mr. V. actually undersold his disbelief in this regard; Godwin’s Law comes into play not one post into the article but much earlier, in the very TV show on which the rally was promoted in the first place. Perhaps I’ve just been watching too much Beck over the last few weeks, but one of the most astonishing, almost artistic things about his broadcast is the ease with which he relates every policy of the Obama adminstration back to the Nazis. These threads usually begin with phrases like “social justice” or “collective salvation” or “government takeover,” pass through Woodrow Wilson and eugenics, and arrive at a nice, clean comparison between 1930’s Germany and Obama’s America. Maybe my article itself is acting as the schtick magnet I described, purging all hyperbolic discourse from our systems. Our maybe we just love to talk about Nazis. There’s one commenter I’ve left out. I’m flattered, I think, to hear from Jimmy Z, whose website praises him as Rush Limbaugh’s most able-bodied benchwarmer. It also proclaims him “hated by the left for all the right reasons,” among which, I imagine, is his love of poop.

Original Author: Jake Friedman