Glenn Beck’s Kool-Aid Cult

In RadixJournal, Greg Hood has an excellent piece on the odd demise of Glenn Beck in the wake of the Alt-Right’s rising (“The Kool-Aid Cult“). Of the ‘Constitutional conservatism’ that Beck/Cruz represents:

[Beck’s] entire career has been to create a fantasy version of U.S. history and identity, which has proven powerfully resonant among confused White Americans. As every traditional institution and moral authority turns against the White people who created them, Beck assures them that this is simply a kind of test….

Beck provides a comforting alternative to the hard realities of demographic dispossession, arguing that it is not American ideals that have failed but simply our collective adherence to them. Like a preacher who tells us a plague or military defeat has been caused by our lack of faith, Beck is calling us to repent and believe, not just in God, but in an idiosyncratic political creed that seems to exist only in his ever shifting imagination.

But some of you may remember, and I sure do, those heady days when Beck had his own show on FNC, with his chalkboard behind him. Beck was different then, angry and less preachy,even flirting with ‘Obama doesn’t like white people’ comments:

It wasn’t long ago that Beck was being denounced by the American Left not just as crazy but positively dangerous. One could even see glimpses of Beck playing footsie with the the emerging Alt Right and Liberty movement, by investigating certain premises of the Establishment consensus, including Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to get America into World War II, the role of the Federal Reserve, and the legality of secession. Beck’s habit of educating his audience via his famous chalkboard gave the impression that he was operating as a political autodidact in real time and his ideological evolution could take him in any direction.

But Beck proceeded to reinvent himself, not so much as a political commentator as a spiritual leader. More accurately, he reinterpreted politics in spiritual terms. One could argue this was done out of necessity. Beck is, after all, a Mormon, a faith the overwhelming majority of American Protestants do not consider part of Christianity. Instead of urging American evangelicals to get on their knees and discover the wonders of the Pearl of Great Price, Beck reinterpreted American history in religious terms, with the Founding Fathers serving as the original apostles who spread the true faith.

Anachronisms ensue:

Thus, at Beck’s “Restoring Honor” event in 2010, hundreds of thousands of White people gathered to seek political salvation through a vague plan of spiritual renewal mixed with patriotic nostalgia. Portraits of Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Ben Franklin (exemplifying, apparently, Faith, Hope, and Charity) beamed upon the proceedings. The late Christopher Hitchens recognized the gathering as the first faint stirrings of White racial populism . . . though accurately summarized the message as “a call to sink to the knees rather than rise from them.”

Though Hitchens (unlike many alarmist liberal commentators) saw Beck’s limp-wristed rally for what it was, he still argued a European-style nationalist movement was inevitable in the United States. As he put it in words that now seem prophetic:

It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon [to European nationalism]. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday’s rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely.

The historic, organic, grassroots origins of what became known as the ‘Tea Party’ coalesced circa 2009, in the immediate aftermath of The Organizer’s first term legislative agenda.

There was (and is) an implicit whiteness to the Tea Party.

Hitchens saw it.

The Alt-Right sees it.

Donald Trump likely sees it.

But Glenn Beck, like many of those Tea Partiers themselves, refuses to see it.

Beck’s entire ideological and spiritual program depends on steering people away from such impulses. The natural and inevitable conflict of interests between different peoples is incompatible with an American Creed that supposedly holds all problems will be solved if we adhere to “limited government” and the Constitution. Thus, Beck has always been focused on the element of conspiracy to explain what he sees as the heretical deviations from the American faith.

This, in turn, explains the animus with which Beck (and his two radio parrots) describe Trump.

BeckTrumpBeck has sounded the alarm about the “far Right” rising in Europe, because it supposedly has an interest in “instability” and undermining capitalism. And most spectacularly, Beck insulted those in his own audience who support Donald Trump as “racists” and suggested Trump may follow the program of Adolf Hitler.

It has also led Beck to some bizarre ‘moral’ prerogatives:

Beck combines this policing of the Right with acts of virtue signaling towards the Left. One of the most outlandish was his recent declaration he would smuggle (supposedly Christian) Syrians into the United States. Conscious this is a crime, Beck boasts that he is willing to go to jail for his belies, though one can hardly picture Barack Obama serving in his designated role as Diocletian. After all, Beck’s crime of importing Third Worlders who will vote Democratic until the actual Second Coming is already official policy.

Until the Tea Party’s implicit whiteness becomes conscious explicit whiteness, we shall continue to see schizophrenic dissonances in figures such as Glenn Beck.

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