Friday, August 13, 2010

Glenn Beck, Holy Warrior

Media Matters: Glenn Beck, Holy Warrior

Back in April, Glenn Beck informed his radio listeners that during his trip to the Vatican, an "individual" there told him that "what you're doing is wildly important" in the upcoming struggle against forces of "great darkness."

Earlier the same week, Beck explained that he was promoting "the plan that [God] would have me articulate, I think, to you," against "darkness." While notable on their own merits, Beck's comments were especially striking because they marked what was (at the time) the culmination of Beck's regular portrayal of himself as fighting on behalf of "good" against the forces of "evil" and "darkness."

Since then, Beck has made it abundantly clear that he does not use this sort of language metaphorically -- he quite literally believes he is fighting on the side of God against Satan. In the months since his trip to the Vatican, Beck has ramped up the frequency and intensity with which he frames the current political debate in our country in biblical, and sometimes apocalyptic, terms.

For example, in recent months, Beck has:

Compared Barack Obama to Lucifer.
Looked skyward on his TV show and said, "Lord, it's your turn, we've done everything we can" while comparing the current situation in our country to Stephen King's post-apocalyptic novel The Stand. In the same segment, Beck also told people they need to ask for forgiveness, and said that "we're in a dark, dark place" and "dark dudes" are "coming our way." He added, "Now, I'm hoping the guy with horns doesn't actually show up, but he could."
Explained that we are fighting "the oldest battle that man has ever fought. It is the battle in the war in heaven. It is the battle that we fought in the Garden of Eden. Choice." Beck also compared Obama and his administration to the snake in the Garden of Eden because he "will make the choices for you."
Hosted a panel of pastors and preachers that he billed as "people that need to start standing up." During the show, Beck plugged the "excellent" book by Rev. John Hagee, Can America Survive? 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are the Terminal Generation, which he apparently had just started reading. Hagee's book interprets biblical prophecy to argue that the world is fast approaching Armageddon and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Beck explicitly endorsed Hagee's theory by stating as fact that "a lot of the pieces that have never been here for the prophecy are here now."
Repeatedly suggested that progressives and liberals are "enemies of God" and "enemies of Him," and declared that they "don't have [God] on their side."
Told his listeners to "make no mistake: You are fighting a power far greater, far greater than any elected official. This has been the works for a very long time." He then warned that the "gates of Hell will open up."
This brings us to Beck's upcoming "Restoring Honor" rally, which is slated to take place in two weeks. Beck has repeatedly described the rally as historic and modestly declared that it "will be remembered in American history as the turning point." As he has explained it, Beck originally wanted to schedule the rally for September 12, but didn't want people to "work on the Sabbath," so he rescheduled it for August 28. When he later discovered that this date marked the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, rather than chalking it up to coincidence, Beck claimed that it was "divine providence."

Just think about that for a second -- Beck is so convinced he is working on behalf of the forces of "good" that he believes God made sure the date of his self-aggrandizement festival coincided with the anniversary of a landmark speech by a civil rights icon.

Beck's messianic religiosity took the next logical step this week, when he announced a new event scheduled on the eve of the 8-28 rally. Employing his characteristic humility, the event will be titled "Glenn Beck's Divine Destiny" and will feature "nationally-known figures from all faiths." Beck describes the evening as an "eye-opening" event "that will help heal your soul."

While Beck regularly garners plenty of attention, his increasingly intense religiosity has flown mostly under the radar. If we're to take him at his word, then he sincerely believes that he is fighting on behalf of God against the forces of Satan -- or as Beck calls them, "progressives." If that isn't the case, then he's cynically using biblical fearmongering in order to continue to grow his brand and score political points.

I'm not sure which is worse. Either way, it's deserving of more attention.

Bottom of the anti-mosque barrel
If conservatives had a reasonable case against the supposed "Ground Zero mosque," they wouldn't need to rely on blatant falsehoods to make their arguments. However, when you are working backward from the thesis "Muslims are all terrorists and terrorist sympathizers," then you are bound to make some leaps of logic in support of your "point."

This week, conservative media figures focused much of their ire on Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's upcoming State Department trip to the Middle East to "discuss Muslim life in America and religious tolerance." Several of the usual suspects complained that Rauf was going on a "taxpayer-funded fundraising jaunt" to finance his proposed Islamic cultural center. As we noted, the State Department has made explicit that fundraising of any kind is prohibited during the trip.

Perhaps more importantly, conservatives' attacks on Rauf's trip amount to an accidental indictment of a program the Bush administration felt was useful in fighting terror. Rauf began participating in the outreach program during the Bush administration. Of course, people like unhinged right-wing blogger Pam Geller ignored such inconvenient facts when they were calling the trip "disturbing."

Sean Hannity repeatedly took Rauf's writings out of context to paint him as "anything but moderate" and falsely claimed that Rauf wants to "shred our Constitution" and replace it with Sharia law. Glenn Beck joined Hannity in smearing Rauf by saying that Rauf "employs" an imam who blamed "the Jews" for 9-11. He doesn't.

But the anti-mosque discourse bottomed out (hopefully), as it often does, with our friends at NewsBusters. This week, Mark Finkelstein uncovered a "chilling" fact about the Islamic community center as he discussed Geller's anti-mosque ads on New York buses -- which tastelessly depict the image of a plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9-11, falsely suggest that the mosque is opening on September 11, 2011, and add an imaginary star and crescent to the artist's rendering of the building. I'll let him explain his discovery:

Have a look at the screencap below showing the mosque's proposed design [note that the anti-mosque group wasn't misrepresenting the design. See mosque architect's rendering here]. Sure looks a lot like the WTC towers themselves, doesn't it? Hard to imagine that's a coincidence. A certain implicit triumphalism involved?

I can think of no better encapsulation of both the ineptitude of NewsBusters and the ongoing desperation of conservative media figures struggling to find a not-overtly bigoted reason to oppose the Islamic center than parsing the "certain implicit triumphalism involved" in shaping it like a building.