Monday, October 10, 2011

Glenn Beck at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

Glenn Beck at the
2011 Values Voters Summit
(To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about homophobia, click here. To read about science, click here. To read about reproductive issues, click here.)

Saturday afternoon of the 2011 Values Voters Summit included a highly anticipated talk by Glenn Beck. When I returned to the Omni Shoreham Hotel after lunch, there was already a long line forming outside the main ballroom. Hundreds of people formed a line that spilled into the hallway, all eager to have a seat in the ballroom when Beck spoke.

After a talk by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the moment had arrived. Glenn Beck walked on stage to the sound of thunderous applause from the audience. As I listened to his talk, I was struck not only by his preacher-like delivery (also apparent at the Restoring Courage rally), but how his message alternated between praise for American glory and contempt for leftists.

Beck began his speech by describing America at the time of the Civil War, when both North and South seethed with anger and longed for revenge. During an incident in which his vice president was drunk and belligerent, President Lincoln calmed him by saying, "and with malice toward none." Malice is not the correct path, Beck said, an ironic quote from a man with a history of mean-spirited statements.

Beck claimed that he was not there to talk about politics, but moments later, he heaped criticism on Washington D.C. for the country's state of affairs. First, Beck insisted that Washington is the only place in the U.S. that should be experiencing as recession, as it only creates paperwork and chaos. The country is under assault not only from Islamic extremists, but from anti-capitalist "extremists" who want free things, he claimed. Destructive flash mobs and the "funemployed," as he called them, do not want to work, but only want to take from others. Beck asked listeners if anyone in the media saw a connection between flash mobs and the state of affairs in Washington D.C.

I seethed at Beck's "funemployed" comment. Most unemployed people would love to have meaningful jobs, but struggle to find them in this faltering economy. People I care about are unemployed right now. They don't sit around watching soap operas and eating bonbons -- they're looking for work, but can't find it. Beck's insensitivity was breathtaking.

It is time for people to restore their status as sons and daughters of the "living God," Beck said. Furthermore, America is a country that does hard things, Beck said, arguing that it is time to reclaim that history. Freedom and capitalism involve hard work, and through hard work we conquered the wilderness, tamed the west, fought fascism, split the atom, and landed on the moon. 

It is easy to do nothing, stand in a park, and cry about how one has been wrong, he claimed, a possible jab at the Occupy Wall Street movement. Beck quipped that no one is forced to take student loans, a likely jab at Occupiers who despair over enormous student loan debt. If people can't afford to attend college, they can go to the free public library, Beck said coldly. He denounced Cornell West and Francis Fox Piven for allegedly "pointing the finger" at others, noting how easy it is to get swept up into "Jon Stewart Marxism."

Glenn Beck at the
2011 Values Voters Summit
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. First, people need degrees to get decent jobs. Most halfway decent job in the U.S. requires some kind of degree or specialized training! How could Beck look askance at those who take out student loans, when higher degrees and training are essential nowadays for any kind of a future? Doesn't Beck realize that reading books at the library doesn't carry the same weight in the job market as a degree?

With a preacher's flare, Beck warned listeners that a storm of "chaos" and "lies" was coming. Flash mobs, Occupy Wall Street, and "redistribution-of-wealth people" want to take from others and seek revenge. They have already lost, he told the audience, but we have to nevertheless stand together under the shelter of God and freedom.

I hung my head in disgust. Beck had found another boogeyman. Whatever people might think of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is clear that the movement is fueled by the frustration and sorrow of economically disempowered Americans. It is not about stealing from others or mindless revenge. I sighed at Beck's words.

Beck waxed poetic about the "American religion," which involves serving God by serving others. Americans on both the left and the right are hungry to be morally good, he claimed. Thus, Beck announced to listeners that he would serve others, referencing his Mercury One program. "When you need help, call on Mercury. We'll be there," he promised.

Hatred, Beck warned, is growing on a planetary scale. The "violent left" is pouring out into the streets to kill and destroy on a global scale, he alleged.

"The violent left is coming to our streets, all of our streets to smash, tear down, kill, bankrupt, to destroy. It will be global in its nature, and global in its scope. I said these things years ago, and I was mocked and ridiculed."

America now faces the same choice that Moses gave to his people through the Lord: freedom or slavery, good or evil, life or death. However, God is with us, he assured listeners, telling them to have no fear amidst mockery and doubt.

Beck assured the audience that he harbors no ill will and wishes harm upon no one. He claimed that he celebrates the right of some Values Voters Summit speakers to look askance at his religion, but also proudly asserted, "I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ ... I am a member of the American religion."

America is a country at war, Beck declared, insisting that the war on terror is a religious war declared by radical Islam that we must end. To boot, Beck told the audience that there is a race war going on declared by the Black Panthers, Louis Farrakhan, and those who complain that land was stolen from Mexico. There is a war between both political parties and the American people, a class war declared by Obama, and a war between the media and the truth. Upon hearing this last statement, the audience erupted into deafening applause, with many listeners standing up out of their seats and cheering.

We must end these wars, Beck said, for that is the only way to win. He encouraged listeners to mobilize, but to refrain from shouting, "God is on our side," since we must make sure that we remain on God's side. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., he urged listeners to judge people not by skin color but by the content of their character, emphasizing however that character does matter.

A "Marxist movement" against capitalism is growing, Beck warned again, predicting that it would call others horrible things. He reminded the audience of the saying about "sticks and stones," joking that union bosses will actually break our bones.

"Can man rule himself?", Beck asked. This is a question asked by every generation, he stated, encouraging listeners to find their role and embrace their responsibilities. At the conclusion of his speech, Beck was again celebrated with thunderous applause.

Beck's voice had the grace of a gentle preacher, but his black-and-white, us-versus-them speech was brimming with venom. By demonizing leftists, Occupiers, and other groups he disliked, Beck ignored their real grievances and goals. While painting others as threats, Beck encouraged his audience to see themselves as virtuous. By alternating between dark, frightful messages and warm, glorious messages, he cultivated an emotional atmosphere of both alarm and pride. To say the speech was unsettling would be an understatement.

Beck commanded a great deal of love and loyalty from the audience that day. The question is, what will he do with it?

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

American Independent: Glenn Beck says college should only be an option for those who can afford it

Truth Wins Out: Glenn Beck: Instead of College Go to Public Library

Right Wing Watch: Beck Reprises Fears of "the Violent Left"


  1. WOW! He sounds like a Mormon. I've heard all of this "us vs. them" crap my entire life -- at my former Mormon church!

    And people actually believe Mormonism is not a cult and that Mitt Romney's Mormonism doesn't matter. Do the cult and the politically-correct-at-the-expense-of-honesty ever have them fooled! Scary.

  2. Cognitive Dissenter -- This is why I like having ex-Mormons at my blog! I didn't realize his content and tone were borrowed from Mormonism. The fact that it carries over well from a Mormon audience to an evangelical one is revealing.


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