It is a testament to Glenn Beck that he can build such a large following even in this age of tremendously fragmented media. I could describe Beck as a media creation. But it's not as if he was just propped up by the media. It's not as if his "handlers" or agent are responsible for how he has broken through.
All evidence suggests that Beck has pulled the strings himself. I would describe him as savvy rather than intelligent. Intelligent people don't oversimplify issues the way Beck does. But he is truly savvy in recognizing his target audience and reaching them in huge numbers.
It doesn't seem that long ago when Beck had a rather obscure half-hour show on the Headline News Network. He seemed reined-in at that stage of his career.
Any shackles were taken off when he burst onto Fox News. He joined the menagerie of driven, conservative, passionate on-air people who view people left-of-center (politically) as if they had some disgusting disease. They carpet-bomb "liberals" incessantly.
Fox News has found a huge audience of people who scare easily. These people are scared of the complicated new world we're in, a world of cultures, ethnic groups and lifestyle choices that represent a crazy quilt. But it's the Fox News people who seem to be truly crazy. They have become a vehicle for the "tea party." Indeed, where would the tea party be without Fox News?
These people are making noise now but they're on the losing side. The crowd for Barack Obama's inauguration was far more representative of today's America than the "Restoring Honor" rally overseen by Beck a week ago.
Beck's people want to "restore" an Ozzie and Harriet America. Of course, there was a lot of misery back then that stayed in the background. All of the convulsions that we saw in the 1960s were really there in the 1950s only they were below the surface.
I once read that the celebrated boomer generation, which for better or worse I represent, pushed the counterculture and the new left, and while the former has survived quite fine - flourished in fact - the latter has not. Boomers have found merit in conservative economics. A fair number of them have gotten on board with the "tea party."
Beck was able to put together quite a massive show in the nation's capital.
Estimating crowd size can be a terrible headache for journalists, as former Star Tribune ombudsman Lou Gelfand used to point out from time to time. Journalists knew that any pooh-poohing of the crowd size number for Beck would get them shot out of the saddle by that reactionary crowd. So they seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt in this regard. Let's just say it was a large crowd.
But, representative of America? Not really. The true strength of this crowd will be tested in the fall when Rand Paul, Sharron Angle and Joe Miller (hard-core righties) go in front of the voters. Another litmus test will be Michele Bachmann's reelection bid here in Minnesota.
Tarryl Clark has come forward as a sane and reasonable candidate to challenge the wild-eyed and zealous Bachmann, who has become an embarrassment to our state regardless of her political stripes.
Tarryl is from my old haunts of St. Cloud so I feel special affinity with her. She's also a more attractive woman than Bachmann. (That's not a pertinent angle but I'm exercising my First Amendment right.)
Bachmann and the tea party are pushing the Republican Party to the right. Establishment Republicans are growing nervous about this. Generic (i.e. non-crazed) Republicans would appear to have a major opportunity for gains this fall. Will they be derailed by the Fox News crowd and the likes of Paul, Angle and Miller?
Remember, Fox News is entertainment and follows the values of the entertainment world. They aren't after what's right or what's virtuous. They're after eyeballs to please sponsors. The sponsors want an audience paying close attention.
Even though the tea partiers are but a narrow slice of the real America, they are vigilant about trying to protect their particular vision of America, i.e. "Ozzie and Harriet" (or "Father Knows Best").
Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally was supposed to be non-political. I suppose, then, that it was religious. Frankly I'm not sure what it was other than regressive. It was regressive in the same way that the Confederacy dissented in vain from a burgeoning America in the mid-19th Century.
I also can't help but see a parallel with the people now leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA knows what it is doing. It is moving toward greater inclusiveness with the kind of attitude that is just taken for granted by today's young generation. The ELCA has found it appropriate to strip some male references in church literature. Why this would be a huge deal to anyone is beyond me.
The U.S. Constitution is supposed to be the "final word" too, but it says nothing about having an air force.
People make reasonable adaptations through time. Good grief, there was a time when women couldn't vote in the USA. And when black people were considered property.
Why can't the rebels from the ELCA just cool it a little? It's hard enough to get a lot of people to come to church today.
The established Lutheran churches of Morris need support. But we have here in this usually-temperate town a movement reflecting those "rebel" sentiments, represented by that new church that will be located just to the north of town. The building will be literally moved from its current location, south of Alberta, to here.
I'll call these people traditionalists rather than rebels. We are, after all, a temperate community.
Some big bucks are needed to make this new church a reality. I wonder how those dollars could have been better used to benefit our community. Like through supporting our established churches.
The new church will be close to Cimaroc Kennels, so a friend of mine is now calling this new church "the dog kennel church." I can't get that term out of my mind now!
I'm also reminded of a slightly modified popular phrase: "Dog is my co-pilot." I trust dogs far more than tea partiers and their socially conservative credo.
ELCA spokesman John Brooks has said "We reach out to other Christians in the spirit of understanding, reconciliation and unity."
The whole Beck crowd ought to take those words to heart.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org