Rather than a political broadside directed at the White House, Beck took another page from King's book: He gave an upbeat speech, focusing on religion as a positive force for change.
"Go to your churches, synagogues, and mosques!" Beck proclaimed. He also suggested "teach[ing] in our churches the principles" to fix our politics. He later added some obligatory words of caution about mixing church and politics, but there's no doubting that the civil religion was laid on with a trowel. Regardless, it's unlikely Beck's religious themes will subsume economic liberty as the driving message behind the Tea Party.
The crowd was not composed of religious or political firebrands—just ordinary Americans extraordinarily worried. The crowd was so decent that as they streamed off, many random people stopped along the way to gather up and bag the empty water bottles near the overflowing trash cans on the Mall.
One might yawn at yet another anthill assembly in DC. But the purpose of Glenn Beck's huge Lincoln-military celebration—with his fellow neocon warmonger Sarah Palin (a wholly owned subsidiary of Bill Kristol)—is to try to make all the Tea Party people obedient tools of the Republican apparatus, and detach them from Ron Paul. As usual, mass killing and patriotism undermine freedom. It's more Armageddon-promotion in the Middle East, but the true Paulians will not be fooled. According to Glenn, blessed are the warmakers. It's an honor to die for your country. It's an honor to lose your limbs. It's an honor to kill other people by the boatload. But hey, Beck, don't just talk. Fly into Afghanistan. I'll help pay for your parachute.
Glenn Beck's rally drew more people than Keith Olbermann has viewers.
At this point, it's obvious that Beck's stunts have a self-conscious hint of irony to them. His increasingly messianic self-conception and his outsize comparisons between himself and important American historical figures seem deliberately designed to make liberals issue angry public denunciations, which only increase his profile and solidify his stature in the conservative movement, where Pissing Off Liberals is actually more important than anything else. He's figured out how this hustle works. What I don't understand is why liberals keep indulging him with their outrage.
The Democrats who pre-butted Beck's rally by predicting an overtly political hateananny were played for suckers. They didn't pay attention to Beck's "Founder Fridays" episodes on Fox, his high-selling speaking tour, or his schmaltzy children's book The Christmas Sweater. It's not his blackboard that makes him popular. It's the total package he sells: membership in a corny, righteous, Mormonism-approved-by-John Hagee cultural family. The anger is what the media focus on, he says, joking several times about what "the press" will do to twist his words….Beck's rally ends just as he said it would—without incident, political or otherwise. He's just taken the world's most derided TV audience, put them in the National Mall, and presided over the world's largest megachurch.