I've been puzzling for some time over what Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project was all about. Beck's own 9/12 message is a Capraesque plea, backed by swelling music, to restore the values of the Founding Fathers, with some vague darker stuff mixed in about "quarantining" Washington as you would a patient with swine flu. (Beck here hints ominously that swine flu is a phony conspiracy to inhibit public assembly.) "Nothing in and nothing out ... don't let them pass any legislation."
Although Beck says "I voted for John McCain," he adds, "I held my nose and I don't think he would have been much better." Democrats and Republicans share in the same corruption. The goal should be "not [to] fundamentally transorm America, as the president says. We don't need it to be like Cuba. We don't want to fundamentally transform it. We want to restore it."
What is Washington? It is the Other. Who is the president? He is the Other. What is the purpose of Glenn Beck's movement? To purge America of the Other.
Driving near the Mall today as Beck's 9/12 protesters milled about, I began to grasp this message when I saw one handwritten sign that said, "Obama: More Dangerous Than Al-Qaida." I finally understood when I saw another handwritten sign that said, "Diversity Is A Disease." Riddle solved. The 9/12-ers are white separatists.
In July Beck complained that our African American president "has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture [italics mine]." What the hell is the "white culture"? "I'm not saying he doesn't like white people," Beck continued (perhaps remembering that Obama's own mother was white). "I'm saying he has a problem. He has a—this guy is, I believe, a racist."
Is Glenn Beck a racist? That would give him way too much credit. I think Beck's a largely apolitical mountebank who kept chattering until he found something that Fox News viewers wanted to hear. (The systematic way he's done this is what moved me to speculate, only half in jest, whether he was the first chatbot to pass the Turing Test.) What Fox News viewers want to hear, I'm sorry to report, is that diversity is a disease. I seriously doubt Beck himself thinks diversity is a disease, or that he would ever state it so baldly. But he's playing a game far more dangerous than he seems to understand.
Beck's boss, Rupert Murdoch, is a caucasian male married to a woman born and raised in China. This suggests Murdoch, whatever his other faults, does not believe diversity to be a disease. Why, then, does he continue to employ someone who advocates so recklessly on behalf of "the white culture"? How might Murdoch explain this to his own two mixed-race children?
Update, Sept. 16: Michael Lind posted an interesting essay on Salon ("Uninsured Like Me") about the historic relationship between diversity and social welfare. "From the beginning," Lind writes, "attempts to create a universal welfare state in the U.S. have been thwarted by the fears of voters that they will be taxed to subsidize other Americans who are unlike them in race or ethnicity or culture."
Update, Sept. 26:Katie Couric of CBS News asked Beck in a Sept. 22 interview what he meant by "white culture."