Glenn Beck's rally was about as angry as a Teletubbies episode.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 28 2010 7:03 PM

On the Mall With Brother Glenn

Glenn Beck's rally was about as angry as a Teletubbies episode.

Also in Slate, Christopher Hitchens describes the rally as a mass exercise in white self-pity. William Saletan defends Glenn Beck from criticism that his MLK tribute hijacked the civil rights tradition.

(Continued from Page 1)

"I am wracked with guilt," he said. "I am responsible for this. We all are. We let this happen to our country. I'm in Denver, so I'm represented by [Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette]. The guy running against her doesn't have a prayer. But I am spending my time walking precincts, knocking on doors for him, because I need to do something. My kids need to know that I did something."

Ten hours later, the people who didn't want to sleep on the mall are making their way to the rally. They swap stories of travel hell. They buy memorabilia and grab anything that's being passed out to them, like a flyer for college ministries ("Glenn is reaching the nation. Now let's reach the campus!") and an ad for a self-published comic called the "Obamasutra," which includes "1000 aphorisms and 180 caricatures." They pack onto the Mall, around the World War II memorial and on a side lawn with a massive screen. They mill about, listening in to the speeches when they can but just as often reading pamphlets or Kindles or talking to people in "Restoring Honor" T-shirts that they've just met.

They are hungry for any information they might have missed that might point them to some revelation. They've studied up on it, and Beck has done a lot of the teaching. "If you are a student of history, you will see a lot of the same things that created chaos and crippled countries in the past," says Lawrence Perkins, who sells three-wheeled traveling bikes called Trikkes along with his wife, Lisa. (Former President Jimmy Carter is a customer.) "Look at Germany after World War I, when they had such an immense debt that they printed too much money and the currency meant nothing. I'm afraid that if we keep paying for things we have no way of paying back, the currency means less and less."

Advertisement

This was Beck's audience. He didn't need to do any educating. The rally confirms what the crowd already knows about America: "America is good," says Beck, "not just because America is great, but because we are good! When we are good, we make America great!" He affirms this by reminding the crowd of the portraits of Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin that "came to him" over the 2009 holidays, with the words faith, hope, and charity. * He bestows awards of merit in each category on a reverend, a baseball player, and a philanthropist, all of whom praise him as they accept the honor. When Sarah Palin is introduced, it's as a "military mom" who only makes a few obscure political references as she tells stories about brave war veterans.

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.

"I believe God intended Barack Obama to be our president," says Laura Belcourt, who "works for Sheriff Joe" Arpaio in Phoenix's correctional system. "I mean, this isn't about him, but he's just helping us become aware of the problem with government, overall, period. We want politicians who are going to tell us the truth and say they're not going to keep entitlements around, because we know they're just taking our money and doling it back to us and that can't last forever."

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. "Bring out the bagpipes," he says. Bagpipe players then walk onto his stage, and the sound of "Amazing Grace" fills the mall.

Click here to view a slide show of the Glenn Beck rally.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Correction, Aug. 30, 2010: This article originally referred to portraits of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. The first in the series is Samuel Adams, not Jefferson. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Behold

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 5:39 PM Whole Foods Desperately Wants Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.